A Welcomed Retreat in Akumal

The week before last, my friend Lisa invited us to come and hang out at a huge house on the Yal-ku lagoon in Akumal, about 40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. She rented the property for an event which was postponed, and decided to open up the place to her friends here in Playa. Uh, yes please!

The house was ecclectic, quirky and HUMONGOUS. My favourite thing to say throughout my four night stay was, “It is such a DRAG having two kitchens!” Which it kinda was, as sometimes we had go down two flights of stairs to get something from the downstairs fridge, then bring it upstairs, which was highly annoying, believe me (and the reason why I vow to only ever have one, or install an elevator).

Casa del Sol entrance…

kitchen casa del sol

Kitchen number two – sigh…

But honestly, the house was something special. It was once owned by a member of 70’s rock band, ‘The Grateful Dead’ which meant that Alison’s favourite thing to say throughout the trip was that she’d sat on the same toilet as Jerry Garcia. The design was very eclectic with so many quirky little touches to make the whole experience special and unique. I’ve stayed at some pretty cool places in my time, and I have to say, this is my favourite so far.

casa del sol living room

The living room…

sun mural

View from the third floor spiral staircase…

Quirky touches…

Casa del Sol altar

An altar, because every house needs somewhere to keep the torch…

casa del sol terrace

A gazillion sitting areas, dining areas, bedrooms and bathrooms were laid out across three levels which culminated in this view from the top floor terrace over the jungle, Caribbean Sea and Yal-ku lagoon.

Yal-ku view

casa del sol sea view

This astounding parrot mozaic greeted me from the floor outside the downstairs casita where I stayed.

Parrot Mozaic

Tyrhone joined me for the first night, which I thought was a good effort for him seeing as he is, well, not really into… people. Him and I have a lot in common intellectually, a similar sense of humour and even some overlapping life views (which helps!), but our social habits are poles apart and it is something I have had to learn to accept and adapt to, as he has to me.

So he stayed one night, enjoyed the company of friends, conversed with Lisa over the virtues of android vs apple, snorkeled in the lagoon and narrowly averted a scorpion attack (thanks to me and my friend Shelly who was pretty pissed she didn’t receive a nod for her efforts in his post about the event. So here it is Shelly!), then went on home and got into his ‘house pants’ for the next three days while I stayed on in Akumal ‘retreating’.

Tyrhone, ‘socialising’… 

Yal-ku lagoon

Snorkelers in Yal-ku lagoon…

It was a pretty good balance for us and actually worked out quite well, as even though I was staying with friends, the property was so big that I also had a lot of time to be still, be alone and take some really awesome naps. My friend Alison has an unending book collection that continues to spring forth with amazing titles which become favourites of mine (she introduced me to Alan Cohen’s A Deep Breath of Life which I read every day). This time she brought a little piece of magic with her in the form of SARK, and her glorious little book about naps, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed: The Ultimate Nap Book.

SARK nap book

Thanks to this book I was able to do away with my ‘nap-guilt’ and revel in the exquisite beauty of the afternoon nap.

nap time

Pure bliss.

The other wonderful part of the trip aside from the beautiful digs and blissful naps was that Alison brought Jorge along. He had a huge room all to himself for most of the week, was waited on hand and foot and even swam in the pool for the first time in many, many years.

It was such a treat for him to experience something like this. It did however pain me a bit that he couldn’t appreciate the visual beauty of the place, so Alison, our friend Arturo and I took him on a ‘feeling tour’ of the whole house in order to orientate him a little bit and help him understand the space he was in. Considering his current home is a room the size of most average sized bathrooms, he was blown away by the size and scope of  ‘Casa del Sol’.

Back entrance

The back entrance…

We even managed to get him up the spiral staircase to the top floor to feel the breeze on his skin and the sun on his face.

Alison began reading to him in Spanish from ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude,’ by Gabriel García Márquez, which he really enjoyed. And thanks to you guys and the overwhelming response to the Help Jorge appeal, we were also able to purchase him a new portable radio/CD player with a USB drive which I downloaded some audiobooks onto. He brought it with him and spent the afternoons listening to his music and books. (Check out the Help Jorge community page for details on how much we raised and what else we have bought him so far).

I sneakily took this photo of Alison reading to Jorge… I love it. 

One afternoon, Alison and I sat in his room chatting. I listened intently to Jorge’s Spanish and Alison’s accompanying translation. We learned about his life growing up in Tizimin, a small town inland from Cancun (I have actually been there, and Jorge knows the very restaurant I went to when we visited!). He then decided to give a friend in Tizimin a call to tell him where he was.

I just had to snap this photo of him while he regaled the details of his trip to his friend over the phone. Alison told me later he said, “and I have two gringas sitting on my bed talking to me!” as though that was the most amazing part of all.

The most amazing part for me, however, was getting to know Jorge better and actually becoming friends. I became comfortable leading him around the house, getting him his meals and even communicating in my terrible Spanish.

Shelly and I even took him for an evening walk down the quiet roads of North Akumal when we realised he doesn’t get to walk much due to his lack of vision. He thoroughly enjoyed it, especially when we went fast.

“Mas rapido!” he’d say, reveling in the novelty of walking quickly. He’s been blind for seven years and has spent much of that time sedentary in his room.

I may have taken things a little too far when I took him out on my own a few evenings later. I joked about having a run, and he was so enthusiastic about it that we found a smooth stretch of road with no cars and went for a little jog. When we stopped, panting, he told me it had been over seven years since he’d run which was difficult for him since he had been very athletic when he was younger. He illustrated his baseball skills to me with a swing of his cane and an enacted look of concentration on his face.

It felt so good to be able to get him moving again, but when we returned to the house I realised he had stubbed his toe. I felt terrible I’d encouraged him to run in such a poor choice of footwear (flip flops). He has very little sensation in his toes and so didn’t feel a thing, but after we cleaned it up for him I vowed ‘no more running’ until we got him some better shoes.

Jorge wasn’t bothered at all, however, and it was nice to be able to help him do a simple thing we take for granted which to him is a enormous treat.

It was also really nice for him to spend time with Lisa’s chihuahua, ‘Loco’. Jorge loved patting Loco and having him nearby, taking every opportunity to hold and scratch him.

I think Loco kinda liked it too.

When our friend Steve arrived on the second-last day, Jorge received a professional full-body massage, as Steve is a chiropractor and masseur. I can only imagine how much his stiff muscles and joints appreciated that.

The five days in Akumal filled me with such a huge sense of gratitude for the miracles of my life. How I found myself in a Mexican mansion built by the Grateful Dead, with amazing friends, including a Spanish-only speaking blind man who calls me Sarita (little Sarah), completely blows my mind. I’m struck by the fact that my reality has become way cooler than whatever dreams I used to hold for my life.

It’s got me thinking about how just attempting to live more truthfully and meaningfully has brought magic into my life, even though it has been exceptionally difficult and uncomfortable at times.

When I first got sober and was extremely lost and confused about my life, a special woman said to me, “Sarah, you deserve the best, and you will have it.” At that time my relationship was in tatters, my self-esteem non-existent and my hopes for the future pretty low. I’ll admit, I thought she was kinda nuts. At the time, I couldn’t really see a way out of how I was feeling, and everything seemed a mess, because it was.

But out of that blessed mess I was given a chance to start again. To take baby steps towards a new life I wasn’t even sure existed, and to be honest, thought would be rather boring and dull. I drank to bring colour into my life and feared that without alcohol it would be forever played out in black and white.

vibrant color

How wrong I was.

There is a saying I love; “I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise it will be worth it,” which is exactly how I feel about my recovery and this entire crazy journey of dismantling and re-building I’ve taken. It has certainly not been easy. I’ve shed more tears than I ever thought possible, and developed more questions about myself and the world than I have answers. It has been very unsettling and at times very painful, but it has been a process of healing and renewal for which I am utterly grateful.

And at times like these, retreating in Akumal with wonderful friends; re-discovering the sacred power of naps; running down an empty road at dusk with a blind man who hadn’t run for seven years; I am reminded of how completely worth it all those tears have been.

Thank you for supporting my journey! It means the world to me. I am so grateful for your messages, emails and comments. Subscribe to receive updates in your inbox, and check out my facebook page for more photos and updates.

Thank you again to everyone who has donated to the HELP JORGE appeal. Please check out the page to see how much we have raised and what we have been able to give Jorge. This is shaping up to be an awesome experience for me, Alison and of course Jorge, and we’re so thankful for your support. 


A Welcomed Retreat in Akumal — 22 Comments

  1. What a retreat opportunity. Funny that J. Garcia and his band lived there at times. It’s definitely different with unique interior and exterior designs.

    Great that you’ve already learned the therapeutic art of napping. I find I sometimes do it involuntarily. I think that I’m currently too transient to develop routines. However, maybe tomorrow I’ll give it a shot. :-)
    Mike | Earthdrifter recently posted..Trekking in TayronaMy Profile

    • Yes, it’s still known around town as ‘The Grateful Dead House.’ It was my first introduction to the band, as I had heard ‘of’ them, but not heard them before. Interesting…

  2. “I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise it will be worth it,”

    I love this Sarah! So simple yet so profound!

    You’re such a good friend to Jorge, you have touched his life and isn’t that such an amazing gift you gave yourself?!
    Patti recently posted..Coming Up on One Year ~My Profile

    • Hi Patti, it’s so true, isn’t it? Like, how do you encourage someone to do something which will be painful and hard but totally worth it?? And yes, it’s been a life-changing experience for Jorge, and for me…

  3. Your posts always make me smile Sarah. What a gorgeous house, I so miss the COLOR of Mexico when I’m back here in the US… just seeing it makes me happy. I, too, love the quote about life not always being easy, but always being worth it. I do agree with you that just trying to live life authentically, does, in turn, create a more authentic life.
    Rhonda recently posted..Foto FridayMy Profile

  4. Hola Sarita,
    “It’s got me thinking about how just attempting to live more truthfully and meaningfully has brought magic into my life…” I’m so happy for you. Your stories and writings never fail to inspire and move me.
    Your retreat in that amazing house sound so wonderful. I’m particularly glad that George got to be a part of it. Bless your soul and Alison’s for making a difference to the life of another wonderful soul.
    Marisol recently posted..The Journey into Bhutan, the Last Shangri-LaMy Profile

    • And bless you for being so, so generous and giving so freely to Jorge and the other causes I have been involved in! I truly appreciate it, and you Marisol xxx

  5. Sarah,

    Just looking at these photos had me dreaming of napping or reading in that hammock. That house looked so relaxing!! I think it is amazing and very kind how you are helping Jorge.

  6. I think Shawn and Tyrhone are cut from the same cloth. :)

    I love that picture of Allison reading to Jorge. He seems to be enjoying that book. I got ambitious one day and bought it in Spanish…and barely read 5 pages. Sigh. One day my Spanish will be good again.

    What a lovely retreat and reflection.
    Carmel recently posted..GOBI DESERT TRIP, PART 2My Profile

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