Tulum, Mexico

posting from: Mexico City, Mexico. In this edition,

Hello friends and hello 2022. I hope you celebrated well and are entering this year with at least a decent night’s rest. Since the last patch notes I’ve reached record levels of frustration with airplane seats, car tires, toll booths, insurance policies, and the travel industry at large.

I got to visit and relax in the Caribbean for the first time and I made some headway on a project I’ve long been waiting to embark on. I also lit a mortar disguised as a firework and managed to keep all my fingers attached. It was an eventful month but I’m grateful to have spent it with amazing people I love, who remain loving even through the curviest detours of life.

Valle de Bravo -> Mexico City -> and back again #

the drive

To put it simply: our planned arrangements didn’t go to plan. What was supposed to be an out-and-back 3-week trip with a return visit midway turned into a dozen traversals along this path, each at varying times of day and visibility conditions. Out here it’s the equivalent to a 10h drive back home accounting for the sheer emotional and body load of such a trip.

Each journey is an adventure of its own. Sometimes it was rush hour double-trailer semis to whom our small existence lacked any meaningful significance. Another a 2-hour detour-chase of an Uber through traffic to retrieve a forgotten phone in the backseat. Or taking Charlotte (the Chihahua) to the vet after being attacked by a street dog eight times her weight (she was ok!).


Driving here is best done with an attentive co-pilot. All my previous drives between the two cities were with the guidance of my girlfriend who grew up driving these roads. She doesn’t seem to panic when the GPS starts spinning like Jack Sparrow’s compass (but actually, see below gif). Her co-piloting at least triples my chances of putting the car into park alive at the end. Thank you, Iris.

gps gets confused... a lot

As it were on this final trip back to Mexico City, she was in a different vehicle and my acting co-pilot was my friend Arthur – someone I’ve shared many a road trip with. We were tasked with delivering ourselves, Charlotte, an assortment of items, and her car back to her apartment in Mexico City without another scratch1. Arthur and I have pulled off some heroic trips2 but this jaunt had us both completely spent by the time we arrived.

It’s not any one thing. Rather it’s the culmination of all the things, each taking up attention and not freeing it until you get in a full night’s sleep and a long walk. It’s six inch speed bumps hiding under the shade in an optical illusion until they’re 2 meters ahead. It’s turning on your hazards to alert others to a procession following a virgin Mary on a throne carried on shoulders. It’s spotting the hidden 40-degree turn and injecting onelsef into a jumble of cars wrestling to get in. And it’s those godforsaken potholes.

Valle de Bravo, Mexico

It’s also stunningly beautiful. The landscape changes constantly; from forested mountains to golden-hour plains stretching out in all directions. Goats and horses watch you pass on farms along the road. The biomes shift as quickly as the elevation does; causing you to intimately feel the energy cost to vehicular movement in three dimensions. If one can disconnect from the act of driving and focus on the surroundings – there lie gorgeous swaths of land almost entirely untouched by six-lane highways and billboards.


Tulum, resort culture, and foreign money #

After the chaos that was driving between Mexico City and Valle de Bravo, we and some friends decided some beach time was in order. A couple flights and a drive down the coast later – we were settled in to our apartment rental in Tulum, a few hours south of Cancún.

Tulum is gorgeous in its own unique, lush way. It operates with an abundance of light and energy and space, in which leaves and flowers know only full saturation and vibrancy. Civilization borders jungle, in many parts the greenery hasn’t yet surrendered its claim to the area. Various critters scurry across trails and fish nibble on your toes in the hidden inland cenotes3.

These qualities attract people, including myself, from all over. And where there are tourists, there is money, business interests, the surrounding ecology, foreign cultures, and laws all smashing together in a complex web of interactions. This is not something unique to Tulum, to tropical paradises, or to Mexico: but I felt it more prevalently than anywhere I’ve traveled in North America.

There is a cost to convenience and comfort on the beach. A recurring price is lawn chairs and shade structures, qr code menus and waiters, music blasting out over the water . This arrangement appears dozens of times in either direction along the coast, each club’s music interfering with the next one‘s amplified beats. Vendors – some with their parents and others without – walk around advertising various goods, access, and services.

amazing thinking time

I’m not against beach clubs or mimosas or people selling stuff. I am wary of foreign money entering a place and re-shaping it in ways that may not align with the place’s long-term sustainability. Beaches are a special place: unlike a flat field we can divy up in two dimensions or mountains we can share in three — a beach has only one dimension: the line where the water meets the sand.

Occupying or otherwise restricting space on this line with a business entity necessarily means it’s no longer as open to being the commons. It’s less accessible to humans wanting to connect with nature and float on ocean waves without enriching shareholders of an “ultra high end luxury restaurant experience”. As fun as these beach clubs are, they can be obscenely expensive because they throw alcohol, live music, and human labor at every possible discomfort that arises.

It’s worth remembering this same influx of resources provides for the healthcare, education, and social mobility of the employees and their families. The taxes help maintain and expand public infrastructure; issues of government corruption and inefficiency aside. There are areas marked as ecological preserves and public education & outreach is both possible and present.

Where there is value and beauty humans desire exclusivity, privacy, and control. How we resolve that as a species living on one planet will be an important question in the coming years. The way this state in Mexico answers these questions will likely be different from the way another state in the U.S. does. But for the sake of everyone I hope we figure this out very soon.


Canvas 1 was finished on Dec 31 #

After resolving the hairy token transfer and smoothing out the remaining kinks, the last tiles were drawn in delightful but manageable chaos. This whole project has been an incredible adventure so far; a foray into technology, creativity, and collaboration deeper than I’ve gone before. A few emerging thoughts:

  • I get absorbed by new details all the time, even though I feel I’ve seen every pixel on this canvas
  • letting friends invite friends turned out to be a phenomenal route to fun, new corners of the internet
  • working with a crowd of people on the internet and trying to make everyone happy is a difficult but rewarding experience
  • there is a group of friends I helped build this with, and we started with a text field and a button
  • when people are given a medium they reflect themselves into it

Where to from here? We’re gonna decide with the exquisite land residents and figure it out together. Looking forward to the next chapters.

got a new thing brewing #

I’ve started a project: freeing our words out from the vault that is Apple Notes through a simple-to-use publishing bridge to the distributed, open web. Basically, being able to make a blog from Apple Notes. Though I’m still a few weeks away from inviting everyone to try it, feel free to check out the code and let me know if you have any feedback, ideas, or questions!

Giving people easier ways to share their thoughts with the world is something I’m really excited about and I think this may be a step along that path.

currently reading #

Because Internet, Gretchen McCulloch

Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy

A History of the World in Twelve Maps, Jerry Brotton

Designing an Internet, David D Clark

year in review post #

As I did at the end of 2019 and for 2020, I’ve been noodling on a post to try and recap what transpired in 2021. I’m still trying to figure out the framing and how to condense all the various threads I’d like to explore and pull on. A lot happened these past 12 months – I’m a different person from the last post and the one before that. More on this soon, I hope.

next steps #

  • find a place to settle into for a considerably long while
    • if near the water, use the chance to continue learning to surf
  • get a functioning mvp of [notes.site] out to the world
  • continue writing every day because it makes the adventure more fun

  1. yup, I rear-ended a yellow concrete pillar. I was very excited for the Thai restaurant while escaping a underground parking maze designed by an architectural sadist ↩︎

  2. We left Sacramento at 6pm on Friday and headed southeast. Arrived to Austin, TX at 10pm on Saturday. Apart from food and gas, the car was moving at an higher-than-speed-limit velocity the entire time. We both wrestled demons new and old on stretches of that desert but it was worth it ↩︎

  3. a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. The regional term is specifically associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where cenotes were commonly used for water supplies by the ancient Maya, and occasionally for sacrificial offerings (Wikipedia) ↩︎