It’s funny that a couple of weeks ago, I got sent a copy of Shonda Rhimes’ new book The Year of Yes.
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) October 6, 2015
Not only is that bae but I’m doubly excited to read it because I’ve been living my own year of HELL YES. Reflecting on my last 12 months, I realize that I’ve checked off more things on my bucket list than ever before and I’ve done things that even I’m surprised about. My Year of Yes started in September 2014, when I went to South Africa. That was the furthest I’d ever been away from home but it kinda jumpstarted my wanderlust to see the world NOW and to do things that will make me pat myself on the back when I remember them.
When I petted that baby lion in Johannesburg, and took a selfie in front of it, I was petrified, but I did it anyway.
In January, I turned 30. I decided to take my first ever solo trip, and it was for 3 days to the Dominican Republic. This was before I found out what was happening with the deportations of people with Haitian ancestry. I did it because I wanted to do something I’d never done before as I enter this new decade of my life. Leaving the country alone was definitely new territory.
There, I ziplined in the forest outside of Punta Cana. At one point, I was rappelling from one tree to another, hundreds of feet in the air, and mountains were on my left. I was saying a very loud prayer of thanks.
Since then, I’ve rode ATVs through the Moroccan countryside (June), jumped out of a plane skydiving in Long Island (July), went dune bugging in Dubai (September).
I’ve certainly grabbed life by the horns a bit more than usual lately and it has fed me in ways I could not imagine. I think back to the moment I fell out the plane with the tandem coach strapped to me in July. I didn’t scream, because it literally took my breath away and in that moment of freefalling, I certainly questioned my life’s decisions. It was quickly replaced by exhilaration, doe. I was like “HOLY SHIT I JUST JUMPED OUT A PLANE” and I said it to myself at least 15 times that day as I stayed on an adrenaline high for 12 hours.
Honestly, none of it has been by design. I didn’t say “2015 is my year of doing things I’ve never done” when it started. But it has certainly taken that tone and turn and people have noticed. This is why I was approached to help introduce Barilla’s Passion for Pasta campaign, in honor of National Pasta Month. They wanted me to be a part of their push for people to pursue a life passionately-lived, and bucket lists checked off. Plus, I’m passionate about carbs. I will wolf down some pasta in a hot ass greedy second. It fit.
They asked me what else was on my bucket list, and I said I wanted to swim with dolphins and see some ruins. Soooo, Passion for Pasta sent me on a day-long excursion while I was in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I went to Tulum and then rolled to Xel-Ha (pronounced Chel-HA) to stuff my face and swim with the smartest mammals without legs.
Tulum is a walled city and it was built in the 13th century. It used to be called “Zama” and it overlooks the Caribbean Sea. It’s a gorgeous place to be in because the ruins are still surrounded by grass. You have to watch out for ant hills, though. Our tour guide made sure to warn us of those and I made sure I heeded his advice. Last thing I wanted to find out was what happens when you step on one. NO THANK YOU.
The center of Tulum is the biggest building there, which is called Castillo. Walk around it and then walk up the stairs to a view that makes your grin. It’s beautiful, man! I looked down at the beach and saw people swimming in the water.
On the day I went, it was 50 shades of hot as hell. There is barely any shade so the sun was doing all it could to be the best it could at its job. Wear a hat and take a bottle of ice cold water. You will need it to quench your thirst. Also, use some type of insect repellant.
My shirt was soaked by the time I left there. I mean, soaked! So I was doubly excited to get to Xel-Ha.
Xel-Ha is basically one giant amusement park (without rollercoasters) and water park where you can have all types of adventures. It also has 5 buffet restaurants in it. Once you are in the park, you have free access to all the restaurants, and some of the sports (like ziplining and snorkeling). Some, you gotta pay for. They got locker rooms where you can put your stuff too so most people were walking around in just their bathing suits.
I had one mission, and that was to swim with dolphins. I’ve loved those creatures for a long time, and my beloved high school mascot are the Dolphins. The park also boasts as the only place in the world that allows you to do a trek with dolphin underwater so I opted to do that. They had us put on crocs, and made us watch a training video. We’d put on one of those space-looking breathing helmets and go underwater for a 30 minute session with one of their dolphins.
I was all geeked until they made me go down 3 steps of the ladder and they placed the helmet on me. I won’t lie. I had a momentary freak out where I told them to take it off, got out the water and took 5 deep breaths. I collected myself and gave it another try. I took the ladder 30 feet underwater and my ears popped.
But the fact that I could breathe like normal underwater was pretty damb cool. We lined up against a rail and spent 30 minutes watching the dolphin listen to its trainer’s commands. We got to hug it, touch it and it even kissed out helmets.
When we were done, we grabbed its fin and it escorted us out. Chile, I LOVED IT.
We got out the water and put on life jackets for a session above water with two other dolphins. Man, you fall in love with these creatures even more when you see how smart they are. They basically act like fish humans.
Another 25 minutes of the dolphins splashing us with water on cue, clapping along with us and giving us kisses and I was ready for food.
SO MUCH FUN!
I went to the international buffet after toweling off and proceeded to binge on all types of deliciousness, including something like this Mexican carnitas and pasta dish, for 45 minutes. That park spoils you rotten. Also, there’s multiple bars you can stop in to grab a drink (also free) anytime you want. I need me and like 30 of my friends to go spend a day there. We will have a ball!
After that, I laid in a hammock to process chill for 30 minutes before the park closed. I. HAD. A. BALL.
Who knew that my Passion for Pasta (and for life!) would have allowed me the opportunity to check this off my bucket list! I will keep seizing the moment and saying no to fears! In fact, as you read this, I am headed to Egypt tonight to speak at a conference. The adventures continue, and seeing the Pyramids of Giza will be another item I check off! You can follow me on Instagram (@Luvvie) for pics!
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post by PassionForPasta.com but as always, all opinions, side-eyes, snark and randomness is mine.