Cancun was really surprising me, I was meeting other backpackers, the food was awesome and there was more than enough awesome activities to keep me occupied for the 3 or 4 days I was there. I was onto my last day and I was thinking about what to do (I wanted to check out Tulum on a day trip), the night before was a Friday night so I almost cracked and hit the party scene in the hotel zone but maybe my age is catching up with me, I thought I don’t wanna be hungover and waste my last day so I decided to skip the booze.
As I was deliberating that decision on the Friday I ended up talking to a young Mexican guy, his story was insane. He had grown up in a Middle Class Catholic Mexican family, but he had an awkward relationship with his doctor father. He was sent to boarding school in his early teens. As he was there he read up on Mormonism, and actively converted much to his staunchly Catholic family’s disgust. They cut him out of their lives, at 14 years old! They literally excommunicated him.
He moved in with his friends mum until at 16 he moved out. By this stage he thought he should call his family, they had been sending monthly paychecks to his friend’s family and covering his boarding school fees but then one day it all stopped. He called home, and the whole family had left the area. This was 15 years ago, before internet etc so he was literally alone. He moved out of his friends house, got a job and tried to be independent.
Before too long he immigrated to Belize where he worked at a hotel, only to be robbed by a ‘friend’ of everything he had saved. He eventually hitch-hiked a ride back to Cancun, Mexico where he became homeless for one year, sleeping rough. Eventually a Mormon family paid for a basic studio room for him and he went to the university to beg for a scholarship, rejection after rejection occurred but he went back every day until the dean said “ok, I’ll test you this Friday, that gives you 5 days to study. If you pass, you’re in. If not, leave me alone!”. He was washing dishes, working in a factory and bartending (3 jobs to save for university) so he brought his text books to every job and studied 20 hours per day all week. Result? 2nd in the whole course. Bang, full scholarship.
The story continued and continued, he found a woman burning books one day, which he thought was criminal so he told her to stop. She said if he pulled a book out of the fire, he was welcome to it. He did it and it was an English encyclopedia so the next year he woke up 2 hours earlier and studied English alone at home. Result? Fluent English speaker.
Now, at 29, he has his own tour company, buses, building a luxury hose, a wife and kids etc. Amazing story. This guy took me on a tour for the day to Tulum and to see the sea turtles.
The tour is run with a Mormon twist, which I found absolutely fascinating. I’m quite anti-religion if truth be told but I’m so intrigued about religions around the world. So first we went to visit the Mayan ruins in Tulum, where the original temples are still standing from when the Spanish first discovered the continent.
I heard all about how many Mormons believe Jesus was resurrected only to come to Central and South America, about findings of David’s star, carving of Jesus’s face at Machu Picchu etc I learned all about the Mayan history but also about the Mormon faith – one of the most interesting travel days I’ve had in a long time.
On the way back to Cancun we stop to swin at Akumel Bay, a world class beach and home to a large colony of Sea Turtles. Snorkel and fins on and I was in the water like a shot, instantly we discovered a turtle. 5 minutes later the place was covered in them, these huge beautiful beasts gliding through the water – some of them were bigger than me!
I stayed in the water for almost an hour, loving life out there. But there was a storm brewing so we heading back in. On the way home we stopped for original Mexican icecream (I played it safe with coconut flavor, chilli and cheese didn’t do it for me) and soon I said goodbye to my new Mormon friend, filled with new information and some great memories.