BPM Festival, Mexico

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Mexico | Comments Off on BPM Festival, Mexico

We were in Playa del Carmen for so long we decided that we can now tell people we officially lived there. After a few weeks, we effortlessly morphed into locals—we had close friends in town, helped tourists with directions and recommendations; we knew the secret shortcuts and quoted prices with the confidence of natives. We even made a couple dentist appointments! We started settling into the flatness of a standard daily routine… That is until the area was flooded with a sea of activity for the BPM music festival.

We were long expecting the hurricane of international party people to hit the town, but we weren’t prepared for the magnitude of the storm. Now, every restaurant audibly erupted with miscellaneous languages and foreign accents from all over the world. The streets became a vibrant medley of color and cloth as exotic style rejuvenated our visuals and dazzled our sightlines. After adapting to our life as placid travelers, the hyperactivity and sheer volume came as a bit of a shock at first, but we quickly embraced the stimulation and planned our nap schedules accordingly.

BPM lasts 10 full days, with several beach bars and clubs hosting legendary DJs each day and night. It’s possible to buy a VIP wristband in advance in order to have access to every party; however, due to our lack of disposable funds, paired with our inability to stay awake or party like we used to, we decided to only attend three events and purchase individual tickets. We checked the lineup time after time and were perpetually unable to make our choices—the music selection was just too good!

cheersOn a side note, for about a week, we had been compiling a list of random necessities to purchase from the Mexican Wal-Mart: goggles, chapstick, peanut butter… The essentials. On our way to check out, I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes: two of my close friends from college, Ben and Ralph, were standing right in front of me! I hadn’t seen either of them since graduation a few years ago so it was a welcomed and animated reunion. They were in town for BPM and had rented a condo in a prime location; we decided to meet up later that day and ended up joining forces for the remainder of the week. It was so nice to spend quality time with old friends! We sat on the beach behind the day clubs and casually listened to the booming music amidst thousands of bikini-clad fanatics, while taking periodic dips in the ocean and catching up on the past few years over piña coladas and cans of Sol.

As for our night party selections, Carl Cox was a no-brainer, as none of us had before seen the icon live. The five of us wandered over to the Blue Parrot around 1AM and already there was a line down the block. After some foxlike maneuvering, we wiggled our way up to the front and fluidly entered the scene. Once inside, we were hit with a force field of steam and immediately got sucked into the vortex of sweaty bodies and smoke. The next several hours were a blur of heavy techno baselines and neon lights. Nic Fanciulli and Carl Cox both played a great show and had the crowd going hard! There was barely any space to squeeze through the army of dancers—even using the restroom was an earnest mission as the venue was packed all the way to the incoming tide.

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 12.48.02 PMWith sunrise looming just below the horizon, I decided to leave with Ben and Ralph and get some shuteye at their nearby condo, while Kyle and Meghan stayed glued to the dance floor for a strong finish. The party was fantastic and well worth the $60 ticket price, but I had had enough. I likened the experience to seeing Gone With the Wind at a drive-in movie theater: you can’t pass up the opportunity to see a classic in full throttle. But that particular genre of techno loses its hold on me after a few hours and 6AM seemed like a reasonable time to head home.

We were planning to stay in and recharge our batteries the following night, but upon meticulous deliberation and the ubiquitous enthusiasm surrounding the Circo Loco event, we were forced to reconsider. Meghan firmly declined attendance and so it became a Harold & Mabel adventure. This time, however, we came up with a plan that was more sympathetic to our partying abilities (or lack thereof): we went to sleep at 8PM and set our alarms for 12:30AM. At first, we figured we could just circle around to the back of Coco Maya beach club, listen to the speakers and dance on the sand for free. But once we got a taste of the delicious music, our appetites swelled and we knew we needed get inside for the full effect.

307534_711203675093_10153519_nOur jaws hit the floor when the bouncer told us the cover charge was $100 each! Waaaaay too much. But by now our minds were made up—we were getting in. We crept around the back, trying to bribe security guards along the way to let us sneak in, but they were as stone-faced as the British Royal Guard. After several thwarted efforts, Kyle got a crazy look in his eyes and declared he was going to hop the fence. I halfheartedly went along with the plan, not actually believing we could pull it off, as the perimeter was sealed and secured: he would jump over and quickly blend into the crowd, meeting me in front, where I would pay the full cover and we could split the cost. We stood there for about 10 minutes and then, all of a sudden, there was a split-second distraction—a group of girls walked by in flamboyant, lit-up costumes—and Harold saw his chance. In a flash, he was gone, and we were in!

This party was twice as packed as Blue Parrot the previous night (something I had not thought possible.) We melded into the amoeba of people moving to Maceo Plex’s deep and dirty sounds. We squeezed up the stairs and found slight sanctuary on the 6or6balcony, a couple square feet of breathing room, if that. As time wore on the crowd did not dilute, in fact, it seemed to steadily grow. Once the Martinez Brothers hit the decks, my feet did not stop moving. The music was unreal—every couple minutes, they would drop another outstanding track and Kyle and I would stare at each other, wide-eyed and approving. The Martinez Brothers played back-to-back with Seth Troxler and we welcomed the sunrise with their tantalizing beats. As the day grew hot the mob thinned out, and we were thankful for our pre-party naps, which enabled us to stay fixed to the scene and take over the front of the dance floor with plenty of room. The DJs never lost momentum and kept the remaining partygoers firmly within their trance. They finally ended their set sometime around 8AM and we decided to wander over to Ben and Ralph’s condo and crash, as to avoid the long walk back to our hostel on the other side of town. When nobody opened the door, we accepted defeat and began the journey home… But walking past Coco Maya on the way back, we heard music still playing and went back in, relieved to find that a new party had blossomed upstairs with DJs we didn’t recognize. We danced up there for a while more before officially calling it a night. Or rather, a day.

agallA couple days later, we were ready for our grand finale. The Lovelife crew of San Diego was sponsoring a party at La Santanera. Jon Dadon was spinning and had added us to the list for free entry. Now seasoned, we had our sequence down: dinner, nap, shower and show up around 1AM. It was at this party that we ran into another familiar face: Ashley Gall! She had decided to fly to Mexico and attend the festival on a whim the day before—we were so glad to find each other and play! La Santanera was much more laid back than any of the other parties we’d attended, and we were actually able to dance around, sit and talk to one another.

I’m not sure what time we left La Santanera, but we wandered back to Ashley’s villa for a little air-conditioned downtime and rested our tired feet in the hot tub there. As the sun came up, we walked half a block down to the beach for a morning swim and happened to see some friends dancing on daybeds in the back of Coco Maya. The party was still going strong and it only seemed natural to participate… It was our final hurrah, after all!

clubAfter the party finally ended, Kyle, Megs and I walked all the way back to our hostel, where we went through the motions of packing our gear, checking out, and going all the way back to the condo. By 2PM we were hanging on by a thread, and Ben and Ralph let us sleep in their cool and dark bedroom for the next few hours before getting on the overnight bus for Guatemala.

When we woke up, still groggy and feeling like we’d aged 100 years, we went to the bus station only to find it completely sold out and learned we wouldn’t be able to leave until the next night at 11:40PM. None of us had enough energy to get upset or come up with a new plan, so we calmly trudged back to the condo and informed the boys of an extended slumber party. Ben and Ralph were planning on going out again that night—we couldn’t even fathom their resilience—and were kind enough to let us pass out again in the big bed for THIRTEEN HOURS.

yrThe next day, as we lazed around and started compiling the video footage from the past week, we could not get one of the MartinezBrothers’ tracks out of our heads. We scoured the internet for clues and even tried using Shazam to identify the song, but our efforts were fruitless. After the boys left for another day party there was a knock at the door… Kyle went to open it and who was standing there? Steve Martinez!! He was looking for his friend Pat’s room, but Kyle just ushered him inside and said “Oh good, you’re here. We’ve been meaning to ask you something…” We played him the sample from one of our videos and though he couldn’t remember the title, he went and got his laptop and loaded the track onto Kyle’s USB key. He sat and chatted with us for a bit and was sweet about letting us take a couple photos with him. After he left, we sat there just staring at each other and then burst out laughing about the randomness.

As everyone else starting winding down and preparing for the cruel reality of returning to work on Monday, we took extreme pride in the fact that once we sufficiently nursed our hangovers and endured 20 long hours on 3 separate buses, we could go back to reading, hiking, swimming, exploring, and comfortably enjoying this existence we’ve created. We delighted in the fact that we saw three sunrises, had several chance run-ins with unexpected friends, danced to incredible music and finally left Playa del Carmen with a feeling of glowing accomplishment..

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Mexico | Comments Off on Playa del Carmen, Mexico

My parents and sisters arrived in Mexico on December 23rd. We met at the Aventura Spa and our reunion was almost overwhelming—family time at a luxurious, all-inclusive resort after weeks of living the life of a dirty backpacker? It felt like a dream! We exchanged stories over the lunch buffet, which was chock-full of mouth-watering indulgences I hadn’t tasted in what felt like forever. Everyone was in good spirits and seemed grateful for the chance to relax all together in paradise.

sissyAllison, Cait and I had a blast! We savored our “sissy time” laying by the pool or chasing iguanas, filling each other in on the current events of our lives, laughing about embarrassing stories and disclosing our hopes for the New Year.  We engaged in a serious ping pong tournament where Cait’s commentating had us in stitches and we participated “bathtub interviews” with Allison acting as Barbara Walters.  We spent a few nights out in Playa del Carmen and had a fabulous New Years Eve cutting up a rug and watching the fireworks on the roof of Mandala, overlooking the raging block party below.

My Uncle Bill and Aunt Lou Ann joined us a few days after we arrived. Kyle and Meghan had gone to Tulum for Christmas so the Duncan clan shuttled south via colectivo to meet them for a day. We moseyed along the main road, shopping at the seemingly identical storefronts that lined the streets and stopping for an early dinner at an authentic Mexican restaurant. We ate fajitas, fresh ceviche, fish tacos and enchiladas as the waiter kept refreshing our cervezas and Dad regaled us with cautionary anecdotes from his South American travel experience.

imageThe one drawback of the trip was that this year the hotel was PACKED. Finding an open chaise lounge by the pool each day was a losing battle and we frequently resorted to spreading our towels on the grass in defeat. As if the overflowing population wasn’t bad enough, most of the vacationers were obnoxious—perpetually wasted, loud, and oftentimes obscene. We definitely made the most of it, but my parents made it clear that this would be our last year spending Christmas at Aventura.

Ten days flew by and before I was ready for the trip to end, it was time for them to go home.  I watched with puppy eyes as my sisters packed up their suitcases. I drank one last bittersweet cocktail with my aunt and uncle as they waited for their taxi to the airport. Before their bus disappeared from my view I already missed my parents. It was such a treat to vacation as a family, but it was a strange feeling not knowing when we would all be together again, especially with Allison moving to South Korea next month.

famAlas, it was time to return to my pobrecita status.

I scurried across the highway and hopped on a colectivo heading for Tulum to meet Kyle and Meghan after their New Years trip to Chichen Itza.  We checked into the Casa del Sol hostel, which was pretty grimy especially in contrast to my recent accommodations.

In the morning we rented bikes and rode out to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, with white sand that was as soft as powdered sugar and sparkling cerulean water.  Megs and I embraced the toplessness and spent the day swimming, reading and napping on the bed sheet we shamelessly stole from our hostel.

The next day we went to Akumal Beach where we rented snorkel gear and swam around the reef, spotting sea turtles, stingray, and bountiful multihued fish. Once we returned to the Casa del Sol, we prepared a delicious meal of homemade salsa and guacamole, spicy veggie pasta, and tropical sangria, which we shared with the other travelers over a Gin Rummy card game competition!.

Day Zero Festival, Mexico

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Mexico | Comments Off on Day Zero Festival, Mexico

418086_707557117823_1498803792_nAccording to ancient Mayan culture, December 21, 2012 is noted as a predetermined date that marks a significant transition for all humanity. Many people misinterpreted the focus of this prophecy, choosing to either stock up on water and canned goods in apocalyptic preparation, or rather to completely dismiss the event as meaningless or insignificant.

The Maya did not predict that our planet would spontaneously combust, but rather that mankind would experience an internal change in a positive direction. It takes 25,630 years for us to get from one side of the Milky Way to the other; December 21st– “Creation Day”– celebrates this event and signifies the rebirth of the world to a higher level of consciousness. The whole point is to reflect, both individually and collectively, on who we are and who we want to be. The ultimate significance is that as we awaken to our personal contribution in this planetary alignment, great possibilities will emerge for positive change.


imagegWe chose to celebrate this momentous occasion at the Day Zero Festival here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The event was held at a Mayan cultural scene (not an authentic ruin, but designed as a replica) which was all lit up when we arrived around 9PM. The venue had a traditional feel but was clean and modern at the same time. Partygoers put a lot of effort into their outfits, in typical festival spirit. Everyone looked great and was ready to have a good time! We met a lot of awesome people, most of whom were also on their own world travel expeditions.

428785_707556039983_524756402_nWalking the grounds, we came upon many interesting and interactive features. A wishing well where you could leave your innermost desires; a doorway which you could walk through and cleanse yourself of secrets; shamanic yoga sessions, etc. It was all quite visually stimulating, but best of all was the music/entertainment. The DJs were on point, and there were several fire dancing performances, to boot. We stayed until almost 4AM (late for us ol’ folks) and decided to go back to the hotel for a much needed nap and shower before heading back the next afternoon.

Day 2 was a different experience. In the light of day there was much more to be seen (although it was, as a result, a bit less enchanting.) It was clear that a lot of people were still wide awake and dancing from the night before– we tipped our caps to their valiant efforts, but I have to admit, I was not in any way envious. The event was relatively small, maybe 2,000 people total, but it seemed to us that many did not return the second day (though we spotted several recurring characters for the night before that honestly could have been in a cartoon.)We did less exploring and pretty much stuck to one “safe zone” with friends we made waiting for the shuttle (which never came.) It was overcast for most of the day and we even had a few bouts of icy sprinkles, but at around 3PM the skies opened up and the sun peeked through, giving

68901_707557182693_1372946229_nWe did less exploring and pretty much stuck to one “safe zone” with friends we made waiting for the shuttle (which never came.) It was pretty overcast all day and we had a few bouts of icy sprinkles, but at about 4PM the skies opened up and the sun peeked through and everyone went crazy.

I don’t know if the music was actually better or if I was just able to pay closer attention, but it sounded amazing! My favorite set was probably Art Department. You could tell one of them was having a fantastic time, watching his hands and hysterically laughing, running up the stairs of the pyramid and dancing at the top with some guys dressed as gold unicorns. It was awesome!


The Mayans predicted the cosmic shift to take place at exactly 6:11PM, so after Damian Lazarus’s closing set, they had a traditional Mayan ceremony with dancers and spiritual chants. We were all expecting fireworks or something massive to close out the festival, but at about 6:15 we realized the main lights were turned off and everyone was silently heading toward the exit. Surprisingly anticlimactic but, overall, a great event!

Regardless of what you believe, it’s always a good idea to take time and think about your personal effect on your peers and environment (especially now, with New Years right around the corner!) I hope that as we each move forward on our own personal adventures, we keep in mind the mark we wish to leave on the world. Consider the positive future you can create, without losing sight of the past. I, for one, am anticipating a remarkable 2013. Cheers to another year of love, laughter, health and happiness!.