Journey to personal discovery

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By Anita Mabante Leach

Got your summer travel plans in place? My family always seems to leave things up in the air. Maybe spontaneity is what makes taking time off more relaxing.

The places we’ve chosen to showcase in our annual travel issue represent the five types of relaxation many people seek: sports recreation, spa experiences, a historical search, eco-tourism adventure, and metropolitan sophistication. We also want you to know that a passport, even though it seems a bothersome process to apply, can still take you to some of the best destinations on the planet.

A few of our staff members have shared stories of exotic locations and surprising adventures. I’m no different. My travel adventure to the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza, nearly 30 years ago, provided a few unforgettable moments of discovering the past.

Back in the late ’70s I had scrimped to purchase an all-inclusive package to Cancun, before it was the hot spot it is now. My mother, who was afraid for me to travel alone, asked me to cancel the trip. My fiancée also was reluctant to see me go. I boarded the plane.

I stayed at a Club Med (which is still there) and reveled in not having to lug around purse or wallet. Everyone lounged in swimsuits and cover-ups all day until it was time to dine.

Singles were assigned roommates. Mine was a quiet young woman about my age who seemed depressed.

Not wanting to be “stuck” with a Debbie Downer, I tried cheering her up, to little avail. She’d taken the trip to forget a boyfriend who had left her for another woman. Now trash talkin’ a former boyfriend usually works some magic, and even though I didn’t know the guy, I told her she was better off without him. Surely she was destined to find someone infinitely more suited to her personality.

That seemed to change her mood. As we both began to dress for dinner, I casually asked her exactly what this other woman supposedly had that she didn’t?

“Oh, she’s some kind of Spanish dancer. I guess he thought that was pretty cool.”

The hair on the back of my neck stood up suddenly. At the time, I also performed flamenco and Spanish dance in a local troupe.

I looked squarely at her and asked what the guy’s name was. When she told me, I was stunned. He was a young man I had dated for less than a year! What I felt compelled to tell her next would certainly make a difference in our budding friendship.

I – her newfound cheerleader– was “the other woman.”

We stared at each other, no words forthcoming.

I took a deep breath and apologized for causing her any pain. I asked myself, what were the odds?

Stammering, I reiterated that she was smart to forget him. Then something surprising happened. We went to dinner together and got blottoed during a tequila shooter demo. It seemed the best thing to do to smooth over the past. We were pals for the rest of our stay.

Later, on a side excursion to Chichen Itza, I explored ruins that were beginning to gain prominence as a fantastic tourism attraction. We turistas climbed the claustrophobic interior of El Castillo to the top of the pyramid, walked through the ball-playing field and ambled through other stone buildings at the site.

At the Temple of the Warriors I saw a reclining figure that is known as a chac-mool altar. It was here, looking out across Chichen Itza, that I finally realized the extent of my own cultural heritage. I felt insignificant, yet part of something huge in scale, a reconnection to a rich, ancient past.

Discovering the past often is a part of travel, but such findings also can be experienced at home. Some look no further than parents and family to unearth the beginnings of their own personalities. In honor of Mother’s Day, we profile several Arizona moms. Check out their stories to see if they relate to your experiences as a parent or child.

We also touch upon the past in LP Journal, detailing the historical inaccuracy of a new World War II documentary in which Latinos were conspicuously absent – and the outcry it generated.

History, a wise professor once said, is the past and how we view it. Travel gives us the chance to create a personal history, one that is worth revisiting repeatedly. For those of you about to embark, good luck, and may your journey be a pleasant one.

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