Returning Home from Tulum

A buddy of mine who I hadn’t seen in many years invited me and a couple of our mutual friends to join him for a week in Tulum, Mexico. Being my first time out of the country I immediately jumped at the chance. The opportunity to travel to another land with the smartest, most creative people I am blessed to call friends was amazing enough in and of itself, but the theme of our journey I found to be particularly intreaguing.

The prerequisite for him booking the beach camp and all the Mayan adventures was to read Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, the essential economic principles for American Libertarians and Austrian Economists alike. While it took an enormous amount of effort to work the material through my Liberal upbringing, I found its lesson simple enough to be understood by both sides equally:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Once we arrived at the beach house it seemed the prospect of discussing Hazlitt’s book quickly diminished. Surrounded by palm trees with the sound of the ocean blowing through the hammocks made it immediately evident that we were in Mexico, and the thought of bringing our country’s problems on the beaches of paradise went further out to sea as the week progressed.

Playa Selva along the beaches of Tulum, Mexico.

Playa Selva alongside the beaches of Tulum, Mexico.

Our first night was truly memorable as we happened across a salsa night at the La Zebra restaurant, whose light not only attracted beach walkers such as ourselves, but baby turtles from the ocean who the locals showed us how to safely return to the ocean. This gave us the opportunity to connect with the people who lived and worked in the surrounding camps, making the rest of our time in their country less of a tourist experience and more like a travelers.

The difference between tourism and travel was explained by my buddy as we passed by a caravan of jeeps which were driving down from the opulence of Cancun. He pointed out that they come see the natives and eat at a beach front restaurant, maybe do a little shopping or learn how to parasail before returning to their air conditioning and toilets that are powerful enough to flush down their toilet paper — two amenities that I was sorely missing as well.

While immersed in the relentless humidity akin to sleeping in an oven with a boiling pot of salt water, we hung out on the beach with Portuguese hippies, played music with migrant workers in unfinished playas, swam in ancient Mayan canals with French Canadian film producers, and learned the secrets of wild agave from the local witch doctor in a roadside shack. By the end our journey it was evident that such an experience wouldn’t be possible by simply passing through.

As we left Tulum en route to the airport, I was somewhat disappointed that we lost the time to discuss Hazlitt’s lesson, as the context of driving from the gated communities of Cancun, where the roads were littered with grave yards of abandoned resorts and the shells of shopping centers, would offer us a perspective that is rarely evident in the United States. Living in our own gated communities, it’s easy to forget the long term effects of our actions or how they affect the community at large.

We resolved to meet in a few weeks from now in order to discuss the book along with the backdrop of the photos we captured on our journey. This should allow me the time to unpack all the waterlogged clothes and coconut skulls I brought home, as well as my new perspective which allows me to look at my country, my state, and the City of Springboro in an entirely new light, not simply through the lens of economics, but as part of something much greater than I had previously realized.

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