I don’t vote

I was stopped at the post office today, just passing through on a quick run to drop off a few packages for my LuLaRoe business, by a guy outside asking people to update their voter registration. In a bit of a hurry, I kindly and quickly said “no thanks, I don’t vote” and continued walking. Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with that response, because he replied with “what about the 19th amendment?” To which I answered “I don’t like my choices” and walked inside. When I reemerged from the building on my way back through the parking lot to my car, he said to me “well what about all the local elections, the judges and the school board and all the people responsible for teaching your children?” (this guy was clearly not giving up). I firmly replied that I teach children, so I’m going to focus on that. I did tell him that I appreciated him asking, but I feel like his persistence just brings up a very good point that I believe I’m not alone in feeling. Or maybe I am and I’m the only person that has it wrong, but either way, it’s my prerogative and it’s my basic human right as an American citizen to vote or not vote. It isn’t anybody else’s choice to make but mine.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people reading this who follow politics on the daily and vote every time there’s an election, whether it’s local, state or federal government, but I’m just not one of those people. And I really don’t care who has a problem with it or not, because again, it’s my decision to make as an individual living in this country. It’s my freedom to choose whether or not I want to vote.

I also want to point out that I’m not one of those people who refuses to vote and then, when people are elected that I don’t agree with, sits there and complains about it. No, I realize that if I’m giving up my right to vote, I’m also giving up my right to complain about who wins. I’m not that much of an asshole.

Up until this point in my adult life, in the years since I’ve turned 18 and have been eligible to vote, I have not agreed with any of the choices for president. This is only the third presidential election that I have been of age for. The first two were obviously when Obama was elected and reelected; both times I did not agree with his win, and both times I also did not like the opposing candidate. So for me, voting for one guy because I don’t want the other guy to win, even if the guy I’m voting for isn’t someone I  want to win either, really doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, maybe voting for the lesser of two evils is the right thing to do, maybe it’s not. All I know is that until I am presented with at least one option that I truly feel confident about voting in to office, I’m not going to participate. It’s just not a good use of my time. And as a very busy middle school teacher, I can’t afford to waste any time on things that I don’t agree with.

For example, where the upcoming presidential election is concerned, I think Donald Trump is a buffoon and I certainly don’t want him running our country, but does that mean that Hillary Clinton deserves my vote? Probably not, and that’s why I’m not voting. I’m simply not satisfied giving my vote to either candidate.

That being said, I understand the point this nice gentleman is trying to make about how I should still participate in local and state government. However, again, I am a very busy schoolteacher who also runs a business of her own on the side, so between all of that, and all of the things that actually pertain to my day-to-day life and responsibilities, taking the time out of my busy life to vote for people that, again, I don’t really know that much about, really just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. In my opinion, and again, this is all my opinion which, by definition, cannot be wrong, so please don’t tell me that I’m wrong in saying any of this (especially considering the whole “freedom of speech” thing). I’m a language arts teacher, I know what opinion is versus fact. Everything that I’m saying right now is opinion, not a fact, you can’t prove it right or wrong, it’s simply how I feel, and you’re allowed to feel differently, that’s why they’re called opinions.

Anyway, now that I’m done ranting about opinions versus fact, my opinion is that my one vote is not going to make enough of a difference in the long run. In the grand scheme of things, whoever I could possibly vote for in the local and state government is probably not going to make a difference to the point where my vote is necessary. I realize that sounds pessimistic and ignorant, because if everyone had this attitude and everyone said “oh, my vote doesn’t count it’s really not gonna matter whether I vote or not” then nobody would vote and then change really wouldn’t be able to occur. I already get that. But all I know is that, at the end of the day, I’m a teacher, I’m teaching kids and I’m making a difference and impacting the world on a smaller level. I’m causing change to occur on a smaller level, and that is the most that I can contribute to society.

I also refuse to vote blindly just for the sake of voting. If I don’t know who I’m voting for, or I’m uneducated about the candidates, I would rather not vote than vote blindly just for the sake of putting in my two cents. And honestly, between working 40+ hours a week and trying to have some time for my friends and family on top of all that (because I need to have a life and not lose my mind), I don’t have the time to dedicate to educating myself about the candidates. There are so many people running for so many things I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I see signs every day when I’m driving around, re-elect this person or elect that person for a slew of miscellaneous titles that I’ve never even heard of. So, because I’m uneducated about who they even are, let alone what they’re running for, I elect to not vote blindly. And I’m sorry, but I’m also not going to take time out of my very busy schedule to educate myself on people that, honestly, don’t affect my day-to-day life. I don’t really feel the impact of what they do, and maybe one day I will, and maybe that’s the day that I will change my outlook and I will actually care about voting, but until that day comes, I’m going to focus my energy on the things that matter to me and the people in my life directly. For me, to have the biggest impact on my life and the lives of people around me, I need to be a little selfish in that respect and focus on what I’m doing and how I’m trying to make a difference in this world and for me that means teaching my sixth graders about how to be good people and showing them by example how to live a good life and be moral and have ethics and hopefully one day they will be able to go out into the world and they will be able to create change in whatever way they see fit.

Whenever the topic of politics comes up, especially in regards to people (seemingly) being ignorant and not voting, there’s always going to be controversy, there are always going to be people who don’t agree, and there are always going to be people who want to argue and say that you’re wrong. You can tell me I’m wrong all you want, it’s still not going to change how I think and how I live my life.

I will also say that I appreciate the people who do pay attention to this nonsense, because those are the people who are voting and hopefully putting into office people that deserve to be there. Maybe one day my priorities will change as I get older and I will actually care about this stuff and pay attention more, but until that day comes, I’m happy with how I live my life, even if others think I’m living in a bubble (because it’s a damn awesome bubble). I really couldn’t care less about voting at this point in my life, so thank you sir for offering to update my voter registration card, but I’ll take a hard pass.

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A day in Cozumel, Mexico (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 6)

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Just one of the many stunning shots on the paths inside the caves.

Our final day in port wasn’t actually spent on the island of Cozumel, but on the mainland in Playa Del Carmen, on the Riviera Maya. A 45 minute ferry ride and 15 minute bus ride took us to our destination of Xplor Park. Here, we spent a few hours ziplining, swimming through underwater caves and exploring the jungle on an ATV. We sped through the treetops on the Jaguar Run, which was the faster and higher of the two lines. Our final zip splashed us into an underwater cavern, which was an exciting way to end the ziplining part of our day.

Never having been ziplining before, here’s what I have to say on the matter:

Get ready to climb a lot. How else do you expect to get up high enough to experience the rush of careening through the treetops? I didn’t quite expect the magnitude of stairs, but just remember not to rush, stop if you feel winded and just take your time and enjoy the experience.

Wear a comfortable outfit. We knew we’d be getting wet, so we had bathing suits on (thankfully I left my board shorts on over my bikini), but if you’re just doing a zipline tour, wear comfortable shorts that will protect you from the unforgiving harness. And guys, consider a pair of compression shorts under your regular shorts, those harnesses tend to rub, and I imagine chaffing there can’t be much fun. Also make sure you wear comfortable shoes. I recommend sneakers because of all the climbing, but also because, if you wear flip-flops, you’ll be holding them every time you go down a line, and that will just get annoying.

If you have a Go Pro, bring it. I wish we’d had a camera to snap photos and video along our run. The facility took photos, but I wasn’t pleased with their package options, so we went home without any pictures of the ziplining.

After the ziplining was done, we donned life jackets and floated down the underground river, which took us about 30 minutes and wound through a large portion of the cave system. This was probably my favorite part of the day, because I think caves are awesome and I love exploring them. The water was brisk and refreshing. We kept our shoes on, which I’m glad we did, because there were some spots that got shallow enough to stand (off to the side) and explore a little further and take pictures. I had an underwater camera, but without a flash, (and with facility lights only so often along the river) who knows what actually came out. I guess we’ll see when I get the film developed (in 2-3 weeks, because apparently Walgreens doesn’t develop single-use cameras in house anymore). There’s an antiquated ritual though; who gets film developed anymore? Oh wait, I do.

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Our meeting point, the heart, the center of the cave system.

After the river swim, we got in line for the amphibious ATVs and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Just when I thought we’d have to abandon the line to make a dash back to our bus, we finally got on one. It was a cool drive through the jungle and into more caverns, but I’m not sure the wait was worth it. When I booked the tour, reviewers said you could tell employees you were on a cruise and had limited time and they’d bump you to the front of the line, but I didn’t see anyone to even inquire with until we were already far enough up in line to be next for a truck. I think our tour guide Jesus was supposed to shuffle us through, but another group had cut us off at the ziplining, so we had gotten separated from our group and had to solve it on our own. We ended up coming out of the ride exactly at the time we needed to leave, which worked out well (so that we didn’t get left behind) but it meant we didn’t have enough time to get our complimentary lunch. Thankfully I’d eaten a complimentary banana when we got out of the river, so I was able to not die on the ride back to the ship, where we were able to finally get some food.

Even though it was a very rushed day (3.5-4 hours wasn’t enough time to do everything in the park), we still had a great time. It was definitely much different than Xcaret, which I’d done as a kid with my family. The main difference (at least from what I could remember, it’d been 10+ years since I was there) was that Xcaret was mostly above ground fun (although I know there was an underground river, I just never went in it) and Xplor was more for adventure-seeking individuals, in which all activities included the caverns somehow. Just getting inside and around the park required walking through vast underground paths that wound through the caverns so immensely that, in some places, you’d be completely alone and feel so turned around you were positive somehow you’d wandered into another dimension (or at the very least, another town). Except when we were up on the ziplines, high above the trees and could visibly see the highway and other forms of civilization, everything else about the park was nestled in between the jungle vegetation or tucked away underground, giving it the overall feeling of being deep in the heart of some lost world, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

Favorite moment: splashing into a refreshing cavern at the end of our zipline run. It was a bit of a shock at first, but afterwards it was a lovely end to a fun, albeit hot and sweaty, zipline experience. That, and our tour guide Jesus (pronounced Hey-Seuss, not Jesus like not the dude on the cross; we were in Mexico, not America, after all) constantly looking for us to make sure we didn’t get left behind, since other tours kept separating us from our group. He was a scrawny, 19-year-old with a lot of enthusiasm, who liked to use the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” before and after everything he said. He was good people.

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If you haven’t yet, check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post to help you plan your own cruise vacation.

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A day in Costa Maya, Mexico (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 5)

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Photo with the locals.

Our third country, Costa Maya was our 1st of 2 Mexican ports of call. We had originally left this day open to just wing it and wander, but when our snuba in Roatan was canceled due to weather, we rebooked a catamaran and snorkel excursion for Costa Maya (since the weather forecast was better). But of course, in true vacation fashion, things always change from what you planned (especially where weather is concerned) and when we got off the ship, our trip had been canceled (again). Everything else was already booked, except a beach day excursion, so we took it. As annoyed as I was to not be able to snorkel and to have to pay $65/person to go to a nearby beach, it turned out to be perfect. Our fee ended up including an open bar tab and a taxi ride back to the ship, so all we spent once at the beach was the $8 on chips and guac (which was authentically Mexican and delicious) and the $15 to tip our server, Juan. We spent several hours relaxing on a beautiful beach, sipping pina coladas as fast as Juan could bring them. We also had access to a swim-up bar and, of course, the Caribbean Sea. Laying under a palm hut, it truly felt like our own piece of paradise.

Favorite moment/memory: Juan. He was this big teddy bear of a Mexican man, super friendly and instantly likable. He definitely made our beach day that much better.

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Check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post to help you plan your own cruise vacation.

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A day in Belize City, Belize (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 4)

IMG_6398Our second country and second port of call, Belize City was another enjoyable place to visit. Unexpectedly, when we got off the ship, we were anchored in the middle of the ocean (we later found out the Belizeans are trying to avoid dredging by limiting the number and size of boats that come to shore), but it only added to the tropical beauty of it all when we returned to enjoy a drink on the top deck, overlooking the coastline and the gorgeous Caribbean Sea. It’s as blue and beautiful as it seems in photographs.

Originally we had booked an excursion to visit Altun Ha Mayan Ruins & Bacab Jungle Park. Due to overbooking (so they said), our tour was (yet again) canceled, but I still wanted to see the ruins, so we re-booked just the ruins (without any extras). It ended up working out better, because we were still able to come back to the pier, have lunch, and then re-board the ship and get some pool time without all the extra bodies (because everyone else was still out on their own tours). The ruins were small, but the tour provided just the right amount of time to explore on our own, not too long where we got done early and were bored, not too short where we had to rush. It was the Goldilocks of Mayan ruins. Another win for tropical cruise vacationing. From here it was on to Mexico.

Favorite moment: Standing at the top of the ceremonial bloodletting temple (the tallest one we could climb) and looking out over the site and the jungle beyond. I can only imagine what it must have looked like thousands of years ago when the Mayans lived there.

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On top of the ceremonial temple at Altun Ha.

If you’re planning your own cruise, check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post.

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A day in Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 3)

The first thing to remember when traveling on vacation anywhere, anytime, is to prepare for anything. And learn how to roll with things when they don’t go the way you planned. Because it will happen at least once. And you will make everyone else around you miserable if you don’t get over it fast.

Our first port of call was Roatan, Honduras. We had originally booked a snuba excursion for the day and I was super excited to dive the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef. I was also very much hoping we’d be lucky enough to see whale sharks, since Honduras is known for sightings. Needless to say, I was definitely more than disappointed when our excursion was canceled due to weather and poor visibility. It was cloudy and only rained for about 5 minutes but whatever. I probably wasn’t going to see whale sharks anyway so who cares.

But really, it sucked and without wanting to risk booking a 2nd trip and getting rained on, we opted to just wing it and figure it out when we got ashore. This doesn’t always work out (and for a hot minute I was definitely sure we were going to be robbed and murdered, or at the very least dropped somewhere in the jungle), but somehow it worked out well in the end and we were able to see some of the small island on our own terms.

We hired a driver to take us around the island and then to the West End Village for lunch. He spoke very little English, which we were not aware of until we were already in his cab and out on the road. I like to have conversations with our drivers so I can ask questions about the country, so I was definitely bummed we couldn’t get info about the island while we cruised around. It was also slightly uncomfortable knowing he could just take us off somewhere sketchy and we would have no way to ask what the fuck. Although I’m sure if that were to happen, by that point speaking the same language wouldn’t really even matter.

But as far as wanting to get some extra tips and education about the country you’re visiting, definitely request an English-speaking driver when you pay for a tour or service on your own. Or just be better at languages and make sure you or someone in your party is bilingual.

After I realized we weren’t going to be murdered (it’s a legitimate concern in some of these countries), I just enjoyed the quiet in our cab as we cruised the countryside. I’ve been in other countries with similar geography, so I wasn’t too alarmed by the narrow, winding roads and how fast and close to each other everyone drives. But if you’ve never been to the Caribbean or Central/South America, be prepared for this. It’s really not as terrifying as it seems at first.

birdWe stopped for a quick tour of a local monkey farm (which I didn’t really want to do, but apparently “no” doesn’t translate the same from English to Spanish…). I don’t like seeing animals in cages, but we went anyway and I got to have a local monkey and bird sit on my head and eat things off my shoulder. So if you’re into that sort of thing, it was $10/person and I don’t remember what the park was called, so figure it out yourself. Sorry.

We ended our private cab tour at Half Moon Resort for lunch. I had the coconut shrimp, which was delicious. Probably the best coconut shrimp I’ve ever had, hands down. We enjoyed our lunch on their oceanfront dining deck, with the surf crashing up and around us. It was picturesque. I also quickly realized it was a dive resort, which made me wish Kevin was certified already. It definitely seemed like a place that I’d want to go back to and stay at specifically for that reason, so anyone who’s also scuba certified, check it out and let me know if it’s worth it.

All in all, visually, Honduras was a beautiful, tropical paradise, one I hope to revisit again someday and see what its ocean depths have to offer.

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View of Half Moon Bay from Half Moon Resort

If you’re planning your own cruise, check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post.

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