How I Spent My Summer Vacation: World-School Style

September 1, 2020
Written by:
Guest Author

Sponsored by The Culture Trotters.

Last we shared with you we were in Akumal, Mexico riding out the shutdown with the cutest little troop of spider monkeys. Since then, a lot has changed. 

Mexico has started to reopen and that means time to put the multiplication tables and spelling list away and get back out there for some big summer-time adventures. 


First stop: Cancun, Mexico. Known for its breathtaking beaches, wild spring-breakers (thank goodness they were not there), and over the top all-inclusive hotels (ahh we didn’t go to one of those either). 

We went to Cancun to go swimming with the world’s largest shark. 

Every year from June-September, the largest gathering of Whale Sharks in the world happens off the coast of Isla Mujeres. Hundreds of these magnificent creatures come to the waters where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet, to feed on the abundance of krill and fish eggs. 

Getting to see something like this is extraordinary. It was even more extraordinary to witness our 9-year-old son fearlessly jump into incredibly deep water and swim like Aquaman on a mission out to greet a fish as big as a bus. There are not even words. 


After our unbelievable adventure with the Whale Sharks, we took our first flight in months and headed off to Chiapas Mexico. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, until a few weeks ago, we hadn’t either. 

Chiapas is a southern state of Mexico that was once part of Guatemala. It is home to Palenque, one of the great Maya ruins sights in Mexico. There is no shortage of culture there as many remaining descendants of the Maya still live here in indigenous communities. It is full of natural beauty, lakes, waterfalls, jungles, beaches, and conveniently, cool mountain ranges. 

After 4 months in Mexico, we were ready for some cooler weather. Forcing that jacket into my suitcase for the last 4 months has finally paid off. I knew I would need it. 

Horseback Riding to Chamula

In the mountains of Chiapas lives a large community of indigenous people called Chamula. Seeing as how our goal is to explore culture, we couldn’t wait to get up there and learn all we could about these mysterious people. 

For some unknown reason, we thought the best way to go would be on horseback. We kind of overlooked the fact that three out of the four of us have zero experience with horses. We just assumed the guide would give lessons, and a helmet, and it would all be good. Not quite what happened. Turns out, no one in the tour company speaks English, nor are they overly safety concerned. 

In what felt like a blink of an eye all four of us were on a horse that was all but running up the mountain. The kids thought this was the best thing that ever happened, and loved every second of it. I don’t think Alejandro even held on to the reins and was pretty much communicating with the horse with the “The Force.” I spent the whole time trying to stay on my horse while attempting to tell all the other horses to slow down and everyone else to hold on. Poor Robert, who is 6”4, 250lbs, was just trying to keep his horse and his butt as comfortable as possible. 

Needless to say, we survived. The kids keep asking to do it again and Robert and I are still recovering from PTSD.

Ziplining and Caving at Arcotete

In case running horses wasn’t enough to get our adrenaline levels up, we also did some “spontaneous” ziplining. That is right: spontaneous. See, the reopening of Mexico is very sporadic and no one knows what will be open on any given day. So you just show up and see. 

Some locals had told us about a nature preserve that had just opened back up, that had beautiful caves, and a river, and was a great place to walk around and enjoy nature. They also have a zipline but were fully warned the zipline was not open yet. 

So off we went for what we assumed would just be a peaceful walk around nature. Arabella has wanted to zipline for the longest time. She has always been too young or too small to meet the requirements.  Of course, when we saw that zipline, little eyes lit up with the hope that today would be the day. She asked the park ranger if we could zipline and he told her it was closed but when he saw the look of disappointment on her face, he couldn’t say no. The next thing we knew he was on his phone making calls and in about 20 minutes another man came zooming up the mountain on his motorcycle. The ranger ran over to where we were and let us know they were going to take us ziplining. Arabella was thrilled! And again, while the rest of us were holding on for dear life, she fearlessly zoomed across those lines like Tarzan through the jungle. Her big dream has come true. 


More Homeschool help with our Summer Learning Resource Guide

More about the author:

The Esteves family left the states in late February to travel the world full time. Just three weeks later Covid 19 hit and changed everything. They ended up spending 7 months in Mexico having some amazing adventures. Recently they made the jump to Tanzania Africa where they are living more like locals and less like tourists in an effort to give their kids a more unique and in-depth cultural experience. Share in the adventures as they navigate their way around the world in these uncertain times on their YouTube channel  Culture Trotters  Get daily photos of their experiences on Instagram @culturetrotters.