Postcard from Tulum: bohemian chic dreamcatchers and COVID deniers
This is an interview with Eileen Dunn, a life coach who moved to Tulum in October 2020 with her partner Alba, to run a yoga studio. She tells me about her experience of living in Tulum, one of the New Age capitals on the global wellness circuit, during the COVID pandemic.
Tell me about your move to Tulum.
I’m an East Coast girl, New Englander, grew up in Maine, then lived in Boston. I moved to Denver, I was there for six months, met my partner Alba there. This opportunity to buy a yoga studio in Tulum fell into our laps. COVID had just hit. I had recently started my life coaching business. I have a background in social work then got a masters in organizational psychology. My girlfriend Alba is a wildly talented yoga instructor. We both had dreams of being a little nomadic for a while, travelling internationally, seeing if we could build our dreams elsewhere. It was a very serendipitous occurrence but it made sense. I’d never been to Tulum before. We arrived in October 2020.
What were your first impressions?
I’m very sensitive to my surroundings. Tulum is a breath-takingly beautiful place to be. It’s also very loud and noisy and dusty — it’s in a developing country. There were a lot of sounds and smells and sights that were really disturbing, especially in contrast to the bohemian-chic, uber-wealthy nomad tourists, using Tulum as a playground for experimental drug use and wandering around dressed like dream-catchers.
In terms of the social dynamics, my initial experience was fascination and excitement. I had never seen human behaviour like this. I’m from the North East, from Ivy League buttoned-up culture. It was really refreshing at first. You would have interactions with people, it would start to feel really intimate really quickly. There was a sense of vulnerability and intimacy. You would very quickly start talking about things that are ethereal, magical, spiritual. I’m not super-spiritual myself but got into it four years ago when my mother died. You’d be talking about things that are magical and interesting. People are very effusive and affectionate. It initially felt very welcoming. But when you stay a little longer, you start to realize there’s nothing behind the words they’re saying, or the clothes…