Hell is a town called Tulum. Watched over by Mayan ruins and buttressed by the ocean, this is a place of pothole-filled streets, overpriced taxis, terrible traffic jams, and out-of-touch yuppies, celebrities, influencers, wannabe gurus, COVID deniers, and well-to-do folks looking to “find themselves” in overpriced retreats, hotels, and bars.

It is a town where one can overhear tech deals, talk of the “the China flu,” Instagram algorithms, and an upcoming drum circle within the span of a few minutes.

I came here with very low expectations. I’d heard the stories from my friends, seen all those “influencers” on Instagram gushing profusely, read the articles, and spoke with other travelers.

Tulum was an influencers paradise, which likely meant it wasn’t mine.

But I wanted to see what all the hype was really about. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe I was just being a stubborn old goat.

Nope. Tulum was even worse than I had imagined.

A sleepy little town during my last visit in 2011, Tulum is now a mecca for jet-setting millennials, celebs, hippies, and spiritual types. It is a place where they come to do all the things they can do back home — but without the cost, in better weather, and with more international people around.

It’s become another Bali or Goa: a relatively cheap retreat where most people come to drop in, drop out, stay in their bubble, eat açaí bowls during the day, and party all night long. Here, in expensive beachside boutique hotels, they eat in Miami-style restaurants while listening to the latest EDM music.

They aren’t in Tulum to experience Mexico. They come here for their little bubble.

I wanted to love Tulum. I kept thinking to myself, “What am I missing? What do they see that I don’t?”

Tulum was an influencers paradise, which likely meant it wasn’t mine.

Travel is a privilege — and the people who come here don’t seem to appreciate that. Most are simply re-creating their own cultures rather than trying to enjoy Mexican culture.

And, while I did enjoy some of those bougie restaurants and beach bars, I don’t travel in order to just re-create my life back home. I travel to experience a destination. I want to talk to locals who aren’t serving me food, eating a roadside taco stands and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and just trying to get a sense of life here.

Of course, not all travel has to be deep. Sometimes you just want a vacation. Sometimes you just want to jet off to a beach destination and drink from coconuts before going back to “the real world.”

I’m not irked by the ones that come to Tulum for that.

It’s the folks who are here long-term, feigning a deeper spiritual enlightenment and extolling the “magic” of this place, that seem hypocritical to me. They come to Tulum and pretend they are on some magical spiritual quest or here to work remote to enjoy Mexico. But all they do is stick to their own Westernized bubble.

Clearly, I’m not the yoga/burner/let’s talk about chakras kind of guy. And I have many friends who love Tulum and will go back over and over again. The “scene” in Tulum is simply not for me. There’s too much unsustainable development egged on by people who “care about the environment” but are all too happy to stay in overpriced hotels that have to constantly run generators since the hotel zone has no infrastructure.

Years ago, I said I’d never return to Vietnam. Age and experience have shown me I was wrong to judge Vietnam so harshly on a first visit. Every place deserves a second chance.

Come for a quick trip to the stunning ruins, swim in a few cenotes, eat the wonderful street food, dine at the hole in the wall local restaurants, enjoy the incredible beach, and wander the downtown area.

Then leave and skip the rest with no regrets.

Because the rest is an unsustainable and overdeveloped hell hole of fake influencers, wannabe celebs, and people tearing down paradise.

And it’s not worth your time.