Clint and I met through a mutual friend in 2007 just a few months after I moved to Charleston. We hit it off the first night we met, but it took him a few months to get the courage [or the right phone number, we will never really know] to ask me out solo outside of meeting up with our crew of friends.
We dated off & on for over 4 years. I dealt with being ghosted for no reason, an unknown break-up a week before a birthday trip we had planned with his family [that I still went on, weird how that works], him moving to Colorado with no notice, and then suddenly showing back up 9 months later expecting things to be just the same as always.
Well, they weren’t. I was dating someone else when he arrived back in town, and it took him… well, let’s call it consistency… to win me back over for one last chance. And he did, big time. We fell hard and fast again, and this time serious enough for forever. He proposed in March of 2012 on a trip to St. Maarten, and we were married in May of 2013 in Charleston, SC.
While our relationship was still young, we also started our first business together in 2010 and purchased a bar in downtown Charleston. We eventually grew that business into an on-site wedding catering business in 2012, and I quit my nine-to-five to help with booking events as the business started to grow.
Unfortunately, we lost the brick & mortar location to a fire in 2013, but persevered on with our mobile business. We rescued our first dog in February of 2015 and opened our first restaurant together in May of 2015 in the US Virgin Islands.
Less than a year later we officially started growing our family and welcomed our daughter in March of 2016, and then our son in April of 2018. And all the while we continued to grow our businesses, opening a second restaurant in early 2020 just before Covid hit, a third restaurant in the fall of 2022, and a fourth establishment in late 2022.
We were neck deep in raising children and working 24-7 to sustain our hospitality management company and our now four restaurant concepts.
Life was busy! In anticipation of turning 40 in 2023, I began to work out with a trainer in our hometown. I started running, lifting weights, and watching what I ate. My fitness journey motivated Clint to step up his exercise and keep his nutrition in check too, and as we were nearing our anniversary we both felt and looked like we were in the best physical shape we had been in since we got married. Cue tiny bathing suits and beautiful Mexican beaches in our future.
For our 10-year wedding anniversary my husband, Clint, booked a trip to Tulum for us to celebrate. He reserved us a private casita at Papaya Playa, a beautiful resort located just north of the main jungle/beach part of town. It’s in a perfect location for a bit of relaxation and privacy, but also an easy bike ride or quick taxi ride to the beach strip that’s lined with overhanging trees and loaded with beach clubs, bars, restaurants, and shops – and after dark, boasts an insane nightlife scene.
Our unit at Papaya Playa had a private pool and rooftop deck overlooking the ocean. We arrived mid-afternoon, and after settling in & relaxing in our pool for a bit we had plans to dine at Kitchen Table later that evening. We showered up and got ready to head out… when I saw hundreds of lit candles floating in the pool and leading me up to the ‘birds nest’.
Clint had set up this incredibly romantic scene to kick off our trip – I followed the candles up the stairs to find a bucket of champagne waiting, a beautiful wooden plaque with our wedding vows engraved, and a brand new diamond ring & wedding band [I had lost mine months before].
As if that wasn’t enough, after sobbing through re-reading our vows to each other we headed back into our casita only for me to find two huge gift boxes exploding with confetti and dozens of styles of new lingerie for me. This was going to be a good trip.
Taking it back a few weeks: In anticipation of our anniversary trip, I had planned a boudoir photo shoot for myself in our hometown as a surprise for him for our anniversary, but unfortunately the photographer got hurt and had to reschedule.
Since my gift wasn’t going to happen in time for our trip, I had to break the surprise to Clint so he would know what I had in the works for him. In typical Clint fashion, he decided to one-up me once again.
This time, he booked a private couples boudoir-style photo shoot with local photographer, Jorge, and had it planned for the morning of our actual anniversary which was just a few days after we arrived in Tulum.
On the morning of our anniversary, we woke up before the crack of dawn to catch the best light (and have the most privacy), and met Jorge at our hotel's front entrance. We drove to an abandoned beach/defunct resort area a few minutes from the hotel that had a great rock ledge overlooking the ocean, and a private little sandy inlet.
Jorge positioned us upon the rocks at first and gave us instructions on how to pose. We thought we were alone, but after about 10 minutes we had some guests arrive who weren’t so pleased with us being there, so we opted to relocate to a different area for more privacy.
After climbing over the rock ledges on the other side of the property in search of a new spot to take pictures, we inevitably decided to hop in the car and make the trek to Sian Ka’an.
It was about a 45-minute ride from our hotel, driving all the way through the jungle part of town, and then beyond it down a rather bumpy dirt road to the literal dead end.
The drive itself was rather fascinating as we were able to take in the surrounding architecture through town, and the greenery and nature as we entered the reserve.
Once we arrived, Jorge led us through a walking path to a private beach area. Unlike the water closer to town that was overridden with sargasm in many parts, the water here was perfectly clear, and the expanse looking out to the ocean was picture-perfect with the sunrise still coming up.
And best of all – it was private! Besides two fly fishermen very far off in the distance, we were alone. Clint could have cared less if he had onlookers, but I was nervous beyond belief and so self-conscious about this shoot from the moment I knew he booked it. I was so relieved when I knew we were in a secluded spot.
Once we reached the beach Jorge instructed us to take off everything, and without hesitation, Clint was in the buff. On the other hand, I took a more conservative approach and went topless with a small bikini bottom.
We began posing in a shallow part of water with Jorge directing us on how to pose, when to move, how to position our hair or hands, or when to smile or be serious. Cue the nerves: I mean, I am nearly naked and lying on top of my completely naked husband on a beach in front of a stranger.
Not what I thought I would be doing on my 10-year wedding anniversary at all, but here I was.
We took a variety of photos in the shallow beach area before walking around the corner to a larger strip of the beach to take photos in a different lighting and with a slightly different scene.
Here Jorge took pictures of us walking together and being more playful and fun. I had also brought a few tops for ‘wet’ pictures, and some body jewelry, and we were able to use those in some pictures for the last hour or so of the shoot.
The entire shoot was 4-5 hours, and throughout the entire process, Jorge was the epitome of professional, calm, and a wonderful coach. He was great at giving me direction on what to do (and not do) and also made me feel as comfortable as one could be.
Since we chose a morning shoot, even after hours of picture-taking we still had the entire day following it to enjoy our anniversary in a more traditional fashion. We headed back to the hotel to refresh ourselves and then rode our bikes down into the jungle part of town.
We hit up our favorite little coffee shop for some caffeine and then made our way to RosaNegra Beach Club for the day. We had a lounge area reserved and spent the majority of the day sipping cocktails, eating sushi, and relaxing poolside in our little cabana.
We made our way back to our hotel for an afternoon dip in our private pool and got ready for dinner at Arca. All-in-all it was a perfectly fun, adventurous, outside-the-box, intimate, and delicious 10-year anniversary day.
As restauranteurs, we were very excited to check out the dining scene in Tulum. Many kitchens operate in open-air facilities, completely off the grid from electricity.
We were blown away by the uniqueness of the dishes, creative flavor combinations, and the intricate and sexy plating the chefs would come up with. During our trip, we dined at Kitchen Table, Casa Banana, Arca, RosaNegra, Hartwood, and a favorite little lunch/breakfast spot called Fresco’s.
We even made it downtown one night to try out the local street food, and had some of the best little tacos.
During the days we would bike down the jungle strip, grab coffee at Holy Deer, enjoy a fresh breakfast at Fresco’s, do a little exploring at local shops, and head back to our hotel to get ready for a day of beaching, pooling and relaxing.
One of the most unique things we did while in Tulum was visit the Jungle Gym – it’s an outdoor gym located beachside in the jungle strip. The flooring is sand, the equipment is made of rocks and rustic wood pieces, and everyone works out barefoot while donning their bathing suits. It is such a cool vibe!
We went there twice during our stay and got in a great workout and had an absolute blast. If you are into fitness and visiting Tulum, don’t skip the Jungle Gym.
Another of our favorite daytime stops was the Holy Deer Café. It was a quaint coffee shop with a hidden cenote just out its back door. The staff was kind, the drinks were good, and the courtyard was the perfect spot to sip on our coffee and people-watch.
Every evening we would hit the jungle town and bounce around to different restaurants for drinks, appetizers, and dinner. The vibe after dark is pure electric, with dance music, gorgeous people, drinks flowing… you could feel the heartbeat of Tulum and it was incredible to witness it.
While in Tulum I felt completely safe. Outside of the occasional truck coming down the strip lined with military staff and their machine guns, I witnessed no violence and never felt like I was in danger. It was actually comforting to see the military personnel on the streets in a way, knowing they were there to protect us in case there was any issue with the cartel.
Tulum was a magical experience from start to finish. It is a beautiful place to explore, a true culinary mecca, and a place you can get a little wild and live free. If you’re considering traveling to Tulum, and looking for something unique, sexy, and wild to get you out of your comfort zone… I would definitely reach out to Jorge, and let him work his magic behind the lens. ‘Til next time, Mexico. Can’t wait for round two.
Location: Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.