I'm leaving Mexico after my third trip here within 6 months. Each trip has been in a different region and with a unique intention for each place. And with each visit, I learned and appreciated more about this beautiful and often under-appreciated country.
In March, I flew into Puerto Vallarta to attend a 7-day Wildhearted meditation retreat in the Jungle in San Pancho. It was during this trip that I was able to see an unexpecting and tranquil side to Mexico. There is magic that happens in the jungle, and only by visiting it can you truly experience and understand what it has to offer. After this experience, I realized that I didn't need clarity in life; I know what I want. I just don't commit. In this instance, it was taking the leap and committing to a location for my the start of my nomadic journey. Soon after my retreat, I committed and booked a oneway ticket to Thailand.
After returning from 7 weeks abroad in Australia and Thailand, I spent some time in the states before heading out again. I was looking into places to go and chose to go back to Mexico. I booked a oneway ticket to Mexico City (oneway tickets seem to be my jam these days). At the time, I wasn't quite sure where I would go from there. A friend of mine had lived in San Miguel de Allende a couple years ago and suggested I check it out as an option. I had never heard of San Miguel, and all it took was seeing one photo of this city for me to venture there. I initially was using Mexico City as a gateway to get to other places and ended up falling in love with it. It often gets a bad rap for being a large over-populated city with "drugs and crime". Mexico City ended up being a highlight of my time in Mexico. Yes, it is a large and bustling city and one that offers many cultures, personality, incredible food, and beautiful people.
San Miguel de Allende (SMA as locals refer to it), is a hidden gem. This city spoke to me so much. When I saw how vibrant and colorful this city is, I knew I wanted to do a photoshoot here. I found the perfect red lace romper from Nordstrom prior to leaving. I hired a local photographer and got my nails and makeup done. I felt like a real model. It was so fun to see the city from this perspective and carry these photos with me for years to come. Check out some of my photos here!
I set an intention prior to going to SMA to step into my power and own who I am. I embodied this the whole trip. I felt like I was living on cloud 9. I got myself (intentionally) lost among the cobblestone streets and alleyways, ate incredible food, danced in the rain, and found my true power and radiance. It was here that I knew I was truly living my dream and stepping into my power.
After SMA, I went back to Mexico City for a couple of days and then headed back to the states for a week. I then found myself back in Mexico (it's hard to stay away!). This time around I found myself in the Yucatan. I flew into Cancun, rented a car and ventured off 3.5 hours away to Merida. Just like SMA, I had never heard of Merida prior to coming. I found it solely by researching Hyatt hotels in Mexico. I'm a travel hacker and on a mission to get another free night for any Hyatt in the world. So I ventured off to Merida. Merida ended up being a complete surprise to me. It felt like meeting a new friend. Sometimes you meet people and immediately feel a connection (that was San Miguel de Allende for me), while other times you meet someone and it takes a bit to get to know them and whether or not they'll be in your life. It took some time for me to get to know and like Merida. After a couple days there, I found an appreciation for this colonial city. I found myself visiting Mayan ruins, eating traditional Yucatan food, and soaking in the heart of this town. Merida was of a time of solitude, reflection, and healing for me. I spent time on my own processing and working through recent experiences and turn of events that happened prior to arriving.
From Merida, I went to Playa del Carmen where I visited in 2016 on my first trip to Mexico. I connected with dear friends and found my routine again with yoga, work, and self-care. It was the perfect way to end my last stent (for now) in Mexico.
Mexico has so much to offer. During my 3 recent visits here, I learned so much and hope to put to bed some of the misconceptions about this beautiful country.
10 Things I learned during my time in Mexico
- It's not a scary or dangerous place to visit. The number one question I got asked when people saw that I was in Mexico is, "Is it safe?" The media (especially conservative American media) portrays Mexico as a place to fear and stay away from--especially if traveling alone. Yes, Mexico has some turmoil, but it's like any other place. No matter where you go, be mindful of your surroundings and use caution as you would in any big city or country. And be open-minded and embrace where you are rather than walking on eggshells or around in constant fear that something bad is going to happen.
- English is not widely spoken. Unless you are in a touristy area, don't assume that everyone automatically knows English. I was actually surprised to find in Mexico City how little English is spoken unless you're in an American owned hotel chain or tourist attraction. I, unfortunately, know very little Spanish (and want to learn); however, I did not let this lack of knowledge stop me from visiting Mexico. Don't know Spanish? That's okay. It's good to step outside of your comfort zone and go anyway. There is still much to experience and learn.
- Mexicans love their country. Like most natives to a country, Mexicans have so much love and pride in their home, and they celebrate it constantly. There are always festivals and celebrations happening. Just go to the town center of whichever city you're in and you're bound to find an event or celebration taking place.
- Fireworks happen regularly. Whether it be a celebration of someone's birthday, a holiday, or homage to a family member who has left this earth, they love to shoot fireworks no matter what the hour. There were several early mornings in SMA where I awoke to roosters crowing and fireworks blasting in the air. While it can be a disruption to sleep, it's still quite fun to hear them going off and wonder what they are commemorating.
- Cancun is a tourist trap. If visiting the Yucatan or gulf coast, Cancun is likely your entry into Mexico. If you have no arranged transportation, beware of exorbitant taxi fares from the airport to your destination. There are no uber or rideshare options available. I learned this the hard way. I flew in late in the evening and arranged my rental car pickup for the following morning. My hotel was less than 3 miles from the airport so I assumed it would be relatively inexpensive to get there. WRONG. It cost me $40 USD to go one way ($55 roundtrip...more than the cost of one night in my hotel)! Cancun is divided into neighborhoods and zones. Anything outside of the airport is considered in a different zone and will cost you anywhere from $25-50+ USD by taxi to get to your location. So no matter what, either arrange transportation through your resort or hotel, public bus, or rental car. Avoid taxis!
- Driving in Mexico will test your patience. I rented a car and drove 3.5 hours from Cancun to Merida and beyond. Driving can be quite a hectic experience while driving in a city. There are so many oneway streets, roundabouts, and intersections without stop signs or traffic lights. You learn to go with the flow and drive with the traffic. There are many bumpy cobblestone roads, and Google Maps or your GPS often don't know where you are. I cursed many times to myself while driving around, yet also took pride in knowing that I could drive here on my own.
- Make friends with locals. No matter where you go, always make it a point to get to know some of the locals living there. They love to hear why you are visiting their beautiful country and want to help you experience more of it. They have loads of resources to share and will give you great insider secrets and suggestions. I made friends with a local hairstylist in Mexico City, servers at restaurants where I visited, and even strangers on the beach. As a result, I learned of many places to visit (and avoid) that I otherwise would not have known.
- Food is better than any Tex-Mex you think is real Mexican food. From fresh tortillas to marquisitas (hot rolled up crepes with banana and Nutella) to fresh fruit (jicama and mango!) with fresh chili pepper, street food is a must to try. There are also so many local dives that are incredible. I also recommend splurging on at least one fancy meal while visiting. I had a gourmet meal in SMA and Merida. In Merida, I had a traditional Yucatan meal that was so unique and unlike anything I've had before. I even tapped into my adventurous spirit while in Playa del Carmen, and tried fried grasshopper! There's even a hilarious video to prove it. I can't say I recommend it nor would do it again, but do recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something different! (hot rolled up crepes with banana and Nutella) to fresh fruit (jicama and mango!) with fresh chili pepper, street food is a must to try. There are also so many local dives that are incredible. I also recommend splurging on at least one fancy meal while visiting. I had a gourmet meal in SMA and Merida. In Merida, I had a traditional Yucatan meal that was so unique and unlike anything I've had before. I even tapped into my adventurous spirit while in Playa del Carmen, and tried fried grasshopper! There's even a hilarious video to prove it. I can't say I recommend it nor would do it again, but do recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something different!
- They love--more like obsess--over Frida Kahlo. Frida is...everywhere. Literally. She seems to be more important and cared for than any President past or present. She is an icon for women's empowerment and had a huge impact and influence on Mexican art. Wherever I stayed, whether in an Airbnb, hotel, or friend's condo, Frida and her art were there. Walking around the city you will find murals of Frida. You can tour her house in Mexico City. I did not make it there on this trip and will next time I'm in CDMX!
- Mexico is a massive country with so much to do and experience! It's pretty obvious looking on a map that Mexico is large. But until I started hopping around, I had no idea just how big it is. And there is so much beauty to its landscape. From the rocky coast on the Pacific to the mountains and rolling hills in Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende to the dessert and cenotes and ruins spread all throughout the Yucatan. It's a beautiful country to experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Mexico this year. I was a bit wary of coming back in August since I had already been. I am a nomad after all, so why not go somewhere new? Yet, I am glad that I got to explore more of this country and learn so much about it. I highly recommend going off the beaten path (aka away from the resort!) and visiting some different places in Mexico. Each place has its own personality and flavor.
If you have any questions about traveling to Mexico, let me know! I would love to share some of the amazing places I stayed and dined at.