I’ve been thinking a lot about different ways of having authentic travel experiences, and about the various ways to vacation. Right now I’m on a getaway in Mexico, and I’ve had some of the most real (read: uncomfortable) interactions with a different culture.
I could barely hold back my gag reflex as we walked through a market filled with smells of raw seafood and meat, out at a nice 85-degree room temperature. And I’m pretty sure our surfing instructor was talking to a drug lord as we rode away from our lesson. Don’t worry- he left us by telling George and I not to walk in our neighborhood alone at night because people hide in the bushes waiting to mug you. Oh, and did I mention that I only speak about 30 words of Spanish?
In ways our trip to a smaller surfing town in Mexico is quite the adventure—we’re renting a house, buying from street vendors, and staying in a less touristy area. In other ways, it’s a complete luxury vacation – our private house has an amazing pool, I bought a liter of homemade coconut juice for about $1.15 US, and we’re taking surfing lessons on the cheap.
On the first day of our trip, we got lost driving on the network of treacherous local dirt “roads.” We had been traveling for over 24 hours and were completely exhausted, and stressed from being in a foreign country. Someone flagged down our car because they needed help—someone was sick. George and I were not sure what they were asking us to do, and we panicked. He drove off and we did nothing. Well, not completely nothing—we made sure a taxi went to pick them up. I still feel immensely guilty, and like I lost my humanity because I was too afraid. I can make understandable excuses like it was dark, and we didn’t understand, and we were warned about dangerous people in this area. But I still feel like we didn’t do the right thing.
After that exchange, we were still lost, even after getting new directions to our accommodations. I was so done. I sobbed to George about how we are terrible people, and I’m tired of our adventures, and I wanted to go home.
Luckily our vacation has been a lot more enjoyable since then, but I still find myself in uncomfortable situations every day that I’m not sure how to handle. Nothing has been quite as jarring and scary as the first day, but it’s always hard to anticipate local customs and communicate in a different language. I like to think that our choices have allowed us to see a little bit more into the local community and that living outside of my comfort zone is good for me. I still can’t help but idealize the more peaceful vacation, where creepy crawly bugs are absent, and I’m not terrified to walk at night.
I’m not sure what’s next. Right now I’m just thankful to have these opportunities- to hear the ocean from our house, eat authentic Mexican foods, and spend time with George. In ways I want to continue to be the person who walks by everyone headed to their all-inclusive resort, being “brave” on my next adventure. I’m not sure I’m quite ready, though, to be staying in hostels and carrying all my possessions on my back.
What about you? I’m curious to hear how you like your vacations. Do you want a stress-free, sipping margaritas vacation? Or do you prefer to live like the locals? Or maybe something in-between?