Buenos dias amigos! Today’s post is from our friend Sasha from the Grateful Gypsies. He has a great perspective on traveling to, and living in Mexico. You are going to love this post!
Mexico is one of those places that elicits different reactions from people. Tell your drinking buddies that you’re headed south of the border and they’ll think it’s awesome. Tell your grandparents that you’re headed off backpacking in Mexico and you’ll terrify them.
Having spent lots of time in the land of tacos and tequila, I’m here to issue a stern warning – travel to Mexico and you just might want to move there.
Like most Americans, my first experience traveling in Mexico came with a trip to Cancun. A friend of mine was headed there with his dad and younger brother when I was but a wee high school lad, and I was invited to join. We escaped the cold Michigan winter and headed to the pristine beaches of the Yucatan during our mid-winter break. It wasn’t the wild party that we had seen on episodes of MTV’s “Spring Break,” much to our dismay. That being said, we still had the time of our lives.
Naturally, we stayed at a resort not far from the beach. We were in Gringolandia before I even knew it was a thing. While sitting around the pool, my friend’s dad ordered up some piña coladas – “Three with no alcohol, por favor!” As he was leaving, I noticed our waiter wink at us. He came back with four piña coladas, three of them loaded with rum. Awesome.
Four cool hombres.
For dinner one evening, we hopped on the bus and headed to the infamous Señor Frog’s. Expecting to find a rowdy bar full of beautiful college girls, we were a bit bummed to find the place basically dead. Cancun gets crazy for Spring Break, but not for mid-winter breaks that only suburban Michigan high schools have. At least the nachos were still good. Right after we ordered, my friend’s dad realized he had forgotten his wallet back at the hotel. As soon as he was out the door, our waiter came up and said “Now that dad is gone, it’s tequila time!” Mexico was already the coolest place I had ever been, and we hadn’t even done anything yet.
In addition to enjoying definitely non-alcoholic beverages, we lounged on the beach and visited the incredible Xcaret Park. We went snorkeling in crystal clear waters and saw a reenactment of the legendary Mayan ball game. It was tough getting on that plane back to Michigan, and I already knew I’d have to get back to Mexico some day.
Fast forward a decade later, and my wife and I were Mexico bound all the way from Beijing. After a few years of teaching English in the Chinese capital, we were treating ourselves to a serious vacation by booking a room at the Mayan Holidaze music festival. Before seeing some of our favorite bands at an all-inclusive resort, though, we wanted to see some of the real Mayan world.
It’s no wonder this is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
In a whirlwind trip, we visited the ruins at Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Tulum in addition to spending a few nights in Valladolid and Playa del Carmen. Walking up to the the iconic El Castillo temple at Chichen Itza was an awe-inspiring experience to say the least. When we climbed Ek Balam, we were the only ones at the ancient Mayan city. Gazing out at the jungle that surrounds the ruins, it was clear we had made the right choice to fly around the world to be there.
When you’re traveling in Mexico, you definitely feel like a champion.
As most vacations go, our trip went by in a blur. Before we knew it, we were back in smoggy, freezing Beijing dreaming of Mexico. It would take another five years, but of course we went back. When talks of building a wall started to dominate the news in the US, we decided to hop on a bus headed south to prove that Mexico is not such a scary place, and more importantly to prove to the people of Mexico that not all Americans are xenophobic jerks.
Nothing beats a night of lucha libre action!
This time around, we decided to check out Mexico’s biggest cities – Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City. We climbed the temples of Teotihuacan, listened to mariachi in the plaza, saw the high-flying luchadores, tried mezcal for the first time, and ate the best tacos ever. It may have been an infatuation with Mexico beforehand, but this time around we were falling in love.
It’s easy to see why people want to live in Guanajuato.
In between some of the cities, we were also fortunate enough to spend a week between San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. These colorful towns were so vibrant and stunningly beautiful. It was immediately clear to us why so many people choose to move to this part of Mexico.
After that jam-packed couple of weeks, we needed a vacation. Cue Puerto Vallarta, a town we had heard so much about but had never been to before. I was in desperate need of some dental work, so I figured I might as well be able to relax on the beach with a margarita while I recovered from a root canal. Friends and family were horrified to hear I was going to have this done in Mexico.
You look good from up here, PV!
As it turns out, I visited the nicest, most high-tech dental office I’ve ever been to. The owner is Canadian, and all of the local dentists are highly trained and speak English quite well. A procedure that I was quoted $2,500 for in the US cost me $570. I pocketed the savings and we decided to stay a while. With a $200 a month apartment, it was an easy decision. Just because it’s touristy doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, and we enjoyed a low cost of living in Puerto Vallarta. We managed to live in paradise on a very modest budget.
Mazatlan actually has one of the biggest Carnaval celebrations in the world.
Of course, there was so much more to our half a year in PV than dental work. We took Spanish classes with a great teacher, Maestro Melchor at Spanish School Vallarta. There were plenty of beach days, whether it was just lounging on Los Muertos or hiking to Las Animas. Weekends were spent visiting the nearby towns of Mismaloya, Yelapa, Bucerias, and Sayulita. We also made it up to Mazatlan for their awesome Carnaval. It doesn’t get as much hype as Rio or New Orleans, but boy do they throw down there!
When tacos this good cost less than $1, why would you ever want to leave?
Although we had only planned to stay for a month, we ended up in Puerto Vallarta for seven. This is a pretty common story that you’ll hear over and over again. One lovely couple we rented a room from came down to PV eight years ago and never left! While we very easily could have done the same, we decided to move on. With itchy feet and an abundance of airline miles, we bid farewell to Mexico to travel through South America. It’s not adios, though; it’s definitely hasta luego.
Just another Puerto Vallarta sunset.
We’ve lived in a handful of countries and traveled to over twenty, but no place feels more like home than Mexico. We’re even looking at applying for permanent residency before our next trip. As you can see, there’s definitely reason for concern if you decide to travel to Mexico. You just might want to quit your job, sell your house, and move there!
Bio: Sasha is an English teacher, videographer, and blogger from the suburbs of Detroit. He has taught English in China and studied Indonesian in Bali, and is currently doing the digital nomad thing as he travels around South America. He and his wife Rachel run Grateful Gypsies, where they write about living abroad, teaching ESL, live music and more.
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