It’s been almost a week since I arrived in Mexico. Today is my sixth day in country, and I've finally settled into my new home in Puerto Escondido. I meant to update the blog sooner, but the first few days left me with spotty WiFi, and I didn’t want to post without pictures.
Even with decent WiFi here, it's still a time-intensive task to upload photos/video, so I'm going to start with a recap of the first two days, and then try to crank through the follow days, until we get up to speed. Daily updates may not be sustainable, or necessary, as I get into a groove here, but we will see how it goes.
Day 1 - Mexico City
I arrived in Mexico City around 3:30pm last Tuesday. The warm “bienvenidos” from the pilot, coupled with the sweltering mid-afternoon sun, validated my recent regret for bringing a hoodie this close to the equator, especially at the end of April. My backpack is bursting at the seams, and could have done without the added cotton. Mexico is a country of diverse geography though, so if I ever find myself at a higher elevation, it may prove useful.
The initial plan, upon arrival, was to meet up with a couchsurfer, named Alan, and spend the night at his place. I had created a CouchSurfing account back in 2010, but never used it, so I was looking forward to my first experience.
Unfortunately, I got a message from Alan, the day before I left the states, letting me know that he was going to be tied up with school until around 9pm that night. He was still glad to host me, but wouldn't be able to meet until after 9pm. I decided to call off the stay, since I needed to be up before dawn, to catch a flight the next morning. Also, the idea of lugging my 30 pound backpack around for five hours didn't sit well. A quick google search led me to a less adventurous, but likely more restful stay in a nearby hostel - practically named, "Hostel DF Airport Mexico City"
After dropping my pack in the hostel room, I walked for a few blocks and discovered some street tacos sizzling over an open griddle. The smokey smell of chorizo drew me in. I stumbled through some pleasantries in Spanish, as the cook responded in broken English. With our combined efforts, we soon successfully conveyed our thoughts. The tacos were about $1 USD a piece, and I accepted his offer of preparing “the special".
A younger employee, who was also working the griddle, asked me where I was from. I told him Texas, and he asked if we had tacos up there. I couldn’t help but grin, as I explained that Texas and most of the U.S., as far as I knew, loved tacos and can rarely get enough of them. He looked pleased at this, and continued chopping chorizo and chicken on the grill.
The rest of the neighborhood didn’t seem to offer much more than an occasional street vendor, and some scattered convenient stores, so I headed back to the hostel after eating, to relax in garden patio outside of my room. The sun began to set soon after, for which I was very glad. My room was not equipped with AC or a fan, so the night air would be my only hope for a good night's sleep.
The break from motion that evening brought a realization that, apart from travel due to employment overseas in 2005-2006, I hadn’t done any solo traveling before. My thoughts felt like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between the thrill of absolute freedom and a gnawing anxiety of what life would be like when the vacation ended.
The city played like a symphony though the open window, comprised of distant horns, barking dogs, roaring planes, and since writing this entry, no fewer than four questionable explosions. The loud booms, quickly prompting protest from car alarms, scattered throughout the city streets. Another guest at the hostel looked up with alarm. I acknowledged his expression and said, "it's a big city, I'm sure we'll be fine". It reminded me of Afghanistan for a moment, where I would often hear explosions in the distance throughout the day, and took me back to the first time I found myself alone in a foreign country. It’s still hard to believe that was nearly 13 years ago. I came back a different person than when I left in 2005. It makes me wonder who I will be, when I come home this time.
Home. The idea of "home" has turned into something foreign to me, over the past year. My eyelids grew heavy as my mind wandered through existential contemplation, and soon I was asleep.
Day 2 - Puerto Escondido
The flight was relatively short, and I arrived in Puerto Escondido around 8:30am. I took a shared shuttle to my hostel, and rang a bell next to a large yellow gate. A very tan, lanky fellow came to the gated entrance, and welcomed me. Apparently, the manager was still asleep, so this guy checked my reservation and showed me to my room. This place is hippy-central.
The main living area is littered with cots and hammocks, where 20-somethings are still snoozing in the open air. There is a shared kitchen area, and shared bathroom/showers. I opted for a private room, which was still only about $15 a night. I’m glad I did because the “dorm rooms” did not have doors, and at least 6 cats lived on site. The last thing I needed was to have feral felines curling up with me, while trying to sleep. My room, though private, was still open to the outside air, so there was no AC or fan here either. Concrete floors showed a fair amount of sand and dirt that had been tracked in, and walls were a mix of fence style wood, and thick bamboo. I don't anticipate staying here more than a night, but the upside is that I hear the waves crashing on the shore, and a choir of birds are singing all day long through my walls.
I left my room and found some breakfast, then headed for the beach. Surfers were out all day, and gathered toward the end of the shore, where it meets a rocky cove, and boulders in the water make a great break point. (The spot is called "Punta Playa" and is where I would surf for my first lesson later in the week)
I didn't do much that day, other than sit on the beach. There is something completely mesmerizing about the sound of the waves, and the sight of such huge amounts of water, being smashed against sand and rock. Like starring into the embers of a dying fire, I can look at the waves for hours. I took a few breaks, to get food or hide from the sun, but ultimately, I returned to the shore, and watched the fiery sun melt into the cool Pacific Ocean.
Tomorrow morning I'll be cramming the items pictured above into a large backpack, and hopping on a plane to Mexico City. In case you're wondering what one might pack for a 30-90 day gallivant, this is what I decided to bring:
- 1 large hiking backpack (I'm not sure the size, but would guess around 60L)
- 1 hoodie
- 1 rain jacket
- toiletries and medicines/vitamins
- 2 pairs of shoes (flip flops & toms)
- small daypack that folds/zips into itself, for easy packing
- assorted chargers, gopro and external mouse
- hammock and straps
- fast-drying travel towel
- 8 pair undies
- 1 pair jeans
- 4 pair shorts (2 casual, 1 swim, 1 athletic)
- 7 shirts (4 t-shirts, 2 collars, 1 tanktop)
- Spanish phrase book
- 1 water bottle
- sunglasses / sight glasses / contacts
Did I miss anything? I guess we'll find out soon enough. When I come back home, I plan to make a "part 2" for this post, so I can write about what I should have packed, and what I should have left behind. Something tells me I'm bringing more than I need, and probably forgetting something that I will wish I had later.
Next update will be from Mexico!
The photo above was taken during the beginning of 2016, at the National Museum of Anthropology, in Mexico City.
In exactly two weeks, I will be back in Mexico City, on my way to Puerto Escondido!
I recently was approved to take a 90-day leave of absence from my job, and I intend to spend that time traveling, and getting a taste of the vagabond lifestyle. I've always envied those who find ways to travel for months and years at a time, so hopefully these 90 days will give me an idea of what that might feel like.
Puerto Escondido is located in the state of Oaxaca, and sits on the Pacific coast, about 160mi south of Oaxaca city. When I was looking for a destination, I had two things in mind:
1. I wanted to take Spanish lessons
2. I wanted to be by the beach
I visited the city of Oaxaca last year, and loved it, so I thought I'd check out beach towns in the same state. Puerto Escondido caught my eye after, literally, looking at Google Maps and finding the nearest beach town to Oaxaca city. Upon further research, I discovered it was home to one of the biggest surfing destinations in the country - a beautiful, and sometimes terrifying beach called Zicatela. (A quick YouTube search of "zicatela" and "wipeout", will show you what makes it terrifying)
Having picked up surfing as a hobby in the past year, and learning that there are amateur-friendly surf spots in the area, I was eager to add that to my to-do list while abroad.
The current plan is to stay with a host family for 4 weeks, beginning on 4/28. During that time, I will be taking Spanish lessons, as well as surf lessons, 5 or 6 days per week. It will be an exhausting, exhilarating, and without a doubt life-changing experience. After that, I intentionally have no plans for the remaining 60 days of my time off. I could end up backpacking into Guatemala, and carry on into South America. I might hop on a plane to Iceland, or Vietnam. I could burn out and ask to come back to work early.... hah, yea right!
I've never been good at making plans, and I think the best experiences tend to be unplanned anyway. So for now, I'm limiting myself to a planned 4 weeks in Mexico, and a plan to update this blog weekly (as long as WiFi is available for me to do so).
Check back soon if you'd like to virtually "tag along" in this upcoming adventure! Also, feel free to leave any questions, travel tips, or other thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Howdy Planet was created in April, 2017. The name tips its hat to my Texas roots, and is a play off "lonely planet", since I too have a deep desire to explore this beautiful rock that we call home. This site is a place where I can document and share my upcoming travel experiences. It is for the enjoyment and inspiration of others, and for myself, as such memories will undoubtedly fade over the months and years ahead.