The day I left for Mexico was a nerve-wracking day. I had already been away from home for almost 2 months - visiting my dad in Vegas. I had packed my backpack, plus a suitcase and a carry-on. The suitcase was staying behind with my dad; he was planning on visiting me once I got a little more settled.
I don’t remember what time of day I left, I just remember sitting in the airport, watching the clock, checking and double checking that I had my passport, money, cards, the name of the hotel and my rough plans written in my horribly illegible writing - really, it’s bad enough that I should seriously consider being a doctor.
I had never been to Mexico before and I had two weeks to spend alone in Mexico City before embarking on a tour with GAdventures down to Guatemala. Go big or go home.
After cruising over the giant metropolis for what seemed like hours, we arrived at 4 am. Anyone who’s travelled will probably tell you it’s a good idea to arrive in a foreign country during the day. They are correct. I sat in the airport with my suitcase, reading a book and feeling anxious for 5 hours. Luckily, there was a group of 12 friendly students that were waiting for their ride to show up – so I had people that could watch my bag for me if I had to run to the washroom or go grab a quick snack.
As soon as the breakfast place in the airport opened, I headed there to try some real Mexican food. Now, I fully expected to learn Spanish and had some key phrases down. I also expected that maybe someone there would speak English – at least in the airport, at least a little?! No such luck. As I struggled to try and order eggs (huevo), she asked me what juice (jugo) I wanted and I replied revuelto (scrambled). After that I just took to pointing.
I then took a look at the prices and felt immediately sick: $68 for breakfast? This couldn’t possibly be right. Why had everyone told me Mexico was so cheap? I must have looked utterly pathetic and confused, as the waitress kindly pointed to the price and said “peso!” so the equivalent of 5 or 6 dollars (actually pretty expensive for Mexico City). They just use the same symbol – because that’s not confusing at all. Then again, we use the same symbol in Canada and our money isn’t the same as the American dollar either.
Finally at 9 am, I was feeling confident enough to leave the airport. I know, I’m practically Braveheart.
I found a cab driver who thankfully understood my mangled attempts at asking for the Monte Carlo Hospedaje and managed to get me there AND make me laugh even though I understood approximately 2% of what he said.
The check-in guy at the hotel was helpful as can be as he showed me to a little room with a table, basic bed and bathroom with the shower in the middle of the ceiling. Meaning I practically had to stand on the toilet to get under the water, but after the long day of travel it felt glorious.
After my shower, I wandered around the streets with no plan. I headed to the Zocolo (main square) and browsed the windows. Men in police uniforms with guns stood guard on almost every street corner, which actually made me feel very safe. A lot of my friends had been worried about me going alone to Mexico City: “it’s so dangerous!”, “You’re crazy!”, “Why?” but I knew that if I never put myself out on a limb, I’d be dissatisfied and no one had wanted, or been able, to come with me. I had a nice day touring and getting my bearings.
That first night though was actually pretty tough. Not knowing much of the language, my first time traveling by myself, my first trip away from home for longer than 3 weeks. Sure, I had traveled throughout Canada and been to the US. I had been to the U.K. when I was a flag-twirling Colour Guard member, on tour, and had even gone to Cuba with some friends on an all-inclusive resort vacation, but I had never done anything even close to this. Every trip I’d been on before this was structured. I had been born and raised in one city, and lived there my entire life. What was I doing?
After I found dinner (my first dinner in Mexico was pasta – I don’t know what I was thinking. It was delicious, but seriously?) I made my way back to the hotel, curled up with my book and cried myself to sleep. I think that was the first time in my life I ever felt homesick.
Luckily for me, my travel confidence was about to go up, and my fun about to really begin.