I’ll be honest, there was some fear and trepidation about my travelling alone to Mexico. On the part of family and friends that is. One fellow about summed it up when he said, “Uhhh that’s pretty sketch.” It’s true, it would be nice, in a way, to always know you had company for dinner, and I’m sure my mom would be happier if she knew I wasn’t walking around alone, but I’m single and many times friends just don’t have the money or the time off at the same time I do. I’m not going to sit at home and wish I had someone to go with. I’m going! And besides, I’d rather travel alone than with an ill-matched travel companion.
I prefer to eat breakfast alone because I don’t speak before coffee. There’s nothing worse than having to smile and be polite and make small talk first thing in the morning when all you want to do is sit and stare and let the caffeine work its magic. Most days I find company for lunch or dinner. A young German woman approached me at a stop light, “Excuse me. But were you just at the walking tour of City Hall?” And there I had a new friend for lunch. She does IT for Bayer and lives in Mexico City. I spent the day yesterday with a lactose intolerant Frenchman. Now there’s a case of bad karma if I ever saw one. It was fun to have someone to commiserate with over the miseries of food intolerance. We were offered a dessert of bananas with cream and cinnamon at lunch. “No!” He stated in his outrageous French accent, “This is not for us!” Lunch with a Canadian snow bird one day. A dinner of beans, baby tomatoes, and blue chorizo cooked in clay pots today with a woman from Harlem. She lives 3 months out of the year in Merida and translates texts between English and Spanish. I never would have met any of these people if I was traveling with a companion!
I find that it’s only unusual for Americans to travel alone. Every one else does. What’s our hang up? I think maybe we are a fearful country. Why? Does our government fear monger? It can’t be genetic. Is it a function of belonging to a rich, powerful country? I’m not sure. I will have to ponder further.
One of the other benefits of traveling alone is that you can do something totally out of your ken or break your usual habits or get up at 4am or sleep till 10 without having to explain to anyone. For example, the other day I decided to hire a guide and a boat to take me out fishing. I took the bus out to Progreso, a little village on the coast. The guide was an American ex pat and he picked me up at the station and we drove out to the marina.
“Huh, so you’re from Santa Cruz, CA, you’re a single gal, but you love to fish? Wow, that’s so gnarly!”
“Actually I’ve never fished before in my life.”
“WHAT?!? Oh my gosh, that’s so crazy! Why are you out here?”
“Um, I don’t know. I’ve never tried it before and I figured why not?”
And guess, what? I totally caught my first (and second and third and fourth) fish! There was a restaurant on shore that cooked the biggest one up for me to eat for my lunch. It was a two-pound fish before cleaning and I ate every last bit of it so that it wouldn’t have died in vain.
Next was museum day. This is also not something I would typically spend a day doing, but that’s what I felt like seeing today. A total contrast from yesterday’s ocean voyage. There are many to choose from. Art, anthropology, Mayan history, railroad museum, Merida city history, some of the old, restored homes are now museums…the list goes on.
I enjoy stepping outside my usual routine and doing something totally different. Keeps you on your toes and sometimes you learn something or discover you enjoy something you never would have considered…like fishing! One mustn’t mind that little voice in your head that says, “Oh I couldn’t…” or “Yeah, but I’ve never…”.
Today I headed back out to the coast. I enjoyed my day in the city at the museums but was ready for some fresh air, sunshine, and flamingos. Flamingos? Indeed! They gather by the hundreds or thousands in an estuary at the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. Flamingos are born white but the brine shrimp they eat are red and high in carotenoids and this turns the birds pink. Have you ever known someone to go on a juicing craze and turn orange from eating too many carrots? Same idea. They seem to spend their days eating and squabbling and at night they head to higher ground so they don’t get eaten by the crocodiles lurking in the mangroves. Other birds with long necks, tuck them in when they fly. Think of an egret or a heron. Not the flamingo. With the long neck out front and the long legs trailing behind, they look like a broomstick with wings. Quite comical!
I have only a few days left in Merida. It’s been a good, confidence building trip for me. One always wonders, “Will I be bored, lonely, or scared?” So far the answer is no. The people I have met, native Meridians in particular, have been so welcoming and friendly. People really have approached me on the street, not trying to sell anything, but simply striking up a friendly conversation. Honestly, I can’t imagine that happening in a city of nearly a million people in the US. Can you fathom walking down the street in San Francisco and having a stranger walk up to you, just curious about who you are and what brings you to visit, maybe giving you a pointer or two on something nice to see, then waving, wishing you well, and heading off on their way? No way! Merida is a pretty neat place.