One of the reasons why I love the holiday season the most is because it brings family and friends together, near and far. It’s always great to unwind and spend time with those you love most. This year my family and I decided to change things up a bit and fly south to Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco in Mexico, for a little post-holiday vitamin-D. It was during our time there that I came to realize how much I enjoyed traveling and experiencing cultures unfamiliar to me!
Prior to our trip I was so caught up in the chaos of Christmas that I didn’t have time to ponder much about our time in Mexico, other than relaxing by the pool with a fruity drink in my hand! I certainly didn’t anticipate coming home so refreshed, inspired, and changed in the way that I did. Puerto Vallarta was the best place to kick off a brand new year, and here is why…
When we first arrived in Mexico we were exhausted from a full day of traveling. So, once at the resort, after taking literally every form of transportation to get there, we grabbed a bite to eat and made plans for the coming week. I knew immediately that I wanted to explore life outside of our resort, and so it was decided then to rent a car that would allow us to come and go as we pleased. This brings me to my first topic: cars and traffic. So, Mexican traffic laws consist of two simple things: 1) speed limits and 2) stop signs! Done. In Jalisco (since I can’t speak for the whole country), seat belts are an option, riding in the bed of trucks is not prohibited, children are not required to be in car seats, rear view mirrors and air condition are both a luxury, and there are more 4-wheelers on the road than cars. I can’t make this up! It certainly made for an entertaining ride. In Jalisco, there is typically one car per family, so such laws uncanny!
The food in Mexico was unbelievably delicious! Some of the best meals I had during my time there came from the most questionable places. In fact, during an early morning visit to the protected cove, Colomitos, we witnessed locals unload a small fishing boat full of fresh fruits, vegatables, meats, and supplies, which had all been purchased at the local market hours before. It was there that I saw the owner and his family go to and from the “kitchen” in there bare feet. My first thought was, “How unsanitary!”, and I am sure I questioned even consuming my meal, but then I considered the circumstance and appreciated the opportunity to do something outside of my comfort zone. That afternoon I not only took a machete to a coconut, but was served Mexican moonshine, Raicilla. All in all, trying new foods and adapting to a new culture was such a humbling experience.
Growing up, and throughout college, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel abroad and experience cultures unlike the one I have long been accustomed to; therefore, I knew what to expect when traveling to a foreign country. I was however very surprised at how little English many of the Jaliscan civilians spoke, especially considering that 60% of the cities earnings come from tourism! For me, the language barrier made the experience very authentic, because it challenged me to pull from what little Spanish I remembered from high school. Most of the taxis drivers and those selling goods in and around the market appreciated my obvious effort to communicate with them, which was evident by their eagerness to understand my poor Spanish (forget phrases or sentences people… I am talking words and improperly used tenses). This is a small example of how accepting the people of Mexico were. It has completely changed my perception of their culture. I can’t think that Americans (as a whole) would be as patient if the situation were the reverse.
Our trip to Mexico was great because it allowed me to relax, but it also helped me realize what it is I really want out of life! Life is not a collection of physical things, and I feel that traveling and experiencing other cultures firsthand helps you realize that! I often get so consumed in the moment that I fail to see the bigger picture! Overall, this trip challenged me to realize my strengths and weaknesses, how to quickly adapt to new surroundings, allowed me to understand and appreciate the Hispanic population and their culture, and most importantly it made me appreciate being an American citizen. While I can say from experience that convenience, proficiency, and customer service are not Mexico’s strong suits, it is nice to slow down and not take life so seriously (because they take nothing serious)! This trip wouldn’t have been so memorable without having my family there to share those memories. We certainly have some great ones! Salud!