The Effects Of A Bad Attitude On Travel

It took some time for Mérida to grow on me.

My expectations were probably too high when I got here (which is almost always dangerous).

I spent my first day walking around the city saying to myself, “I don’t get it.” The inter-city buses were loud, my body was drenched with sweat, and the hotel I chose was several blocks from the center.

Lying down at the end of the day and considering if I should just move on to a new destination, I realized what was going on. I had a nasty attitude and it was clouding my judgement.

I decided to take Ice Cube’s advice and check myself before I wreck myself.

Merida Mexico street art

multi-dimensional street art in Merida

Leave Your ‘Tude at the Door

Traveling with a bad attitude is not cool for many reasons. Aside from missing out on all the great things a new place offers, you will end up irritating all of those around you – in my case, myself.

This is a phenomenon I had experienced before. The first time I went to Thailand, I was not impressed. I had just ended a few (mostly) horrible weeks on the island of Guam, and my outlook was dark. However, the next time I passed through, I had been traveling through Southeast Asia having a great time. I came to appreciate Bangkok.

Approaching a trip with a positive outlook also has its effects. When I first landed in Colombia, I was ecstatic to be touching South American soil and had been looking forward to exploring Colombia for months. It didn’t disappoint.

After my working holiday in Australia, I planned to visit Indonesia for a month – my first trip to a non-English speaking country. I was studying phrasebooks and reading about Indonesian culture for weeks beforehand. I couldn’t wait to get there, and when I did, I had an amazing time.

Luckily, it wasn’t too late for me to make things right with Mérida. I decided to take it slow and made a special point to check out all of the things the city offered that I could truly enjoy.

First Impressions Aren’t Everything

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve come to learn about my undying dedication addiction to coffee. So it’s no surprise that a dose of caffeinated goodness would lift my spirits.

I headed straight to Café Punta del Cielo, a 100% Mexican café just off the central plaza. I ordered a Oaxacan dark mocha frappuccino. And it was one of the best frozen coffee drinks of all time. I’m not even making that up.

My next stop on the feel good route was Museo Macay, a contemporary art gallery set inside of an ex archiepiscopal palace built over 400 years ago. My favorite exhibition on display was by local artist García Ponce, whose work has a revolutionary street-art feel.

Garcia Ponce Macay Merida Mexico

Garcia Ponce

I was starting to see Mérida with new eyes. The heat seemed less oppressive, the unpolished buildings charming, and its people smiling and friendly.

The next couple of days only got better. I was blown away by the Museum of Anthropology and History. Housing thousands of indigenous artifacts from the Yucatan region, I felt like I was getting a peek into how the Mayans lived hundreds of years ago. The exhibits were extremely detailed in their explanations of daily life, sources of food, social hierarchies, and religious beliefs. Did you know that they used to morph the shapes of their heads with boards and scarred their faces to make themselves more attractive?

Museum of Archeology Merida Mexico

Mayan artifact

The Paseo Montejo, a large tree-lined street on which the museum is located, is a long, shady avenue worth a trip to this part of town by itself. Abandoned, dilapidated estates sit side by side with perfectly restored ones, and sleek art installations stand in the middle of the sidewalk.

Paseo Montejo Merida Mexico

Paseo Montejo

I carved out time to sit in a little neighborhood park a couple of blocks from my hotel every day. I lounged on the park’s benches, reading and watching old men and young mothers with their kids on the playground.

Merida Mexico park

benches at the neighborhood park

My trip to Mérida peaked on Sunday evening. The zocalo (main square) was alive with families strolling around in their Sunday best. Musicians serenaded outdoor diners sitting along the park while dozens of couples showed off their best dance moves to the rhythm of the main band.

I strolled back to my hotel after admiring the scene and grabbing a quick dinner. The afternoon rain left the evening temperature mild. The sun was on its way out, streaking the sky with pinks and dark purples.

I caught myself smiling out loud, wondering how I could have misjudged such a cool place.

Have you ever had negative first impressions about a place that turned out to be awesome? Share your experiences here.

  • Anonymous

    So true Jasmine. In India, for example, is very easy to make friends because so many people approach you all the time, asking questions all the time, are so curious all the time. Really, this is great – when you’re in a good mood. Otherwise, it is not.
    We quickly learned to either appreciate and enjoy but when in a bad mood for whatever reason, lock ourselves in a hotelroom for a day or 2 where we could have all the ‘personal space’ we wanted. This solution worked miracles.

  • Yeah, that’s why having a private room at least is always necessary for me these days.

  • It’s interesting because this is why I always tell people that I really don’t care where I travel. With the proper outlook, every day, no matter where we might be, can be rewarding. And likewise, when we’re in a funk and sporting a bad attitude, even the most amazing of places can suddenly seem disappointing.

    Of course, turning our negative attitude into a positive one isn’t always easy but it seems like you figured it out quite quickly this time!

  • Vinovagabonds (Jeff and Britt)

    Thank you for the great perspective, Jasmine…been feeling down a bit recently in Spain and had to change the ‘tude to get back on the right track. As fellow travelers, you know how we do it!

  • You’re right, it isn’t always easy. I made a serious effort to change my thoughts and push myself to leave the hotel and do some sightseeing. It definitely paid off in the end.

  • I’m sure Spain is awesome! I hope you guys are enjoying it better now :)

  • I have so been there, by the way I love the museums in Merida. Gabriel Ponce was one of  my favourite as well.

  • Yeah he’s a cool artist!

  • I just can’t believe you quoted Ice Cube

  • After I made a comment about it being new, I’m so glad you ended up liking it!!  LOL!  I would have felt bad to make a bad recommendation!  I think it can be deceiving maybe because there is a side to the city that is so new and “big box” looking….and then the centro is so old…I really liked the fact that there seems to be this unique “Yucatecan” culture rather  that is so welcoming and open.  If you are still there, did you go to the big Mercado?  I loved that market, so much life, you can get lost in there among the sights and sounds….!  Again, glad you enjoyed it and wish you great fun continuing the travels!!

  • It fitted well, didn’t it?

  • Thanks Mark! I only saw the outskirts of the market here, but didn’t really dive in like I’ve done before. Merida does have a few different sides – it’s a pretty cool place to visit for sure.

  • Great post, and I completely agree with you. I lived in Taiwan for a year and spent most of it feeling sorry for myself because it wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be. I had gone there hoping to learn the language, so I was disappointed that people didn’t speak Chinese with me all the time. I just kind of resigned myself to the situation and didn’t take the initiative to improve it. But then I spent my last week there traveling around the country and had the most amazing time! I met lots of wonderful people who were more than happy to speak Chinese with me, and I saw some beautiful places too. I just wish I hadn’t waited until the end of the year to stop moping about and do something, but I learned my lesson. Attitude really does change your whole experience.

  • Wow Jana, that’s a great example of how much an attitude can improve or ruin a trip. At least you got to practice a little bit of Chinese!

  • You’re right. That’s why I always try to approach a new place with no expectations. When expectations are high, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll be disappointed in the end.

  • My conclusion from this is that coffee fixes everything ;)

  • Yeah something like that! But only good coffee…