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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.