A Travel Fail

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past 12 months. I’ve specifically been thinking about the last few weeks I’ve spent here in Mexico City.

I’ve thought about the cool neighborhoods I’ve come to know, the parks and museums, and the cafes I frequent.

The troubling part is, when I look back on my time here, I reflect on places and not people.

Mexico City skyline

Mexico City skyline

See, when I travel, I always make it a goal to get to know the people of a country. Checking out tourist attractions every day for years gets pretty boring. But people are always interesting. Always different. Always unique.

And I have failed miserably in this aspect. I haven’t made much of an effort to get to know or make friends with any locals. The majority of my conversations have occurred in the context of service, like ordering a coffee or a meal. I haven’t scratched the surface. I haven’t peeled back the layers of the onion. I haven’t tried.

I’m a little disappointed in myself.

And I have to ask myself – why? Why haven’t I put any effort into making personal connections?

One reason could be attributed to my work. I’ve been working hard on a few different projects, which have been taking up more time out of my day. I’m trying to raise my income level so I can eventually travel to more expensive destinations like Europe without living like a pauper. Plus, it seems the longer I travel (and the older I get), the more creature comforts I demand. Like a private room. And wifi.

It’s easy to attribute my emotional distance to work. But that would only be half the story. I think my travel burnout is worse than I thought. To tell you the truth, even going to a new museum or neighborhood requires an effort and I have to force myself out the door. If it weren’t for this blog, and the need to update it twice a week, I wonder if I would’ve done anything at all in Mexico City except work.

Another part of it is that I’m longing for the familiar. No, not my country of origin – that is hardly familiar to me anymore.

I mean Colombia. On my Netflix subscription, I watch Colombian telenovelas. When stocking my mini-fridge, I bought Colombian coffee. I long for an agua de panela, an arepa, and a 25-cent tinto. When I saw a Colombian restaurant here in the city, my heart quickened when I entered, like I was being reunited with an old lover. My RSS feed has Colombian news coming through it.

That’s why I’m going straight to Colombia again after I spend the holidays with my family in Trinidad. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is in Colombia. I want to go home.

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself though. Countries are like people. We vibe with certain people over others. Some we like instantly, others will remain in our periphery forever, and others we build a relationship with slowly, over time.

Mexico has become an acquaintance to me. Sure, I appreciate its good qualities (and there are many). But it’s not love. It’s not my BFF. I won’t fantasize about it after I leave.

In the end, I am a little regretful that I didn’t try very hard here. That I worked so much. That I made excuses. That I didn’t step out of my comfort zone like I usually do.

But our travel experience is subject to our moods, just like any other life experience. Next time, I hope I will be more open to getting to know Mexico better than a casual acquaintanceship allows.

For those of you not connected to me via my Facebook page, I recently started a feature on YouTube where I record answers to travel questions asked by readers. If you have a question, email me or post a comment on Facebook.  You can see the first video here.

  • This is a common problem for me…I connect with a destination, but not its people. Sometimes it is hard because I am not somewhere very long, but I know it is usually due to a lack of effort. Hopefully next time around you’ll get the opportunity to fulfill that desire to connect…

  • Hey Jasmine,
    I often find it hard to make friends in big cities. When thinking about our time in Mexico City (we were there about 6 weeks) I really didn’t make friends with any locals either. I think it is harder to make more than just those passing connections in big cities. Also, I find in traveling long term I go through phases where I are more outgoing and into meeting people and when I are more of a little hermit. 

    That being said there are some places that just speak to your heart, and it’s great that you found that in Colombia and are planning on going back. Traveling long term takes a lot out of you, and it’s nice to have places that feel like home to you.

    All the best to you,
    Chaya from Vagabond Journey

  • You’re right, sometimes one or the other is lacking – cool place but no local friends, or lots of local friends but the place isn’t that nice. Effort is an important factor, but then again, we can’t force ourselves too much…

  • Hey Chaya, That’s a great point. Meeting people in small to mid-sized towns and on the beach is much easier than in a city of this size unless you have existing connections. Another good point, especially for introverted types like myself, meeting people all the time can be a bit of sensory overload. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and stopping by! :)

  • Dave

    Sometimes you’ve gotta walk away from a place (or person) to find out how it (or he/she) really means to you.  I look forward to reading about more Colombian pueblos in 2012 :) and hopefully I’ll get back to Medellin for a few months myself.

  • Very much related with this post – this year I’ve been travelling faster than normal and it’s become more about the places than the people and it’s not been my best year because of that. Next year I look forward to longer stays, going out more (finding a local equivalent to my salsa lessons in Medellín) and making deeper connections to people.

    Hope you can reach your goal to afford to make it to my expensive home continent! Otherwise enjoy Colombia :)

  • I look forward to seeing you there! :)

  • Europe is definitely in the plans for next year… hopefully nos vemos alli :)

  • I’ve had similar issues with travel burnout and just a lack of passion towards what I’m doing.  Hopefully this phase will soon pass for you.  Maybe try to tackle something more unfamiliar and challenging?

  • That’s a good idea. I was thinking about studying or learning a new skill while I’m in Colombia again.

  • Funny, it is my impression that I feel towards Mexico like you do towards Colombia, and feel about Colombia the way you do about Mexico. 

  • That same thought crossed my mind too actually