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.

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