Where And Why We Travel
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost was speaking metaphorically, of course, about life's choices that propel us all toward that inevitable last step off our own private piers. He speaks of making unpopular decisions, less traveled by the masses. It often requires taking a risk, and you know what they say about those hellbent risk-takers. You may at times feel vulnerable and a little lonely, and you occasionally feel that you have made a horrible decision. But in the end there is an enormous glow of satisfaction, because you have explored that "road...less traveled by", and it did make "all the difference."
We make the same choices when deciding our next travel sojourns. Will it be Mexico? France? Walla Walla? Do I fly, drive or take the train? How long do I have? Can I afford this?
Let’s make it Mexico. Will I go to the five-star "umbrella-drink" hotel in Cancun, or how about that white-water river trip down the Antigua in Veracruz? Or how about Guanajuato, the colonial town first settled nearly 500 years ago with the cobblestone streets and mummy museum? Chetumal? San Blas? Morelia? Boxers or briefs? Hey, there are too many dang forks in this road...I'll just stay home!
But you know that you have to go...somewhere. For me, and many others, it's usually Mexico that wins the eight-headed coin flip. Some people may have heard about an alluring town, researching how to get there and they pack one bag, grab the debit card and are on their way. Who needs to know anything about the destination? Discovery is the real goal of travel, right? The traveler experiences many surprises this way (you eat grasshoppers?) and it makes for a fascinating, formative trip - if you are that kind of person. Many times you will unwittingly find out the person you really are. Travel can do that. Mexico can do that.
For others, it's best to prepare for a trip to Mexico with extensive research. These folks can accept a few inevitable bumps on the journey, but all in all, they prefer a definite game plan. Hotels and flights are booked online - tours to the ruins one day, a bay cruise the next. Meals are planned by consulting TripAdvisor.com reviews (who are these people you trust to tell you where to eat?), and every day is pre-arranged. This approach is often required if time is a factor. You don't have enough days for many errors or misdirection (Oh, you meant THAT San Carlos). If you have work for a living in a job that gives you a week or two vacations every year, this is probably your category, and is a fine way to travel.
Either way, your life is forever enriched by the adventure. I have met many people over the years in my Mexico travels that possess an independent spirit, leading them away from the tourist-oriented towns...and their numbers are rapidly growing. You find them driving the back roads or taking a bus, staying overnight in small town pensiones, experiencing the true essence of Mexico. These are my people, but that’s just me.
And there are the younger travelers. If I recall correctly, the cranial wiring isn't quite complete at this stage of life, producing a sublimely happy travel-warrior. There are absolutely no problemas that can't be solved, usually with the assistance of a beer and tequila in the nearest cantina. Many become lifelong Mexicophiles, as their view of the world, and their place in it, is forever changed.
After several years of declining visitors, Mexico has turned the corner as tourism numbers continue to rise. There were several reasons for the downturn – fear of the cartels – a worldwide recession – a press/media exaggerating unfound dangers. But people, especially travelers, are pretty smart and savvy. They began to understand that 99% of the country is as safe as ever, and the Mexico Tourism Board people have done an outstanding job of promoting their country to a worldwide audience.
Hopefully, at some point, on one of your Mexico journeys, you will be lucky enough to find that very special place...that place where, for some unknown reason, you feel an unexplained affinity. It becomes your place. And you know that if you could, if things were different, well, you would live there. But until that day arrives, you can visit and know you have found a second home. It makes it easier to go back to your life and your work, because your special place will be there the next time you need it, if even in your dreams.
James Taylor sang a song called Mexico that describes the feeling dead on.
It sounds so simple I just got to go
The sun's so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I'll have to go now
It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low
Moon's so bright like to light up the night
Make everything all right