Thinking back to my first backpacking trip in Mexico (2008) brings up so many incredible memories (and emotions). I had the time of my life in Mexico and it’s hard to believe how much I did while I was there. Each time I return to Mexico, I explore more within one of my favourite countries and learn more about myself along the way. It’s hard to believe that a once control freak like me took my trip day by day and planned as I went along. No itinerary, no guide, and no specific direction. It was really nice not having to plan so far in advance and never knowing what would come next. It truly was an adventure. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of adventure is “an exciting or dangerous experience”. Traveling in unchartered territory was exciting and my trip did have some form of risk involved, considering that I knew little Spanish, traveled alone as a female, and didn’t plan too far in advance. I let the wind move me so to speak. It literally was an adventure. I trusted my gut in every situation and let me intuition guide me in the right direction. To no fail I was always safe.
It was easy to make friends at hostels while traveling in Mexico. I would often meet someone in one city and then wind up reuniting with them weeks later at another hostel in another province or city. Sometimes I would even meet someone who would be traveling in the same direction as me and we would decide to go together. Two girls traveling together was often easier than traveling alone. It was nice to have a buddy to travel with. The traveling life was easy and care free. After seeing the best of Quintana Roo, I moved inland to the Yucatan province and traveled my way to Valladolid, Progresso, Celestun (Flamingo sanctuary), Uxmal (Mayan Ruins) and Merida–the capitol region.
As much as I didn’t want to leave the coast, I knew it would be worth it to visit some of the inland colonial cities. Although it was much hotter inland with little relief from the sun in the busy bustling cities, the beautiful cities made it all worth it. I learned so much about Spanish history while sightseeing throughout the cities. Even with a bad case of heat rash (after weeks of sweat, sun, salt, and sand exposure) I happily walked around Merida for hours each day. I eventually had to find a local pharmacy to get a skin cream to relieve and heal the red skin irritation which covered my arms, legs, and neck. I was just lucky it was only heat rash and not something worse (and yes, I thought of every possible thing that it could have been). The translation at the pharmacy was along the lines of my sun cream wasn’t strong enough, the sun was eating my sun, or that I was eating too much fish. After two days of using the cream (while avoiding sun exposure as best I could) my heat rash was cleared. Even with this little hiccup, Merida was a dream.
The inland food in the Yucatan was to die for–authentic spicy Mexican food at my fingertips on a daily basis. The street food was safe, cheap, and out of this world. I tried to memorize the recipes the best I could so that I could replicate them when I got home. To this day, I still make the Mexican specialities I had while traveling in Mexico. I absolutely love Mexican food. As a seafood lover, I was told that I needed to visit Progresso, a beach town not far from Merida known for its seaside markets, fresh fish, and relaxed atmosphere. It’s safe to say that the famous fish head soup I ate for the first time was the culprit to my 24 hour stomach bug. Luckily, that was the only time I got sick while in Mexico. A few upset stomachs was worth a lifetime of memories.
Must do’s in the province of Yucatan:
Progresso– Port city on the Gulf of Mexico
Merida– Metropolitan capitol of the Yucatan and the largest city of the Yucatan peninsula
Celestun– Boat tour of the flamingo sanctuary
Uxmal– Watch the light show at this spectacular inland Mayan ruins
Although backpacking as a solo female has its risks and rewards, I wouldn’t change my first trip to Mexico for the world. Landing in Mexico for the first time made my heart race and made me question if I was out of my mind, but it’s still one of my favourite adventures to this day. Even with heat stroke, heat rash, a stomach bug, and moments of danger, I always had my whit’s about me. No experience is ever perfect, but even with the bumps along the way this adventure moulded me into the person I am today.
Next up in the Mexican Diaries…the province of Campeche.