For some unknown reason the airline extended my 2-hour stopover in Cancun to 7 hours just before I left the UK, and since no one wants to hear boring stories about airport delays, let’s just say that my 3-hour ‘snooze’ in the nearby Comfort Inn Cancún wasn’t the most reinvigorating nap ever. Checking in for my domestic flight to Guadalajara shortly afterwards I was told I had to take my large backpack as carry-on luggage, this was fine…except for the fact I had forgotten that the bag contained:
1 x scissors
1 x multitool
1 x 4-inch camping knife (!)
Cue multiple searches of my bag by airport security as they hunt down the offending items, all whilst time is ticking for me to get to the departure gate; such a nice relaxed start to my adventure then(?). To be fair the Cancun airport security guy was great, he almost seemed apologetic when explaining that he’d have to confiscate these items. I was just happy I wasn’t being hauled off for an invasive cavity search, that would have been a nasty start to proceedings!
Thankfully the gruelling 27-hour journey ended with a familiar face as my Mexican friend Erick picked me up from the airport at 01:45am (gracias otra vez amigo!)
Day 1 – Part 1
Waking up the next morning at the Hotel De Mendoza to discover the sights and sounds of Mexican life in Guadalajara was just what I’d hoped for; ‘huevos rancheros’ for brunch and then the historic central plaza literally a 30 second stroll from the front door. I highly recommend the De Mendoza as a starting point for any Guadalajara excursions, it’s a bit of a luxury for the long term, but I just wanted somewhere chilled out for my first few days in Mexico; hosteling can wait!
Armed with sunnies and flip-flops I set off on a gentle amble around the plaza and surrounding streets, my pasty-white British skin gulping down large quantities of 30-degree sunshine, what a novelty! Tourists and locals alike mingle in the plaza, it’s clear that many are from other parts of Mexico visiting one of their country’s most historic cities.
As the eponymous ‘Englishman out in the midday sun’ I notice that the more sensible locals quietly relax on benches under leafy trees. Then it slowly dawns on me…I’ve made it, I set a plan to give up my old life and start a new adventure as a travel blogger, and I bloody-well made it, I’m here in Mexico! I’ll be honest, it felt pretty damn awesome!
Day 1 – Part 2
Chilling by the pool that afternoon I find myself chatting with some fellow anglophones, a canny couple from San Francisco, USA. Sam and Ali are due to fly home to San Fran this evening but they’re huge fans of Mexico and can’t wait until their next trip. They’re even kind enough to offer me one of the local street tacos they’ve just picked up. Free food = how to make friends and influence people 101! (Especially me! ;))
Sam manages a non-profit which builds and maintains sustainable housing for residents of low to moderate incomes in the Mission area of San Fran; Ali is a talented stylist with a flair for the artistic. These folks are good people. Meeting new, like-minded individuals from different backgrounds is one of the many experiences that I craved going into this adventure, so I’m happy to have met these guys on Day 1. More to the point, they’re both keen to follow the Action Sports Nomad Instagram page, so of course they’ve already scored huge brownie points with me!
In true traveller fashion they offer to show me some of the best street taco places within walking distance of the hotel. I feel like I’m in a National Geographic photo as the three of us sit there enjoying chorizo, pork and beef tacos with freshly squeezed lime, surrounded by the hubbub of Mexican life and serenaded by a guitarist looking for tips. The cost of this meal for three? Just under 200 Mexican pesos (about £8 GBP), pretty mind-blowing really.
Of course, there is also some gritty reality mixed in with all of this, we are after all, extremely fortunate gringos from ‘developed countries’. The streets are dotted with those much less fortunate than us. Most seem like human beings who may not have had the luxury of a loving family, a safe path through childhood, or the benefits of a formal education; maybe I should have made the effort to buy one of them a meal and ask about their story. As I become a more accomplished traveller I hope I’ll gain the confidence to get more involved like that.
It’s a regular occurrence to be directly approached by people from all walks of life, whether they be asking for donations, selling home-made items, hocking dodgy SIM cards, or just straight up begging. It’s pretty heart-wrenching at times, but if you were to give 5 pesos to every person that came up to you, then you’d be broke within a month. I do what I can for charitable causes, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
With Sam and Ali off to catch their early evening flight I retire for a little nap at 5:30pm, only to wake up again at 11:30pm…oops, there’s that jet lag again, oh well, at least I’ll be up early tomorrow for a full day of exploring Guadalajara!