We all start somewhere. Even the most experienced traveller amongst us has a first independent trip or a moment in time when they realized that travelling is really all they wanted to do. For me, it was Central America. I bought a one way ticket to Mexico to meet a buddy of mine and when I finally returned home I knew I was a different person. With Facebook sending me daily memories about this trip (it’s just past the four year anniversary since I left) I figured it was time to dig back through my journals and publish a few entries from that first time I left home. Here it is.
March 23 2013
I was up at ten to three this morning. Sitting here on a bench in Mexico City, it doesn’t seem that long ago. It’s 12:30pm local time, which means that it is about 14:30 back home. Jess dropped me off at the Buffalo airport this morning at 04:30, customs was a breeze. (Jess was my girlfriend at the time, old memories... :I) I nearly had a panic attack when the airline attendant checked my ticket and told me I couldn’t fly to Mexico on a one way ticket. (Something about immigration policies.) I talked to a manager who decided to let me go, however I was warned that I might get sent back. The flight was uneventful, though long. An hour outside of Mexico City, the cloud cover let up and the landscape appeared 30,000 feet below the plane. Mountains with white caps and ridges dotted the mostly brown landscape. While small patches of green appeared sporadically, the landscape looked barren and desert like. Mexican immigration was simple. The officer accepted my passport and didn’t even bother asking me any questions. Another couple hours and I’ll be in Campeche.
March 25 2103
It has been a whirlwind of activity since I arrived at the small local airport in Campeche Mexico. When I stepped off the plane at the airport, a wave of heat and humidity hit me like a wall. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Matt was waiting for me when I arrived, and in true fashion, he had a girl on each arm. I suddenly wished I knew more Spanish. He was happy to help me translate and soon we were bouncing along uneven roads toward his apartment, where I grabbed a quick shower before they squeezed me into the back of an ancient car and rushed me off to a friend’s house for a party. I was amazed at the hospitality that I was shown and the warmth of these strangers as I sat in their house and ate their food. I could make out only bits of conversation as the Spanish flowed rapidly around me, but with translation I was able to communicate. It was a late night as Mexican parties tend to be, and we didn’t make it home until 04:00.
We are up first thing in the morning with only a few hours of sleep and head to a beach resort that Matt’s friends were able to get us into. We all crowd into an old van, some of us sitting on lawn chairs and others just lounging on the hard metal floor. We spend all day at the resort playing volleyball and pool, drinking and talking. Only a few days in and I’m starting to pick up a little bit of Spanish.
Later that night we meet up with Jorge, Cheko, and Baby, who have become our constant companions as we learn about this busy little city. We hang out by a fort built high up on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Mexico that was used to combat pirates in days gone by and look out over the water lit by unfamiliar constellations. Cheko tells me about his home in Monterrey, a city in northern Mexico near the border with Texas. He tells me it is more dangerous there because of the drugs and gangs. We notice a forest fire burning in the distance and we are alarmed but our Mexican companions aren’t worried and tell us the dew from the ocean will put it out by morning. We spent the rest of the night taking turns playing guitar and watching the stars.
I am sitting now on a bench in the median of a fairly busy road. The market is to the left. Venders call out selling fruits, vegetables and sundries in a confusing maze of people and shops. I am waiting for Matt. He’s getting a tattoo to remember his trip in Campeche. He’s also hungover as shit. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun.
There are people everywhere, cars and buses rushing past, horns honking, music playing and people shouting. The sun is hot on my skin and the breeze is barely refreshing. It is a beautiful city. Beautiful and dirty. The disparity between upper class and lower is very apparent even just in the vehicles seen on the streets. Luxury sedans are almost as common as early model VWs in nearly scrap condition. Driving rules seem quite flexible and the police drive around with their lights constantly on, but doing very little. We are leaving soon, a bus is taking us south across the peninsula to Chetumal, the border town between Mexico and Belize. I’m excited to see more of the country.
So that’s my first ever experience out of the country! Everything was so new to me, so different from anything I’d ever experienced. I was hooked right off the bat and hungry for new adventures. My next post will be a continuation of the trip as we head into Belize! Subscribe below to receive updates on my travels and to stay up to date on new blog posts! Feel free to leave comments about your first trip as well!
Jonathan Beam is the author of Crimson Morning - The Philosophy of Travel, available on the member page by signing up above. He is a blogger who writes about travel, adventure and philosophy. He has also written a novel that is currently under consideration to be published!