Hasta Luego, Me-hi-co!
Months ago, when preparing for our trip, Nate and I got some interesting responses when we explained our future plans of driving the Pan American Highway. At least 90% of people thought we were completely crazy. The funny part is, they didn’t think we were crazy for quitting our jobs, selling all of our things and attempting to drive over 25,000 miles to the end of the earth. They thought we were crazy because we planned to simply drive through Mexico!
You could see people’s wheels turning, trying to figure out a way that we could skip his “horrendous” country and continue our travels. Typical responses were: “Well, I had a friend of a friend who’s sister’s boyfriend got robbed in Mexico.” or “I’ve heard that if you go to Mexico, you are pretty much guaranteed to be kidnapped, beheaded and dumped in the street.” and the typical, “Have you seen the news? It’s not safe to go to Mexico!”
We had been hearing these responses for years leading up to our departure date. After attempting to explain that it isn’t as bad as it seems, it was clearly a pointless battle. It wasn’t until the day before we planned to cross the border that we felt the slightest bit nervous to go to Mexico. Unfortunately, you cannot help but feel this way when you are constantly hearing all these negative perspectives.
I will not deny that there is a conflict going on in Mexico. However, it hardly ever involves anyone who is minding their own business and keeping their nose out of places it doesn’t belong.
When walking on the streets of a new town, we were met with wide grins and the most enthusiastic greetings. Mexicans are very hard working people. Day and night, you would see women hand washing their laundry, making tortillas on the side of the street and taking care of their children. You would see men farming, fishing, hand mixing cement on the side of the road, taking care of their cattle and doing everything they could to provide for their family.
It was not surprising to see men standing on the side of the road outside of a bank or tienda with a 12 gauge shotgun strapped to their front. It was also not surprising to be flagged to the side of the road at a military checkpoint and be surrounded by ten or more armed men questioning you while searching through the truck. We were stopped at 90% of the military and police checkpoints, however, it wasn’t to give us a hard time. It was to check our documents, make sure we were not bring anything illegal into their state and send us on our merry way. They were simply doing their jobs. We made sure to split up when getting the truck searched, strictly for precautionary measures. If they had checkpoints in the states, we would do the same. I would stay in the front of the truck while they opened the glove box, pondered through our books and center console and looked under the seats- all the while being very cautious around Brady. Meanwhile, Nate would go to the back of the truck and open it up for them. Most times they were totally enthralled by our refrigerator that the search stopped there. We personally think that half the time we were flagged to the side was because they wanted to check out the truck more than anything else. 🙂
We traveled for sixty days and over 4,200 miles throughout Baja and mainland Mexico without ever feeling like we were in danger. It is too bad that the media has put such a terrible image of Mexico into people’s heads.
Toward the end of our travels in Mexico we were camped at a restaurant parking lot in Mahahual, a popular cruise ship port, when we were approached by an American family. They asked us how we got our dog on the cruise ship. We replied that we had actually driven from Maine. They couldn’t fathom the fact that we had driven all the way there; the look on their faces was priceless. The father then turns to us with a very matter of fact look on his face and says, “Did you get robbed yet?”
Without hesitating, Nate burst out laughing. We later joked that we should have said, “Yup, we actually got robbed yesterday, and we are planning on getting robbed again this afternoon. We try to make it a daily occurrence!”
Don’t let the media or stories from a ‘friend of a friend’ stop you from traveling to this beautiful country. Don’t always believe what you hear until you have experienced it for yourself. Or on second thought…believe it and then we can keep beautiful Mexico all to ourselves!