At 3:00 am my alarm went off. Time to get up for my flight.
Last year that alarm was overwhelmed by anxious nerves that caused me to jump out of bed at the first note. This year I groggily exerted the effort to shut it up and stumbled to the bathroom to wash my face. That’s when it happened – out of nowhere a song popped into my head that would not leave me until I was speeding through the air thousands of miles above the earth.
Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known,
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone…
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I was aware of what I was about to do, and apparently that somewhere decided Whitesnake was my best departure anthem.So with an apropos 80’s rock anthem playing on repeat in my head, I went through the motions like the veteran traveler I had become. Nothing phased me about the flying routine: I swiftly removed and replaced my laptop and shoes; I easily fell asleep upright without even an eye shade; I was on the free Phoenix wifi faster than it took my coffee to reach drinkable temperature. No on-board meal or entertainment? No problem, my body remembered how to survive on snacks and my mind on wandering.
Then I landed. I had mild reactions to the stimuli that come with being in a foreign place, but I was still waiting for the “holy shit I’m actually here!” feeling to hit. Sure the signs around me were in Spanish, but I was just trying to see how much I could understand when I read them. And I had to go through immigration, but I just smiled at the colorful new stamp and was grateful that the officer continued my passport flow by putting it on the same page as Canada. And even though the questions I was asked were not in my native tongue, I just automatically responded with “Hola” “Si” and “Gracias,” even eliciting an, “Ah tu hablas Español?” To which I responded, “No no, un poquito.” I calmly walked through the terminal searching for and fairly easily acquiring the two things I needed – cash from an ATM and a Mexican SIM card. No big deal there either. Then I got an Uber (now that was a change from the normal sketchy cab negotiation) to my friend’s apartment.
I stared out the window at the new city passing by. I was fully aware of where I was, and I was excited about it, but it wasn’t stomach flipping, heart pounding, pulse racing excited, it was just excited like I was excited to go to dinner with friends last week or go on a hike in Vermont.
It’s like Whitesnake said, “Like a drifter I was born to be alone … Here I go again.” Let me try to explain it a different way – when you’re home, do you feel a stomach flipping excitement? On the road I am home. I cannot properly express my joy at being in Mexico City because it’s so natural that it doesn’t feel worthy of over-embellishment.
I may not be making any sense, I did only get 2 hours of sleep, so just trust me: I feel like I’m where I should be.
In case this is a strange let down of a post about my arrival in Mexico, I will leave you with a scene of how I spent my first evening here.
After dropping my stuff at the apartment, I realized how starving I was, so I walked two blocks to a recommended and delicious cafe. I ate my mango chutney pollo sandwich at a counter looking out at the street – no headphones, no books – watching life go by. I left the cafe and walked the ring of Avenida Amsterdam in Condesa, where I’m staying. In the center of the street there is a pedestrian path surrounded by varying thicknesses of flora through which I saw the diversity and attractiveness of the architecture here and the many bars and restaurants this area has to offer. As I write this, the sounds of a live band playing upbeat, dance-inducing Mexican music is wafting up to the apartment from one of those bars below. If you asked me to move onto this street today, I would say yes. If this first impression holds up, I have a feeling Mexico City will find a permanent home my favorite cities list.
This scene and the travel experience before it have one majorly important thing in common: I am back at it again, and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t feel lost or unsure of this decision, I feel like I have jumped right back into the swing of my life. Hopefully that is what this first post of Round Two: Round the Central America conveys.