In my previous post Traveling at 15 I mentioned traveling to Mexico with my parents and briefly touched on what that was like. In order to talk about what it was like to travel to Mexico on my own, I should mention what traveling with my parents was like first.
Beginning at the age of 9, I traveled to Mexico with my parents on an annual basis for about roughly three months at a time. Our vacation was filled with visiting various family members, enjoying all of the delicious food and engaging in just about every activity Mexico City had to offer. Not to mention visiting the various galleries and museums. (Did you know Mexico City is rumored to have over 150 museums?) However, our trips were never limited to Mexico City. My parents would take us to different states to learn about the history of Mexico and visit all the beautiful and diverse places the country has to offer. My parents have always been proud Mexicans and wanted to pass that feeling on to their kids.
On many of our trips throughout Mexico, many of our family members would often come along and spend long periods of time showing us around. I got the impression that this was typical for most people. My grandma, in particular, would also take us to different places and always tried to make our visits memorable.
As I got older, I began traveling to Mexico City on my own. Now, I am usually only able to go a week at a time but I make sure to go every year to visit my grandma and spend time either going to new places or just spending time in her home. She always takes time off to ensure she is able to spend as much time with me as possible.
During these trips, I began asking my grandma more personal questions that gave me an idea of what life in Mexico is really like. In short: it’s tough.
The majority of the population lives below the poverty level. The minimum wage in Mexico is currently $88 pesos per day, which translates to under $5 US dollars. Relative to their incomes, the cost of living in Mexico is high. Due to the large population who lives in Mexico City, many live in the outskirts in the state of Mexico. For my grandma, this means a commute of over 2 hours one way on public transportation.
With such a low minimum wage and the cost of living so high, it is astonishing how people have time to do anything other than work. Yet, they are some of the most loving and family oriented people out there. They love sharing what they have and put family above everything else. They have a way of life that is very different from the one I am used to.
It is these moments with my grandma and her willingness to answer all of my questions that changed the way I approach other cultures and countries. It shifted my perspective from one that was self – focused and immature to one that focused more on experiences and others. I began to see traveling not as an entitlement but as a gift and opportunity to see the world through other’s reality. It was the first step in realizing that travel isn’t about what you get to show off to your friends, but rather it is about changing the person you are by learning and growing through new experiences and bringing those lessons back home to be a better person than when you left.
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