In 2018 I traveled through Mexico for 6 weeks, flying into Cancun and making my way through the interior of country all the way to the Cabo area and then up to Northern Mexico, having adventures and misadventures all along the way. The trip ended with a nightmare, 52-hour bus ride from hell, with me going from Monterrey, Mexico to Raleigh, North Carolina…a grueling test of patience and will. In this article series I will give give an account of some of the things that happened along the way and show you some of the sights to see down there…I mostly stayed in Airbnbs and budget motels which are in abundance everywhere. You can always count on me to give you the low-down before you go down…You, dear reader can benefit from my mistakes as I cut through the hype to get to the really choice travel destinations for the budget conscious, solo traveler.
I first encountered the ‘Mexican Riviera’ on accident while traveling on a jungle adventure to Belize in 2013. By far, the cheapest way to get to Belize from the eastern USA was to fly into Cancun and take an overnight bus from Cancun to Belize City. I saved at least $800 USD by doing this. My ideas about Cancun were that it was a spring break destination and that’s about all I knew. Mexico was not even a consideration while planning out that trip, it was simply a means to get to Belize as affordably as possible. At the time I had several unflattering, preconceived notions about Mexico, as do most Americans. However my plans changed as soon as I saw the beaches in Cancun & Tulum, along with the amazing Mayan ruins, the wetlands and cenotes. It was such a dramatic contrast after looking out of the window flying over Atlanta, taking that very short 4 hour flight which transported me to a tropical paradise. Smoggy, hectic, traffic-laden Atlanta from above looked like a gigantic mother-board grid. The trees were all brown and smoke stacks were visible across the landscape, polluting the air. I looked at the haggard, care-worn faces of my fellow travelers on the flight from brutally cold Chicago and secretly hoped they would find happiness and renewal on their vacation away from the Matrix.
Wow, I had never seen electric blue water like that in my life, combined with decent sized waves, flawless white sand beaches and several species of lovely tropical birds. I had been to Destin, Jamaica and other places but Tulum especially had this other-worldly quality that was hard to define. It was extremely chill and mystical. The water in Jamaica was electric blue, but the waves were not that big and unfortunately the water in some places is polluted by nearby cruise ships. Destin, Florida is nice, but it cannot compete with the quality of the beaches you will see in the Yucatan peninsula. Tampa has decent looking water but ZERO waves which is totally dull imo. Miami has South Beach which is cool enough for partying but their beaches cannot compete with what you will see in Mexico. California has nice beaches and waves but the water is cold and often dull looking in color. I will discuss my Belize adventure in another article but I ended up cutting my trip short so I could spend at least a week in Mexico before returning to the USA. Belize was primitive, corrupt and potentially dangerous. The beaches in Belize are meh at best, however the jungles and ruins are true gems.
I had been to Mexico before in various towns along the US / Mexico border and essentially had preconceived ideas about Mexico based on those shoddy, pitiful border towns. Mexico is an enchanting, magical, mysterious and beautiful country with so very much to offer for the budget conscious traveler. It also is much safer than the average American gives it credit for. I never once felt in any danger at anytime during the 6 weeks in 2018 or when I went in 2013, but of course you must always remain alert and street smart once you leave the tourist areas. The Mexican people have always been welcoming and kind to me. There are some downsides to visiting Mexico however and I will be covering them in this article series.