3 Reasons to Visit Mexico

 

The culture in Mexico is something unexpected for most visitors.  People come expecting fun in the sun, plenty to drink, some tacos and a little Mayan history.  Those things just barely scratch the surface of what this country has to offer.  With dozens of indigenous groups, each region has it's own unique culture.  

Though we have very different cultures, sharing a border makes getting there super easy.  One connection through Mexico City will get you just about anywhere in a few hours.  From Atlanta, we several non-stops to choose from bringing that flight time and airfare down.  Have you checked those prices lately?  Going to Europe can easily cost $1,200 while you'll spend around $500 for most destinations in Mexico.  You can use that money you saved for the fabulous 5 star hotels & restaurants, world class museums. tours and excurions.  The value here is undeniable.  

By diverse experiences, I mean you can do most of the activities you've thought about flying around the world for right here.  Sandboarding, SPA retreats, coral reef diving, culinary treasures, eco-friendly sustainable tourism options and much more. Thinking about Argentina for colonial architecture?  Try Puebla instead.  Costa Rica for eco adventure?  How about Veracruz or Chiapas?  Hawaii for volcanos and snorkeling?  Think Jalisco.  

Adventure For Everyone - Women and African-Americans in Adventure Travel

Women and African Americans in Adventure Travel

The phrase adventure conjures up images of young men on mountain bikes, ironic beards, khakis and bare bones backpacking for most people.  The reality is completely different.  According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) the average adventure traveler is a 47 year old woman.  Women are traveling solo, planning girlfriend getaways and making the decisions for family travel.  We are choosing to add more active excursions to the SPA getaways and taking the kids snorkeling or kayaking after the theme parks.  The stereotypical adventurer actually makes up a very small percentage of travelers going on adventurous travel journeys. 

Lookie, no 25 year olds in the bunch!
My group hiking and rappelling in Zapopan

 

So where do African-American travelers fit in this picture?  At ATMEX ( Adventure Travel Mexico conference) this year there were only a few Black travel professionals that I noticed (all female too!).  Considering the rising numbers of Black travelers that's pretty sad.  There are plenty of gambling trips, party buses and booze cruise opportunities, but I know people are looking for more from their vacation time.

 

Elaine Lee explored this a few years ago in, "Mind the Gap: Exploring the African American Adventure Travel Market."  

She nails some of the reasons why we are missing from the scene.  Some are from the trade itself and others from the consumer side. Tour operators and tourism boards can definitely do more to include a more diverse picture in advertisements to make travelers feel welcome.  The statistics show we do more than party, so include more people of color in your photos.  

As consumers, we can also do our part to seek out vacations beyond the usual trips to the mouse or Bahamas cruises. If you're a camper or hiker at home add a new destination to you belt next time you're on vacation. Ms. Lee notes that maybe we stick to what's tried and true because it's comfortable.  There are some very real historic components to why we may worry how we'll be received in foreign countries based on how we're perceived at home.  That is slowly changing as the number of explorers who come back with glowing reviews increases.


"...word is getting back to the African American community that the racism and specific hardships we experience in America are much more rare abroad. In most places on the planet, we are warmly welcomed and treated very well. Additionally there are numerous African Americans, African American communities and/or venues of African American culture scattered throughout the world."

Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas


One thing I noticed walking around San Cristobal de las Casas alone, is how freeing it was to wander around a small town and absorb the culture without stares and constant anxiety. The extent of being singled out in 2 weeks was the lady at the laundry who asked to touch my hair with a smile.  For taking a load of sweaty laundry off my hands for only 40 pesos she can take a whole twist home as far as I'm concerned! 

San Cristobal de las CasasChiapas

In Georgia, there are numerous outdoor activities within a short driving distance, but to be honest I am just not comfortable in rural Georgia as a Black woman.  Camouflage and rebel flags just don't help me relax and take in nature.   

By contrast, I've been in jungles, mountains, cities and small towns in Mexico and felt nothing but welcome.  Racism may be one of the reasons we're afraid to travel, but it's the very reason to go. Broadening your perspective can really change the way you view things back home.  I've learned so much about indigenous cultures asserting their identities that resonates with our struggle in the U.S. There are numerous groups dedicated to groups of African-Americans in adventure sports that give the safety in numbers with group trips, but there are plenty of places that you'll feel welcomed without a group.

Me at Guachimontones

Some of the problem is perception of what adventure is. Sure adventure includes adrenaline fueled activities like paragliding, but it also encompasses cultural travel and nature based activities that aren't necessarily dangerous.  You don't have to be an outdoor enthusiast to try something new.  Of course if you're mostly sedentary it's not the time to try that uphill biking, waterfall jumping tour.  (By the way did I mention, you better have travel insurance?) A large part of the surge in adventure travel comes from so called grazers, people who dabble in an activity but may not be the type to do it on a regular basis at home.  I'm committing to do my part in increasing awareness of adventure travel with some groups for the 'grazers'.  We'll offer some interesting cultural travel with a little intro to adventure included. It's easier to step outside the box with a little positive peer pressure.  I'm definitely not a die hard enthusiast of any sport, but I'll try just about anything once (especially when there's food and drink at the end!)

 

 

A few more pics  from my adventures through Jalisco, Chiapas and Quintana Roo.

 

 
Beginner friendly rappelling at El Diente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, Tequila tastings are a cultural activity ;-)

Hacienda El Carmen
Heading to the coral reef in Puerto Morelos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Friend In Chapala

 

Usually I'm the one striking up conversations with strangers on trips, but I got caught slipping trying to decide on my favorite ice cream flavor.  Strolling through the market along the malecon 

someone tapped me on the back and asked if I was American.  I laughed and said "How'd you guess?"  

La Buena Nieve de Garrafa in Chapala
I think I sampled nearly every flavor!

He replied, "Because there are around six Black people here and I know all them."  Just my kind of humor! He of course wanted to know what I was doing there with the motley crew of a group I was with.  When I told him we were travel professionals, he was surprised.  

"Great more people should come down. I love it here!"  Let's call my new buddy 'Charles'.  I 

chatted with him for the entire time it took me to finish my Nieve de garrafa ( a sorbet-y cup of deliciousness we got at the market).  

My inquisitive little buddy

It turns out 'Charles' has lived in Lake Chapala for 25 years.  He had retired to Mexico from Michigan 25 years ago and hasn't looked back.  After trying a few cities, he settled in Chapala because of the perfect climate and close-knit community of expats.  There are so many Americans and Canadians here and in nearby Ajijic that many of the signs and menus are in English. There was a free English newspaper, every other guest in our hotel spoke English and there was even mashed potatoes and chicken-fried steak on the menu there. Lake Chapala is a haven for American and Canadian retirees, just about an hour from Guadalajara. It's well known for retirees, but still off the beaten path for tourists.  I'm hoping to change that so next time 'Charles' will have a harder time picking me out of the crowd. =)

 

 

 

 

Stretching your mind through travel

A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.Today is one of those days where I just had a heavy heart thinking about all the turmoil in the world right now.  I came across this quote that reminded me there is a purpose in helping people find new experiences through travel.  It's much harder, if not impossible to go back to your old ways of thinking once you've left your bubble and faced things different from your culture of lifestyle.  Even if you're travling in your own state you can easily experience something new, meet someone new and stretch your mind. 

Why You Get More Value Not Booking Vacations Direct

This month I had the rare pleasure of speaking with a cruise line reservations agent to about my own anniversary trip.  As we talked about the ship, she said "Wow you're going to have a good time the Breakaway looks like a great ship."  The way she said 'look' made me ask, "Don't you guys get discounts to sail?"  Her response, "Yes, but I NEVER have."  Wow. I felt bad for her and thought, if you have never experienced a product how can you possibly be of value to the customer?  Well since they are responsible for one singular cruise line, she knew lots of technical details.  If someone is willing to do lots of research, read reviews and make objective decisions about what's best for their particular trip, that reservations agent is valuable.  To the vast majority of customers who just pick the place their neighbor/co-workers/family just went to and posted fabulous Facebook pictures of; the value is next to zero.


 It's easy for me to forget doing the same thing for a while that everyone doesn't know what you know.  Especially in the age of instant internet experts.  Fast forward to the ship and we run into a couple at dinner that is upset that their youngest child can't participate in the kids club. They thought both kids would get to, but the youngest was only two and needed to be three to go to the supervised activities without a parent.   Guess what, they made a decision based solely on price.  Now for a week, those leisurely romantic dinners they had been planning include a stroller.  Had they used a travel consultant surely they would have found a vacation that fit the needs of their family.  The first time I kept all this as internal dialogue ( I can't start talking shop on the FIRST day of vacation!), but later in the week when we ran into them again I did share a couple of suggestions and asked that they contact a local travel professional next time.  Not in a salesy way, because I never told them my business name or handed them a card, it was just my PSA for the profession that week.  Turns out they were planning a family reunion cruise and the relief on their face told me they would definitely take my advice once they got home. 
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