My First…: KIOS Blog-A-Thon, Day 13

Today’s KIOS Blog-A-Thon prompt asks: Share a first.

Orozco Mural in the Palacio de Gobierno

I use to travel from Northern California to Northern Mexico with my family, almost on an annual basis. Usually the winter or summer. I remember leaving in the darkness of the early morning in a packed car. Mom must have made a lot of sandwiches for the road, because we never went through a drive-through or stopped at a fast food place to eat. Our only stops were gas stations, rest stops, and family members homes in Los Angeles, Riverside, and La Cruces. I was a horrible traveler as a child. I was bored, car sick, and always asking “Are we there yet? How much longer until we get there?” I think the last time I traveled with my family like that was in 1987.

The first time I traveled to Mexico solo was in October 2001. I was living in Seattle and woke up early one morning and said “I’m going to Mexico”. And just like that, I bought my tickets to Guadalajara, Jalisco. Mind you, I didn’t know a single person in Guadalajara, but I felt compelled to go. When I told my father he was so angry. He was worried that I’d get arrested in Mexico and prostituted out. I was worried that the hotel I was going to stay at wouldn’t have decent towels. Any dangers weren’t on my radar. I was 29 and going through some existential crisis. I just wanted to be away from my life as I knew it.

At the airport I remember walking towards my terminal and seeing a two pilots walking to their terminal. 9/11 just happened the previous month and seeing them in their uniforms left me with a lump in  my throat. “oh right…that”.

It wasn’t until I landed in Guadalajara that I began to freak out. As I walked towards the airport exit I thought, “Oh shit! I need to get a cab to the hotel. What is the address? What’s normal fare? Where am I ? Where am I going?” Not even 5 minutes in Mexico and I was already freaking out. Who do I call? Where do I go? Do I have enough money?

It took a while, but I managed to calm down, hail a cab, and give them the address. Once in the cab, the familiarity of the landscape came to me, even though I had never been to this part of Mexico before. The dusty roads, the bare hillsides. The billboards in Spanish advertising Mazola. I immediately missed my brother Juan and my mom. Instinctively I turned my head to say “Did you see that?” but no one was there. I was there, alone.

In general, I was comfortable traveling alone. I preferred it really. So I wasn’t prepared for the lonely feeling I had as I rode the cab to my hotel. I hadn’t been to Mexico without my family before. With my family  my mom and brother did all the talking and arranging. Now it was all up to me and my Spanish was pretty rusty.

In the end I had a great time. By the end of the week I knew how to get around by cab, subway, foot, and bus. In realizing how much my family meant to me, it was in Guadalajara where I made the decision to move back to California. I often wonder what would have been had I just stayed in Seattle. I loved it there and I miss it. However I also know that at that time, I knew I needed to be closer to my family. That alone eases any worry I have.

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