I love traveling. I don’t do it as often as I would like to, but I’ve done it enough to know how beneficial it is.
Everyone needs a periodic disruption. Routines are a part of life, but when you get stuck in those routines you are prone to stress, burnout, jaded perspectives and lack of creativity.
Disrupting your daily routine removes the cobwebs and sweeps the dust out of the corners of your brain. It also challenges you to think differently about your daily existence.
I went to Mexico in July 2013 to break the routines, be inspired, to wander, and to simply be with no expectations or obligations. I also went to see what I could (re)learn about my life.
So what did my Mexican disruption teach me?
Don’t give into distractions.
A man screamed an obscenity at me.
Now to be honest, I have no idea what he said, but his intent was crystal clear.
It was around midnight and I had just gotten back from a bus trip to San Cristobal de las Casas. I was attempting to give my friend’s address to the taxi driver in my broken Spanish and he was not understanding or I was not understanding his responses.
I was tired from being on a bus for five hours, hungry and on my cycle. A man appeared at my window and started begging for money.
Ain’t nobody, me or the cabbie, have time for that.
All I wanted to do was get safely to Sylva’s house and lay my black ass down. I shook my head “no” and the taxi driver told also him “no”. I thought that was the end of it.
I turned back to the cabbie so we could continue our convo and then I hear the man yell something at me. I turned to look at him with a shocked and confused look on my face.
Whatever he said he was dead serious about it, but I couldn’t comprehend. My heart flashed with fear for a second, what if he tried to reach through the window and hit me?
The fear passed just as quickly as it came and I got back to the task at hand: getting to Sylva’s.
Lesson: I could’ve allowed myself to be offended and responded with some choice English words of my own, but I didn’t because I was focused on getting where I needed to be.
That’s what you have to remember when pursuing your goals and living in the present.
There will be a lot of distractions vying to pull you away from what you need to be doing.
You will have to choose if you’re going to react or stay focused. Acknowledge what will move you forward and ignore the rest, but If I see him in the streets again... it’s on!
Remember who you are.
I was racially profiled. How do I know that? I was the only black person on the bus and I was the only person the border patrol agent asked for identification.
I know this because I watched her walk the rest of the bus and turn around and she didn’t ask any other person for their documents.
Also, it wasn’t just because I was assumed to be a foreigner because there were other non-black foreigners on the bus as well. I kept calm because well, this is Mexico and shit happens.
I later found out this is not uncommon and she might have suspected me of carrying drugs or being an illegal immigrant. Understandable, but not.
Lesson: Prejudice, stereotypes, and racism are alive and kicking.
People will make negative (and positive) assumptions about you based on all types of things, some you may not even be aware of including their own experiences.
It is not your job to confirm or refute those assumptions. Your job is to remember who you are at the core of your being and live that authentically.
When she got on the bus, the agent's eyes focused on me immediately, so I knew what was up. When she asked for my papers I confidently handed them to her and looked her directly in the eyes when she asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Mexico and I told her the truth.
Take everything one step at a time, sometimes literally.
I climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. I went to Teotihuacan to see the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and the Temple of Quetzacoatl.
The Sun pyramid ascends over 200 feet into the sky and has 248 steps. At first I was like nah, I’m not going all the way to the top. Then I said well maybe I’ll do a couple of levels.
As I would stop and take a break on the lower levels, I saw little kids, old people, and other people who didn’t look like they were going to make it, continuing to climb.
My ego knew I was not going to let them show me up. So I took a deep breath, a sip of water and got my tail on up there. Still stopping to take breaks and holding on firmly to the security rope, I did it!
The view alone was worth every step, sweat bead, deep/shallow breath and ache in my feet.
Lesson: Obstacles will arise in your life that look daunting and you can’t see any way over them or around them.
That’s ok. Whether you know what the result will be or not, all that’s required of you in that moment is to take the first step and keep taking one more step, until you reach the desired destination.
The thing that really got my ass into gear was knowing that I didn’t know when I would have another opportunity to climb the Pyramid of Sun and that leads me to my next lesson.
Take advantage of opportunities in the moment.
I don’t have a story for this lesson.
Don’t allow apathy, laziness, and stubbornness, all symptoms of fear, stop you from having a great experience or getting something you need.
There were several times when I said I would come back to this market or neighborhood another day to look around and I never did. Something else always came up.
I wish I had bought more silver jewelry in Taxco. I wish I had taken more time to explore the cities’ neighborhoods. I wish I had taken a ride on a trajinera in Xochimilco.
Lesson: It’s what you don’t do that you regret. Make memories rather than regrets. You will not live forever and second chances are not guaranteed. Seize the moment.
Education does not require a diploma or degree.
This is something I already knew and why I value my formal education, my life experiences have taught me the most.
Mexico offers a very good informal, but structured education. It's called a museum.
The thing that pleasantly surprised me was the number of museums in Mexico and particularly in Mexico City. Every subject has its own museum.
My favorite was the National Museum of Anthropology and History, but there were also museums about torture instruments, tequila, pop culture, jade and even the Corona factory had its own museum.
Lesson: Whether in a museum, a book, or on the internet, you can practically learn about anything that interests you so there are no excuses.
Being different is cool.
Let’s clarify a few things. I’m black. I have big natural hair. I’m taller than at least 75% of Mexicans (by my estimation).
The staring, the pointing and the laughing were unnerving at first, but after a while, I learned to ignore it and even embrace it.
It was fun talking to strangers and watching people’s reactions to me. I received many compliments and I was interviewed a couple of times by university students.
Lesson: In a city of 20 million people (I forgot Mexico City was the second largest city in the world. It honestly had me shook for a minute.) and a world of 7 billion, it’s a good thing to be different.
I learned to trust my intuition more.
When I told people I was going to Mexico alone for three weeks, people thought I was crazy and were concerned for my safety.
The thought was a little scary for me too, but I knew if I didn’t take this opportunity I would regret it.
There were some situations where I had no clue what I supposed to do next or could not find the words to explain what I needed.
I made wrong turns attempting to navigate the streets or got off the bus too early or too late.
The miraculous thing is I always managed to find my way and end up where I needed to be.
Lesson: Intuition is not always about knowing exactly what to do next.
Intuition is about trusting that even if you make a wrong turn you will still arrive at the right destination.
It’s about picking out the one person in a crowd who can help you.
It’s about feeling safe and like you belong even when you’re surrounded by unfamiliar faces.
In life, it’s about having faith and knowing you are walking the path meant for you even when the world is telling you something different.
This last lesson was the most important to me because by trusting my intuition I am also more courageous.
I returned determined to figure out my business and take whatever risks necessary to make my dreams and goals a reality.
A year later my website is live, my message is clearer, I have done trainings to improve my entrepreneurial and life coaching skills, and I have more creative ideas flowing out of me.
Would I still be at this point if I hadn’t gone to Mexico? Maybe, but I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.
What matters is you live a life that is fulfilling to you and you do things that challenge you to grow.
What matters is you’re not afraid to be yourself in any situation and you’re willing to take risks.
What matters is that you’re open to adventures and you recognize the signs.
What matters is that you don’t accept less than the miraculous for your life.
Clear out the cobwebs, the dirt, and the fog and go do something that matters.
For my travelers out there, what have you learned about life on your disruption vacations?