Having spent the last decade traveling to some of the more exotic, if occasionally troubled, parts of the world, I’m used to friends and family responding hyperbolically to certain destination choices. But this was a high water mark.
“Mom. It’s Mexico, not Somalia.”
“Well, don’t you watch the news?”
Ah, here we go…
In her defense, I didn’t actually know a whole lot more about Mexico than my mom did. Certainly by the time I returned home from my recent visit to Guadalajara I realized I didn’t really know much of anything about the place.
Technically I’ve been to Mexico twice before: once as a kid living in Texas, and once 20 years ago, when I landed in Cabo San Lucas the day after a hurricane had all but flattened the place. Neither of those trips even remotely prepared me for the beautiful, spirited, spiritual place – and people – I was greeted with.
I was invited to participate in Meeting Place Mexico, a “marketplace” for people in the travel business. I’d never been to one of these events before, so I thought, “why not?” It’s kind of like speed-dating for the travel industry.
My very first meeting would set the tone for the entire week. It was with the Hard Rock Resort. The guy I was meeting looked like Thor’s twin brother.
I told Thor: “Look, I do spiritual travel, so please don’t take this personally, but the Hard Rock isn’t the kind of place for us.”
Thor said: “No problem. We don’t want to waste anybody’s time.”
This was gonna be a short meeting.
Then Thor said: “Spiritual travel, huh? That’s cool. So you know about the Huichol Indians?”
“Uh… no…” I said setting my stuff back down on the table.
“They’re the most magical people. They live high up in the mountains, so they were never conquered by the Spanish. They still hold their native, shamanic beliefs from thousands of years ago and they make the most beautiful art you’ve ever seen.”
I spent the next 90 minutes talking to Thor. So much for anything I thought I knew about Mexico, or the Mexican people. Or the Hard Rock Cafe for that matter.
There’s Tlaquepaque: an art and culture center so truly delightful you can barely bring yourself to leave. The unique, round pyramids at Guachimontones high in the foothills of Jalisco – more than 2,000 years old and one of the world’s most unique sacred sites. And then there’s Guadalajara itself: proud, beautiful, steeped in colonial history.
But more than the landscape, the architecture, or the cuisine, the thing that impressed me the most were the people. So genuinely warm, open, proud of their country, aware of both the remarkable heritage of the land and the modern reality of the nation.
And almost without exception, when I mentioned “spiritual travel,” they lit up and shared some secret with me – either a personal story, or some hidden spiritual gem that I had to know about.
This happened over and over again.
When I was a kid living in Texas and my parents said we were going to visit Mexico, I conjured vivid images of men in sombreros leaning against cactuses. The reality of Nuevo Laredo, a modern city with cars and bridges and restaurants, was truly shocking to my child’s mind.
While not quite as comical, the difference between what I expected and I what I got on my latest trip was almost just as dramatic. Mexico was full of wonder and beauty and spirit, and I can’t wait to go back.