One of the things I love most about travel is experiencing the culture wherever I am visiting – whether it’s on the sandy shores of a fishing village in Bali or the rolling mountains of a tucked away village in Vermont. So it is no surprise that one of my favorite stops on our recent trip to Mexico was in the quaint little town of Valladolid – a sweet, historical little spot that seemed to bustle with energy and culture. I love walking the streets to see what people are doing and how they actually live. There is a simple thrill for me involved in a simple visit to a supermarket or tagging along with some locals to their favorite pub.
There was no tagging along on this trip, but we did stop to walk around for a short time. It was a long day and we had a group of 13 hot, sweaty, and mildly cranky people with about 20 minutes to run a quarter of a mile through the city’s center. It was short and sweet, but I still got to see some of the hustle and bustle that made this town one of the top tourism draws in Mexico.
One of my favorite parts of the entire trip to Mexico was on our little walk around this town. We wandered down a little side street where several vendors had their wares set out to sell to the locals. Fruit. Veggies. Cold drinks. A few doors down was a local barber – closed down for an afternoon siesta I presume. Around the corner, a few people gathered in a restaurant talking over cervezas – getting out of the heat of the midday sun. It all looked vaguely like I had walked into the set of some movie being filmed in Cuba. Something familiar, yet perfectly authentic.
Maybe that’s what we all look for in places we visit – the familiarly authentic scenes we associate with a place. We each had a different story about what we wanted to see. Some of us wanted to experience the real culture (sights, smells and all!) while others seemed to want to bask in the glow of the turquoise waters of our all-inclusive resort. The experience we want most seems to come from the story we tell ourselves. And the joy of our experience comes from the picture we have painted of it in our heads before we even enter the experience.
Whatever the place, I still try to wander like a child – still wondering and looking. Searching and seeing for the first time… on every trip and in every corner I visit. Wondering and wandering. Wandering and wondering.