I went to Mexico and Didn’t get Sick, Attacked or Kidnapped-Here’s What Happened Instead

When I was planning my recent trip to Mexico I was excited. It was my first trip to the country, and rather than head to a luxury resort I wanted this trip to be about the culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love a luxury resort as much as the next person (as you can see here and here), but the Mexico I wanted this time didn’t involve palapas or infinity pools. A few days at an immersive cooking school in the small mountain town of Tepoztlan, with mornings spent walking through town to the market to gather the ingredients for dinner that night all within view of dramatic limestone cliffs capped with the ruins of an Aztec pyramid; followed by the frenetic mix of modern and historic in Mexico City would be my introduction to Mexico. When I announced my travel plans to friends and family I was a bit taken aback, more than any other place I have visited I was deluged with warnings and questions about my safety.

I went to Mexico and Didn't Get Sick, Mugged or Attacked- Here's What Happened Instead www.casualtravelist.com

“Don’t drink the water”.

“The food will make you sick”.

“What about zika?”.

“What about all of the gang violence?”.

“Aren’t you afraid of being kidnapped or raped?” (Yes, this is verbatim a question someone asked).

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

I’m happy to report none of the above happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people care about me and want me to be safe but I was shocked that this was overwhelmingly the primary impression people had of Mexico (especially Mexico City). Where I see a diverse culture blending pre-Colombian and European influences along with one of world’s most dynamic food scenes, others saw danger and violence. While I don’t want to discount any violence that does occur I feel it’s important to emphasize that Mexico is not a Mad Max-esque state of lawless banditos. Tepoztlan, while not on the typical American tourist trail, is a beautiful colonial town bordering a national park very popular with Mexicans; and Mexico City being the frenetic megalopolis it is, reminded me very much of New York with avenues of gleaming skyscrapers and pockets of distinct neighborhoods.

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

So if none of the awful things I was warned about above occurred during my trip what did happen? Let’s take a look.

I ate and drank. A lot.

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.comClearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.comClearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

Truth be told the advice to be wary of the water is a good one, not just for Mexico but for a lot of places around the world; but with most places using filtered water and bottled water available everywhere it’s not really an issue. I enjoyed a wide variety of food, from handmade corn tortilla (the best I’ve ever had, really) to homemade Chiles en Nogada that I had a hand in making to inventive tamale from one of Mexico City’s best chefs. Fresh salsas accompanied everything and I delighted in sampling new to me foods from the neighborhood market. Horchata, agua fresca, Mexican wines and mezcals filled my glass and I enjoyed every last drop. The only side effect from all of this gluttony? Temporary too tight pants syndrome.

I saw a different side of Mexico

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.comClearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

I met abuelas making tortillas to sell from their homes. I carried corn to the neighborhood mill to be ground into fresh masa for our meal later that day. In shops and on the street I was greeted with a smile and a buenas dias, I genuinely felt welcomed wherever I went.

I was also invited to an underground salsa club in Tepoztlan, where at a time long after my normal bedtime, those in the know gather to watch musicians from the National Conservatory in Mexico City and dance long into the night. It was here I got my first sips of mezcal, served with the traditional orange slices and ground red pepper.

I never once felt unsafe.

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.comClearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

I walked the streets of both Tepoztlan and Mexico City, day and night, and not once questioned my safety. Tepoztlan is a sleepy town with narrow cobblestone streets that comes alive on weekends and festivals. I, as a tourist (and one with limited time at that) stuck to the tourist areas in Mexico City. We stayed in the La Condesa neighborhood, an artistic enclave filled with art deco architecture; and explored the historic downtown , Chapultepec Park with its green spaces and world class museums and the upscale Polanco neighborhood.

While at the aforementioned salsa club I danced with a stranger. He was polite and respectful, sharing nothing but smiles, a few twirls on the dance floor and the occasional laugh when my two left feet revealed themselves.

I made some life-long friends.

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

I was first greeted by the owner of the cooking school in Tepoztlan with a margarita and a hug and this truly set the tone for my entire stay in Mexico. We became fast friends bonding over our love of food and travel sharing stories while cooking, eating and dancing the weekend away.

Also at the school I met a chef from Chihuahua, visiting the school the learn about the regional nuances of Central Mexican cuisine. I enjoyed learning about her life and food (especially while she made me mole Colorado and tamales) and by the end of the weekend she declared me her American daughter.

I also had the pleasure of meeting a lovely couple from Mexico City who took a keen interest in how I was enjoying their city and country. They gave me some invaluable tips for my time in Mexico City (as well as where to get a good cup of coffee).

Clearing up a few misconceptions about Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

Mexico is so much more than glittering five star resorts and drug kingpins that dominate the news. In my short time there I encountered some of the most genuinely nice people I’ve met anywhere and it’s this welcoming spirit of Mexico that left a lasting impression for me.

A Few Misconceptions About Mexico www.casualtravelist.com

43 Comments on “I went to Mexico and Didn’t get Sick, Attacked or Kidnapped-Here’s What Happened Instead

  1. I am so very glad you wrote this post, Brianna. You are talking about my Mexico, the country I now call home and love. This is the Mexico I see every day. The people are the warmest, most generous and welcoming people I have encountered in all my travels. I never feel unsafe here. And statistically there is a good reason for that. My odds of being attacked, mugged, raped, killed in most large U.S. cities are greater than they are where I live in Mexico. I urge people to turn off their TV news broadcasts that talk about how dangerous this country is and just come and see for themselves. The biggest danger is that you will fall in love with Mexico and won’t want to go home.

  2. So glad you enjoyed your time in Mexico. It has been my heart’s home since I first visited in the ’60’s. And Mexico City is my favourite city. So much to see, do, experience, eat… Off for a return visit to Oaxaca, Oaxaca in a couple weeks, another favorite place in Mexico. Thanks for sharing the truth about the country and its people.

  3. I have been traveling to many cities and towns in Mexico since 1955 and the only time my husband and I were robbed was on a trip passing through Philadelphia! I am now 83 and live in Leon, Mexico. I walk 6 blocks to church most every day by myself and feel very safe.

    • Thank you for your insight Patricia, I’d love to hear more about your travels!

  4. This looks like it was a fantastic trip! I can only imagine how great the food was. Mexican food is a favorite of mine and I can’t wait for the day I travel there.

    I feel like I get those same reactions no matter where I travel! Germany, Rome, Texas, it really doesn’t matter. Just remember to always consider the source!

  5. It seems you had a more original experience in Mexico. There are many misconceptions not only about Mexico but for other countries as well. That is why I like traveling it opens the mind.

  6. The tortilla making looks great! I love Mexican food and I’m in no way afraid of traveling through Mexico. People can hold such silly ideas in their head of a destination that is often filled with great people.

    • I use the reasoning that bad things can happen anywhere to counter excuses not to travel.

  7. I wish more people knew of these great cities and towns in Mexico, you are so right Mexico is much more than resorts and drug violence. I would love to take a few cooking classes in Mexico the food is wonderful and Tepoztlan sounds like a great place. I have never heard of Tepoztlan I will have to do a little more research. I think we will head down to Mexico in January before we go back to Europe. Maybe we will check out this area as it does sound appealing.
    Rob recently posted…The Best Things to do in Liverpool – 3 Reasons we can’t wait to Visit Again!My Profile

  8. Such a great story to tell. Not that Mexico doesn’t have its problems but there are so many good things about it as well. I’d love to take a cook class and learn how to make more of my favorite dishes. Thanks for sharing.

  9. This is awesome. My main advisor while I was studying for my Spanish major was from Mexico, so luckily she dispelled any misconceptions about the country from the get go. I’m glad you had such a lovely time and were able to share a different side to what we’re often fed in the media. Definitely want to visit this country soon (and not just the resort areas)!

  10. There are SO many countries around the world that many people say “DON’T GO THERE!” or “It’s so unsafe!!!” But I find that unless I’m going to a war-torn country, that all it takes is general situational awareness and some pre-planning in order to remain safe. Good for you for not letting those “fears” get in the way of amazing travel, experiences and memories
    LeAnna Brown recently posted…How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Anywhere For a Vacation or TripMy Profile

    • Aside from active war zones I feel there is no reason not to go anywhere.

  11. Fabulous food and friendly people. Who can resist? I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico and reading this has given me some encouragement that I won’t get kidnapped!

  12. I do think there’s a misconception about a lot of South America and Middle America countries and Mexico is one of those countries that actually has a great culture and visiting value. Thanks for the post and I would love to visit and enjoy Mexico City when I have time! @knycx.journeying

  13. I am glad you went. Most countries have crime ridden areas in large cities, but to paint the whole country as such is not right. Ialways to try to get opinions of people who’ve gone to a place and relate their first hand experience. In case I can’t find any, then wtf! I go anyway 🙂 🙂 It is a great article Brianna. ¡viva méxico!

  14. I’ll admit I would be concerned about Zika…then again, living in FL, maybe it makes no difference at all! I would visit for the food alone, though it looks like your trip was all-around awesome! I too suffer from “too tight pants syndrome” when traveling…though I wouldn’t really call it suffering. 😉
    Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere recently posted…Rome Day 1My Profile

    • I really enjoyed everything about my trip but the people were the absolute best!

  15. Funny, I was just writing about Mexico today and was reminded of how much I liked Mexico City. I found it elegant and artistic, with lovely leafy streets, contemporary art and outdoor restaurants. It just shows how different reality can be from hype and hysteria. That said, caution is always advised wherever you go.
    Wandering Carol recently posted…Visiting the Roman Baths in Bath, EnglandMy Profile

    • Thanks Bo, I’m glad you feel the same way about Mexico and thank you so much for sharing my post!

  16. Pingback: November 2016 – Monthly Roundup of Articles about Mexico - MEXcation

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