My First Solo Trip: Mexico, Part I. By Dawn Larsen

My First Solo Trip: Mexico, Part I. By Dawn Larsen

. 3 min read

At a time of crisis, one PrimeCrush writer took a solo journey to Mexico, where she found she was connected to a circle of feminine kindness. Here’s Part I of her series.

My midlife crisis…well, one of them…happened in 2009 when I decided to travel alone to research in South Texas, hop on a plane and study in Mexico City, and then backpack from Mexico City to Hopkins, Belize, staying in people’s homes—or Couchsurfing—all without knowing Spanish. My thinking went something like, “I’ve written a dissertation, I’m raising a child by myself, I’ve bought cars and houses… For my next adventure, I’m going to backpack in a Third World country. I can do this!” One of my favorite Couchsurfing hosts in Mexico said, “Dawn, you are either brave… Or stupid.” Probably a little of both.

However, prior to the trip, I read as much as I could about solo traveling for women, packed an extensive first aid kit, got my shots, arranged most of the Couchsurfing stays, but it was impossible to pre-book travel tickets in Mexico and Belize.

I was fortunate to have several fortuitous experiences from the time I landed at the enormous Mexico City airport to my trip home, all centering on women. When the doors opened from the airport to the taxi stands, I was rushed by what seemed like a million men shouting at me in Spanish. One darted toward me, picked up my bag, and ran off with it. I shouted, “Espiri! Espiri!” Instead of esparer (wait!). I was shouting, “Ghost! Ghost!” Sheesh. A tiny Mexican woman must’ve noticed my distress because she ran over to the man with my bag, smacked him on the head with a magazine she was holding, grabbed my bag, lectured him using what seemed to be very strong words, and returned my bag to me with a smile and said, “Be careful…”

Mexico City had a wonderful subway system at the time. It was color coordinated, easy, and you could buy tickets out of machines that had English translations. Except, it was creepy for a woman who was quite obviously a solo traveler (wearing a large backpack). I was nervous especially when a group of men standing to my right kept glancing at me, speaking in Spanish, and snickering. To my left, there was an indigenous woman with two small children and a baby. When I glanced at her she smiled warmly and with her children came to me and nonchalantly pulled me away from that group of men to where she had been standing. I said: “Gracias.” She took my hand, patted it, smiled, and nodded.

At one point, I had had ee-fucking-nuff of slow, sweltering buses and I needed to travel within Belize. Somebody mentioned a brand-spanking-new airline that had just started up in the town I was in. The “airport” was a tarpaper shack with a tiny runway right by the ocean. For $40 American dollars and one hour, I could hop that plane versus suffering on a non-air-conditioned bus for six hours. Done. The plane had six seats beside the pilot and copilot. On it was two men, me, and across from me a young woman who was sitting rigidly. She looked at me and abruptly announced that it was her first ride on a plane. When the pilot revved the engine, with wide eyes she said, “May I hold your hand?” I said, “Of course…”

There’s so much more I could tell you about this amazing three-week adventure…but here’s the most important thing: Women take care of each other. We need each other. Even if we don’t know each other. Even if we can’t speak the same language, we take care of each other. Thank all the goddesses.

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