by David Simmonds
In my early travel days I didn’t have much money. My m.o. for several years during and after college was to wait tables or tend bar for a while, save some money, and head to the Mexican border. Many times a VW camper van served as the transportation, then later a Ford Econoline with a built-in bed (Fords blew less engines than VW’s). A couple of times I’d just get to the border and start hitchhiking with a backpack, riding trains and buses when rides were hard to flag, which was often. A girlfriend (when I drove) or pal usually went along with me, but not always.
I’m a beach person, so on most of those trips I stayed along the coast, with detours into the mountain towns when we needed to let the mosquito bites heal. It’s the kind of travel best suited for youth, where you’re just happy to be moving, discovering…a different country and yourself. Many nights were spent in the back of a van, or out on the sand, and the cost was either free or a few pesos. Dinner was fresh-caught fish or a plate of mesquite-grilled street tacos. A 20-bottle case of Corona set you back about $2.00, a bottle of Sauza tequila about the same.
As I got older and started making good money I rarely had time for long road trips. Plane travel replaced the old van, and even though I had (and still do) my favorite family-run budget hotels, I’ve stayed in many 5-star resorts, as well. And, yes, many of these were comped to me, in hopes I would write nice things about them. Since I’m pretty easy to impress due to my back-of-the-van comparisons, writing a favorable review came easy and accurate. Mexico has some of the best hotel resorts in the world, featuring a combination of perfect locations and impeccable service. There was never a need to make that stuff up.
All in all, I’ve been a lucky guy, having experienced all areas of Mexico travel, from vagabond drifter to penthouse partier. And the one thing I know for certain is that I would never trade one for the other. Witnessing an impossibly stunning sunset from a footprint-free beach, body-surfing six-foot perfect swells while surrounded by jumping dolphin before crashing for the night in a swaying hammock, well, that is for me a perfection that no resort could ever match. Those will always be my memories.
Now, my wife, Felice, might disagree with me on this one.