Spring break raves and mission trips. Maybe a port visit while on a cruise. That’s why people go to Mexico, right?
In 2004 I was in France for a semester and spent a weekend with a friend’s family in Paris. His parents were profuse in their praise of the cultural heritage and sites of Mexico, from whence they had just returned on a long-anticipated vacation. Historic ruins. Fascinating architecture. Storied history. Legendary food. Breathtaking topography and geologic features. And the beaches. . . But you’re American, so you already know. Obviously, you’ve been to neighboring Mexico.
No, I had not. Numerous countries in Africa and Europe? Yes. Neighbor Mexico? No.
At least, not yet.
Sixteen miles from one of the busiest international border crossings in the world, I gaze at the hills of Tijuana every day from my kitchen window. When I drive around town on my daily business, the digital signs on the highway remind me how close I am. Border – 13 minutes. In only 13 minutes I could be there, feeling instantly at home, because home is everywhere, anywhere. (That’s what happens when you’re a third culture kid).
So we go.
Six years ago, the first time we took our car into Mexico, I was shocked. We just drove right in. No passport check. No “show me your documents.” Nothing. Just a long line of thousands of cars funneling through multiple lanes as cameras flashed pictures of license plates. Then bam, we were in. I felt so privileged. I have driven across many an international border on several continents, but never, not once, did I not have to show documents (the E.U. being the obvious exception). When entering Mexico by car, it’s on your honor to ensure you have a passport and have purchased Mexican insurance (available online).
So we go.
On the return, the line to enter the U.S. can be long. Several years ago after returning from a family trip to the Sea of Cortez, we waited in line for over three hours – with an infant and a potty-training 2-year-old. We survived as I relived memories of border crossings in Africa as a child, crossings that could take hours and hours just waiting for nothing (or a little something to an official, whose desires were ultimately unrequited). To expedite future entries, we purposed to acquire SENTRI passes – an immigration fast pass.
So we go.
After all the border shenanigans, one may ask, is it worth it? What do you actually do in Mexico?
Oh, that’s easy. Drink fresh-roasted coffee, eat local food and play at the playground. Same as everywhere else.