Mexico City, the federal capital of Mexico, is a strange choice for a hermit. One of the most crowded cities in the world, with more people in its metropolis than the entire Australian continent, it’s not a place to visit if you want to escape humanity, or are after peace and quiet. At all.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I picked Ciudad de Mexico for a destination, especially considering how terrified I was when I landed. Between warnings on the internet, and over-the-top reactions of family and friends, I was quite convinced that I was doomed to being fleeced of all my belongings, and/or suffer horrific physical hurt.
I was miserable in the first week or so that I spent here. In addition to the fact that big cities tend to have this effect on me in the beginning, it was exacerbated by the frustration of not being able to have meaningful exchanges with people, because I didn’t speak any Spanish. This applied to more than the realm of deep philosophical conversations; more urgently on a day to day level, it meant simple things like asking for directions when lost, ordering food, or finding out where to obtain necessities like drinking water, became a real struggle.
I felt incredibly isolated, and for the first time in many years, profoundly lonely.
I had no idea what to do with myself, so I did the only thing that made sense: I walked. Eight or nine hours daily. It was my only defense against that particular variety of inertia that eventually sucks one into the inevitable black hole nearby. But even walking didn’t help all that much. The situation encompassed more than just logistical difficulties: this was also the point at which the magnitude of everything that I had done in the past few months, finally hit, in all it’s dramatic, burning glory. The most damning part, was the realisation that going back would be even worse than what I was facing then. I had made one hell of a mess of my life, sans salvation.
It was in such a frame of mind that I found myself in an empty cathedral one day, falling to pieces.
At that juncture, I decided I needed help easing into this going-it-alone business, and that drastic action was necessary – I needed to be social. Hang out with people I didn’t know. Find my feet by observing where other people laid theirs. The only avenue I knew for meeting other travelers was the CouchSurfing community, so it was there I went.
That was my first lesson in never underestimating other people. The travelers and locals I have hung out with so far have been great – open, generous, and much to my surprise, haven’t reacted (too much) like I’m some alien from a hostile planet. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky, but whatever it is, no complaints!
I started to relax. And things, downgraded from end-of-world alert status, started to right themselves. I finally started to shoot again.
It occurred to me that I might just be capable of doing this solo travelling thing without getting into untold strife. The shocking notion that I might genuinely enjoy solo travelling (as opposed to simply having to deal with it if I wanted to wander around for a long time) even popped into my head once or twice.
Mexico, which was a temporary, budget stop in between key USA stints, has become a priority, someplace I have to return to for an extended time, before my vagrant year is over, owing to some incredible connections made in the few days preceding this post, and the new world they have opened up.
From having no idea what to do with myself here, I have a compelling direction from which to work. And this is a direction which I would have shied away from, a mere month or two ago, owing to a lifetime of believing naysayers I shouldn’t have. It’s not to say I won’t crash and burn, simply, that it isn’t the end of the world if I do. I’m not used to having confidence in myself, and I must say, winning it by overcoming obstacles, big or small, is a nice way to go about it.
I had been told that I would learn a lot about myself on this journey. I’m very glad to find that I’m not too thick for this to be true.