On Tuesday, our family of five returned from a 10-day trip to Mexico City. We had a great time going places none of us had ever been before. We stayed in a beautiful apartment 8-stories above a busy Centro Historico street. We went to museums. We got lost looking for an ATM. We toured pyramids. We went to the zoo. We ate expensive food in restaurants that was bad and cheap street food that was amazing. Our 6-year old won too many games of Uno. In a frenzy we put together a puzzle before we caught our flight.
In a sense we did nothing. The city of Mexico City is so large that in 10 days we saw a postage stamps worth of its wonders. Most days we went to bed before 10 and left the apartment after 10 in the morning. We were a bit lazy but still managed to walk nearly 65 miles.
Why Did We Go?
Each summer our family goes on vacation. For the past several years we’ve gone camping in Yosemite and then added an additional few days of something else, usually the beach. We love Yosemite. It’s a magical place for our family. For me, personally, it’s one of the few places in the world where I can exhale and nearly instantly fall into a deep state of relaxation.
A couple of years ago Kristen and I started talking about doing something different and bigger for 2017 because it’s our 20th wedding anniversary year. We know it’s not “the big one” in the same way 25 years is. But 20 years is a big deal to us and we wanted to celebrate.
With that in mind I researched a few “big one” options and gave the kids some choices. They picked Mexico City because it’s not the beach– they hate the beach– and Mexico City had great street food, is cool in the summer, and has tons of culture.
As a Southwest Airlines customer, Mexico City was great because I paid for one adult ticket and my companion (Megan) went for free. Then I used my Rapid Rewards points to buy tickets for Kristen, Paul, and Jackson. Five of us flew to Mexico City of about $400.
As a parent, I had much bigger intentions. I want to take my kids out of the United States as much as humanly possible. Travel, like education, is both a gift and investment in my children. Cultural ignorance is one of the great curses of American ethnocentricity. And I refuse to pass along this malignant malady to my kids. We travel because it’s necessary.
Why Mexico City? Isn’t it dangerous?
If you have basic street smarts you can travel anywhere in the world and be safe.
We’re unfazed by perceived danger. Mexico City is no more or less dangerous than New York City or my neighborhood.
Yes, crime happens in Mexico City. Sometimes it impact tourists who are assaulted or robbed. But the same street smarts that have kept Kristen and I safe for the past 20+ years of city living worked just fine in the sometimes chaotic, always busy streets of Mexico City.
Was it a little more stressful with 3 kids in tow? Sure! But it was totally fine. My terrible Spanish was more stressful than any real or perceived danger we encountered.
“Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.” ~ Rick Steves
Why We Travel by Rick Steves
Speaking of Rick Steves, I’ll close this post with a brilliant TED Talk by Rick on the Value of Travel.
My encouragement for my fellow American friends is to get out of the country as much as you can possibly afford to. Even if it’s driving to Canada or Mexico. The culture of the United States is so strong and so ethnocentric that you must constantly push yourself outside of it to gain, regain, and regain again some sense of balance. (This is one of the reasons I love international short-term missions so much)
An outline of Steve’s talk:
- Travel opens us to the wonders of our world
- Travel connects us with culture
- Travel connects you with people
- Travel wallops my ethnocentricity
- When we travel we gain a better appreciation for people’s baggage.
- When we travel we can learn different solutions to our problems.
- When you travel you learn to deal with the poor honestly.
- When you travel you realize that all people are the same.
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