(This post belongs to a series, "Crossing Borders"- Family Road Trip Costa Rica)
Leaving San Carlos, Mexico, we stop in Ciudad Obregón for lunch.
Our second day driving in Mexico, we were still unwilling (or afraid) to get our culinary feet wet. So we eat at Pizza Hut.
Mistake #1 - Not Eating the Local Cuisine
Food is one of the best ways to really experience a country. It's infused with the flavors, customs, and personality of a place.
And while eating at name brand restaurants in another country can be an interesting experience, and fun to do on occasion, you don't travel to experience 'little America abroad.'
Eating local cuisine allows you to ingest a a part of the country itself, and get a real 'taste' of the culture.
Being afraid of local food or restaurants, even the mom and pop shops, as being 'unsafe' is usually completely unfounded.
By taking normal precautions, you'll remain healthy, and be able to have a fuller travel experience.
Waiting in the car, two young boys share a smile with us. We share some granola bars with them.
Daddy comes out with our pizza, which includes packets of salsa catsup (catsup with pizza?), and we set off through Obregón.
Although a large, modern city, we're still surprised to see a Super Walmart.
We had to stop, just for the novelty of discovering it, (plus we need some parts to repair our DVD player).
Kilometers to Go Before We Sleep...
Intending to stay in or around Los Mochis, we headed that direction- an additional 281km (175 miles) or so.
The day is waning when we arrive, the children's patience wearing thin. Los Mochis is large, but considerably less modern, more 'Mexican' than the cities we'd visited thus far.
It does have a Best Western and other comfortable hotel options.
But determined to have some 'beach time', we head to the coastal town of Topolobompo, sight unseen.
We'd done no prior research, no homework or inquiry about Topolobompo. We didn't even Google it.
What we expected to find was a beautiful beach town. We expected to find an adequate hotel.
What we discovered was the 'real' Mexico in a coastal, beach-free fishing village. We didn't discover any hotels.
Mistake #2- Not Planning Ahead or Preparing for the Unexpected
Even if you do research that day, it helps to have some idea of what to expect in a place you plan to visit. OR go without any planning, but be prepared to flexibly adjust to whatever you discover.
You can't look at a map and expect to know what's there.
Do a google search, ask the locals, check your Lonely Planet guide. Or go by the seat of your pants, but have no expectations, and be prepared for the unexpected.
Colorfully painted concrete houses cliff-hang above the uncomfortably narrow roads.
In our shiny, oversized American SUV, overloaded with excessive baggage, obviously lost and from out of town, we couldn't help from being stared at.
I felt uncomfortable being the object of so much attention, but we were as interested in them as they were in us.
Being our 'first rodeo', I'd never experienced 'real life' in a foreign country. I had no accurate idea of how 'they' lived, what they did, or who they were.
Here was my first encounter, fairly up close although a little impersonal.
Perhaps I had envisioned peoples in the third world as being somewhat 'alien'?
I was struck by their 'normality.' Dressed in 'American' style clothing, they were eating, laughing, conversing, walking and talking.
Holding hands, holding babies, sitting at the park, playing ball, these people were born, played as children, fell in love, married and had their own, grew old and died.
They were no different than I, but in the great lottery of life, their birthplace was picked as Topolobompo, while mine was the U.S. of A.
Mistake #3 - Not Seeing 'Foreigners' As People Just Like You
Traveling binds you to people and places by allowing you to see that they're individuals just like you. They cry, fall in love, hurt, bleed, exult and seek meaning from life.
When we stick in one little corner of the Earth, it's easy to separate 'us' from 'them'.
But when we travel, we begin to see that it's just one big 'US'.
After a few inquiries, we realize there really is no hotel. The kids are now altogether stir-crazy and famished. The only option is to return the 10 km to Los Mochis for food and a place to stay.
In an effort to be speedy, fate is not on our side and we are faced with bumper to bumper traffic on the outskirts of town.
Nearly frantic to get out of the car, we stop at the first motel we see so we can let our little youngsters stretch their little legs.
(This post belongs to a series, "Crossing Borders"- Family Road Trip to Costa Rica
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