Life Musings, Travel Stories

Falling in (and out of) love with Mexico

My palms are sweaty and my heart is beating faster than I’d like it to. I anxiously peer out the bus window, squinting in the sun, trying to identify any landmarks I might recognize. This used to be my home. Well, for four months anyway, but time doesn’t really discriminate when it comes to these matters. I’ve avoided coming here for a long time. Too long, in fact.
Road tripping through Mexico in 2007 and visiting Palenque. 

The first time I arrived in Mexico I fell hard. Head over heels, head over feet, hard. I fell for the smells, the markets, the street food, and the colors of Guanajuato. I fell for a boy. Long story short, it didn’t work out, like most young love affairs don’t, and I left Mexico with a hole the size of the Sahara desert in my chest. I forgot my Spanish and willed myself to forget everything else about my time in Mexico and my life in Morelia. A funny thing happens when you fall in love in another language, it changes the topography and accent of your heart forever. In my memories Mexico and the boy were inseparably intertwined.
Until recently, the experiences I’d had were just too painful to face. But now, years later I was here in Morelia, the front stage of that young affair. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I see him again? If so, for how long? How would I feel when I walked past the cathedral at night and saw it illuminated with all of the lights that used to be the backdrop for our love? Would I regret coming back?cathedral at night
Walking towards the cathedral and into the sunset.

I came to Morelia to honor my past and to lay it to rest. To honor the good and forget the bad. I came to say goodbye and to create new, different memories of Mexico and Morelia that are just mine. I returned to the scene to untangle and rewrite the story of loss (or as my sister reminds me, to “Bury that horse!”).TheBarefootBeat
I think my sister and friend Riley have the right idea!

Morelia is as beautiful as ever. As I walk the crowded streets with my sister I can vividly remember all of the old routes and taco stands we used to frequent. I smile with familiarity as we ride the city combis and admire the acuaducto. I feel relief instead of sadness, joy instead of pain.
The combis are blocking the streets for yet another protest.

I see the boy again and we share a rushed meal of molletes and quesadillas. He is distracted and absent, I am nervous and frustrated. We exchange pleasantries and he says he’ll call. He doesn’t, but I don’t need him to. We’ve said goodbye now without the tears and broken promises of the past and that’s enough.

We stay in Morelia for four days and we can’t wait to leave. It’s not as great as I remembered and my sister is unimpressed. The traffic and pollution are getting to us and there are fewer things to do here than I thought. I’m not in love with the boy and that changes my love for the city. We move on and I gain a more objective view of my past and Morelia. As we travel through Mexico I am free from the associations I always felt to him, free to create my own experiences and free to fall in and out of love with Mexico on my own terms. That freedom means the world.
Having a blast with Mariachi in Mexico City.

Have you ever avoided returning to a destination for a similar reason? Has someone you traveled with shaped your experiences and affected your view of a certain place?

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