We were traveling around Mexico for 5 months, which in the grand scope of everything, really isn’t a long time. But we still got shocked by some nuggets when we returned to the United States. Here they are:
Free, Drinkable Tap Water
We adored the little taco stands and street eateries we frequented in Mexico. We loved some of the fancier places too – so much good food! But since tap water in Mexico isn’t drinkable, we had to purchase all of our water.
It was weird to sit down in a diner in the US after returning and have our waitress place HUGE glasses of delicious, free water in front of us. Wow.
There are two ways to travel in Mexico: the free roads that go through all the towns, and the toll-based highways that go around most small towns. The advantage of the latter is that you usually have a smooth road, it is said to be safer, and it’s much, much faster.
The advantage of the former, going through small towns, is that you have chance to try lots of tasty local food, sold on the roadsides, it’s fun to see all the houses and flavors of each state.
But the downside are the topes and roads.
The roads can be in pretty rough condition, but it’s the topes that will KILL your vehicle. Topes are speed bumps, and they are placed everywhere, often without warning, so you can easily hit them at full speed and break your axles. Our own teardrop trailer was ruined from the topes.
Coming back to the US, the freeways stunned us with their smooth beauty, complete lack of topes and it’s all freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Mikey practically cried from the butter-like softness of the roads.
All that English!
One great thing about being in Mexico is – all the Spanish! You’ll really get it revved up. One great thing about the US is hey, all this English! It’s weirdly wonderful to be able to ask someone where the bathrooms are, and understand every, single thing they respond with. If I hear them.
Mexico is a richly diverse country, more so than a lot of us in the United States realize. Mexico abounds with various skin shades and heights. I am white and freckly (of celto-teutonic mutt mixed heritage), Mikey is half Vietnamese and half Ukrainian and looks full Native American. He’s 6’0, I’m 5’7. We both looked Mexican in different areas – him more than I to be sure, but even I could pass, especially in Mexico City.
But as diverse as Mexico is, it doesn’t have the sheer numbers representing diversity that the United States does: it doesn’t have as many people.
We went to a salad joint when we crossed into California, and just about every table there had a family hailing from what looked to be a completely different ethnic group. Families who looked of southern, northern, eastern and western Asian descent. African descent. European descent. Pacific Island descent. Latin American descent. It was stunning.
Mexico is catching up with the Wi-Fi but it’s still a far cry from the US. I know this because after all our stuff got stolen, I was left with one kindle fire. The only place I could connect it in Mexico was the Wi-Fi from hotels. In the US though, all we had to do was park in a parking lot and lo! The choices abounded: Starbucks, McDonald’s, Lowes, Marshalls – seriously, it seems like every major chain offers free Wi-Fi now.
Full RV Parks!
We crossed the border in Santa Teresa. Very nice by the way, and I highly recommend it as a crossing. Super easy, super-fast.
After we crossed, we were surprised by all the RV parks we saw. Park after park after park, you guys! FULL of RV’s, chock full.
We thought of all the empty RV parks we saw in Mexico – empty park after empty park, and well, we know what’s going on now, yes siree.
Canadians reading? Other Americans who are traveling in Mexico and wonder where all the Americans are? Now you know. Everyone is in the Southwest.
The gas prices in Mexico were about $3.30/gallon. Gas prices in New Mexico: $2.00/gallon.
I don’t know how long that will last, but I do know that our eyebrows got stuck in our hairlines over the surprise of that.
Designated FREE rest stops
But here in the US, the rest areas are often really gorgeous – with parks, dog walking trails, free clean bathrooms and vending machines in case you want to buy something.
I’ve watched too many CSI and Criminal Minds episodes to ever not be scared of rest stop bathrooms or rest stops in the dark, but I love being able to let Kianna and the kids safely run around on the grassy spaces.
Toilets that Take Toilet Paper
In Mexico, there are trash cans next to all the toilets for disposing of your used toilet paper. Uh huh. Sexy, right? It’s something to do with smaller toilet pipes that can get clogged.
We got used to putting the toilet paper in a separate receptacle, so it was really weird to come back and not see a trash can next to the toilet for the toilet paper.
All the other toilet stuff
Toilet seat covers! And – drum roll – toilets that always come with seats!
I admit it – the free, beautifully standard American toilets are one of the things that I love best (and usually take for granted) about this wondrous country.
Holy Mother, but those are amazing! Completely tricked out with every possible thing that you might possibly need while on the road (- plugin coffee warmers, anyone?). When we walked into them after being on the road in Mexico for 5 months, our jaws hit the floor. They are bastions of American big freeway luxury – with showers, laundry, TV- viewing rooms. In many ways, simply fabulous.
Mexico and the US
We had a great time in Mexico. Traveling, learning, meeting people. It’s so close to the United States and yet it seems so far sometimes, especially culturally speaking. One of the things that brings home the closeness of it though is the similarity of the land. If you look at the land itself – in either Mexico or the US – you really could be in either country.
We hope we can heal some of the divides with our southern neighbor and forge a stronger partnership with them. We can learn a lot about community building, kindness, teaching kids wonderful manners, small scale entreupreurship and divine food creation from Mexico. And perhaps we can teach a couple of things about tasty free water, disability access and awesome toilet systems.