Solo Travel in Mexico?

http://m.budgettravel.com/feature/travel-advice-best-places-to-book-travel-tours,12661/?page=2

Just the very title may cause some fear and heart palpitations due to the sensational media coverage that Mexico routinely gets. And cover it they do in the most negatively descriptive way!

Which leads to the next question. Can the truly horrifying things happening (either with or without direct or indirect connection with any of the nasty drug cartels)when you get right down to it be attributed to the growth and wealth of what exactly? Why has the very, expensive so called, ‘war on drugs’ largely failed miserably. The image of the little boy with his fingers in a leaky dike with far too many holes comes to mind…

http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/little_dutch_boy.html The difference being of course is that unlike the Dutch boy NO ONE came to his aid EARLY enough. Now, it’s sadly and tragically a case of pay now OR pay later and pay later we do.

Both America’s burgeoning and insatiable desperate demand for illegal drugs. Always the bottom line.

If a 22nd century milagra/miracle happened and every drug addict suddenly went to rehab the mind boggling customer base that cuts through all social classes would cause the drug empires of the Mexican cartels to immediately collapse. Also  statistically speaking, the per capita crime rate in Mexico is no higher than the deceptively ‘safe’ cities of Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago or for that matter the immediate encircling neighborhoods around the White House in Washington, D.C.

And I’m not saying that Canada is crime free, either. It’s just that we do not have the equivalent of the clout of the powerful National Rifle Association blocking gun control legislation. Canadians overall do not have what might be termed a gun mentality imho.

When I lived in Los Angeles and Oxnard, California I found it shockingly easy to legally obtain a gun a la ‘Bowling for Columbine.’ In fact, I was even asked a few times whether I had considered gun ownership (for protection, of course) due to the lower income neighborhood I lived in at the time. As a teacher with no crime record, I could have easily walked into the nearest WalMart and walked out with a deadly gun that previously I had only seen in movies. I would hope that I’m overgeneralizing this but probably not by much.

Getting back to the safety in Mexico issue, first of all let me say that risk for foreigners does exist. Mexico is still considered a third world country (although a visit to the nearest Costco or Sam’s club or big city high end galleria/shopping mall might cause you to think otherwise.

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Just based on the first two pictures, you would have thought that you were magically teleported back to the Costco in any major Canadian city.  Two things give away the actual location. The Salida entrance sign and the rather large  liquor, wine and beer section conveniently located near the front of the warehouse.

But, yes the wages are lower here and poverty is widespread with it’s resultant link to crime as the ‘have nots’ take from the ‘haves.’ Or provide the ‘haves’ with illegal substances. Last winter, I had my IPad physically snatched out of my hands in a quiet neighborhood wifi bar in my neighborhood. I was intently typing not paying attention to my surroundings zoned out which is what often happens when using electronic devices and before I knew it two guys in the bar were chasing the ladrone/thief down the cobblestone streets accompanied by me alerting the meighbourhood with the sound of my piercing Red Cross whistle hanging around my neck. This ensuing mayhem was to no avail because of the prearranged getaway vehicle waiting just down the street in the shadows alas. And what really was criminal that I had NOT registered in ICloud and about 75% of my pictures and videos were tragically lost.

Speaking as a reported crime victim (and that’s a whole other story!) certainly this up far too up close and personal incident shook my confidence to the core about traveling on my own in Mexico. In fact, I had a significant amount of fear going to Mexico City this past December opting to book a group bus trip instead of traveling there on my own. Just the prospect of actually being in a place where there are about the same or even more people than ALL of Canada just gave me the heebie jeebies or the ‘willies’ as my mom used to say.

I had heard…incorrectly that it was the most polluted city in the world and you never saw a blue sky. Not true. I had heard that gringos were constantly targeted and always in grave danger. Not true. I had heard that this city was unpleasant and unliveable despite it’s history and architecture and impressive sights. Again not true.

My bottom line based on almost forty years of traveling either one my own or with the ‘boyfriend du jour’ is that yes, you do have to make some good decisions vis a vis your safety and above all stay PRESENT and pay attention to your surroundings. Some gringos that I have witnessed both here and in the Lakeside area blithely flaunt their affluence, treat their domestic and gardening help poorly and then may or are subsequently targeted for a b &e, home invasion or worse.

The ubiquitous design of the casas, states and villas here are such that you live behind a complicated system of iron gates, metal and wooden doors all with separate keys that you need to employ to leave as well as come back. Windows have bars. In fact, after five months of being here when I spouted a storefront bakery with just windows I had to immediately stop, buy something of course and investigate. It was such an unusual sight! As it turned out the way that they were able not to have bars was to have one of those roll down metal storefront covers common in large cities.

So IS Mexico safe for snowbirds and expats?  My feeling that a MILLION North Americans wouldn’t be here either on a full time or part time basis if it wasn’t.  Do you have to stay alert and present and above all pay attention to your surroundings?

Absolutely…So be alert and do not zone out using electronics. Use common sense and yes, do have a small 50 peso bill tucked in an outside pocket ready to pay your taxi driver who may or may not ever have change for a bill larger than that day or night. The ‘no cambio’ cliche does have some basis in fact on a day to day basis in my experience!

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