TraveLinkSites has a Mexican treat in store for you today. Karen & Eric spent 18 months driving through Mexico in their beloved truck and their Trans-Americas Journey blog is literally bursting at the seams with fabulous advice and photos… Someone make me a margharita!
1. Could you briefly introduce yourselves, your site and your experience travelling in Mexico?
Karen Catchpole is a freelance journalist and her travel writing appears in major magazines and newspapers in the US and Canada. Eric Mohl is a former corporate lawyer turned freelance photographer and his work is also published in major magazines and newspapers in the US and Canada.
In April of 2006 we quit our jobs and packed up our apartment in New York City and embarked on the Trans-Americas Journey, a 200,000 mile working road trip through North, Central and South America. We’ve been on the road for more than five years and we’ve travelled as far south as Costa Rica. We’ve still got a long, long way to go before we reach Tierra del Fuego where the road ends at the tip of South America.
While on the road we continue to freelance for magazines, newspaper and websites and we create the Trans-Americas Journey blog.
As part of our Journey we spent 18 months in Mexico driving nearly 25,000 miles through all but three states ultimately producing numerous freelance stories and more than 150 blog posts about all aspects of travel in Mexico. We’d anticipated spending about eight months in Mexico, but things got out of hand.
2. What made you choose this country and what were your first impressions?
Our Trans-Americas Journey is an overland exploration of all 23 countries in North, Central and South America and that, most definitely, includes Mexico. For the record and once and for all: Mexico is in North America.
Our first impressions of Mexico were of open space and freedom and heat and smiles. We were also struck by the diversity of landscape, food, traditions, activities, animals—everything really. Of course, we knew that Mexico would be more than just beaches and mariachis. The place is huge and varied and the country kept us on our toes for 18 months with organic coffee fincas, simmering Zapatistas, Aztec and Mayan archaeological sites, a canyon system that makes the Grand Canyon look like a dress rehearsal, flocks of flamingos, sophisticated cities, white water rafting, Colonial architecture, cowboys, transvestites on parade, surreal SCUBA diving, beaches and mariachis (for sure) and so much more.
Are you beginning to see why we ended up spending twice as long travelling in Mexico as we’d anticipated?
3. How much money can someone travel around Mexico for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
Here’s another reason we spent a year and a half travelling in Mexico: it’s cheap. Really cheap. Maybe not India or Southeast Asia cheap but, within The Americas, Mexico is a bargain. Food, accommodation, beer, entrance fees, buses (excluding fancy long distance buses)…it’s all extremely affordable. A backpacker who’s serious about sticking to his or her budget could easily travel comfortably, cheaply, safely and extensively on less than US$30 a day.
Mexico is also a great destination for travelers with a mid-range budget who want to live like they’ve got a luxury budget. The country is full of fabulous hotels that would be twice the price anywhere else in the world. And because Mexicans love good food and good eating, great meals can be had almost everywhere for very little money.
4. What is the local cuisine like? Did you find yourself trying new things or pining for the familiars of home?
We could eat the food in Mexico every day for the rest of our lives and be perfectly satisfied. Cuisine in Mexico is varied, delicious, freshly-prepared, natural, seasonal and made with pride whether you’re eating on the street or in the markets (as we almost always do) or enjoying one of the many world class restaurants in Mexico helmed by some of the most exciting chefs of the moment.
We tried all kinds of new things in Mexico including REAL tacos, mezcal straight from the still tlayudas in Oaxaca, leche caliente (which involves moonshine and a freshly milked cow and is drunk before breakfast), deep fried grasshoppers, wine ice (homemade lemon ice and cheap red wine) and anything else we could put in our mouths.
We included many of our favorite foods and beverage across Mexico in a handy round up post.
If you do, somehow, find yourself craving foods from home you can get excellent versions of international dishes in Mexico too. For example, the best pizza we’ve had since leaving NYC is available in Colima. We were surprised too.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone should see or take part in while travelling in Mexico and why?
Cinco de Mayo in Puebla. Despite what your local margarita slinger wants you to think, Cinco de Mayo is a non-holiday in most of Mexico except in Puebla which is where, 150 years ago, a small Mexican force conquered a much larger invading French force on May 5.
A bullfight. If only so you can have an informed opinion about it.
Lucha Libre. This masked, campy, totally choreographed wrestling spectacle is a hoot to watch–the crowd is nearly as entertaining as the shenanigans going on in the ring. WWF eat your heart out!
A cooking class. Even if you never make mole or chilaquiles or stuffed squash blossoms at home you will develop a newfound respect for your blender and for the people cooking all the delicious stuff you can eat in Mexico.
Virgin of Guadalupe Days. The patron saint of Mexico is revered by all and her festival days (December 1-12) are filled with celebrations both somber and less than sober. Play your cards right and you could become more than just a spectator.
A charreada. Rodeo’s roots are in Mexico and cowboys still uphold the original traditions and competitions in charreadas which inspired the faster, bigger US-style rodeos. There’s a reason our post about charreadas in Jalisco is one of the most popular on our site.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling in Mexico? What is your least favourite thing?
Favourite: The people. Everything you do, see, eat, drink and experience in Mexico is enhanced by the locals who are generous, passionate and full of pride about where they live and what they do. It’s an attitude that can transform the simplest experience into one of your most memorable moments.
Least favourite: Topes. The word means “bumps” in Spanish and that’s just what they are: concrete or stone or dirt mounds constructed across the width of the road, often with no sign or marking of any kind. We went flying over more than a few of these stealthy speed bumps in the course of driving nearly 25,000 miles in Mexico and it was never, ever fun.
7. How have you gone about making your blog a success, what are the top 3 things bloggers can do?
We’re not sure our blog is a success but we’re trying! We firmly believe that different rules and methods work for different bloggers, especially when it gets down to the nitty gritty. However, there are a few top level, overall goals that can and should apply to all bloggers regardless of their topic or aspirations.
1. develop your own voice and your own niche
2. work hard to constantly polish that voice and develop expertise and authority in your niche
3. keep your quality control bar high enough that it’s always just out of reach
We wrestle with all three of these goals each and every day.
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel without?
Excluding all the technology we use in order to work from the road, the only other thing we really need is our truck. It happens to be full of stuff that, honestly, we could mostly be traveling without.
9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Mexico? What post had the most interest?
Our Mexico coverage continues to attract comments and we also get emails from readers who have very specific question after reading about our Mexican adventures and experiences. The series of posts we put up about how to experience the cowboy culture in Lagos de Moreno gets a lot of feedback as does our very detailed How to Have a Mexican Road Trip post.
Our most popular posts from Mexico include our coverage of the annual monarch butterfly migration, our post about the Mind Blowing Museums of Mexico City and our frank and opinionated Top 10 Reasons to Go to Mexico post.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Mexico what would it be?
A few months passed before we realized that the aguas frescas (delicious, all natural, cheap combinations of fruit and water) found everywhere in Mexico are almost always made with purified water. We missed out on their deliciousness for far too long because we were worried that the water would make us sick. The truth in Mexico is that almost no one drinks the water. Purified water is cheap and is used in almost all forms of cooking, including street food, because Mexicans don’t drink the water in Mexico either. So, enjoy!
Brilliant interview, thanks guys!
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