Engaging Mexico... tourism outside the box...
I was reading a Rick Steves, pictured here, article earlier today.
For those of who don’t know, Rick Steves is the guru of European travel. If you want good travel advice about Europe, Steves is your go to guy.
Here’s one of his points about having a great experience in Europe... “A fundamental aim in my travels is to have meaningful contact with local people. When an opportunity presents itself, I jump on it. Driving by a random cheese festival in Sicily? Stop the car, get out, and eat cheese. Hiking through England's Lakes District and popping into a pub for a drink?”
What great advice... When you are visiting another country, don’t stick to the tried and true, venture out, explore and experiment!
I wish people who visit Mexico from the United States had more of that spirit.
One of the great pleasures in Mexico is eating in the markets, on the streets, and some of the off the beaten tracks hole in the wall restaurants. Sadly, far too often people miss out on a chance to experience some of the heart of Mexico out of fear, timidity, or worry about what might happen.
Last year I had a friend join me on mission in Oaxaca for a week of ministry. Before we got started I led a small group over to the market for lunch where I ordered meat by the kilo for all of us to eat.
Now if you’ve never been to a food market in Oaxaca, it is an experience not to be missed. The sights, sounds and smells are at once incredible and sometimes overwhelming. Sadly, most people who are visiting Oaxaca will never experience this.
My friend was one of those people until I took her into the market, made her sit in the smoke filled room where they were grilling tons of fresh meat, eat sauteed grasshoppers and have one the most memorable meals of her life.
I made her break every rule she had ever heard about eating in another country in general and Mexico in particular. And yet, there she was, eating and laughing with us as we enjoyed a wonderful lunch together surrounded not by the typical tourists you’d expect to find in Oaxaca. The folks surrounding us were locals, amazed that a small group of gringos would venture into their local market not just for some cool photos, but a great meal as well.
Next time you travel, do what Rick Steves and I do when we travel, get off the beaten track, follow the locals, and leave the cookie cutter tourism behind. Not only will you get to know the country you are visiting much better, you’ll have way better stories to tell when you arrive home.
Next up... the Guelaguetza!