Travel is my passion; just the thought of where to go next and how to get there is enough to make me unbearably wonderful. I can spend hours looking at maps and filling my imagination with crazy, giddy thoughts of where the next road may take us. As I have mentioned before, the world is just under our feet, waiting for anyone who wishes to see it. However, these 4 things that drove me crazy south of the border in Mexico and Central America will not keep me from future travels.
This post will deal with these 4 minor inconveniences and they should be viewed as merely an observation being made by me for the sake of discussion only. This is not a rant, just an awareness of some of the astounding differences in customs and habits that exist between us fellow organisms. These differences, crazy or not, are what we seek out when we travel. This post is a celebration of the absurdity that awaits you on the road.
1. The Noise
Perhaps I am a bit more sensitive to noise than others, but I would just love to know if other travelers have found Mexico and Central America to be this never-ending series of shrill cries, whistles, booming loudspeakers and roaring exhaust pipes. Someone or something is always trying to grab your attention through noise.
Many of the shops you pass in the street will have speakers blasting out music or announcements of deals and promotions. These speakers are the size of large kitchen appliances and they are set up on tri-pods to deliver their message at ear level as you traipse by.
Most inner-city buses are modified, in a noisy way, to suit the whims of the driver; machismo is at stake and the creation of noise is crucial. Simply put, unnecessary noise is everywhere.
Buses become much more than a metal box capable of merely transporting handfuls of humid locals. Rather, most buses become unleashed mythical beasts trundling down the road with all types of special exhaust pipes, air horns and transmissions that zip, buzz and hiss as they shift into gear. These boisterous buses are akin to very large toys. Sadly these noises go right through me, cutting me deep. It is all in fun and I love how these buses are thoughtfully decorated. However, the noise can be a bit much for my delicate ears.
People here tend to have their own way of getting another persons attention through very high-pitch whistling. This is an extremely annoying way of communication; my ear canal has been the unintended recipient of too many of these messages due to my being in the wrong place at the wrong time as someone next to me belts out a chirp. Consequently, I stroll down the street with ear plugs inserted.
2. Scrubbing the Sidewalks
We will soon be traveling to other parts of this world and I am hoping the compulsion to scrub sidewalks resides in Mexico only. I was equal parts fascinated and driven crazy by this early morning ritual. My lack of decorum regarding this custom was stark – there is nowhere else to walk, so is it rude to shuffle through someones work zone while they scour away?
Each morning overturned buckets of soapy water are thrust from doorways throughout Mexico, splashing all who pass by with a bit of foamy liquid. After the cleaning solution is spread across the footpath, the scrubbing begins in earnest. At times, 2 or more people work the lather into the surface with long-handled brushes. I always felt little dagger eyes tossed my way from the ladies who, more often than not, continued to scrub as I awkwardly scooted along. However, I observed other pedestrians behave the same as me, so maybe it is not an issue at all. It was mildly maddening to me, however.
Sidewalks never seemed dirtier in Mexico than anywhere else. What drove me nuts was space seems to be a real premium on sidewalks in the cities. Taking 10 minutes to commandeer the path for the sake of scrubbing every morning seems silly! There are people trying to move about from point A to point B with stoic determination on these sidewalks, after all! I certainly realize there must be some sense of pride for a business or a home to present a clean footpath. It is perfectly normal to see enough things that are different from which you are accustomed to while you travel. Therefore, it is quite common to be driven nuts by those differences.
Speaking of sidewalks…
3. Walking/ Driving Hazards
Those clean sidewalks, however, quickly give way to treacherous sidewalks. Mexico and Central America are full of sidewalks waiting to swallow you up. Therefore, you must keep a swift eye open as you walk.
Consequently, driving can set you back quite a bit as well. It seems as if you are free to fall into a hole at any moment. We spent months driving through the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and the only highway there was an awful one indeed. Almost every mile of the Transpeninsular Highway was studded with huge craters along its northern half. In conclusion, the sidewalks and the condition of the roads drive me crazy. Maybe I just think about these things too much.
The acceptance and presence of litter in Central America and Mexico is enough to cause great annoyance to any gringo that passes through these lands. The powers that be have, I am quite certain, every excuse under the sun for why proper measures are not in place to deal with the matter of garbage and where it ultimately goes. In this part of the world it is very often up to the individuals to deal with refuse. As a result, it means simply dumping it wherever suits them.
Smaller towns and villages will designate an area on the outskirts to serve as the dump. These above-ground piles are usually smoldering and wind-swept, which can be a lethal combination. There is no “service” to whisk the trash away. As a result, the attitude of the people and where their discarded leftovers end up is frankly shocking to me. I have seen newspapers simply being tossed out the windows of moving buses, along with styrofoam food containers and diapers. It is shocking and annoying as hell.
To recognize the absurd means seeing a place for what it is, or isn’t. As we travel and share stories and experiences, we must be aware of everything we perceive around us. Therefore, as bloggers, we should include the good along with the bad, or the beautiful and inspirational along with the ugly and annoying. A different experience is what the traveler is after; those experiences fall short of wonderful from time to time.
In conclusion, I do not mean to moan at all about these things. Rather, I only wish to shed light on how wonderfully crazy travel can be. Therefore I shall continue to keep my eyes open to all the world has to offer. Consequently, I will keep my eyes on the sidewalks as well.
So, what have you experienced while traveling that has driven you crazy? What have you seen on the road that has bewildered you beyond belief? We’d love to hear from you!