Friday, February 27, 2015

Some Slow Travel on a Budget

A restaurant in Oaxaca
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” 
       – Frank Herbert

I left Oregon at the end of October, feeling I had been there too long. I needed some fresh vistas. I wanted to escape the snowy clutches of winter and engage my Idyllic Beach Fantasy somewhere in Mexico.

Slow travel was on my mind, and to me that meant spending weeks in one place for much of the journey.

I was also thinking I could get some dental work done at much less cost than in the US, visit some ancient cities and soak up the culture there and in the process, check out whether I wanted to live in Ensenada, a town in northern Baja. 

The Idyllic Beach Fantasy never did manifest, but everything else came along just fine.  I spent just under a month in Guanajuato, 5 days in Cholula, then 6 weeks in Oaxaca and finally 6 weeks or so in Ensenada. Slow travel suited me well. It gave me enough time to relax and live more easily in each place. In fact, I found that a month was just barely long enough to begin to know a place. I could appreciate even slower travel, I thought to myself. Two or three months in one place.

At an art museum in La Paz, Baja sur

As one bumper sticker notes,  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.” 

Merry-go-round in Oaxaca
And I was on a budget. I didn't want to do the hair shirt and self flagellation form of thrifty travel, but I did want to move around on the cheap.  I booked most of my accommodations through Airbnb, with two exceptions--the affordable, delightful Al Sol Apartments in Oaxaca (highly recommend) and the petit pad I am living in now in Ensenada, which my friend Iridea found for me. My lodging averaged out to $15.50 a day. 

My Airbnb experience was varied and mostly good. All of my hosts were great people. The lodgings were all comfortable, though some were spare and lacked aesthetic appeal to put it nicely. Once I had to endure a long night of very drunk loud Germans who lived in a room nearby. But overall it was good.  I had an enormous view from the big deck at  Aunt Lucy's in Guanajuato, and enjoyed some marvelous country time at Amalia's Rincon de San Agustin outside of Oaxaca. 

Here's my Airbnb advice. Make sure to have conversations with your potential hosts to get an idea of what kind of folks they are. Look at their profiles. Talk via email. 

If I were going to do it again, I would have asked a few more questions of my Airbnb hosts, including: Do you smoke? (my host in Cholula did, though he kept it outside) 

Is this your only rental, or are there others on your property? Can you tell me more about that? What kind of cooking facilities are available?

A restaurant in Ensenada
I was fortunate that I connected with such good hosts, most of whom were older. In fact, that was one of my criteria. I figured it would make things easier and more interesting to live near some older people in Mexico. I am happy I did it that way.

“What am I doing here?” poet Arthur Rimbaud wrote home in a letter from Ethiopia. This is a question that naturally pops up when traveling and maybe even more so for the solo traveler, who is alone in a foreign country and not speaking its language except in a primitive fashion. Sometimes you become tired of traveling or you find yourself in a place you would rather leave, or both. 

Sunset, San Agustin Etla

With a medical tourism chaser

I have been getting some important dental work done in Ensenada and it is nearly finished. 

I was fortunate to get the recommendation from a woman who has lived here for over 20 years, whose husband is a retired orthodontist. I love the dentist, Dr. Marco Antonio Sam P. whose office is called Nova Dent. He is a lovely person and is providing world-class care for far less money than I would have to pay in the US. I was quoted $6,000 in Oregon, and am paying $1,650 here in Mexico.

Aside from the dental process, I have been attending some Buddhist practices and teachings, and trying my best to uncover the elusive (to me) charms of Ensenada. Maybe there are some beautiful villages nearby which I have not yet seen. It's possible, and I hope to check that out over the weekend.
“As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.”--Margaret Mead

Ageism in the News

Both Yoko Ono and Madonna have spoken out about ageism recently, especially that directed towards older women. Check out what they have to say in this article.