Back Where it All Began

My first trip outside the US was a two-week church mission trip to Mexico after my junior year of high school. We arrived in Merida late, and as I peered out the bus window trying to make out shapes in the dark, I realized that the pretty sparkles were coming from broken glass bottles stuck on the top of concrete walls to deter intruders. I had a brief moment of "what did I get myself into?!", but after two weeks of sleeping in hammocks, passing buckets of cement, and using my minimal high school Spanish to bargain for trinkets in the market, the broken bottles didn't faze me anymore - I was hooked on the newness of travel.

18 years and 33 other countries later, I have some feelings about mission trips and how much good they really do, but I can't deny that the trip changed me and played a large role in the path my life has taken since. And now, here I am, back in the country where it all began. Where I first realized that I could deal with cold showers and no hair dryer (I was a bit of a princess), that I could find other ways to communicate when language failed, that I could not only survive but thrive outside of my comfort zone. I honestly wasn't really sure it was something I was capable of, and now it's something I actively pursue. As time goes on, I find myself gravitating towards places that feel more foreign, more of a challenge. I'm compelled to keep pushing beyond my comfort zone, and setting new limits for myself, just to see if I can. And so I've strayed from my first travel love, Latin America, because frankly it just got a little too easy.

I arrived late in Mexico City and stayed in a hostel near the airport since I had an early morning flight. It was basic and loud, but I was comforted by familiar sounds of telenovelas and reggaeton, by speaking the language that still comes back to me when I need it (even if I trip over my tongue more than I'd like), by the ease of getting around when you can ask questions and read signs. As my plane to Oaxaca took off this morning, tops of volcanoes peaked through the clouds, and the knowledge that if I could see far enough, I'd see the mountains I climbed in Honduras and Guatemala nearly a decade ago, made me feel immediately connected to this place.

I've got a week in Oaxaca and Mexico City, and I know they will be full of new and exciting tastes and sounds and experiences. But, in spite of never having been here before, it will also be full of the familiar. And for once, I am really savoring this feeling of being at home. Pushing out of my comfort zone is exciting and terrifying and I'm always glad I did it. But this trip comes at a time when I could really use some comfort and ease. It's good to remember that I don't always have to push so hard - being comfortable can be exciting too.


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