Early morning explosions, culture, diversity in San Cristobal de Las Casas

The first blast rattled the contents of my bedside table, jolting me from sleep.

I pushed aside the covers and sat straight up. 

Then there was another — BOOM.

The sound reverberated throughout the valley that snuggled San Cristóbal de las Casas, a picturesque Mexican mountain town near the Guatemala border, echoing off the dark hills. 

Fireworks? I looked at my phone. It was 4 a.m. No way. 

The blasts kept coming, doing their best impression of bombs dropped from the sky. Were we under attack? (By… someone? I wasn’t aware we were in threat of war, here.)

Live Inspired: how to be a rubber band

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It seems far away now, but I haven’t forgotten the frustration that once bubbled up, regularly.

Sitting in a cubicle, under fluorescent lights, abiding to stiff work hours, I felt like I was going a little insane. I was trying to be creative in the most uncreative space I could imagine.

How much better could I be, I thought, if I could remove this bulky structure, if I could write when and where I was inspired? If I could wander and discover, until creativity struck. And certainly it would strike all the time.

Those urges were among the reasons I decided to take this leap, and I expect a lot of people who make major change in their lives have similar motivations.

Yet, as I’ve discarded that resented framework, I’ve found, the pieces within it sometimes threaten to unravel, too.

GALLERY: Huatulco, Mexico

Scenes from around Bahías de Huatulco, a coastal town in the state of Oaxaca, known for its nine, beautiful bays and ocean-fresh seafood.

Live Inspired: finding peace on the road

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I realized I felt it, truly, for the first time in weeks on the way to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a mountain town on the southern border of Mexico.

Already, it had been quite a day.

After a week each in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Huatulco, I was on the move again, a process that had become stressful as I started my transition from “avid traveler with a steady job” to “full-time nomad struggling to pay her bills.”

I’d taken two flights, discovered I needed to pay for my overweight carry-on (apparently that’s a thing in Mexico), and then nearly missed my connection from Mexico City after mistakenly walking out to Baggage Claim 7 instead of down to Gate 7 (why were they next to each other anyway?!), making my way through security again and then losing said boarding pass.

Now, after all that, I was on an hourlong shuttle to my next destination.

67 things I learned after one month in Mexico

Well gang, it’s officially been a month in Mexico. 

Four weeks ago, I landed in Mexico City, unsure of what I would encounter but incredibly excited for the vastness of possibility. 

Four cities, a small gaggle of new friends and a roller coaster of emotions later, I feel like a new person in some ways — one who is constantly re-establishing her needs, wants and personality in new places and with new acquaintances, often in a new language. The normalcy of routine is gone, but in its place have come so many lessons, realizations and a small understanding of life lived in different cities and towns — ranging from trivial to enlightening.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

CITY GUIDE: Huatulco’s secret beaches, fresh fish

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Enrique came upstairs to where I was drinking coffee, his eyes dancing.

“Venga conmigo,” he said, come with me. “I have something to show you.”

Downstairs, on the back patio of my Airbnb host’s cocina, was a white styrofoam cooler, overflowing with bright pink fish, their sleek tails and scales gleaming in the morning sun.

Live Inspired: a new, strange life

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates •

Over the last three weeks, traveling solo through Mexico has given me some of the most memorable moments of my life.

It’s also given me some of my biggest challenges. 

I’ve traveled overseas alone, a lot. But in the past, I’ve always had an end date, a more luxurious budget, an ability to go with the flow — because the pressure of getting real things done was low.

I would soak it up. Live in the moment. Then I would go home. 

Now, I am attempting to start a business while learning living abroad. Either situation, alone, might have be enough to overwhelm me. Managing the two, together, has been almost breaking at times.

Last week, I called my mom while sitting at a cafe in a new place, where the WiFi wouldn’t work. My voice cracked in a way I rarely allow in public. I hoped my sunglasses would hide the tears rolling down my cheeks.

CITY GUIDE: Oaxaca’s vibrant markets

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Travel around Mexico long enough and you’ll find that big, vibrant markets are one of the country’s calling cards. 

Markets, here, are part of daily life, operating as shopping destinations, social hangouts and community support systems. Walk through a given market and you’re likely to see families eating, watching sports on TV, playing cards, caring for their children, cooking and sewing.

But in Oaxaca de Juárez, especially, this wealth is elevated to another level, thanks to its enormous bounty of wares. 

The city, a quaint, walkable town with just 300,000 residents, is known for its craftsmanship — wood and leather goods, pottery and textiles among them — and its art. It is the Mecca of mezcal. And the food that originates here, from sweet black mole to tlayudas to fried grasshoppers, is unique, varied and flavorful.

As a result, sprawling markets seemingly wait around every corner, particularly in the south end of town. And all of them are just a little bit different. 

Here are 7 markets to know before you go: