GALLERY: San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

Scenes from around San Cristóbal de las Casas, a mountainous town in the southern state of Chiapas known for its diverse population and cuisine, it’s cultural bounty and its natural beauty.

Read more about San Cristóbal here.

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.

Finding peace on the road

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.

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:

Mexico City guide: go forth, eat on the streets

Ciudad de México, or CDMX as its commonly abbreviated, is known for its historical beauty, it’s vibrant, bustling vibe and it’s incomparable style — represented in both high design and fashion, and the colorful street art that graces just about every block.

Mexico’s capital boasts world-class museums, epic public markets and sophistication that comes along with being one of the world’s largest cities.

But in a sprawling metro that seemingly has it all, Mexico City’s greatest treasure might come via lowly rolling carts bedecked with griddles.

Yep, the street tacos are incredible, and a trip isn’t complete without them.

In fact, Mexico City’s street food is so skillfully made and so nuanced in variety that UNESCO recognized the cart grub as “an intangible cultural heritage of mankind” in 2010. Pretty good for stuff made in a kitchen the size of a small closet.

Here’s what you need to know to eat like a pauper and a king, simultaneously:

Early struggles

On the night before I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Mexico, I was out to eat with my family, and my sister asked me if I was nervous.

“Nope,” I said, stuffing my face with North Carolina barbecue. 

“But — do you have butterflies?” she pressed.

“I actually don’t,” I said.

I was being honest. On the eve of the biggest decision of my life, my greatest adventure, my greatest challenge, I was certain: I was going to kick ass. 

I had no doubts. Traveling like this, on my own with no itinerary, was what I had always wanted to do. It was what I was meant to do.

Two weeks into my nomad existence, I can hardly write those sentences without tearing up. Yep, that’s right. I’m close to crying right now. I’ve been crying a lot.