Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fearless Travel

Pipi and I like to think of ourselves as brave, independent travelers but sometimes we break the faith. For instance, when we went to Cuba, not only did we do it completely legally, we also went as part of a tour group. And recently, we booked a cruise. So I’ve been worrying lately that while I may feel like a youthful backpacker at heart, my vacations may be entering middle age.

So imagine my relief when I opened the travel section of the San Francisco Chronicle last Sunday and found an article about traveling safely in Mexico. Part of the article was a graph suggesting Mexican destinations based on the reader’s preferred level of activity and required level of safety. “Totally Spooked” travelers who self-identify as “Sun & Sand Seekers,” for example, were directed toward the heavily guarded havens of Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. And “Objective But Cautious” vacationers who might be described as “Culture Vultures” were urged to visit places like Guadalajara and the nicer neighborhoods of Mexico City.

I myself have been to Mexico three times in my life. The first two visits were short stops in Ensenada while on weekend-long cruises out of Southern California. Ensenada is not even mentioned in the travel article, probably because there was no room for a category of traveler called “Chronically Inebriated” whose interests include “Eating Anything with Cheese on It.” Both times, the ship only docked for a few hours in port, and I can only assume that this stop in the itinerary was an archaic throw-back to the days when sailing ships could not make a three-day loop out of San Pedro without running dangerously low on viruses and tequila. I was onshore just long enough to ingest quite a bit of both, apparently, and both times spent the rest of the trip in a miserable gringo heap on my bunk, cursing agave and wondering if the seas were really heaving or just me.

So that barely counts as travel to Mexico, but the third time, I was with Pipi and we saw a lot more of the country. We did some whale-watching at San Ignacio, and then flew to the mainland where we boarded a train that took us through Copper Canyon, in the states of Sinaola and Chihuahua.

I’m perversely intrigued to report that the Chronicle not only used the word “deadly” to describe these two very states, but that they also prescribe a Copper Canyon visit to those who fall under the “Fearless” heading. And it’s not just for “Fearless” travelers; it’s for “Fearless” travelers whose tastes run toward the “Adventure Lover” end of the interest spectrum.

So I guess there’s no need for me to worry. Nearly 41 years wise and still traveling like an American idiot.

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