lessons from spring break

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For spring break, a few friends and I eagerly, but quite cluelessly, planned a trip to Mexico to have THE stereotypical college vacation.

Coming from central Pennsylvania, I can’t say I have traveled much and I can’t say my town is very diverse. However, I love experiencing new things, so I jumped at the opportunity to go with my friends. For my first major out of country adventure, I learned a few things about traveling and myself.

1. Cancún will not teach you about Mexican culture 

My trip was essentially Syracuse University’s greek row picked up and dropped along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I did not expect to see so many people I recognized in another country. I love Syracuse, but I really did not get away from this place or these people at all.

I expected to eat real Mexican food and meet locals. In reality, there were McDonald’s restaurants and Dominoes delivery was on every corner. I even saw a Hooters. I think I had two quesadillas and to be totally honest, I was craving one from Schine by the end of the week.

As beautiful as the beaches were, the entire area of Cancún was extremely Americanized and a total tourist destination. I don’t think I had one authentic meal.

2. My high school Spanish was better than I expected

I can’t say I really cared about my Spanish III course senior year of high school. It was my last class of the day, and I was predominantly with freshmen and sophomores.

However, to the surprise of my friends and myself, I was able to speak to people pretty coherently. I did not expect to use Spanish as much as I did. It was also fun to see who I could talk to and what I could learn, despite a language barrier. I definitely grew more confident by the end of the week.

3. If you’re not, like, a total idiot, there’s no reason to be afraid 

My mom’s number 1 rule when I told her I was going to Mexico for spring break was that I could not leave the resort. Of course I nodded and agreed, fully knowing I had intentions of going off the resort to explore the area. I can hang out in pools anywhere. I was not going to fly 4 hours to just sit around.

So every night, my friends and I went downtown. We rode buses and walked around the strip that was surrounded by clubs, restaurants and street vendors. It was described as a “mini Las Vegas” with flashing lights and signs. I talked to locals and workers everywhere we went. In terms of safety, it felt no different than New York City. I just had to be aware, like any other place.

I strongly believe that other humans are not out to get me. I have always thought that if I do not act afraid or better than anyone, people will not try to take advantage of me. This may be naive or overly optimistic, but I refuse to act like I am too good.

I was experiencing someone else’s culture for my stereotypical, privileged, college spring break trip. The very least I should be is respectful of the people and culture.

4. Do not book the “spring break” package

Yes, “all inclusive” means all food and drinks are included. However, it does not specify WHICH food is included. Instead of the nice restaurants with ocean views that are featured on the resort’s website, spring breakers were herded into buffet lines that made you crave dining hall food. I have never seen more red meat (it was actually gray) in my life – best of luck to any vegan vacationers. If I were to go again, I would pay extra for real food so I wouldn’t have to buy nutella from the local convenience store for meals.

5. Travel with the right people

I can’t say how many trips I have been on where one buzzkill friend ruined the mood. Luckily, there were 4 of us so it was easy to split up to do whatever people were more interested in.

It was also a great group to, ya know, keep you accountable in a foreign country. Find people who want to explore at all hours, but who also love laying on the beach and relaxing.

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Overall the trip was amazing. I love the beach and traveling anywhere new, and it was a great experience. That being said, I do not think resorts are for me. I hope to go back someday and get a real sense of what Mexico is like, without all the thrills for the American vacationers. I had a blast, but all I saw was the Cancún designed for tourists. IMG_6612

4 thoughts on “lessons from spring break

  1. I also wrote about my spring break trip for my blog! You sound like you had such a fun trip! I did not realize that so many people were all going to the same exact place for spring break! It sounds like fun to see so many you people you know in a foreign country, but I also could see how that could be a little weird. I also would have wanted a break from everyone lol. I’m surprised your Spanish was better than you thought, as I am thinking mine would be terrible if i tried to use it with native speakers. I think your comment about being smart will traveling, then you shouldn’t have many things to worry about is pretty true. While there is always the possibility of danger or trouble, if you treat people with respect and are cautious you should be okay. It was great that you gave some advice in regards to what to book/ not to book for the trip, as I’m sure many college students could find this useful

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  2. For your first major out of the country experience, I’d say you learned a few things people can be slow to pick up on. (aka everyone I know that still thinks Cancún equals all of Mexico.) I agree with you that resorts can get boring fast, but I’m glad that you had a group that was willing to explore the downtown area with you. Finding the right people to travel with can be a challenge. Your observation about safety and being aware is something I wish more people would understand about traveling; think of all the adventures people are missing out on because they’re afraid to leave the resort! If you ever find yourself back in Cancun and want a bit of adventure, a day trip to Cozumel can be exciting. Take a ferry to the island, rent a car, drive around the island, explore the Mayan ruins, find a restaurant on a beach, etc. It’s still a bit touristy, but less like Las Vegas and you can get authentic food.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I also went to Mexico for spring break and can relate to so much of this post. My sorority went to Puerto Vallarta and I can definitely agree that I felt like I could have been anywhere in the world. Outside of the resort of course was different and I saw the poverty but the meals and the trip itself were definitely not a chance to see the culture within Mexico. I also found my high school Spanish was much better than I thought!! I’m glad that you had an overall amazing experience over spring break and I really liked reading this post 🙂

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