For years I resisted going to Spain on holiday. The reason? Spain is the most mainstream and obvious overseas destination for Brits in search of a cheap holiday in the sun, and in seeking out a more authentic and unique holidaying experience, I snubbed Spain. This turned out to be a big mistake.
Now that I’m based in Canada, Mexico is my new Spain. So far the pervasiveness of Mexico as a holiday destination for North Americans has had the identical effect and turned me off, but I’m beginning to ask myself if I should learn from my past mistakes and book that trip to Mexico…
‘If you build it he will come.’ This famous phrase from Field of Dreams goes double for obscure European airports. Being based in London meant I had a vast number of destination options within easy reach of my home. The more obscure the place, the more I wanted to go there. That’s how I ended up holidaying in odd locations like a seaside hut in northern Norway (thanks to a Ryanair 1 penny sale) and on a cork farm in Portugal’s Alentejo. Anything but Spain I used to think.
But one day I opened my mind to the possibilities Spain had to offer, away from the lure of the Costas that attract the lion’s share of the 760,000 Brits who visit the country every year.
I fell in love with the other side of the country, returning time and again to everywhere from Seville and Valencia to Murcia and Bilbao- and I chided myself for not having explored it sooner.
We Europeans are spoiled when it comes to holiday options. Everyone around the world knows that from a base in London (or Paris or Rome, but mainly London) we can travel to any number of exotic and culturally unique destinations within a two hour flight, sometimes even less.
By contrast there aren’t many places North Americans can fly to in two hours; to holiday outside the USA and Canada you’re realistically looking at a chunkier five hour plus flight time, depending on your origin and destination of course – but Mexico is right at the top of the list of accessible and sought-after places for Americans and Canadians to vacation.
Living in Canada has been an eye opener for me in many ways – I’ve written elsewhere about the little examples of interesting Canadian cultural phenomena and unexpected linguistics that have continued to surprise me here, but in terms of travel the overriding theme I’ve noticed is that the entire continent is in love with Mexico.
If I listened to the mainstream media I would assume that for Canadians there was only one place to go on holiday and that place is Mexico. Mexico feels like the Tim Hortons of holidays here.
For a non-conformist like me this is like being drip-fed the message that I should demote this destination to the bottom of my list, just to be awkward, despite the ease of access.
But this is where my Spain analogy comes into play. I know from experience that I have to fight the stereotypes and seek out the other side of the destination – that the only thing worse than going somewhere just because everyone else goes there, is not going there just because everyone else goes there – and with over 1.5 million Canadians visiting Mexico last year, everyone else in Canada is pretty much going there already.
So I’ve been keeping my eye open for positive and alternative messages and information about Mexico lately, beyond the Day of The Dead stereotypes and the all-inclusive crowd.
One thing that caught my eye and captured my travel imagination is the hashtag created by Mexico Tourism over the last year of #LiveItToBelieveIt – the PR in me feels that the reason behind this hashtag and campaign is to send out a message that unless you experience Mexico for yourself you shouldn’t dismiss it, which is pretty much where I’m at right now in my thinking, and so I can relate to the message they are trying to get across in these campaign videos.
One video highlights the sophisticated side of Mexico City – something that piques my interest immediately. I try to imagine the reaction I’d get if I told people I was heading to Mexico and spending some time in Mexico city rather than heading straight for the beach. Last time I made an announcement like this it was to say that I was off to Brazil where I’d be hanging out in Sao Paulo for a few days, and that set the cat among the pigeons.
But in the end I fell in love with Sao Paolo, and I delighted in telling people for years to come that even after visiting Copacabana Beach and the famous Brazilian town of Buzios, I’d go back to Sao Paolo in a heartbeat. I like the shock value of the statement sure – but it’s 100% true.
I’m now hoping I’ll be able to say the same about Mexico City one day.
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