06 April 2018

México 2.0: Managing Expectations in Cuernavaca

I mentioned in my summary post that Cuernavaca was slightly challenging. Looking back, the challenges were basically a combination of expectations that were not kept in check, as well as an apartment that didn't have the most ideal location. This makes me realise that no matter how much a seasoned traveller one can be, there are still little things that might prove challenging.

It was probably the jet lag. It was probably the fact that this is the first time I am revisiting a place that is not a European developed country. Anyway, when I got to Cuernavaca, the first couple of days found me lethargic, and not motivated at all to go out and explore. Something was off, if not totally wrong.

Perhaps it was because my apartment was in the suburbs. I booked it using the usual methods, and based on the ratings, it was a good place. And yes, it was a good place, but it was also slightly far from the things to see and do in Cuernavaca. I either had to walk 30 minutes (and Cuernavaca isn't the most pedestrian-friendly city) or take a taxi (which was cheap, but I don't really have a habit of taking taxis all the time). Anyway, this distance made it hard to motivate myself to get out and explore the city. Heck, there was one time in which I gave myself the excuse that I had a large lunch so I didn't need dinner, so I just stayed at home and watched a couple of movies in Netflix.

And then during the times that I was out and about, I always got this feeling that Mexico somehow felt like home. Instead of walking the edges of the large highways of Cuernavaca, I felt like I was in EDSA (a massive street in Manila). The sounds of the buses, the smells of the market, the pollution, everything pretty much reminded me of home, and sure enough, there was no wow factor. I felt like I was in a place that was both familiar and foreign to me at the same time.

When I went back and forth crossing the intersection behind the city market, as I was trying to find the bus stop (or was it a bus station) for the buses that go to Xochicalco, I was slightly frustrated. Someone told me it was at the north side of the intersection, others told me it was at the south side. I went back and forth dodging cars a few times. At one point I almost rationalised that Xochicalco probably isn't worth seeing. In the end I went, but for some reason I had to fight a lot with myself.

Maybe it was my thyroid. I have hypothyroidism, and maybe this is just another manifestation of it.

Anyway, at one point, I seriously considered shortening my trip and going home early. I was supposed to be on the road for two weeks, yet in the first three days I was somehow itching to go back. In the end, I didn't alter my plans, I just pushed through. And thankfully, by the time I rode the next bus to get to my next destination, I found myself uplifted again.

There were a few things that I realised and learned about myself. First is the importance of managing expectations when revisiting places. The excitement that the first impressions to a country brings isn't there anymore. Things would be slightly familiar yet overall still foreign, and it might bring cognitive dissonance. I was unprepared for that. It's also probably a good thing to stay in an area that has easy access to whatever might motivate you: in my case, staying close to the city centre which contains most of the things interesting for visitors would have helped. And finally, I learned that I still like travelling, and this does not always mean sight-seeing. I loved it when I was taking buses and was travelling from city to city. I loved it when I was doing day trips. I loved it when I was simply on the move.

So that was the start of my trip. It was slightly bumpy, yet it improved eventually. Stay tuned for photos.


  1. It's interesting for me to read your confusion (especially after you explained it earlier in the last email). I've felt "off" in places without good explanation... I experienced this feeling when we arrived in Rio this year, actually. I still can't explain why because I know the city well and I have nothing against it. Sometimes, us, humans, aren't 100% rational!

    1. Zhu,

      Looking back, it seems more about wrong expectations, and perhaps a little bit of a wrong mood. As you say, sometimes humans are not 100% rational, as much as we would want to be!