From Melbourne to Monterrey

When I was fourteen I went to Bali with my family, it was my first trip overseas and I felt like a missionary going to a third world country. As I sat laying in front of a commercialised view, being waited on by Americans, sipping on my mocktail at the Intercontinental, I thought to myself “I’m such a traveler”.

I’ve been here for only four nights, and I have already learnt more in this time than I have of my nineteen years of being alive. The first?

I am not independent

Have I lived alone? I have. Have I cooked, washed and cleaned for myself? I have. Have I believed as long as I have been able to speak that I can handle myself? Of course, that confidence has been installed in me early. However it wasn’t until I sat alone in an empty room with the realisation that I had no incoming money, lost luggage, a visa and no return ticket home, in a country where no one speaks my language, that made me realise what independence truly is. As I sat in an empty room, staring at an incredible view I knew this was going to be the most challenging six months of my life.

I was entering into 2016 without my family, friends and nothing but photos to remind me of my home. These thoughts became real in my mind, but my inability to express emotions caused it to only merely touch me. This is who I was, this independence and freedom is what I have craved and it was definitely too late to turn back so I wasn’t going to dwell.

The next few days was spent in a daze, the language barrier was aggravating, the housemates that we hadn’t met left our apartment atrocious and that only added to the tastes and smells that my body hadn’t yet adapted too. My mind was spinning over the currency, the conversion and having to express anger to a landlord that doesn’t speak English. The frustration of having your strongest skill being communication and not being able to communicate properly was getting to me. Getting from A to B was merely impossible especially as we were two white girl foreigners that had to stick by the rules; and the rules made us realise the second thing I learnt.

Nothing here is commercialised

This isn’t some Bali Bible Intercontinental check in, everything here is raw. I learnt this getting picked up from Monterrey airport as our driver told us he has been kidnapped as casually and nonchalantly as visiting the zoo.

“Once it happens once, you get used to it” he said, my jaw dropped. Like as if he had gotten his first parking ticket, “if it happens to you be sure to give me a call” he later commented. No worries mate, I’ll give you a quick buzz.

Believing we would blend in was a joke, while most are welcoming to foreigners, there are others that give you looks that make you terrified to wonder what they’re really thinking, coming here we became overwhelmed by rules that seem absurd in Melbourne.

The next lesson came from seeing the flashing lights of police cars

Never trust higher authority

In this town, you’re safer with a local than you are with a police officer. The city is so beautiful yet so corrupt, security guards dealing drugs while the locals are opening their home. The wealth of the country goes from zero to one hundred, they’re either driving Mercedes or begging on the streets.

It’s a terrible thing, being afraid of feeling afraid. Makes you trapped in and I’ve never felt so trapped in and free all at once. It’s hard to adjust and call a place home when you fear leaving your apartment, but then we were given a lot of perspective by the locals. Once 12am hit on New Year’s Eve we were in the beautiful city of Monterrey. We met beautiful people, discovered new tastes, smells and cultures that made the young girl in me that always wanted to travel wide eyed. We arrived back in our apartment at 10:30am the next morning, we saw and felt things that were indescribable. I was lying in a room that was mine and not my own, as my eyes were closing at 11am, with everyone I knew on other other side of the world. This is when it truly hit me. I was so alone yet so surrounded by people, so out of my comfort zone yet exactly where I needed to be.

Over the space of 48 hours I had learnt so much, the next lesson had been clear from the moment we landed in Monterrey and our flight was so delayed that we couldn’t get into our apartment. Through the kindness and generosity of Mexicans and other exchange students we had somewhere to sleep that night.

Mexicans are so welcoming

We arrived in the middle of the night, was picked up from the airport and taken to an apartment all without being asked for a cent or in this case a peso. They are some of the most generous and hospitable people I’ve ever met.

We became so thankful by the kindness and generosity of those we met. Although corrupt, the culture is incredible, the nightlife is incredible the people are incredible and with that I was taught some other things.

Mexicans really do love tacos

There are taco stands everywhere, while Melburnians head to a kebab store after a club feed, Mexicans head to taco stands. There’s taco stands in petrol stations, in supermarkets, what a time to be alive although a bad time to be gluten intolerant.

They add chilli to almost everything

I’m talking fruit with chilli, lollies with chilli, shots of tequila with chilli. It’s both frightening and exhilarating for a non spicy food lover.

Monterrey has some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen

And I know without a doubt the next six months is going to be the most incredible and eye opening experience of my life.

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