I just got back from a short trip to Mexico.
I’m staying in San Diego at the moment, just 30 minutes to the Mexican border so it was about time to head South and pay Mexico a visit!
One of the things I really love about traveling and meeting so many people from all walks of life is how it expands your worldview.
On this trip I was with my friend Katie who I met while I was briefly living in Rome last year. We got along and ended up traveling to Morocco together and now to Mexico. What I like about her is how open she is: she will talk to literally anyone! And during this trip her most interesting victim was Travis: a Mexican with a very American name and perfect English…
Travis came up to us as we parked our car in the small coastal town of Rosarito. He was selling lollypops to make money to feed his family. Instead of giving him money Katie gave him food and as always, started a conversation…
Travis, as it turned out, had lost his wife to cancer recently and was now trying to raise his 7 and 10 year old sons alone. He needs surgery on his knee but can’t afford it. Now, unable to work in construction like before, Travis is selling candy rather than just begging for money.
Travis grew up in California. At the age of thirteen, or so his story goes, his own father was the one who gave him his first heroin, and a gun. He soon became a drug addict, ended up in a gang and eventually got deported from the US.
He is now living with his in-laws and trying to raise enough money every day to buy food for the family. He says he has been clean for years and is proud that he is not, as many of his friends, involved in drug dealing. Clearly not able to walk well and with barely any teeth left in his mouth, his story touched me…
How can your own father get you to do drugs?!
When I asked him exactly that, his answer was “If only I had listened to my mother. Then I wouldn’t be in this situation today“.
We ended up talking to Travis for quite some time and as we said our goodbyes he had tears in his eyes. He thanked us for listening to him. “I never tell my story, I don’t like to share my problems. But I guess I needed to talk. It feels good to talk about my life, thank you.”
I was touched. I never talk to strangers. You are not supposed to talk to strangers… But wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we cared just a little bit more about what is happening to the people around us? And if then, in return, you get such a genuine ‘thank you’ from a guy who is used to being ignored and pushed away all day, every day… that makes it worth it!
To me, that is one of the amazing things about traveling: in only three days in Mexico we met dozens of people and have heard stories ranging from living on the beach in Hawaii to selling jewelry throughout Mexico… People are fascinating and getting to meet so many different people, if only briefly, broadens your horizon.
“Poverty is not a lack of character. It is a lack of money. A lack of opportunity. A lack of investment. It is when society turns its back and makes you invisible.”