5 Things You Should Know About Mexico City

I promised to post about my recent travels, so here’s the first of many — starting off with Mexico City!

I have a special place deep in my heart for Mexico. Why? Several reasons.

During college, I created memories I will never forget while studying in Guanajuato, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988. Yes, I know “memories I will never forget” is such a cliche thing to say, but it’s true (cue Beyonce – #iaintsorry). The year after I graduated from The University of Alabama, I traveled to Guadalajara with my now husband (then boyfriend) Richard, and it has gone down in our books as one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. We then returned to Mexico for our honeymoon on Isla Mujeres in 2013.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we couldn’t help but go back again, this time to visit Mexico City. Just as with the other trips we’ve taken to Mexico, it was thrilling and did not disappoint.

The two of us in front of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's Blue House

The two of us in front of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s Blue House

Named to The New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2016 and Conde Nast’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities in the World, Mexico City is an exquisite city, full of historic treasures.

“Fly in at night, when the land below glitters like a vast black-and-gold carpet and the scale of the city is mesmerizing, if not entirely overwhelming. This is, by most counts, the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere (they don’t call it El Monstruo for nothing). Yet in the morning, at street level, when sunlight glints off those colonial mansions, Mexico City can reveal a startling intimacy beneath the grandeur and sprawl.”

Julia Cooke, The Top Things to Do in Mexico City (Conde Nast Traveler, 2015)

Our trip lasted three days, and I’d go back for more in a heartbeat. But for now, here are 5 things you should know about Mexico City:

A serene moment inside el Castillo de Chapultepec

A serene moment inside el Castillo de Chapultepec

Do not believe the stories that paint Mexico City as a dangerous place that you shouldn’t visit. When we told people we were planning to visit Mexico City, we were instantly met with questions about drug violence, security and crime. We reassured our friends that we would be fine, that we would be careful and that we would take all safety precautions — and in my head, I ended those reassurances with, “…as always…” The truth is that, sure, there are areas of the city where you wouldn’t want to wander off to. Sure, you need to be aware of your surroundings as you trek around the metropolis. And sure, you should keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. But no more than you already should be doing while traveling in a new city, or in your own city for that matter! At no point in time did I feel unsafe in Mexico City, and many other travelers will tell you the same about their experience. So don’t let those stories scare you away. Just take the precautions you always do. (For more on this, read: Mexico City Myths Debunked from Paste Magazine.)

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El Palacio de Bellas Artes

Mexico City is breathtaking — in more than one way. I’ll start with the good stuff first. Mexico City’s buildings and architecture are utterly beautiful, and we found ourselves in awe quite often. For me, the most beautiful sites we visited were el Palacio de Bellas Artes, el Castillo de Chapultepec and la Catedral Metropolitana. We also scarfed down delicious Mexican food everywhere we went, with my favorite restaurants being Azul and Café de Tacuba. The downside of Mexico City is literally breathtaking…the high altitude paired with the smog can be tough, leaving you short of breath at times as you’re seeing the sights.

Riding down the canals at Xochimilco

Riding down the canals at Xochimilco

There is an endless list of things to do, so prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!  Richard did all the research for this trip, and he tried to fit as much in as he could. Even so, we didn’t see everything on our list. Walking through el Centro Histórico to see el Zócalo is a must. I also recommend taking a walk through el Centro Histórico (photo below) on a weekend evening, when you’re bound to end up roaming with thousands of other people — this will leave you with a smile on your face and eyes wide. Be sure to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum at the ever popular Blue House in Coyoacán (there’s a nice, central plaza in Coyoacán with restaurants, too, where we stopped for lunch) and see Diego Rivera’s murals (specifically The History of Mexico) at the National Palace. If you’re willing to venture as far out as Xochimilco, you’ll be in for a treat, riding down the canals in boats called trajineras and buying food cooked fresh from the vendors floating alongside you. I mean, the quesadillas and elote we had…talk about delicious! Don’t forget to bring pesos for Xochimilco though — they don’t take any cards. We didn’t have time this trip to visit the pyramids at Teotihuacán, but I highly recommend that day trip if you have time — it was one of my favorite excursions when I studied abroad.

Walking through the Historic Center on our last night

Walking through el Centro Histórico on our last night

Come up with a plan for each day because the city stretches for miles — you don’t want the city’s massive size to cause frustration if you’re unprepared The things we wanted to do/see were scattered throughout all the neighborhoods (or colonias) of the city. So we needed to determine the route that would allow us to see everything most efficiently (after all, we only had three days). Most of the time, we took the metro — officially called el Sistema de Transporte Collective (STC) — and walked to our destinations from the stations with Google Maps as a guide. The STC was the cheapest and quickest way to get around, and we thought it was easy to navigate, especially when we used the app. And a few times, only when we weren’t far away from our awesome Airbnb studio, we called an Uber instead, which was just as fantastic as always.

Azul, my favorite restaurant in the historic center

Azul, my favorite restaurant in el Centro Histórico

The people are friendly, but knowing how to speak even a little bit of Spanish will go a long way. I studied Spanish in college as my second major, so I never really get nervous about the idea of residents in a Spanish-speaking city not being able to understand me. Though if I weren’t able to speak Spanish (even just a little bit), I’m not sure our trip to Mexico City (and especially Guadalajara in 2012) would have gone as smoothly. You can absolutely get around the city if you don’t know Spanish, and it helps that the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. But, you’ll be much more comfortable if you know even a little bit of the language — especially if you go to Xochimilco, where you’ll need to work out a price with the trajinera operators.

La Catedral Metropolitana at El Zócalo

La Catedral Metropolitana at El Zócalo

And that, friends, is where I leave it! Have you traveled to Mexico City or anywhere else in Mexico before? If you haven’t traveled to Mexico yet, where would you want to begin? Tell me about it by leaving a comment!

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27 Years Later: Good Things Come in Threes

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Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m turning 27! I call my 26th year a transformational one, when I perhaps experienced the most growth in my adult life. As I look back on it, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come — from one of my lowest points to-date, to a state of increased self-confidence, improved decision-making (read: not sacrificing at the expense of myself to please others) and most importantly, lasting happiness.

Tonight, I sat down and asked myself, “What makes the number 27 significant?” Entering that question into the Google search bar brought a bunch of random information my way (I didn’t actually expect anything significant — but hey, we just can’t help but Google random things for ourselves sometimes, right?), along with the simple mathematics fact that 27 is a perfect cube, being 3x3x3. Which reminded me of the Rule of Three in writing, that things that come in threes are good — more satisfying, effective and sometimes even funnier (won’t you look at that — the Rule of Three in action).

So, I’m going with The Power of Three for this year-in-review to mark my 27th birthday! Multiply the 3 Things I Will Leave Behind by the 3 Things I’ve Learned by the 3 Things I Want to See Happen, and I hope that I’ll be even better by the time I hit my 28th year.

3 Things I Will Leave Behind

  • (1) Fear and (2) Self-Doubt: I’ve spent my life paralyzed by fear of what others think of me, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough. So I’ve always lived in the safe zone — as the majority of us do. I’m ready to push fear to the side and step into the confidence I find, knowing first and foremost that my identity is in Christ.
  • (3) Wasting Time on Social Media: I tasted the sweetness of life with less social media (read: freedom from FOMO) when I fasted from phone use from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for Lent. I’ve fallen back into using my phone too much and have wasted so much time on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. That officially stops now.

3 Things I’ve Learned

  • (1) I Can’t Do It All: This was the lesson I needed to learn most, and I can pretty much consider it done. I’ve set more limits for myself than ever before, all to make sure I’m not overstretching myself, which also makes it possible for me to give my best to others in my life.
  • (2) I Need Rest and (3) Self-Care is Amazing: The days of going, going, going nonstop are over, and I have discovered the beauty of rest and self-care. Sometimes, I decide to sit  take a nap or watch Netflix. And sometimes, I decide to read a book, write or exercise. But no matter what, I’m doing these things for no reasons other than: because I want to, because I enjoy them and because they’re important to me.

3 Things I Want to See Happen

  • (1) Deepened, Strengthened Relationships: Technology makes us feel more connected than ever, making even distance seem trivial at times. But seeing what’s going on in each others’ lives via social media is never enough. I hope to make more video/phone calls and in-person visits with my friends and family to deepen the already strong relationships we have. And here at home, I pray my marriage will continue to grow by leaps and bounds.
  • (2) Fully Established Leadership Style: I spent the better part of this year easing into the leadership opportunities I received in various areas of my life — work, church and community. I moved at a calculated speed, fine-tuning my own leadership style based on what I’ve learned over the years. This year, I want my leadership capacity and style to be fully established, natural and effective.
  • (3) Intermediate Proficiency in Tagalog: I first introduced this goal in 2012 and have obviously struggled to reach it. This year, I  so earnestly want to accomplish intermediate level Tagalog (at the least) and have an incredible incentive to do so — my family is set to take our first trip to the Philippines together in 2017. I’ll finally get to meet my aunties and uncles and cousins in person for the first time, and I want to be able to speak Tagalog with them more than anything.

And with that, I’m off to find some red velvet cake and celebrate!

photo credit: 08_June_2021 via photopin (license)

Life Isn’t Meant to be a Chore

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It was a bit of a strange month and a half that just crawled by…

I mean, it actually crawled by. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes turned to hours, and single days turned into delusions of 48- or 72-hour increments.

Have you ever woken up on a Tuesday and thought to yourself, “Thank goodness it’s Thursday already!” That was me — for weeks.

When I took the time to think and talk with my closest friends about what might be the root of all this, it became clear.  Every single thing I was doing day in and day out — whether it was planned and routine, or spontaneous and fun-filled — felt as though it was on a to-do list. And it’d been that way for a while.

I bet you can imagine just how sour my mood was. Just how frustrated I felt. And that’s because many of you have been there at one point or another. Sometimes it’s due to work, and other times you may be overwhelmed with family-related goings-on or other commitments that run parallel to your career. Feeling as though there’s no time for you because every second of your day is allocated to an obligation or task of some sort is awfully stifling.

But we all know life itself isn’t meant to be a chore. Right?

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So the question I’ve continually asked is, “Why do you keep allowing this cycle to happen?” I’ve dug into it a bit with my friends, but I don’t know if we’ve succeeded in doing much more than scratch the surface. And I’m OK with that — because I’m self-aware enough to know this is a personal vice that is going to take much more intention and effort than I’ve ever expended to throw it off course for good. This cycle of feeling stifled by life, pulling back on everything and then falling into the same hole has been happening for me since day one, so it can’t simply be fixed overnight.

One thing I do know is that self-care is something I have always neglected. But this month as I talked about what I was facing, my trusty friends staged an intervention — through separate conversations, but collectively — to make me think about myself for once and to find a steadying rest. (Thanks, guys!)

I’m not going to list out the ways I intend to make self-care happen because, well, the truth is that I need to do some experimenting to find what feels right, what feels good — especially since self-care hasn’t ever been a priority for me before. I promise to report back once I’ve figured out what brings me to my happy place.

Until the next time I post, guys, I hope you have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend, and that you also take the time to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

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Why Travel Only Makes My World Bigger

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I’ve been writing about some relatively serious things lately — if you missed them, see Exhibit A on workaholism, Exhibit B on limiting cell phone use and Exhibit C on getting over what others think. So, I figured it’s time to post something a little more lighthearted. This quote sums it up:

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
– Gustave Flaubert

It’s blows my mind to realize that traveling has only continued to make my world bigger. The more I travel, the greater my (already insatiable) desire to explore has grown — the list of places to visit just expands. And it’s not for the purpose of escaping, but rather to gain a true world view and let the wonders of the unknown soak in.

Not one trip I’ve taken to any place in the world has failed to open my eyes to the utter beauty of this planet and the people who occupy it. I am always longing to depart for the next trip to a new city. Yearning to experience cultures from every nation, hear the languages of various people groups, taste the distinct cuisines, see not only the tourist attractions but also beyond to how the locals live, and feel the excitement of a new adventure. Aching to lose myself in my surroundings, my face all aglow while learning the unique ways in which life carries on all around the world.

It’s incredible.

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And I want to share that wanderlust here. Here’s to re-introducing travel as a topic I’ll write about here at Sincerely, Desiree’ — simply check out the Wanderlust link in the top menu to find more! Right now, the only posts shown are from a few trips in 2012 when a) my husband (then boyfriend) traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico (and oh, is there such a special place in my heart for Mexico) and b) my best friend and I took a trip to a national park in Central Illinois. The good news is that there is more to come! Over the next couple months, I’ll write about the most recent trips I’ve taken to London, Mexico City, Seattle, Estes Park and Paris. And after that, I’ll begin to share the upcoming trips my husband and I take as the year goes on.

In the meantime, I have several friends and former coworkers who have made significant changes in their lives by either quitting or switching jobs to be able to travel all around the world. You can check out their stories at their blogs links below, and I hope you’ll check back for my travel posts soon!

What was the first trip you took that opened your eyes to the wonders of travel?

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Fighting the Urge to Give in to American Workaholism

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Just over a week ago, I returned to Atlanta from a seven-day trip to New York City for work. The trip was equal parts fun and equal parts exhausting, with late nights and early mornings. Our mornings required early wake-up calls because of various meetings and engagements on our calendars, but I’ll confess, all of those late nights were on me. Now, the weird thing was that we got back to our hotel rooms early enough for me to get ready for bed and fall asleep at a reasonable time. Say, by 11:00 p.m. at the latest. But sleep was far off — every single night, without fail.

I’ve realized this happens during every work trip I take, no matter if I’m in a huge city like New York or a smaller city like Buffalo. I stay awake later than I intend, and definitely much later than I’d ever allow on a weeknight at home in Atlanta.

It’s a pattern — a pattern that I thought was odd, at first. Until I thought about it some more and recognized this is not a strange pattern at all, for me.

And, here is where I shrug off every ounce of security and pride to become completely vulnerable.

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Last year, I fell into the trap of letting work consume me — letting work consume my life, honestly. I thought I had everything under control. “Yes, things are intense. Yes, my plate is on the verge of spilling over,” I’d tell myself, “But it is still under control, I can still handle it. And it’ll all be better next week.”

Oh, the lies I’d tell to myself and others to keep up appearances — and I believed every one of them (so did everyone else). Too much was happening, too fast. My plate was already spilling over…and over…and over. I placed all of my effort into work without leaving any energy for the people I care about most, let alone for taking care of myself. And I subconsciously looked past all of this because I was in total denial.

It took getting to a very dark and unhappy and lonely place for me to see I was in far too deep. And I knew climbing my way out of that hole to set things straight again and flip my priorities right side up was going to take more than just a simple fix.

Months passed before I felt I’d hit reset and found my new normal — mentally, emotionally and physically. At times, I felt I was making no progress at all. But then slowly, I did. Thankfully.

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With that backstory, it might be easy to see how sleep doesn’t always come quickly when I’m out of town for work. Though I have hit reset and found a new normal, the old habits don’t die. It’s easy to let my guard down, fall into the trap of not detaching from work and ease back into operating out of anxiety — that is, anxiety disguised as adrenaline and excitement.

And when I’m away from the comforts of home, that also means I’m away from my husband and family and friends. Away from the community that keeps me grounded and incessantly reminds me that, while work is hugely important to me, it does not come first on my list of priorities. It does not come above my faith or my husband or my family or my friends.

Again, I do feel a strong difference between my current state and where I was last year, and that’s encouraging. But this isn’t something I’ve fully figured out yet, which is quite evident from my trip to New York. So I continue to push forward, fighting my old habit of giving in to that age-old, infamous, American workaholism.

What about you — do you struggle with this same issue, or have you learned how to avoid succumbing to the pressure of workaholism? If you have advice, leave a comment. I’d love to hear it, as I’m sure many others would!

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