The summer of '07 was to be my first trek out of the country without real supervision. My friend had been working all summer down in Tijuana helping to build a school, and me and two friends decided to take a road trip to go pick her up. This seemed to be a perfectly sensible plan... I had been to Tijuana before to build houses with my youth group, I liked tacos, what could go wrong? A couple of my family members caught wind though and came over to the house with printed out crime statistics and a stern talking to about the risks I was putting myself through. I sat there listening, feeling awkward, and knowing that I was being strong armed. One of the qualities about myself that I both admire and am plagued by is my stubbornness. In this case, it was a good thing. None of the impending doom talk landed with me, and I decided I was going, rather than stay home watching all sorts of fun come up on my myspace feed of my friends having an experience without me.
Don't ever let people scare you out of traveling. This is something I've noticed a lot lately. People hear that someone travels, or that they do it solo; they react with alarm and befuddlement at how that could possibly happen without said person being in a current state of murdered. Or they bring up the movie Taken. (long exhausted sigh) Do your research first, don't be an idiot, and you'll be fine.
I don't know the stats but honestly I've felt safer in most other places in the world than I do living in Los Angeles. That being said Tijuana did get a little crazy a couple years later. What's the deal with drug cartels, am I right?! I figured though my travel companions would make it a moot point: A scrappy tattoo covered Portland native with a blue mohawk and an interest in competitive fighting, and a stout Northern California guy who grew up on a farm with 3 brothers playing rugby, who is still convinced he was raised by a man who has done some form spy work. I figured I'd be ok.
My first adult style road tripped began as we drove out from Portland while I read Harry Potter and the Sourcerer's Stone for the first time...major milestones folks. I don't remember most of the drive, other than getting stuck next to a caravan of giant display animals for a while, which would catch you off guard when glancing out the window to see an elephant speeding by you.
The school was to be located in a large old building they referred to as The Castillo which we thought was super dope cause it technically meant we were staying in a castle. This place however was in shambles. We got to sledgehammer and break down walls which was fun for about the first 10 minutes, until I got tired and needed to refuel with a taco induced nap. They told us later the reason the building needed so much work was that there had been a porn movie filmed there called "Maria Machine-gun", and they had blown up parts of it for filming. Very committed I must say. This then started a fun game of speculating what scenes were filmed where and what all we should be disinfecting before sitting on.
We spent a week in Tijuana, working at the school, eating tacos, over-heating at some random little kids bounce castle birthday party, taking advantage of 18+ legal drinking age, and eating more tacos. Also, did I mention tacos? There was this little market down the street from the school that had the best mangos and I made sure to get one/four every day. I even took some home with me...which I'm sure was illegal... but anyone who's had a real good mango will know it's worth rotting in a Tijuana jail cell for some mangos at the peeks of their careers. We had a good time, everyone left alive, and I started to wonder if there was more to life than what other people thought I should/shouldn't do. Maybe I could throw my hat in the ring and do things that I thought where a good idea to do? Shocking.