The Peoples Guide to Mexico:

Trip Reports
Best of Mexico

By VW to Oaxaca

by Micky & Neil McNeill

Published: January 2001

I want to write to express my sincere thanks for your informative and side-splitting book.

My husband, Neil, and I made a six-week trek through Mexico in November and December. After giving up on the idea of finding a reliable but affordable VW Van, we had planned to make the trip in our VW Jetta, with a tent. Fortunately, the owner of one of the vans we test drove (which was way beyond of our price range), scratched his head to recall the name of "a really good book about Mexico". We didn't buy the van, but we did rush out to the book store the following day to get your book, The People’s Guide to Mexico. It was the best investment we've ever made. 

We live in Austin, the only place in Texas we'd ever dream of living. In the weeks preceding our trip, I was amazed at the closed-minded mentality of nearly everyone we told of our upcoming adventures in Mexico. Though we are only three hours from the border, the beauty and charm of Mexico seem to elude most people here. I guess there's no room for reality when your mind is full of images of bandidos and guerilla warfare.  People's faces would pale and their eyes would glaze over upon hearing that we planned to DRIVE to Mexico for SIX WEEKS. They looked at us as if they didn't expect to ever see us again. One guy, obviously a real dumbass, very seriously suggested that I dye my long blonde hair black to avoid being raped. I assured him that I'd rush right out to Walgreen's in the morning to heed his warning. 

Our only prior experience in Mexico was limited to several trips to Cozumel and Akumal for scuba diving. Neither of us had ever been to the country’s interior, so we didn't know what to expect.  We knew not to believe the horror stories we had been bombarded with, but we had a certain amount of anxiety about venturing into the unknown, especially about DRIVING and CAMPING in a place that others were afraid to even visit. Less than fifty pages into your insightful book, my fears were quelled as I wiped the tears from my eyes half-way through one of your hilarious anecdotes. I knew we would be just fine.  

As fate would have it, we happened upon a reasonably-priced '91 Vanagon Carat just three weeks before our scheduled departure. It made for a much more comfortable trip than the Jetta would have afforded us.

We spent a week in San Miguel de Allende where we attended a Spanish class, another week in Patzcuaro for the Day of the Dead, a few days in Angangueo (unfortunately too early for the spectacular Monarch butterfly migration), two and a half weeks along the coast from Zihuatanejo to Puerto Angel, and nearly a week in Oaxaca City before heading north for the finale in Xilitla and Rio Verde.

When the time came to cross the border back into the U.S., we couldn't shake the feeling of sadness that accompanied the end of our adventures. We decided to tell everyone upon returning that they had been right. Mexico is a horrible and frightening place, and you should never, ever go there unless confined behind the safe gates of a resort.  After all, we don't want a bunch of ugly Americans ruining it for those of us who can truly appreciate it. :-) I told the guy who suggested that I dye my hair that I was only raped three times and I was really disappointed. We reserved our true feelings about the country for those friends that we thought would really appreciate it. 

We just returned this week from a six-day trip back to Rio Verde and Xilitla. We carried five of our friends in our trusty VW, eager to share our love for Mexico. Despite a blow out and a bent rim (two separate incidents), everyone had a blast. Many of them are now talking about making their own extended trip similar to our own.

Our friends covered the travel expenses and we made a few bucks teaching them scuba classes in Rio Verde. Now our mental wheels are turning as we try to find a way to sustain this gypsy lifestyle. I have long-aspired to be a travel writer and we both dream of being mobile scuba instructors hopping from one coastal town to the next. 

Thanks so much for your inspiration. You are our heroes.  

By the way, a winter resident in the Oaxaca trailer park told us that a few folks had been there the previous year to spread some of Steve's ashes. Was it you? It made me happy to know that we were in a place that he held dear. 

Oh yeah, another thing... We took the road from Toluca to Zihuatanejo and I must say it was by far the worst day of our six weeks. Later many Mexicans told us that it is one of the worst roads in Mexico and very dangerous because of its isolation and history of robberies. You may want to add a word of warning in your next edition.  Do you know if the road from Zitacuaro is as bad?    

Buen Viaje!!

Micky and Neil McNeill   

Trip Reports
Best of Mexico
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