how to succeed at travel without really trying

take a vacation from your vacation.

When my friend Ashley, another American student studying here, mentioned that she was going to camp out at the hot-air balloon festival in León, I was so there. She had borrowed a huge tent and was bringing one of her roommates, so I recruited my friend Jane to be my buddy and come to León with me – we got to the festival site Saturday night as dusk was falling and other festival-goers milled around with their coolers and suitcases and sleeping bags, most looking as confused as we were. Step One: get a campsite.

ask questions.

We eventually asked some people in a line what we were supposed to be doing. It turned out the couple we were talking to had accidentally purchased two campsites for just the two of them and wanted to resell their extra site. They gave it to us for $500 pesos, half the original price, then let us jump in line with them. Everybody in our group ended up paying $125 pesos (about $6 USD) for the night’s lodgings.

be honest.

Jane and I walked to our campsite zone, which had to be at least a mile from entrance. The teenager giving out sites first offered us a spot directly under one of the safety lights they’d wheeled in for the occasion, and it also came with a complimentary rock in the center.

“¿Les molesta?” he asked, pointing to the rock. “Does that bother you?”

“Uh, sí,” Jane told him.

We got a different spot.

enjoy the waiting game.

We sat for 2.5 hours (not an exaggeration) waiting for Ashley and the tent to show up, while the Mexicans around us pitched their tents and started campfires. They had to be looking at us, two Americans sitting on our sleeping bags in the growing dark and chill, thinking we must be really confused about how camping is supposed to work.

On the bright side, Jane went and got two giant cups of cheap-cheap-cheap beer, and we sat chatting until Ashley, her roommate and THE BLESSED TENT! arrived.

let nothing disturb you. not even:
  • Fire hazards. I.e. hundreds of polyester tents set up mere feet from each other, with campfires squished in between and often left unattended.
  • Trash – don’t trip on it.
  • Really obvious marijuana odor.
  • Loud people while you’re trying to sleep. I.e. bad singing all night long, weird yelling, the occasional person falling on your tent, random guy taking a wizz out there somewhere suspiciously close to your tent.
get up early. take pictures. you are a tourist – embrace it.

Resist the urge to destroy all the other tourists who ruin your shots with their disembodied elbows. But go ahead and interrupt selfies – you’ll be doing God’s work.


The bus ride back to your original city is perfect for this. Just try not to drool on your friend’s shoulder or anything, please.

*bonus tip: bring your own toilet paper.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Wow, you sound like you really got lucky with it all! Love the bonus tip as well!


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