What Driving a Camper Through Mexico Taught Me About Life


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Manage episode 203149990 series 2199051
By Michael Manicotti. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

If you've listened to my podcasts, you've heard me talk about Mexico a lot.

I always say I'm going to do a podcast on that experience and some of the stories associated with it, but I haven't until now.

So in thinking about what to write, I have decided to make it high level of what I learned about life through that experience so here goes:

Even an expert can give you bad advice - I had a guy plan my trip that supposedly is the authority on driving through Mexico. I knew the journey was dangerous but I did't know what to expect. Basically I explained my entire situation and my plans to drive my truck pulling a 26' travel trailer camper behind me. He insisted it would be okay and that people do it all the time. Well, he was wrong. It was not okay. The roads were totally fucked, I was detained by the military, I had to pay off police, my camper sustained significant stress due to the shitty roads, RV parks and safe locations that were on the internet were non existent when I showed up. It was a total crapshoot that I almost instantly regretted.

Once you cross the border, you're on your own - Crossing the border and driving through Nuevo Laredo reminded me of the movie From Dusk Till Dawn. I don't know why, it just did. It looked almost looked like the set of some Wild West movie set in Mexico. That's how it felt. I still have vivid images in my mind of the metal sheds on the side of the road that had plumes of smoke billowing out of them from fajitas or whatever the hell. It was surreal. There were all of these 18 wheeler's parked on the shitty terrain getting whatever food they were selling in there. People walking around trying to sell shit. The one thing that rang in my mind as I was taking in all of these new stimuli was if something went wrong with my rig, I would be on my own. There was way too much shit going on for people to be concerned with what I was doing. I thought this was symbolic for life because when you embark on some new and crazy journey, no matter how much it might be accepted in the future, when you embark, it is not. It is or can be scary. Just like driving through Nuevo Laredo with all of my life in a camper.

You really don't need most of the shit you have - The first 100 miles of Mexico put my rig through a thorough shake test that proved to me just how much I didn't need most of what I had brought with me. But I didn't have anywhere else to put it and I was in a hurry, so I figured fuck it, just throw it in the trailer. Well life has a funny way of showing you exactly what you don't need and in this case it did that by breaking a bunch of shit in and on my trailer. All the shit that I didn't need.

People are nicer than you would expect - Taking a wrong turn trying to find a RV park led me to a barrio right outside Mexico City, which needless to say is a place I didn't want to be, much less with a 26 foot travel trailer. The climax of the story involves me turning on to a narrow ass one-way street that was built during the colonial period. I almost knocked out the light pole. I was so stressed out I seriously considered just getting out of the truck and leaving it right there in the middle of the street. But I couldn't do that, I had to focus and with what turned out to be a small crowd from the neighborhood, we were able to get it out literally with the smallest margins. I remember the clearance being so tight that I had to bend in my mirrors and that the trailer was about one inch off the mirrors of other cars. I was nervous, but the victory of getting through that channel was momentous. All of the people that helped took pictures and started banging on the side of the camper. Everybody helped me.

The light appears when you have no fear - Whatever happened and despite all the stress the journey is what religious people would say is in God's Hands. But it really was. I had a mission and my mission was to focus on the mission, not on situations I could not control. Even when I turned down the wrong street, I tried to remain calm and just let the situation play out and let the opportunities present themselves.

Once you commit, you must finish the journey - By the time I reached Saltillo, I was not looking forward to the remainder of the journey, so I got drunk. Fortunately there was a mariachi band playing outside my window so it was a great way to bask in the surrealness of what I had embarked on. I can't even really remember what I was thinking the next day when I woke up to start day 3 of my journey. I think I had a lot of doubts.

The only person that knows is you - Both to and from Mexico I got all kinds of mental pollution fed to me about Mexico by people that don't know shit about that country. You're going to be kidnapped, the drug cartels are going to kill you! The Police are going to throw you in jail for being a gringo! Yes, all of this is possible and probable in Mexico, but with a well-executed plan, the probability was low. Just like an experienced general in war, I made detailed plans to minimize collateral damage. Nobody knew my plans except for me.

This is the same in my career or anything else I have done. People always have opinions, but they don't have the experience and because they don't you will always be the only person that knows.

Being your true self is a universal language - I can't tell you how many families and kids were either laughing with me or at me when I drove through Mexico in my camper. I would pass through these small towns of a few hundred people that had 3 foot tall speed bumps and the kids looked at me like I was from another planet. But they laughed or smiled. Nobody ever gave me a shitty look. Curious, maybe, but never shitty. I even think that something about my vibe would deter even people from doing something bad to me because it was probably hard for them to make a judgment whether I was legit or crazy. I mean who does that.

People respect you for being ballsy - Before I left on my trip I was getting my Honda Ruckus inspected at the service station. A Cholo guy pulled up in a Harley and we started to make small talk. I told him I was taking the Ruckus to Mexico with my camper. He looked at me like I was crazy. Well, maybe not crazy, but balsy and he let me know that. He said "Man you're going to Mexico, you've got some balls". I told him I was making a website and got his phone number. I told him I would call him to let him know I made it okay, but I lost his number. Anyways, this same thing happened when I was in Mexico. This speaks to the above point about being your true self. When you do balsy shit like that, people can't help but respect you because it shows you have courage. Most of the time that discourages 99% of the population from trespassing against you. Sometimes it doesn't, but if it doesn't, I guess the remaining 1% get to see how balsy I can be.

Always assume the worst and hope for the best - There is so much that could be said on this point. I'm saying it as it relates to where I was staying. Basically I paid these two fuckers who I thought were my "friends" to develop the lot for me. Their friend did a great job and I was a great tenant, but the second I left of course out of sight out of mind. They didn't honor our gentleman's agreement and they started mistaking my kindness for weakness because they could because I wasn't there. We agreed to rent my camper out and split the revenue. Of course they rented it out and kept the revenue then tried to charge me rent and say it wasn't being rented. As much as they thought I was an idiot, I already planned for that contingency and was able to sell it right from under their feet instead. After all, it was my camper. It worked out better for me anyways because I never would have been able to sell that thing once I got home.

Americans are spoiled brats and are extremely lucky - Regardless of what anyone says, if you are born in America whether rich or poor, you are already winning the game compared to most of the world. This rang through my mind constantly the more I experienced in Mexico. The disparity, the lawlessness, how people with nothing didn't feel like the world owed them something.

There is no place like home - I never felt at home in Mexico. I loved the environment, but all I really felt like at the end was a stranger in a strange land. I'm not saying I will never return there, I just don't see myself building a home or life there. My life is here, despite any challenge I may face.

The beach life fantasy is not for me - Needless to say living a few miles from one of the top 10 beaches in the world is pretty damn cool. Drinking Don Julio Margaritas every night, eating some of the best and cheapest food, and having forays with beautiful Mexican women is fun, but at the end of the day, it's a fantasy. People go there to escape, not to live. If you live that life everyday, you're going to die. At least if you're me you are. I mean there are plenty of people living out their fantasy there, especially expats. The problem is that after being there a while they are met with reality a reality that can't compare to the American system that holds people accountable or more accountable than in developing countries. Mexico has problems, real problems, the corruption, the shitty infrastructure, the pollution to name a few things. I think they can be alleviated, but not in my lifetime or maybe even yours. All of these things have become part of the culture. At the end of the day watching all the expats, Europeans and young Latin Americans dancing throughout the streets of Tulum in their sandals and rasta hats got old, sort of like Austin, Texas. I'm just glad I got to experience what real Tulum was before it becomes what it is.

Cheap has a price - Sure shit in Mexico is cheaper than the United States in every way, but at what cost? Cost of not being able to speak the language, cost of your own safety, I mean, what are those things worth to you? I mean I liked being able to eat like a king at nice restaurants every night, but I didn't like seeing people's decapitated heads on the front cover of the newspaper every morning. I mean, none of those guys ever get in trouble for what they do. What says you don't accidentally piss one of them off? Then what's next?

Some cities and people will never change and that's not your problem or your fault - I have accomplished more in my life so far than anyone that I have known, but people still don't want to acknowledge that. Strangers and foreigners give me credit, praise and acceptance but my own peers still don't want to give me that power and it hurts. At the end of the day I'm just like anyone else. We want to be part of the tribe.

It feels good to go where nobody has gone before. Once you win, nobody can take that from you - I've always known this but it is just another example of winning or becoming a master. Once you know how to play that instrument, nobody can deny you that power. It's not a job, it's a unique skill that can't be replicated.

Even when I take that power from them through my continued successes, they continue to stand their with their arms crossed looking for someone to kiss their ass.

It sucks because we want to be part of the tribe, but for whatever reason we aren't and it's not my fault or my problem. I mean I have changed in my life. I have become better.

Nobody gave a shit when I left and nobody gave a shit when I came back. I mean, they should, but they don't. When I become huge they still won't. I mean how does one feel accepted in a culturally diverse town of people that only communicates via apps? I mean it's hard to compare the two places because they are two different worlds. I can't say I am a changed man from leaving Texas and living in Mexico but at the same time I can. It's really hard to divorce yourself from people, events, thoughts and feelings. At the same time it's hard to relate to people that always stay in the same place and never experience anything. I mean how do you tell someone a lifetime of stories when you're only gone for a few months? They just can't. It's sad and not smart on their part especially in a country that has a shitty record of prosecuting people who commit devilish acts.

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