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This is not where I thought I’d be. If things had gone to plan, I would now be on a bus moving through the Peruvian countryside, smiling at the memory of my meals at Central and Maido, looking forward to sandboarding in Huacachina, seeing Machu Picchu, and exploring the Galapagos a few weeks after that.
Instead, my boyfriend Charlie and I have been holed up in Mexico City. I canceled my Peru trip at the beginning of the month; shortly after, G Adventures canceled my Galapagos trip, effectively canceling Ecuador as well.
It’s been an insane month — easily the most chaotic and worrying month of my life. A month that felt five times longer than it actually was. And it’s been awhile since I updated you on the blog itself, so here’s what’s been happening.
Why Mexico City?
We were in Oaxaca earlier in the month, where you wouldn’t have known that anything unusual was taking place. At that time, Mexico had fewer than 10 cases and zero measures had been enacted in the country. Oaxaca was wonderful — we both LOVED the city, its food scene, its colors, and we could see ourselves staying there longer if we had to.
That said, we couldn’t stay exactly where we were. Our apartment had a bit of a roach problem (literally, around 11:00 every night one FAT ASS ROACH would wiggle his way under the door frame into the bathroom, I would shriek, and Charlie would spray him and kill him). At the very least, we had to change apartments.
We were scheduled to take a bus to Mexico City on March 15, where we would have an apartment for the next ten days. After going back and forth, we decided to continue our plans and base in Mexico City long-term.
Why base in Mexico City instead of Oaxaca? It felt like a better and safer place to be if things escalated further, or if we ended up under a strict quarantine.
Mexico City has Rappi, a system that delivers literally anything (which we used constantly when living in Mérida); Oaxaca does not. Mexico City has Uber, in case we needed urgent transportation; Oaxaca does not. Mexico City has tons of international flights; Oaxaca only has a few. Mexico City has lots of private hospitals; Oaxaca does not.
Overall, Mexico City seemed like a smarter place to be if we needed to quarantine, if we got sick, or if we needed to leave the country abruptly.
So far, things have not escalated much in Mexico since we got here (more on that below) and we have extended our stay in this apartment long-term. It feels like we made the right decision at the time.
But then came a worse decision: whether to stay in Mexico or go home to the States.
The Hardest Travel Decision of my Life
Deciding whether or not to stay in Mexico or go back to the States has been nothing short of EXCRUCIATING. It has been the hardest travel decision of my life and it’s up there with the hardest decision I have EVER had to make. It feels like there are so many pitfalls to each option.
Is the US or Mexico a better place to be right now? The US is currently having a rough time with the crisis after mishandling it from the beginning; Mexico doesn’t have nearly as many cases, but it has also mishandled the crisis from the beginning. I would trust healthcare in Mexico ordinarily, but I’m not sure how things will operate in crisis.
I have a good friend from my hometown who has lived in Egypt as an expat for several years. But he came home to the States when the virus hit (in part because he has maintained US health insurance all this time). He encouraged me to come home, and he’s someone whose opinion I trust.
Healthcare-wise, I feel like the US and Mexico are even, with one VERY big exception: Mexican healthcare won’t bankrupt me.
A lot of my American friends in Mérida are staying in Mexico for the same reason: great hospitals that won’t bankrupt them. (Mérida has excellent private hospitals — it’s a healthcare and dental care hub. I would have zero issues staying there. Mexico City also has excellent private hospitals, but the gargantuan population of the city gives me pause.)
I’m nomadic at the moment and have no home in the US. My parents, who both live in Massachusetts, have kindly offered to let me stay with them — but I have health insurance that is NYC-centric and has no coverage in Massachusetts hospitals.
Travel insurance can pick up some of the slack, but only to a certain point. If, God forbid, I get hospitalized for several days in Massachusetts, I’ll be out $100,000+. I’m considering formally moving back to Massachusetts and switching to Massachusetts health insurance for this reason.
(Yes, American healthcare is a disgrace. Let’s not get into that now.)
The news has made me absolutely crazy. I had a hard time mental health-wise last week in particular (more on that below), but it seems like it gets worse whenever there’s a bad story out of the US (seriously, the New York Times seems to publish an “It’s gonna be bad there!” story about Mexico several times a week) or whenever there’s an “It’s gonna be bad here!” post in the Mexico City Expats group on Facebook.
At this point, I feel like I am aiming to leave Mexico after the worst in the Northeast US is over, but before things get really bad in Mexico. If that moment in time exists. What could be “really bad” in Mexico? If hospitals are overloaded, if drinking water becomes hard to find, if crime increases due to the economic shutdown?
The biggest factor: Charlie and I are currently banned from each other’s countries. He’s a Brit who lives in the Czech Republic. British citizens are currently banned from the US; foreigners are currently banned from the Czech Republic. (For what it’s worth, we are both currently allowed into the UK or Ireland.)
If we separate, there’s a chance that we couldn’t see each other for a LONG time. And I can’t even begin to think about that. There is no way to predict what could happen, but a realistic worst case scenario is that US citizens get banned from countries long-term due to our despicable president’s catastrophic handling of the crisis.
My plan had been to begin the migration process to the Czech Republic in May on their entrepreneur visa. That’s obviously on the back burner now.
I genuinely feel safe in Mexico right now, and think staying here is the safe option — for me, for Charlie, for everyone else. Everyone should stay in place if they can. But what if things get worse here? They could get worse FAST.
I have a flight booked to New York on April 22 — I was able to change my flight to Peru to a flight to New York for just $40. Charlie has a flight booked to Madrid for April 25, but he’s trying to figure out how to get back to Prague from there, with so many Spain flights shut down. And when I check it looks like my flight doesn’t exist anymore, so I might have to book something else altogether.
The owner of our apartment has been very kind. While his building banned foreign renters in the month of April, since we were already here, he offered to let us extend our stay through late April for a low price. I’m grateful to people like him.
What’s it like in Mexico City right now?
Mexico is far behind the US and Europe in terms of quarantine measures. AMLO, the Mexican president, is famous for hugging his supporters — only recently did he start recommending people stay home. The biggest difference is that some museums and attractions have closed, and most restaurants have shifted to take-out and delivery only.
Charlie had his birthday this week, and I was planning on taking him out to a few of the best restaurants to celebrate. Instead, we got takeaway from Contramar and I made him a kiwi cheesecake. We’ll have to do something bigger at a later date.
This is my first time in Mexico City, and I am in LOVE with it — especially our neighborhood of Condesa. We are staying inside for roughly 22 hours a day, but the remaining two are for a walk around the neighborhood. We’re starting to recognize the neighborhood dogs.
Condesa is filled with so much lush greenery, so many interesting-looking houses and incredibly cool (and cheap!) bars, restaurants, and cafes. I wish I had the chance to actually enjoy them, but for now it’s nice just looking at them.
I hate doing the “when this is all over” thing — but when this is all over, I so want to come back to experience this brilliant city properly. I also want to go back to Vegas and hit the club until 6 AM.
How’s my mental health?
In the early days in Mexico City, it was rough. I worry a lot at normal times, but I spent so much time worrying about everything that it wreaked havoc on my body.
I couldn’t sleep at all, not even with melatonin. I felt like there was a giant rubber band around my chest. I would read a story about how Mexico is about to explode in cases and I’d burst into tears. And for the first time since November 2016, I had a panic attack. Right in the middle of the street.
I tried CBD oil for the first time, and that made a HUGE difference. (I ordered it on Rappi and it came in 19 minutes. THIS is why we chose Mexico City over Oaxaca.) The first night on it, I actually slept 9.5 hours! I recommend trying it if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed.
This week I’ve been much better, so I only take it when I start to feel anxiety in my stomach or that rubber band tightening around my chest.
It’s mainly doom-and-gloom news about Mexico that is a trigger for me, so I’m trying to strike a balance between staying informed and staying mentally healthy.
Also, I lost my income.
And while I’ve been worrying like crazy about health and safety and flights and hospitals, I’m dealing with another problem: I lost my income. It’s gone. My business of ten years evaporated.
It’s not just me — every travel blogger has. Every travel BUSINESS has.
My income comes from people researching and booking travel. Most of my income comes from display ads on my site, affiliate links from people who book hotels and flights and tours and buy travel gear; and campaigns with destinations.
As you can imagine, nobody is researching or booking travel right now, and all campaigns have been canceled or postponed. I thought my business was solid — I had so many diverse income streams! But I wasn’t prepared for the world to stop traveling.
My affiliate sales for travel have disappeared (and my hotel affiliate decided to stop paying out altogether). Zero campaign payments. Display ads have gone from $140 per day (for March, which is usually one of the busiest times of year) to bottoming out at about $20 per day. At least that level of traffic seems steady for the moment. It won’t stay at $20 though — advertisers will drop their rates when Q2 begins in a few days…
HOWEVER — I am using this time to start new aspects of my business. If you subscribe to my weekly newsletter, you know what I’ve been doing. Here is what I’ve introduced:
Private blog consulting. If you’re wondering why you’re struggling to bring your blog to the next level, I can help you figure out exactly what steps to take.
One-on-Ones with Adventurous Kate. Private 45-minute one-on-one calls between you and me. We can talk about travel, blogging, books, politics, anything. I can help you with projects you’re struggling with, too!
Travelers’ Night In chats. Small group chats — nine people max — where I lead a travel or entertainment discussion over Zoom and we get to tell stories and meet new virtual friends. Suggested donation: $5. Here are the upcoming events and you can sign up on EventBrite:
AND SOMETHING BIG IS COMING THIS WEEK — check out for an announcement on Wednesday.
Honestly, you guys, I have never felt like an entrepreneur so much in my life as I have in the past few weeks. Like a constant geyser of creativity.
It’s not enough to make up for what I’ve lost, but combined with my savings, it can help me survive the next few months if I keep expenses as low as possible.
Though this is an extremely scary time, I realize how good I have it compared to a lot of people, and I’m deeply grateful for that. My heart goes out to all of you who are struggling with this crisis. May we continue to focus on small joys.
And for those who are shepherding us through this — medical workers, grocery store workers, delivery workers, all kinds of essential workers, and their families — I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will never be able to repay you for your service.
If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that anything can change on a dime. I’m prepared for all possibilities.
If Charlie and I have to change our plans and head home earlier, we will. If I have to book a different flight and eat the cost of the current flight, I will. That seems like it will likely happen.
If flights from Mexico to the US stop, I’ll fly to Tijuana, cross the border in the airport, rent a car, drive to LAX, and get a direct flight home to Boston.
Either way, I’ll be quarantining in the Boston area for two weeks. My dad might block off part of his house as a quarantine suite, or I might rent an apartment nearby and quarantine there.
Or maybe things will change so much that it will be best to stay in Mexico even longer. Visa-wise, Charlie and I can stay through July, but the immigration offices are closed and people on tourist visas are allowed to overstay without penalty right now.
There are moments when I tell myself, “Of course you’re going to stay here! It’s crazy to go home!” And moments when I tell myself, “Of course you’re going home! It’s crazy to stay here!” And they are very often within hours of each other. I will continue to wrestle with this.
Wherever you are, please stay safe and please take care of each other.
How are you handling this situation where you are?