Inspiring Women To A Life Of Adventure
I'd like to think I inspired a few women when I drove through the Mexican countryside solo.
The idea was to escape the stifling city of Monterrey after a couple days of reporting. For years I've read about these magnificent lagoons in the Chihuahuan desert outside a small town called Cuatro Cienegas.
By car, Cuatro Cienegas in the state of Coahuila is about four hours away from Monterrey across rural desolate roads. It's also accessible by bus, but it takes longer and once you get there it's hard to move around without a set of wheels.
So I decided to rent a car and hit the road. A bold move, even by my estimations, which usually lean in favor of adventure. I'd never rented a car in Mexico. I didn't know this region of Mexico, and Coahuila is not known for being one of the safest states in the country. Pick up any local paper and you'll see killings occur regularly.
But I couldn't shake the idea of being so close to Cuatro Cienegas and not seeing it.
Saturday morning on the highway I watched the sun rise off Monterrey's unforgettable mountains. Locals advised it was best to travel by day and thankfully I had no trouble. The open road felt particularly liberating after the oppressive traffic of Monterrey.
Four hours later I arrived in a picturesque town with narrow roads and simple one-story homes attached wall to wall in pastel yellows, oranges and pinks. It reminded me of family trips to my great-grandmother's town when I was a girl.
I stopped at a small restaurant. It was still a couple hours before lunch time and the place was empty. It was also immaculately kept by its owner, a single mother who stared at me as if I was an otherworldly apparition.
"You're not from here are you?" she said.
I didn't even have to respond. The answer was obvious. I smiled and shook my head.
"You came here by yourself?"
She was incredulous. I chuckled and we conversed briefly as she prepared a plate of tacos al pastor. She'd never left the town. She'd never really given it much thought either, at least, maybe until now.
On another day I visited the museum of Venustiano Carranza, the bearded revolutionist former president of Mexico, who happened to be from Cuatro Cienegas. The old adobe home where he was born is was just a block off the main plaza.
The woman who was my guide looked at me with the same perplexed stare as the woman from the restaurant. In the middle of our tour she stopped abruptly.
"Pardon my indiscretion," she said. "But are you here alone?"
The woman proceeded: How do you do it? Don't you get lost? Aren't you scared?
"I was scared," I said. "At the beginning. Not anymore. Now I'm glad I came."
This was another single woman who had never left town. Her vacation was coming up and she was afraid she'd spend it like every other vacation, shut in at home. It was clear she was curious about exploring beyond her hometown, but the idea of traveling alone as a woman stopped her.
I still remember her face when I encouraged her to take a bus to central Mexico. I shared travel tips, how to look out for yourself, how to find your way around and how marvelous it was to discover new places. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes widened.
She promised me she'd go. I promised I'd return to hear about the trip. If only one of us keeps our promise, I prefer it be her.