How I almost missed sharing the wonder of a foreign country

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

Sometimes I get uppity and short on patience when someone is slower or has less knowledge than me. Not sure why. It’s ridiculous because I myself know so little. My impatience is a character defect I am constantly working on.

I am getting the chance to change during my parents’ visit to the Riviera Maya. I nearly missed sharing the joy, the wonder and the magic of their first experience vacationing in a foreign country.

Instead of being frustrated with my folks over repeated explanations on the money exchange rate, I started laughing. After all, I remember having trouble with the concept back when pesos were nine or 10 to the dollar. A 10 peso conversion was easy compared to today’s 16 to 17.

Mexican pesos

It does no one any good if I get annoyed at how my mom pronounces simple words like “gracias” – especially since I talk like a baby in simple phrases because my own Spanish is awful. My parents have good hearts, and when they say thank you in another language, they are really doing their best to try to be courteous to people in this host country.

Wandering around an archaeological site, going through the motion and looking at things I’ve seen several times over the years, does no good for their understanding of the importance of said site. So, we hired an official guide to teach us things. That’s right – us. I don’t know everything, and I learned things on the tour about the ancient Mayans.

That was my parents first time at an archaeological site and when my dad muttered “amazing” under his breath while listening to a guide – I knew right then and there – I can do better. That was a couple of days ago. I’m consciously working on my patience now, and reminding myself to slow down.

ellen's mom and dad at the tulum mayan ruins in mexico

My friend Tasso says I’m still in “America-mode.” That I’m still racing around to do this and that. I am still in the fast-paced news lifestyle. Of course, I’m not really in the news pace – I’m nowhere near that fast. But he is right in that I am still trying to do too much and fit too much into my parents first visit to another country.

This is the first time my folks have been swimming -or even seen- the Caribbean Sea. They’ve never stayed at an all-inclusive resort on Mexico, and enjoyed the constant luxury of having others wait on them. They’ve never driven in a foreign country. They are seeing wildlife they’ve never seen. They’ve never experienced the wonder of all the new experiences that go with being in a new place.

mom and dad wave from the sea

They also have seen where I live, and how I live, in town away from the resorts. There still are tourist spots near me – restaurants, smaller hotels and hostels. But I live in an apartment like a local.

They have seen: crazy wiring that brings electricity to homes; homes that look very different from what they are accustomed to seeing in the states; street dogs roaming around; trash piled up because of iffy collection; public transportation in another country; people trying to speak English to help them understand things. And on, and on.

ellen's mom and dad in tulum, mexico

My mom told me she prefers the hotel and is glad she is staying up the highway a few miles for her vacation. I’m glad, too. It must be overwhelming to see your daughter live in an area so different from anything you’ve ever seen. Certainly not where they thought they’d be visiting me. And it’s very different from their hotel. Budget slow travel is a lifestyle for me — not a vacation.

It’s the wonder of experiencing new things and places and people that makes a visit to another country so magical – especially for the first time. They deserve to see the beauty of this place. Ironically, this is what I want to do after I leave Tulum. I want to visit other countries and feel the magic of new experiences. I want to learn and laugh and love it all. Savor all the special moments in every day.

And then I remember – it’s not all about me.

My parents’ visit here has reminded me that I need to keep slowing down and keep working on my character defects, one day at a time, because it’s the journey that counts.

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