When we boarded the bus in Tulum on the night of July 31, four suitcases and backpacks in tow, we had every intention of reaching Mexico City 10 days later. We had planned stops in San Cristobal de las Casas and Oaxaca along the way, but as is usually the case with us, these best laid plans often take unexpected turns.
As I settled into my seat on the bus, hoodie on to ward of the notorious ADO air conditioning and sleepy time pills at the ready, I was excited for our first stop 17 hours later. We fell asleep to palm trees and woke up to pines and we wound our way up through the mountains and finally arrived in San Cristobal.
We had to take two cabs to our hotel as shock absorbers aren’t quite what they should be on the older models and our bags were heavy, but after a quick check in and some freshening up, we hit the streets for a cocktail as is our modus operandi. We parked at a sidewalk table at Cafe Revolution and I surveyed my surroundings.
Cobbled pedestrian streets bustling with activity. Bright, sunny sky and mild temperatures. Mountains barely visible above the buildings but bursting with green. I sipped my tequila and smiled at Will.
“Maybe we should just stay?”
A few days prior as we were telling our friend in Tulum of our plans he said, “You’re going to get to San Cristobal and not want to leave.”
Will had been extolling the virtues of San Cristobal for almost as long as I’ve known him. He was here several years ago when things were very different and the military had a very obvious presence. But as I sat at that cafe on that bright afternoon all I saw was Mexico, the Mexico I had never seen in my time in the Riviera Maya.
After that first day we talked about extending our three days to seven. After the second day, we talked about extending that seven days to thirty. We found an Airbnb near El Centro and booked it for a month. It was easily the most uncomfortable and most poorly laid out apartment that I have ever experienced, and that drove us to the real estate office.
We looked at a few places, none of which was absolutely perfect, then we saw the sign on the unassuming orange house just two blocks from the pedestrian street and four blocks from the square. We called the number and made an appointment to see it. I walked into exposed brick and tile floors, wood paneling on the walls, a rooftop terrace, and ample space for home offices and guest rooms.
I fell in love and we signed the lease the next day.
So here we are, locked into a year in San Cristobal de las Casas, and I love everything about it. It’s chilly sometimes, but that just means that I can buy cozy sweaters handmade from local, organic wool for about 13 USD. My kitchen is a little bit small but that just means that we can stroll over to Guadalupe Street and take our pick of cheap eats. The tourist areas can get a little hectic, but if I walk a few blocks further I can shop at the local market, bursting with fresh produce, meat, and eggs, all available for just a few pesos. There’s also a riding stable, which means my helmet and boots don’t have to languish in the back of the closet.
And if we really need something familiar there’s a Sam’s Club fifteen minutes away.
Do I regret not making it to Mexico City? Yes and no. I was looking forward to living in a big city again, and taking advantage of all the options that entails. Museums, concerts, shopping, restaurants, and people were all things that I was looking forward to.
But when I step outside and the air isn’t full of particulate matter, I can see the blue sky, and traffic doesn’t really exist for me because I can walk everywhere I realize that this is exactly where we need to be right now.
And so we’re almost one month into our year in Chiapas, and I couldn’t be happier.