This Former Magazine Editor Ditched Her Job & Started 'Travel Mexico Solo' To Help Inspire Other Women To Travel Solo In Mexico
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GAFFL
30th Sep | 8 min read

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    Shelley is a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for traveling the world! She started Travel Mexico Solo to inspire other women to travel solo in Mexico, and after visiting 16 states, now she has settled down in the Yucatan city of Mérida in 2019 and runs the site, Travel To Merida. You can connect with Shelley on GAFFL and follow along on her adventures on InstagramShelley travel Mexico solo

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    Inspiration To Start Traveling

    I grew up traveling, so it’s very natural to me. From a young age, my family would travel to Israel in the summer, as my father was born and raised there, and his whole family lived in the city of Haifa. Ironically enough, my younger brother who was also on the trips, didn't catch the travel bug the same way I did. However, I very much caught it!Shelley travel Mexico solo

    One of the most compelling things about travel, and the reason I continue to do it, is because you never know what you’re going to get. Travel is a way to step into the unknown and see how you’ll handle yourself in situations you could have never anticipated being in. It is one of the quickest forms of personal growth — and I always say travel is my therapy.

    How I Choose My Travel Destinations

    I don’t have a long bucket list, but I am open to going anywhere and everywhere. Often, I’ll be inspired by a scene in a movie, a photo on Instagram, or a personal recommendation; it’s always random.

    I like to keep it fluid that way because sometimes we can make those “bucket list” places out to be something they’re not. I have found that the destinations I coveted the most in my mind have let me down in the past (Bali, for example), but those I haven’t had any expectation for have been some of my favorite places (Rio de Janeiro, for example).

    Duration Of My Trips

    I’d say the duration will depend on the destination. However, I am a big fan of slow travel in general, and scheduling in “rest days” with no plans at all — so I’m not someone who ever wants a rushed trip with 1,000 things to see and do.

    When planning, I will check out the so-called “must do” things, see how many I really actually want to do, and then plan for those.

    Beyond a few things on my list, I always have days with no plans because part of the excitement is seeing where the day takes me.Shelley travel Mexico solo

    I do like to make sure I have a plan for how I’m going to get from the airport or bus station to where I’m staying.

    For me, as a solo traveler, I’d always try to look like I was a local or at least blend in as best as I could. One way to do this is to not look clueless at the airport, and have a plan in place for how you get from there to your Airbnb.

    How I Pack For My Trips

    I am hoping to be a backpacker one day, but for now, I say I pack “medium-light” with only a carry-on. Since space is limited in smaller suitcases, I always wear my biggest pair of shoes or boots so they don't take up room, and carry my coat or jacket. Coats and jackets also double as a pillow on the plane!

    As far as must-haves, I always bring the extra long charging cable for my phone because you never know how far the outlet will be from your bed in your Airbnb. Another must-have is a power bank or external battery charger, and I always get a local SIM card for the country I’m visiting.

    Favorite Memory Of Meeting People In Mexico

    I have been living and traveling in Mexico since 2018, so there have been quite a few characters and people I’ve met along the way. For one of my more recent memories, I went to a bee farm with some locals in the Yucatan Peninsula where I live to see the production of honey from a stingless bee called melipona.

    The local Maya people from Yucatan have used the honey from this bee for centuries, in everything from food to treatment for glaucoma and other eye diseases.

    Recently, there has been an interest in this honey outside of the Yucatan, so local farmers are being pushed out for larger operations.Shelley travel Mexico solo

    I was lucky enough to visit one of the small production farms, in a remote part of the Yucatan Peninsula jungle, to see the honey-collecting process as it’s been done for centuries. I went with a Mexican nonprofit organization called Miel Nativa (meaning “Native Honey”) which is leading the efforts to keep local farmers in business

    Why I Started My Blog

    I started Travel Mexico Solo to help other solo female travelers plan their dream Mexico trip, and confidently travel solo within the country — just like I did! From there, I created the Dream To Destination podcast, featuring interviews with other Mexico solo travelers, and lots of Mexico travel tips.

    When I started those, I assumed I’d have a mostly female audience, but it turned out that 50% of my readership and podcast listeners were male! This made me pivot a bit, and I now say my site is a Mexico planning resource for everyone, but with a lot of content specific to solo female travelers.

    As Travel Mexico Solo started gaining some success, through steady readership and a high number of monthly visitors to the site, I created a second site. My newest site, Travel To Merida, is focused on the colorful colonial city of Mérida, where I live!

    This is an up-and-coming Mexico travel destination, located a few hours from Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, though Mérida offers much more of a cultural experience.Shelley travel Mexico solo

    Countries I Have Traveled To So Far

    I have been to about 15 countries — which includes 30 U.S. states and 16 states in Mexico. There are still about 5 places in Mexico I'm very excited to check out, and a few countries I’m planning to do an extended stay of 3+ months in, like Japan. While I might have a smaller bucket list on paper, my real bucket list is ‘everywhere,’ like the famous Susan Sontag quote says, "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.”

    My Cool Traveling Experience in Mexico

    My favorite Mexican state is Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-kah), located in south-central Mexico. I spent about 4 months there, which started with a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Mazunte, Mexico.

    From there, I went to the not-so-silent Day of the Dead festival in Oaxaca City, which was one of my favorite experiences in Mexico.Shelley travel Mexico solo

    From there, I ended up living on the beaches of Oaxaca for about 3 months, visiting a good amount of the beaches up and down the coast. In Puerto Escondido, there is an amazing bioluminescent lagoon just outside town, and I participated in a baby turtle release one night where you see the babies as they go into the ocean for the first time.

    One of my favorite places in Mexico is the remote Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, an island on the western tip of Oaxaca. I also regularly saw whales on their migration journey past the coast, as I was there during whale season. The whales come somewhat close to the shore in Oaxaca, so you can see them jumping in the water while you’re sitting on the beach.

    Some Of Mexico's Hidden Gems That I Believe Travelers Must Explore

    Mexico is great for backpackers, for a number of reasons, and one of them is that it’s economical. It’s also a very big country, so there’s a lot of ground to cover, and since Mexico gives 6-month tourist visas, you can stay a while. 

    For backpackers, you’ll want to check out the Chiapas to Oaxaca route. The town of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas state is especially popular with backpackers and cultural travelers.

    There’s also the Baja California Peninsula on the west coast, which is popular with backpackers and surfers.Shelley travel Mexico solo

    How Backpackers Can Save Money In Mexico

    Mexico is relatively inexpensive for travelers if you avoid the main tourist towns. One of the best ways to save money, and experience the culture at the same time, is to eat street food. Mexico has a huge street food culture, so you can usually find 5 tacos for $2-3USD in many cities.

    How I Think GAFFL Can Help Solo Travelers

    This is a cool service because even solo travelers, like myself, do want companionship from time to time. Services that can connect you in real-time to others in the country you’re visiting can be an invaluable resource.

    Advice To Travelers Who Are Planning To Go To Mexico

    My best advice is don’t let the negative press you see in the mainstream media deter you from visiting Mexico. I have found that 99% of the time, the people who say Mexico is too dangerous to visit, have never even been to Mexico (and no, Cancun doesn't count!).

    If you want real Mexico travel advice, ask someone who’s been in the last few years — they will likely tell you it’s an amazing, often-underrated country, with friendly people, gorgeous nature, and amazing food.

    I have traveled to half the states in the country, mostly as a solo female, and only had positive experiences.

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