In the Fall of 2016, I spent about five months living Copenhagen, Denmark, while studying at the Copenhagen Business School. During this time, I made a point of traveling as much as I could — eager to view "culture" through as many lenses as possible. While I was blessed to be able to share these adventures with several friends who were also studying in Copenhagen, part of me could not shake the feeling that I should have done more traveling alone. After reflecting on my experiences for a couple of months, I decided to set a goal for myself:
Starting in 2017, I will visit one of the Seven (new) Wonders of the World each year, for the next seven years. They are as follows:
- Great Wall of China (China)
- Christ the Redeemer (Brazil)
- Machu Picchu (Peru)
- Chichen Itzá (Mexico)
- The Colosseum (Italy)
- Taj Mahal (India)
- Petra (Jordan)
The day after my summer internship ended on August 4th, I took a flight into Cancun, Mexico. A step into the mystery. Given that I do not speak any Spanish, I was slightly apprehensive to be traveling alone at first. This apprehension soon evaporated, however, and was replaced with excitement and wonderment. After clearing customs, I immediately took a bus into the center of Yucatán, stopping in the small colonial Mexican city of Valladolid. Here, I was taken by the relaxed pace of life, the strong sense of community, and the overall lack of other tourists. While in Valladolid, I made an effort to gain as much knowledge from the locals about places to go and things to do (the language barrier made this easier said than done). I was shocked by how many of them attempted to convince me not to visit Chichen Itza, citing that it is too crowded with tourists, too expensive, etc. However, after staying for a day-and-a-half, I decided that I could not let myself be deterred. After all, a memorable Yogi Berra quote rings true — "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded".
After Chichen Itza, I boarded a bus to Mérida, a larger city on the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mérida was one of the wealthiest cities in the entire world — largely due to the production of henequen, a material used to make rope. The old wealth of the city is still readily visible today, and makes for great walking around. Additionally, there is a highly renowned anthropology museum located in Mérida on Paseo de Montejo (one of the most famous streets in the city). I made a point of spending about two hours there, taking in as much information about Yucatan culture as I possibly could.
Overall, I would consider my first solo trip to have been a great success. It was certainly a different experience than traveling with companions. It forced me to rely on myself and interact with those around me in order to achieve the things I wanted to get done. While this was just the first of the Seven Wonders for me, I am counting down the days until I inevitably come back.
*As a side note, I was particularly inspired by Rolf Potts' book titled "Vagabonding". I would highly recommend it to any aspiring traveller, especially if traveling alone.