The Cost of Not Traveling: Featuring Mexico City, Eyeball Tacos, and “Travel Karens”

November 11, 2022

Family & friends are going to want you to rethink your plans; go someplace sensible, like Florida. But the people most afraid of the world are the ones who have never engaged with it.

Before I had gone, someone said to me, “To be frank, I can’t believe you’ve never been to Mexico City” to which I naturally replied, ”To be frank, I hope you have nightmares about teeny tiny Chihuahua snouts.”

Of course, I only replied that in my mind. But anytime anyone starts a sentence with “to be frank,” you know whatever they say next is going to make you hate them.

  • “To be frank, you could stand to lose a few pounds.”
  • ”To be frank, I’m not in love with you anymore.”
  • ”To be frank, I’d rather drink by myself in a public restroom than carry on this conversation.”

(One time in Ireland I really did pick up my Red Breast, go downstairs to the bathroom, and sit in a stall to escape the torture.)


I know it was weird that, for a digital nomad who’s been on the road for 13 years, I’d never been there. But, it’s also one of those places you ignore because it’s right in your backyard. However, I couldn’t help but notice a striking difference in responses:

The nomads who had been there were like, “Omg, you’re gonna LOVE it.”

The non-nomad crowd, however (normal people?) was left clutching their pearls. I’ve since taken a liking to calling them ”Travel Karens,”—horrified over the idea of anywhere that isn’t waspy, white old people. (Reasons cited are always the same: crime, violence, drugs, kidnapping, water, smog, traffic, intestines, eyeballs, insects, and the inability to pronounce “ferrretería.”)

While I don’t wish to minimize legitimate concerns—especially the prospect of eating eyeballs—I thought I’d mention it because, as you make plans to travel, work remotely, and try on a new life abroad, you’re going to get plenty of family, friends, and loved ones who, no matter where you’re going, fall into the latter category.

They’re gonna be scared. Full of fear. Nervous about this big idea of yours. They’ll want you to rethink your plans; go someplace sensible, like Florida. (”Or just stay here!”) And while most of them probably mean well (except for Aunt Sally and her vinegar soul), I hope you’ll still have the courage to do your own research and make your own decisions.

The people who are the most afraid of the world are the ones who have never engaged with it.

When your experiences are limited, so are your ideas—and there’s no way around that. You can’t gain wisdom without wandering. (And that doesn’t just apply to travel, but to your work, your passions, your hobbies, your life. Wandering = growth.)

On the other hand, it’s rare to find travelers who are against going. Perhaps that is because they know that the benefits always outweigh the risks. And perhaps that’s why a fellow traveler might be inclined to say to me on a Sunday, “To be frank, I can’t believe you’ve never been.”

Not as an insult to me, but as an insult to Mexico City herself.

Because the traveler knows the real truth:

Sometimes, not going hurts you more than going ever could.

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