If you had told me that I would be slinging a backpack over my shoulders and heading alone to the south of Mexico to join a yoga and surfing retreat, I would have laughed at you. Flying to Mexico alone was the farthest from home I’d ever been by myself. I was terrified and I turned to the books to help the anxiety. As in all things, the stories always calm me down.
Sitting into my plane seat, I opened the book I was already midway through- Junk Raft by Marcus Eriksen- I certainly don’t read enough about conservation and environmental science. Eriksen’s story and warnings about plastic pollution jarred my brain and made me think hard about my own contribution. The book is due for release in July 2017- I’d recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the plastics industry and in ocean conservation.
When I finished Junk Raft, the lights in the plane cabin were dimmed and the sky outside was dark as could be. I settled in for a lengthy nap (I woke up every 20 minutes) and landed at Mexico City Airport at 4.30 in the morning. It was still nighttime, the airport terminal was chilly, I couldn’t check in for my next flight for 3 hours… so I took a seat in the arrivals hall and opened Born To Run, the Bruce Springsteen autobiography.
I was raised on variations of Dylan, Springsteen and the Beatles, so reading the book was incredibly interesting and I learned a lot about the beginnings of the E Street Band that I hadn’t known about. The book is conversational and it sort of felt like Bruce himself was chatting to me in that terminal. Thanks Bruce, I needed you. I finished half the book, checked in for my flight and clambered on a tiny propeller plane (gulp!) to the state of Oaxaca and the port town of Puerto Escondido.
That tiny plane was my home for just an hour, for an overland flight south across Mexico- and the country is stunning from above. Mountains give way to remote wilderness and windy roads crawl across the landscape. The sun was high in the sky and I pulled out Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey for some poetry. I’ve been hearing about the collection for a long time and it hit me hard in the chest. Kaur’s poems about love, hate, healing, relationships, sexuality and feminism are short and to the point, but achingly violent and dark. I swallowed the collection in an hour.
I landed at the tiny airport of Puerto Escondido (the tiniest I’ve ever been in) and took a taxi to my hostel. The waves crashed on the sand, the 30 degree Celsius heat bore down hard, and for three days all I did was yoga, sleep, eat and surf. Puerto Escondido is a sprawling town which has avoided the built up commercialism of so many other seaside towns. There is a resolute wilderness about the place that stuck in my head and my heart.
Following some nasty sunburn on the back of my legs (whoops) I sat in the shade for a day and read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. It was my first tackle of a Woolf book and I regret I didn’t read her sooner. Her words are beautiful and her roaring feminism was a real pleasure to read. Sometimes I leave the classics aside because I’m afraid I won’t ‘get’ them. Woolf, I ‘got’ with no problems.
In my last two days in Mexico, in between making yoga friends and swimming in the Pacific, I finally managed to read Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman- his interpretation of the stories are lively and fun and the book is a faster read than it might first appear- I loved it.
On my last day in Mexico, I headed for the airport and hopped on my first internal flight to come back to England. While I was in the airport I started reading The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. One of my friends had been reading it on the beach and laughed every few lines so I invested for some humour. I was stuck in a holding pattern (jn turbulence!) over Benito Airport for an extra hour so completed the book that afternoon- and my friend’s reaction was right, I laughed constantly, but Schumer also hits home hard with stories of gun violence, domestic abuse and feminism. I would recommend this one to anyone.
By the time I climbed onto my last, long flight back to England, I was completely exhausted. I slept through that flight, my books and stories forgotten in my bag while I dreamed of the Oaxaca sunshine. If you get the chance to see Mexico, go. But bring books (obviously).