Shoes may not be absolutely necessary if you have wings, but they sure do bring an outfit together!
That’s where my journey began, my first pair of huaraches. I enjoyed them so much, placing miles of travel on their soles. I was convinced others would enjoy them too! But how to make them more accessible? That starts with a bit more travel.
May 2021, I took a trip to Guadalajara, Arandas, and Leon, Mexico, in search for some product I believed in. Product not only with an outward appeal attractive to the eye, but with a craftsman quality that would need to shine through as well.
Flash forward to October 2021 and I’m off to Mexico again, this time not just for business but for a longer stint of time to make sure we could get in all the sites and festivities Mexico always has to offer.
We started the trip in Mexico City, and what a huge city it is - a giant metropolis! So beware, if you are looking for Mexican prices in Mexico, then this city might not fit the bill. The bills felt like you were still in the States. But it’s still worth a tour. Since it’s so large, a few days really won’t be long enough to get in all the site seeing but you’ll get a good taste of the city that will leave you wanting more.
We stayed in an area called Reforma which is central to downtown and close to many tourist attractions. The streets are lined with lovely trees and roundabouts that have huge, beautiful statues in the center. We mentioned the beauty of that part of the city to the taxi driver and they said that area is beautiful but not all of the city is as pretty or as safe. Good to know!
The Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon are just 1 1/2 hours outside the city and worth the Uber or taxi ride. Pro tip! Whether your Spanish is proficient, or you rely heavily on google translate, I highly recommend asking your driver if he is free for the rest of the day. If so, see if he would want to join you as a personal tour guide (for a going rate of course!). Chances are he would love the opportunity to make that extra cash as well as spend a leisure day seeing the beauty of his town.
The ancient site has much wonder and awe along with its mystery. As many well-known ancient sites in Mexico, what is lacking in information is made up in vendors! You will find many beautiful souvenirs that catch the eye. However, I will warn you against impulse buying the first thing you see because most likely there will be something similar, or even identical, further down the road.
Don’t get me wrong, when you see something you would like to purchase, make sure you ask the price! But don’t immediately pull out your wallet. Thank them and head down the line to the next vendor, and the next, and the next so you can price out what you see and what you want. At the end of the day, you can rest assured that you got a great deal for something you love rather than paying too much just because you have “tourist” stamped on your forehead.
This is where I found these amazing Mexican Throws! Truthfully, the fun part wasn’t just buying from a vendor at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun. We spoke to them how we were interested in buying in bulk rather than just one blanket or a scarf and they informed us they had plenty of options outside the site at their local shop in town!
Now I don’t know about you, but that is where I get excited. It’s not just the better deal by not buying at a direct tourist attraction, but it’s the options! And the experience. Here I get to go see the locals at work. Not that all these vendors aren’t working their butts off at making a living wherever there are the most people congregated, but once you are able to step outside that box it’s almost a behind the scenes moment.
And there is was. A small shop five minutes away from the pyramids and at what seemed like the heart of the town. The store had all the colors and designs I had been looking for in scarfs and blankets and then some. Earrings, pyramids made from obsidian, and beautiful statues depicting the ancient culture residing in their backyard.
A common thread you will notice when it comes to experiencing these behind-the-scenes moments is that whatever is being sold is typically a family trade. Daughters run the cashier, mom goes in the back and bring out what it is they think you are looking for; dad lead you there on his motorbike. And suddenly, you feel good about not just meeting a new business partner but supporting some small area of the world that normally doesn’t get a consistent consumer.
The next day we invited family to a big tourist attraction we had heard about called Xocomilco. It’s an amazing boat tour where at least 20 friends and family can gather and fuse the best parts of relaxing with having fun floating down a river, guided by an expert captain with nothing but a giant bamboo stick for navigation. Although there weren’t vendors where I could scope out new goods, Xocomilco is a must-do attraction that you will not regret, even if you must go out of your. Pro-tip! Bring plenty of food, drinks, and a speaker to really liven up an already wonderful time.
From Mexico City, we headed over to Cancun where explored more tourist sites such as the pyramid El Castillo in Chichen Itza, world renown theme park Xcaret, and the ruins of Tulum. Chichen Itza is also a must see. Yes it is about a 3-hour drive from Cancun, but its immaculately intact pyramid and wild facts about the area and its past civilization will have you in awe.
Again, plenty of vendors selling goods and souvenirs so make sure to apply the same shopping rules and don’t buy the first thing you see or pay the first price they give you. Pro-tip! Go early. The earlier you get there, the less hot it will be, and the less people there will be there, leaving you plenty of space for those Instagram-worthy photos!
We stayed just a few days in Cancun but could feel the extreme tourist side of that area start to make us forget we were in Mexico, so we quickly made our way to Tulum, stopping at different beach towns for breakfast and lunch along the way. Not that Tulum isn’t touristy as well, but all in all, I will say it is much easier to find local food and to be honest, at cheaper prices, depending on where you go, of course!
By amusing circumstances, we met other travelers in town and invited them to join us to the ruins of Tulum in the early morning. Another good choice to go right when it opened because it was extremely hot even before mid day, and it requires a bit of walking around. The ruins aren’t as in tact as Chichen Itza and so may not have its wow factor, but since they are butted up against the cliffs of crystal blue waters, the views are still stunning and very picturesque. Plenty of vendors will be there selling you all sorts of stuff once again, but what catches my eye when I am in Tulum are the Dreamcatchers! They look beautifully made yet simple in their bohemian design. Here are some I purchased near the ruins:
The theme park Xcaret is an all-day affair. Although we got there about mid-day, we made sure we gave ourselves time to stay for their 7 PM night performance. And boy, it did not disappoint! Admission is pricey for Mexico, and once you get in the park most of the other attractions cost extra money, which we did not partake in. But there are still plenty of sites you will want to be camera ready for, as the theme park does an excellent job at representing Mexican culture.
Once we were seating in the giant stadium that evening, we decided that the cost of admissions was worth the night show alone. The incredible performances of the talent are almost mind blowing. I would go back just to watch it again. Pro-tip! They have options to serve you dinner while the show is taking place, but reservations go fast! If you want to add dinner to your show, make sure you ask the front desk about it first thing when you arrive at the park.
Finally, we made our way to Guadalajara, Jalisco, where we went to a hometown about 1 1/2 hours outside of the city to visit family and friends. It is called Arandas. This little city is one of my favorites for personal reason, but also happens to be central to different parts of Mexico where I can explore for new retail.
This trip’s adventure lead me to a town called Shy Sahuayo, in Michoacán. I was in search for very specific huaraches that I had found at the local shoe vendor in Arandas but could not find in the “leather capital of Mexico,” the city of Leon. The local vendor mentioned you could only get these types of huaraches in Michoacan. With a bit of detective work, we had a lead where we may be able to not only find these special suede huaraches, but also potentially an actual shoe factory where they were made!
It was a rainy day. A perfect day for a mini road trip to an area we’d never been before. I must admit, I was nervous. Mostly about getting my hopes up and maybe this journey not being all it was cracked out to be. But sure enough, after a lovely breakfast at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was packed full of locals, we made our way 5 minutes down the road and with a bit of luck and mostly determination, we found the huarache factory.
Another hole-in-the-wall shop. We walked past it a few times as we looked for it. A mother welcomed us in the small shop and took us upstairs. Her beautiful daughter was up there, as if waiting for us, while crafting some shoes. She took off her gloves and immediately tore herself away from her work to show us the shop and all the options they had to offer. The conversations in Spanish went over my head for what it felt like at least 30 minutes. At one point it was conveyed to me that their shop had made huaraches for Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. Showing me a photo of her wearing them, I knew we had stumbled across something bigger than what we had originally planned.
Finally, I heard the news we had been waiting for! Not only were they able to make huaraches to order, but they would add my logo to the shoes at no extra cost. My own brand of huaraches! I know sometimes dreams come true, but I did not think it would happen so fast on my new journey of building an import business.
She called her brother, who does the technical side of business, and he arrived at the shop and sat down with me and go through an entire order my personal branded shoes. I could have sat for hours and picked out/designed every detail, but time and resources were limited! The order was placed and paid for. Hands were shaken. Cheers were made.
Sometimes life takes us unexpected places. Okay, most of the time it does. But with a bit, or a lot, of intention and determination, it can take you exactly where you have always wanted to be. It may not look like it on the outside, but once you have allowed the flow of life to take you inside, you may begin to see that its rewards for all that hard work come also from taking those leaps of faith. Being flexible takes practice. And being open to enjoying the journey can end up bringing you more than you originally dreamed.
While stopped at a beach town for breakfast in between Cancun and Tulum, “real-life” was trying to sneak up on us with work calls and its stresses. An older American couple was sitting next to us, and it was easy to see they were truly enjoying themselves on their adventure away from home. The husband had ordered a Mezcal shot and specifically requested the type with a scorpion in it! Proud of his adventurous spirit, when he was served his glass, he immediately brought it over to us to show off his daring nature.
I asked him, “You’re not really going to eat that, are you?!”
He replied, “Well, it isn’t just for looks!!”
And he then said this, “You know, people say you only live once. But that isn’t true! You only die once. You live, every single day!”
Life has its stresses, its ups and downs, ins and outs. But to allow the complexities to take you away from living in each moment, isn’t truly living. When things can feel chaotic and out of your control, try to remember to grit down and ground down, knowing everything is temporary. Because one day, your wings will be ready to take you past the hardships and to a lighter side. Just make sure you are ready for it.
After all, "Good shoes take you good places."