In the days leading up to my trip, I was getting cold feet. I had just spent the last 6 weeks reconnecting with my parents, which was absolutely wonderful, something I hadn’t done in a long time. But this experience, along with all the love I got in Corvallis, Oregon, reminded that I was leaving a lot behind in the States. I wondered if I was going to be a bit lonely in my arrival to Mexico. Fortunately, I had an invitation from Valeria, a wonderful Mexican friend from Oregon State University, to come visit her family in Oaxaca as soon as I arrived in Mexico City. After 14 hours of travel, and two sleepless nights, there we were, sipping beers in a quaint Oaxacan bar, and I felt like I was still at home. My visit with Val would serve as the perfect transition from living with the fam and traveling solo.
I spent the next 15 days with Valeria, traipsing around Oaxaca, helping her with her research, sharing meals with her family, and getting to know the Oaxacan way of life. Valeria is in the process of completing her Masters research in Wood Science, and her work, largely sociological, aims to solve the mysteries of sustainable practices in furniture construction and marketing in the Oaxaca region. We bussed and hitchhiked to rural and mountainside factories, interviewed factory managers, and made an important business visit to the capital. However random, the experience was great and the best part was that Val opened up her life to me, and I learned a lot about her culture. Connecting with the locals, staying with families, seeing the less touristy parts of a country, and “delivering to the experience” … I had found the mode in which I want to travel.