I’ve spent my entire life ping-ponging up and down the west coast, having lived in Orange County, Seattle and everywhere in between. While today I call the mountains home, I am truthfully a hybrid of city and nature and find myself escaping to large cities frequently — San Francisco a few times per month, Portland and Seattle in the coming weeks, and Europe in May.
Mexico City (or Distrito Federal) had been calling my name for years. Or rather, the aroma of street tacos had been wooing my olfactory senses for years. Last month, I finally wrangled my friend Sarah to join me on a short holiday to Mexico City. It was a bit of a spontaneous decision (I know, nobody’s surprised) and purposefully, almost no significant planning took place before our plane landed. A cultural heaven awaited us. Street food was aplenty of course, but we also discovered art, music, churros, Aztec treasures, and a surprisingly modern metropolitan maze of a city — indeed, Mexico City is the largest metropolitan city in the entire North American continent, with over 20 million people calling it home.
In terms of cultural aptitude, Mexico City proved to reign higher than any other city I’ve had the privilege of visiting. Never in my travels have I encountered such a perfect marriage between modern metropolitan mayhem and rich colorful culture, with Aztec and Spanish heritage still largely at play. Simultaneously, technology is rapidly re-sculpting the face of the city, and nowhere is this more apparent than by climbing Teotihuacán’s pyramids and riding the subway all in the same afternoon.
In the same way that nurturing my love for exploring a big, strange city is so essential to my well-being, investing my time, mental and emotional energy, money and talents into things that make a difference to others and to our planet has become important these past few years. I’m noticing more and more brands making deliberate eco-conscious decisions; some even formulating their very framework on giving back in meaningful ways. PR stunts aside, not only do these brands inspire consumers to make more thoughtful decisions (the smallest changes can make the biggest impact!) but they enforce a healthier ecosystem for future generations to enjoy on our planet. I could list countless brands that come to mind, but the newest one I recently became aware of is COIN: a new conscious investing platform that encourages users to put their dollars where their hearts are… perfect for first-time investors, or those simply looking for creative ways to give back!
COIN is simple: unlike traditional investing, your money will only be invested in companies making a difference in the areas you care about most, like Climate Change, Clean Water, and Reducing Waste. I especially resonate with their Modern Cities Impact Area — according to the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations, 53% of the world’s population lives in urban areas (which is expected to increase to 68% by 2050). And for those who don’t live in a large city like myself, we travel to them all the time for work and play! Cities like Mexico City have always been havens for trade, economic structure, business and culture — they’re the taste-makers of the planet, and worth investing back into.
If Mexico City isn’t on your radar yet, it certainly should be. Here are a few first-timer tips:
Mexico City is much less touristy than other places I've been to in Mexico. Almost NO ONE speaks English. Google Translate helps in a dire situation, but I found that practicing my rusty high school Spanish was the best way to communicate.
Obviously you don't want to drink tap water anywhere (keep your mouth closed in the shower, use bottled water to brush your teeth, etc.), but you don't need to be as careful as I previously thought in restaurants and even eating street food. Everybody uses filtered water to wash veggies, make cocktails, etc. I was super paranoid about this for the first 24 hours then began to relax about it when in public.
I HIGHLY recommend staying in the Roma district... such a cute area. We stayed in kind of a crummy hotel… if I was going again, I’d look at Airbnb!
We mostly used Uber to get around, and it was cheap and easy. None of our Uber drivers spoke English, so again, be prepared to communicate in Spanish. We also took public transit which was relatively smooth.
There were definitely moments I didn't feel super safe. Multiple locals warned me to put my camera away. Don't walk around with your iPhone in your hand, etc.
The street food is AMAZING. Eat it every chance you get. Our best meals were from street vendors. And it's super cheap! Of course they don't take cards, so you'll want to use pesos. I went to an ATM my first day and pulled out around 1000 pesos for my 5 day trip and it was about right.
Definitely look up El Moro, an amazing churro place. SO GOOD!
By far the highlight of our trip was the sunrise hot air balloon ride in Teotihuacan, about an hour away from Mexico City. We booked it a few days before via our hotel — we opted to book an 8 hour experience which came to around $200/person for the shuttle there, our personal tour guide, the 45 minute hot air balloon ride, a buffet breakfast, and plenty of time to climb and explore the pyramids on our own. It was AMAZING. It's kind of chilly up in the air so wear a light jacket. Bring extra pesos to tip.
There's phenomenal coffee in Mexico City — this article was helpful.
We didn't do this as we didn't find out about it until our last day, but definitely visit the old city on the canals. Google it. I heard incredible things.
Look up Mercado de Sonora, the witch market. Pretty crazy place.
Highly recommend exploring Barrio Alameda, and having a cocktail on the rooftop bar at the top and watching the sun set.