When you fall for a person, there is rarely just one thing that makes your heart go tickety-boo. It's the way they look, the way they feel, the way they smell - the way they make YOU feel. The more you learn about that person, the more you want to find out and the more deeply you fall in love. Flaws become interesting quirks and bad habits endearing.
The same can be said of places, and for me, that one place is Mexico.
Have you ever been somewhere that you feel so immediately at home in? The culture exciting and intense yet intoxicatingly comforting, as if perhaps, in another life you were of a different country; you were of that country.
We are often asked by friends, family and strangers where our favourite place was in Latin America. Without missing a beat, my answer has always been the same.
Whether in a busy street of a cosmopolitan city, the cove of a deserted beach or buying avocados at a market stall, I have always felt at home in Mexico.
I have returned three times to my second home. I have seen more of this one country than some people see of just their own and yet I feel I've only scratched but the surface of this vast and varied land. I have yet to visit the rugged wild-west of the north, the chaotic border town of Tijuana, lie on the remote untouched beaches of Baja California or (and I feel the need to whisper this quietly), walk the streets of the great metropolis, Mexico City.
But Mexico, I have basked in your oceans, wandered your colonial streets and spoken with your people. I have drank ice-cold beer in the shadow of your forests and swam deep beneath the surface of your cenotes.
I have explored Mayan culture through sight and sound, the traditions, colourful dress and unique language all speaking of a time gone by but one very much alive, the ancient ruins still shrouded in jungle, an adventure to discover.
Before I met you, I knew nothing of the tlayuda or flauta, or that quesadillas went beyond plain cheese. That tequila should be sipped, not downed. We indulged in Oaxaca, the very finest of Mexican cuisine, but never knew that we could have the best food of my life from a simple road-side taco cart or in a restaurant with no name.
I have taken thousands of photos; moustachioed men against colourful walls, blue waters and cobblestone streets. Images carried in my mind, and in print. Images of my Mexico.
A Mexico without hate or crime, pictures too rarely seen by those who do not know. No, this country goes far beyond the fancy resorts and tattooed men of the media; the Mexico I fell in love does not exist within the window of a travel agent or on the beaches of Cancun.
My Mexico is found along quiet dusty roads, in towns with no airports and upon the faces of men with few teeth. It is hidden within forests, beneath waterfalls and on a beach with no name. It is out there, if only you know where to look.
Some of the fondest memories we have are those of small beach towns, the sort of place buried deep within the covers of well-thumbed guidebooks.
From the hippie-outpost of Zipolite on the stunning Oaxacan coast to the tiny villages with pristine beaches in Michoacan - the sort of place you often need a local to find.
You see, Mexico is a country that has long held open its arms to tourists, and yet, it takes very little to escape them, to have your own adventure. On our last trip, we had all the time in the world. Hours and hours to spend pouring over guidebooks and blogs seeking that next perfect beach or colourful street. Day after day to spend on arctic buses discovering new lands, new towns and new places to which one day we knew we would return.
Yet, we understand that not everybody has that luxury, that for many, time is a very precious thing. That's why companies like Jubel are so great. They allow you to get off-the-beaten-track, to explore the best that a country has to offer without the hassle of having to arrange all the details yourself.
Whether you choose to experience a single state or spend months exploring my very favourite country, there is no denying that Mexico leaves an indelible mark. Be it an addiction to chipotle and a constant quest to find mole just like that tiny restaurant in Guadalajara or a never-ending love affair with the Norteña music and cowboy boots, I have no doubt that your heart will leave painted white, red and green.
Mexico, I do not know when I will return again, but I know that there is still so much to explore.
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This post was written in collaboration with Jubel. As always, all opinions are our own.