As an immigrant, I have a less than happy-go-lucky relationship with borders, immigration officers, and customs, but as a traveling blogger and YouTuber, I felt it was my duty to swallow my anxiety and cross over to Mexico by foot.
I had no idea what to expect. Would it be scary? Would there be men with guns trying to keep “illegal aliens” out?
The one thing that I did learn quickly was how bummed I feel about the whole system of keeping humans fenced in certain areas because of where they were born.
Hippie moment out of the way, now we can move onto logistics.
I decided to honor the fight my mom had gone through for the past 18 years to get me a snazzy American passport that would allow me to casually walk across the border by drinking a margarita.
I did a few minutes of research, put a backpack on my shoulder, and set out with my three best friends to explore Tijuana for a day. We left from San Diego and after a quick 20 minute drive on the freeway, we exited in the last USA exit, and parked our crappy little rental car in an 8-hour $13 parking to trek it across the border. Why didn’t we drive in the first place? Because if your rental car doesn’t have insurance that’s covered in Mexico, it’s probably not the best idea. If you ask around or look for signs, you’ll see the border entrance is a quick hop right next to the McDonalds; how’s that for the last bit of American symbolism?
The walk over was easy, and surprisingly fast, we went at about 11AM on a Sunday. They stamped my passport after I told them I’d be spending the day in TJ (cause Trader Joes isn’t the only cool place with those initials) and walked right into a very Mexican scene.
I’M IN MEXICO, NOW WHAT?
Smaller and older cars, crazy driving, and very little direction on where you could turn for help. So I did what my inner traveler told me to do, I approached a cab driver and asked in Spanish how much it would cost to get us to the touristy Avenida Revolución, or Revo. $5 USD in a Taxi Libre will get you from the border to the main street. If you’re willing to barter, apparently they can even take you for $3.
PS: Since you’re in Mexico, your phone probably won’t work so make sure to take screenshots of maps or download guidebooks before you walk literally five minutes away from San Diego to realize, oh $hit, I’m in a different country.
WHAT TO DO
After walking up and down Revolución, we realized it wasn’t much during a Sunday besides a place to get all of the sombreros and painted skulls your heart desires. I rekindled my love for the 7/11 of Mexico, Oxxo, and accidentally bought Pineapple Mint water, ew. We felt the vibe of the street; it seemed like one side was PG and the opposite side was filled with XXX rated clubs. Although strip clubs on a Sunday morning sounded tempting, we decided to be really live on the edge and opt for an iMax movie at Cecut, or the cultural center of Tijuana. The building itself is a sight to see, a massive, glorious ball in front of another gigantic cube. Mexican architecture keeps it one-hunen.
Our Mexican adventure definitely took a twist when we paid no more than $3 USD to see an amazing documentary about Jerusalem, not Mexico, or anything in Latin America… but Jerusalem. I dug it. We even got to roam around like scholars and check out the two free museum exhibits with life size tipis, my favorites!
So after wearing our smarty pants all day long, we decided our trip turned way more academic than expected and after some chips and salsa, it was time to dip; that pun was too real though.
GETTING BACK TO THE HOMELAND
Now this is where thangs actually got crazy. What we thought would be another easy breezy walk through the border back to US soil, turned out to be a line of hundreds of people standing in front of us, waiting their turn to be interviewed by immigration officers. In a sea of Churros and promises to be driven across in half the time for $20, we found ourselves craving being back home more every minute.
The only problem was that the line wasn’t moving anytime soon. We arrived at around 5PM, and we might have moved about two feet when 7:30PM rolled around, no exaggeration.
Because there were four of us, we split into twos, and while Spoz and I stayed behind, Diana and Omnia went to investigate an empty lane where occasionally people would strut through called the “Ready Lane,” which was specifically for holders of passport cards. After 20 minutes or so, we received a text saying that despite neither of them having a passport card, they had gotten through.
Spoz and I were officially stranded in Mexico, having to make a choice to leave the line and risk going through the Ready Lane, or toughing it out for at least four more hours in the general line of doom. We tried our luck like good ol’ Americans and went in the speed lightening Ready Lane. 10 minutes later and we had all been reunited States side. Not sure if you’ll have the same luck when you go, but it’s worth a try!
It wasn’t the crazy Mexican adventure you’d expect, but crossing the border is now crossed off my bucket list, YAY!