Adventure, Mexico City, Travel

Adventure at the Witches’ Market

Everyone seems to love it when I write the stories of my misadventures on the road.

Last week was one of the best yet. Did you know there’s a secret bazaar in Mexico City where witches, priests and wizards gather to buy and sell magic ingredients? I’m not even making this up. I’ve never been to anywhere as cool or special on earth.

You can read the full story of my trip there—and the hunt for magic potions—over at my atelier, altmagic:

Potions at the Witches’ Market

Please share the link so others find it too!

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Adventure, Adventure Prep, Mexico City, Travel

Muy Peligroso

I’m curious what Rogue Priest readers would do in this situation.

You’re visiting Mexico City. You took the subway to a neighborhood called Coyoacán. It’s a good part of town. When you get off the subway, you have to walk about 14 blocks to your destination.

You have an enjoyable afternoon. Then it gets dark.

As the sun sets you ask directions back to the Coyoacán subway station. Unfortunately the directions you’re given are not good. You wander far afield, rush through a dicey neighborhood and find yourself on a major street. Finally, you see a woman walking her dog. You ask directions again.

She’s confused why you want to go to the Coyoacán station. Apparently, you’ve wandered so far that another one—Zapata—is closer. You know Zapata is on the same line as Coyoacán, and either station will take you home.

However…

  • The directions she gives to the Zapata station are long and complicated. You understand the general direction, but not the complicated series of landmarks and turns. You’re pretty sure you’ll get lost finding it. 
  • On the other hand, the directions back to Coyoacán are simple. One long, straight walk, then turn right. But in her explanation you catch the words muy peligroso. You ask her to repeat and she confirms: you’ll go through a neighborhood she considers muy peligroso. Very dangerous.

It’s a dilemma. Going one way you face the known danger of a bad part of town. Going the other way you face the unknown danger of getting further lost, as it gets later and later at night.

You have no cell phone and no one to help you. Muy peligroso or terra incognitaWhich would you choose?

And to add psychology to the game… which do you think I chose?

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Mexico City, Thailand, Travel

Fashion Around the World

When I quit my job to adventure, there were a lot of things I wanted to see. Beautiful temples, distant lands, the faces of new friends. And of course, food. This is why people travel. (Well, that and we’re hard wired and get depressed if we stay put. But people get angry when I trot that one out.)

One thing I didn’t set out to see was fashion.

Consumer Uniforms

People use clothing very differently from country to country. In the United States, it’s a uniform. From business suits to the 30-something geek’s pithy T-shirts, every person has a narrow range of acceptable clothing based on their age, occupation, and position in society. You can vary the colors or brands but basically, dress code is mandatory and your friends won’t recognize you if you break step.

This might not sound like the oft-eulogized land of the free, but think about it. Can you wear leather pants and a see-through tank top to your staff meeting? Can you wear a polo shirt and khakis to hang with your emo band? To both questions: yes, but get ready for a shitstorm.

It may seem like the tyranny of the corporate system, but it goes beyond that. The U.S. is a consumer culture through and through, so we express our personalities through brands and trends. Unemployed non-conformist 19 year olds are just as rigid in their wardrobe as married project managers. They cleave to a different narrow mold, but a narrow one all the same.

Asia Ain’t So

In Thailand, I was struck by the diversity of styles on the street. Not just different groups but individuals with their own unique look. In the US if someone is sporting a unique look I make a point to go up and compliment them. Had I done that in Chiang Mai I’d never get 100 steps.

Without a doubt T-shirts and jeans were ubiquitous in Chiang Mai, like anywhere. But a substantial chunk of the population takes the time to build their own personal style. For a people with relatively low income, fashion statements seem to be a spending priority among the younger generation.

At its root, this is no different than the American impulse: spend money on clothing that says who you are. It’s the execution that’s different. Americans buy into a brand or group: Nike has this, goths wear that. Thai 20-somethings seem to disregard all lines of brand, style, East and West to make something that says “this is me.”

Chiang Mai was not my favorite place, but this really impressed me.

I can’t explain this phenomena. Have you ever watched anime? Each major character, good or bad, wears a unique style that extends to their accessories, hair style, and tattoos. For a long time I resisted making the anime comparison because, well, “OMG Asia is like anime!” does not sound like the worldly traveler sound bite of the month. But art/life/inspires, you know the deal: they consume a lot of anime there, and anime is in part based on actual youth culture.

Bottom line, people in Chiang Mai are using fashion as a canvas to express their individualism in a way no US high school rebel has ever matched.

What About Mexico?

The difference between US and Thailand was easy to see. It’s drastic, and they’re almost total opposites. But Mexico makes my head spin.

Again, I’m not talking about T-shirts. Sure, those are everywhere. And walk into any business district and you’ll see suits and professional attire. No surprise there.

But it’s in more informal settings I’m surprised. Frequently I see men in vest, tie, jacket and dress pants just out walking their dogs. Not only older men, but men my age too. Women build themselves up: tall boots with tall heels, flaring jackets with high shoulders, so much hip sway they take up two lanes. It reminds me of a cat puffing itself up to scare off bigger animals.

People dress like this to go to the corner market.

I’ve got an ascot. I’m going to start wearing it.

What cultural differences have surprised you? Jump in and tell us a story. Did fashion statements surprise you somewhere you visited? Did you change your own style afterward?

Please tweet the shit out of this post because I love you.

By the way, did you know I’ve started my own business? And I make beautiful things? That are magic? Click on over and check out altmagic.com.

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Adventure Prep, Business, Travel

Goals for Mexico City

Just as I did when I went to Thailand, I have some goals here in Mexico. I’ll be here for about 10 weeks total, or 2.5 months. One week is already down, and time’s not slowing.

So what do I need to get done here? Well…

Goals for Mexico City, 2012

  • Learn Spanish. This is the most important. I want to be functionally fluent when I sail away March 10. Immersion is a key part of this strategy, which means I need to stop speaking in English with my generous host and his friends. This week I’ll ask for an hour a day of English embargos. Eventually it will be whole days. Aside from immersion, I’m working on online Spanish lessons and arranging a tutor.
  • Bolster & expand my SEO income. Through Location Rebel I learned to write SEO articles and make good money doing it. I’ve made enough since September to get by, but I would like a higher income so I can develop a nest egg & buy gear for my Adventure. I plan on writing a longer post about finances & income soon, but for now I’ll keep it simple: the plan is to build up a stronger portfolio of clients. Prospecting is in my future.
  • Start my own business. A blog is not a business. Separate from Rogue Priest I will be launching my own lifestyle business over January and February. The purpose of my business is to share one of the most influential and life-changing forces in my own life: magic. I have unique views on the practice of traditional magic and I want to share and explore those views with like-minded people, while hand-making scrolls to embody this ancient art.

There are many other things I want to accomplish while I’m here. I want to keep practicing my jujutsu so my Sensei can be proud. I want to lose 15 pounds. I want to see my graphic novel move forward. I want to write more fiction. I want to redecorate Rogue Priest.

I could go on all day.

I’m a dreamer with endless ideas. Like many dreamers, I sometimes need to shut my idea-hole and get to work. Accomplishing one or two big things has lasting value; imagining fifty is just cheap therapy.

So, I’ve chosen these three things to focus on for January, February and half of March. If I can accomplish this much I’ll feel good about the time I spent here. I’ll know that I’m working hard even with no boss to push me, and that I’m being responsible toward making a living and contributing something to the world. And that’s a big deal.

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