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Driving in Mexico, the Making of Tequila, and Trusting a Stranger in Morocco

I used to do a round-up on here every month of what had come out in Perceptive Travel, the narrative online magazine featuring long-read stories from book authors. This publication founded in 2006 is still going strong and you can read the current issue here. In my clean-up of this blog’s archives over the past couple years, however, I found that these monthly round-ups weren’t getting much traffic a year later so I stopped.

Three travel stories of mine have come out recently though, on driving in Mexico, the making of tequila, and what happened when we let a newly met stranger design our itinerary in Morocco. 

driving in Mexico pulled over

I didn’t really plan to put out three long travel narratives in three months consecutively, but I haven’t been as flush with material over at Perceptive Travel as I am during normal times because…not many people have been traveling. Including travel writers. With no new adventures to talk about, I haven’t gotten as many pitches from regular contributors or new ones. So when I’ve been one story short for an issue, I’ve dug into my stash to fill the gap.

I think these are pretty good though, if I may say so myself, so I’m highlighting them on here for people who want to read something more in-depth from me besides tips and advice. 

Driving in Mexico and My Mishaps on the Road

I want to stress off the bat that I’ve had very good experiences on the roads of Mexico. The highways are in good shape, the signage is good, and apart from high tolls on some routes, it’s a pleasant affair to be driving in this country. Some of the routes are spectacular, like the drive through the Sierra Gorda Biosphere.

Mexican traffic ticketI’ve rented a car at least 25 times and have driven through Mexico more than most people. I’ve been behind the wheel multiple times each in the states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Baja Sur, and Nayarit. It’s that last one that always seems to trip me up. I’ve had a whole stack of bad experiences there, some of which didn’t make it into this story. The worst ones did though, and those are always the most fun to read, right? You can experience someone else’s misfortune instead of living through it yourself. 

See the full story here: Mexican Mishaps and Bad Mojo on the Road of Nayarit

In general, there’s not a lot to worry about when you’re driving in Mexico as long as you do it in daylight and watch out for the ever-present speed bumps. But here’s a good article on things to be aware of when renting a car in Mexico

Spending Time With Tequila

At this point, I can confidently say that I’m a tequila expert. I’ve been drinking the good stuff and writing about it for quite a while now. Living in Mexico for so long, I can also tell you which bottles of tequila for $15 or less in Mexico are a real bargain and which $200 ones are total rip-offs marketed to the gullible. 

My real education began, however, when I got invited on a press trip to tequila country 15 years ago, way back in 2006. We started sipping at our hotel after arrival and barely stopped until it was time to catch our flights days later. In that time we visited lowland distilleries, highland distilleries, and the town of Tequila itself. Companies showered us with so many samples for our article research that I bought a new leather bag in Tlaquepaque to check in for the flight home to carry them. By the time that trip finished, I knew more than a little about the process and the flavor profiles. 

agave fields near Tequila in Mexico

Since then I’ve taken the Jose Cuervo Express train to Tequila from Guadalajara and visited a few more distilleries, including one in my home state of Guanajuato. I’ve done countless more tastings and can pick out my favorites in a blind taste test. So it was time to tell the story. See Ten Years to Tequila: on the Agave Trail in Mexico

And hey, if you prefer mezcal, we published a story on that from my associate editor in the April issue: The Unveiling of Mezcal: Visiting Oaxaca’s Artisanal Distilleries.

Trusting a Stranger in Morocco

Since few people were traveling, many of the stories we have published in Perceptive Travel since the start of the pandemic have been essays based on memories and past trips, pivotal moments that changed something in our lives or taught us an important lesson. One of my best “kindness of strangers” experiences was a very long time ago, soon after my wife and I got married, when we took off for Morocco

Then, even more than now, Morocco had an unsavory reputation. In literature and in guidebook warnings it came across as a place full of schemers, scammers, touts, and hustlers that were relentless in their pursuit of foreign visitors’ money. We had experienced India on our first trip around the world though, so we weren’t going into that cobra pit without a healthy wariness and distrust. Our guard was up bigtime when, soon after we arrived in the country, we were approached on the street by a jewelry store owner then befriended by his cousin. 

It all seemed so convenient and easy, especially when the cousin said he was heading to Fes (his home) the same day we were and suggested we ride together. Were we going to get scammed or robbed? Was there some kind of long con we couldn’t recognize yet? 

traveling in Morocco

In the end, none of the above. By putting aside our suspicions, we ended up having the trip of a lifetime. See the full story here: When We Trusted a Local Stranger to Design Our Morocco Itinerary, the Magic Happened.

Who Likes Free Travel Gear? 

The word from our sponsor going out is…you can win free gear from a sponsor each month. All you have to do is get on the monthly e-mail list and then watch your inbox the first week of the month after a new issue comes out. In May we gave away expensive sunglasses. In June we gave away some cool travel sneakers you can also wear in the water. This month we’re giving away a double travel hammock with straps. Next month, a whole box of goodies. In September, a rechargeable travel lantern. 

travel hammock

We don’t get all that many entries really since people are always skeptical about their chances, but this is no Powerball lottery. Your chances of winning are more like 1 in 20 than 1 in 20,000,000. Some readers have even scored twice! Get in on the action here

Warren R Johnson

Thursday 8th of July 2021

Tim, Unfortunately, your link for free gear in today's blog dose not seem to work. Looking forward to this being fixed. Thanks!

Tim Leffel

Thursday 8th of July 2021

Must have been a network glitch--it's working for me. Here's the link: