Muling It

I realized that I have discussed many of my international traveling exploits, but I’ve never talked about the first time I ever left the United States. Like many who grow up in a border town, my first trip outside the country was just a stone’s throw away, in my case, to Tijuana, Mexico. Unlike many who grow up next to a country whose drinking age is 18, my first trip across the border was after I turned 21 AND with my parents.

How ironic that one of the few places the public transportation in my city will reliably take its citizens is out of the country.

Trolley at International Border


With the land cheap alcohol only a trolley ride away, it makes it tempting to head south and bring the libations back home. The problem is US Customs will only allow 2 bottles per person to come back across the border.

I don’t remember the reason behind the trip, if it was for a party or simply restocking, but my parents were so happy when my friends and I finally turned 21. We then became willing, completely legal mules.

In return for simply carrying two bottles of alcohol across the border at the end of the trip (and immediately handing them back over!), we received transportation and a great meal. We were young, hungry college students, and this was international travel we didn’t have to pay for! We were in.

All I really remember about the trip was feeling uncomfortable with how pushy the merchants were when trying to sell their wares and the REALLY good food (although I was afraid of food poisoning). At that point in my life, if someone had told me that one day I would frequently be traveling throughout countries where I didn’t speak the language all by myself no less, I would have called them a liar. I’m so glad I outgrew the fear and embraced life.

As I was writing this post, I consulted with my fellow former mule, and he pointed out that my mom then was our age now. Wow! What different lives she and I have led!

Unfortunately, there was only one border run. If I remember correctly, Tom did the math and realized that after adding in transportation costs and the amount of food young adults can consume, there really wasn’t much (if any) cost savings. At least I made out with a fun memory.

What was your first international experience? or How different a life are you leading compared to your parents?

6 thoughts on “Muling It”

  1. This was an entertaining read–but I stopped short when I read the bit about your mom’s age then being your age now! That always makes me stop to think about things like how little I knew of my parents lives when I was a kid etc. Anyway, this sounds like a fun introduction to international travel for you! My first time out of the States was Mexico as well. I was travelling with my grandparents through Texas and we went across somewhere there. I was about 5 and all I can remember is bright colours everywhere and a lady selling giant tissuepaper flowers. It was exciting all the same!


    1. I know those tissue paper flowers well! We did a big Hispanic dance number when I was in kindergarten, and many of the girls were wearing those.

      How did we live along side our parents and still not know what was going on in their lives? I ask because I was the same way. Maybe we were too involved with growing up. For me, it never dawned on me that she had a life outside of my little world. As I got older I could appreciate it more and more. I knew bits and pieces, but never the whole picture.


  2. My FIRST was as a kid to Canada – with my family all packed into a Buick station wagon. That’s when we lived in Colorado. My second, was with my family again to Tijuana – that’s when we lived in Los Angeles and I was a teen. My memories are the same as yours as far as it being a little frightening how pushy they were – washing our windshield when we hadn’t asked, trying to sell wares we didn’t want. But my first REAL experience was a ski trip to Switzerland with my kids – and then I was hooked. Love international travel now.


    1. Wow, moving to LA as a teenager: Talk about culture shock!

      Stepping off the plane in Paris, first time out of the country as a grown up and all by myself, is what hooked me on international travel as well. Everything was different, but in a good way. I knew enough French at the time to know what the signs were telling me. On my way to the hostel I did get off on at the wrong metro stop, and it was literally freezing outside, but I didn’t get upset. I immediately realized, “I AM IN PARIS!”

      What different perceptions we both had with foreign travel between being a kid and an independent woman.


  3. I don’t remember my first international trip – I was very very young!

    My first international experience sans family was with my partner to the Cook Islands for my birthday in 2011. We started off easy – a tourism heavy country that speaks English and uses the same currency as in NZ.

    I LOVE travelling!


    1. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog!

      What a wonderful first international trip as an adult. With the same language and currency, it was a easy adjustment for you. I’m glad it was positive. I’m a firm believer that horizons are expanded whenever we leave home and are willing to embrace other customs.

      Hopefully you will have a lot more traveling in your future.


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