Birth place of mariachi and tequila. Year-round temperature of about 75 degrees. Suena estupendo! (sounds great)
I've decided to go a week early and take a Spanish language immersion week. Now I have a choice. I can play it "safe" and go with the travel writers group. Or I can do it independently, choosing a school and letting the school place me with a Mexican family.
I'm torn. SATW, the Society of American Travel Writers, is offering a pre-convention package that includes nights in a nice hotel and dinners with host families. Everything would be planned for me. It would be so easy and comfortable.
But I have visions of a bunch of Americans returning to the hotel at night and reverting to English. Being herded around and meeting in a lobby for a bus. Perhaps people complaining (as some people in this group are wont to do) about the quality of the lessons.
The other choice requires a fair amount of work. By me. Find a school. Find a way from the airport. Compare what programs offer and select the most appealing.
I've Googled Guadalajara Spanish schools and have come up with three that look good. I've toyed with the idea of going to a school in Puerta Vallarta a couple of hours away, to be near the beach in October. The town sticks in my head from episodes of "The Love Boat." Then again, that gives me the vision that it is full of turistas.
But I digress. The point is, there's lots to think about and plan. Some schools have set programs. In others you can choose your number of hours. Some offer salsa lessons or cooking lessons during your week. One even offers guitar lessons - if you bring a guitar.
Some of the options: IMAC Spanish Language Programs. Or the Guadalajara Language Center in Guadalajara. Or the Guadalajara Language Center in Tlaquepaque, 20 minutes outside of Guadalajara, an artisans community, famous for pottery and blown glass.
And a town that has a fun name to write and say. (I'm guessing it's pronounced tlah-kay-PAH-kay. I'd never seen the "tl" combo at the beginning of a Spanish word. But I just looked in my Spanish-English dictionary and there's one other such Spanish word. Tlapaleria. The Spanish word for hardware store. But only in Mexico.)
Hm, I'm digressing again. But I'm already getting excited about learning and practicing more Spanish. Still, decisions, decisions.
This is where that element of the unknown comes into solo travel. What to do? Where to go? How to get there? All on my own.
I admit, it's a little scary. Solo travel always is for me. Yes, there's always a pinch of fear in striking out alone, going some place I've never been, making my way around. (see my blog category on "fear and some loathing!)
Sometimes I wonder why I'm put myself through this. The answer is: I want to do what I want to do the way I want to do it. Without negotiating with anyone else. Without being in a herd of Americans.
This is what provides the exhilaration in the end. Arriving at a place and finding my way. Making that place familiar and wondering what I was ever concerned about.
And in this case, learning Spanish. And staying with a family, probably in basic accommodations, instead of checking in to a luxury hotel. Some of my friends think this is nuts, giving up the luxury option.
I did this before, in Paris, in my 20's and wrote about it in one of my first posts on this blog. It was fantastic becoming a citizen of the 17th arrondissement for a month, having a temporary family and cracking the code of French. Even if it meant sleeping in a twin bed and having a roommate.
I'm excited to try again. In Spanish. In Mexico. For a week. In three months. And you'll hear all about it here.
Photo: Rotunda in Guadalajara. Carlos E. Sainz