After spending most of his life in Texas, Mark found freedom, a love for travel, and a passion for Mexico. With roots in Mexico and Spain, his love for beaches, beauty, and a desire to run for the borders (in the other direction) has given Mark a new direction and passion for life.
A couple of weeks ago, Mark shared his thoughts on Mexico and Budget Travel. Now check out his story – from a small town in Texas to the big city by the bay to a love for all things Mexico and beyond.
Tell me about your life and what it was like for you growing up in Texas.
I could write volumes on this question because it was such a great experience, which I wouldn’t trade for anything! My roots to Texas go back three generations. My great-grandfather on my mom’s side arrived in Galveston from the Canary Islands in Spain. As for my dad’s family, my grandfather was born in Mexico, so my roots aren’t as deep on that side. Still, I’ve had the great pleasure of proudly calling myself a Texan even after having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 13 years and counting.
I have fond memories of growing up in Poteet, this small town (population 3000) 30 miles south of San Antonio. It’s not much more than a farming community and its only claims to fame are being the birthplace of George Strait and hosting one of the largest festivals in Texas, The Strawberry Festival.
Life was pretty simple with dad working in the construction industry, while my mom looked after my older sister and me. Then my parents divorced while we were still kids and I remained with my dad and my sister left to live with our mother.
From that point on, I totally immersed myself in all the great things a young boy living on a south Texas ranch can enjoy. There was the fishing at our pond, the dove hunting on our property, and just the plain, outdoorsy stuff that boys with a lot of free time and land on which to roam will do.
Fast forward several years and I end up in Austin to attend the University of Texas. Talk about a shock to the system for a kid coming from a senior graduating class of 90 to a sprawling university with an enrollment in excess of 50,000…YIKES! What had I done? But, it really was the greatest experience for me and helped me form an expanded perception of the world around me, while still being appreciative of my south Texas roots.
I guess it wasn’t until I moved to California in 1997 though, that I TRULY realized what a gift it was to have grown up in Texas and how Texans are socialized differently from people in other parts of the country. For one, we are taught at a young age that Texas is special and unlike any other place on the planet.
Sure, many can easily (and do) interpret that as arrogance, but I’ve always seen it as being a healthy mindset, and, no matter where a person hails from, he/she should always embrace their roots for all the uniqueness. Okay, okay, so maybe the endless maps of Texas plastered all over the place, from signage to gated entries is going overboard…just a bit!
What inspired you to travel?
It may seem very superficial, but my LACK of travel during my youth provided all the inspiration I ever needed. I recall being envious of friends who would take family ski trips to New Mexico or Colorado while my family could only muster a weekend trip to the “coast” (Corpus Christi) or better yet, to Laredo or Matamoros, Mexico to visit relatives. “Whoop di do”, I thought!
I was so starved to travel and find out what was beyond the Texas border that when I got my driver’s license and a car, things really changed! I remember one Friday evening hanging out with my best friend and being bored to death that we just started driving north on Interstate 35.
Eight hours later we were in Oklahoma City. It was 22°F and 5AM when we arrived and checked into a motel. Later, at 12 noon, (the motel’s check-out time) we were back on the road headed home. We didn’t do a single thing while there, but the experience for me to just see what was beyond the state line was enough!
From that point on, the concept of exploring “what’s around the bend” so to speak has always been a major draw for me. Now of course, with an evolved mind and with a larger scope of the world, I’ve grown from that crude starting point of inspiration. But that’s material for some other time.
What other interests and passions do you have?
Besides the obvious ones of travel and writing, I have a pretty wide range of stuff I like to do. One of my biggest things is paying close attention to college football. I just love the sport and really go into a funk when the season is over. Whew…thank goodness it has started again!!
Another huge passion, obviously stemming from my childhood days in Texas, is fishing! Though I don’t do it often, I get a major high just from hanging out in areas where fish is being caught. Can anyone say “Mexico”? Wink! Wink!
What has travel taught you?
Travel has taught me the great lesson that I need to eat less and watch my diet back home so that I can GORGE MORE during my next trip!! Hey, don’t laugh – there is some personal truth to that!
Seriously though, I really think travel is THE best “informal” education one can receive. It’s taught me the invaluable lessons of patience, humility and sensitivity towards others. It has also instructed me that there is so much more to the mere “exploration” of a “new”, physical place and that the true riches come from the intimacy of another culture’s ideas, wants, needs and daily lifestyle.
For me, “seeing” a new place has taken on a whole different meaning from those early road trips! See, haven’t I grown since those early days?
Mark Mendiola Guerra is a third-generation Texan living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade now. He holds a Liberal Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has used it quite efficiently over the years to build an impressive path of job-hopping, as he puts it. His past jobs have called on him to do a multitude of things from real estate, social work, construction, to acting and writing, most recently. Feeling most connected with his writing, he wishes to blend that with another passion: Mexico!
Mark has traveled to over 20 states throughout Mexico and loves the culture, people and history so much that he recently created his own site, Mexico Unmasked, to share, exchange, and engage others in a positive dialogue about the country. You can also find him tweeting away as planetnomad.
Check out other guest posts and interviews as well.
From humble beginnings to travel entrepreneur – Andy Hayes
Traveling Young and Free – Andy Hayes
Travel with your five sense – Keith Jenkins
Sharing your travel experiences – Melvin Boecher
Travel, technology, and social media – Anil Polat