Dealing With Travel Setbacks: Faceplanting & Montezuma’s Revenge in Mexico City

Visiting Mexico City for the first time was a dream come true. What happened in Mexico City… was not. To put it mildly.

I’ve traveled near and far and surely gotten colds or allergy attacks. Or tripped in the street or something. All par for the course.

But as I laid in bed the last full day of my 4-day trip, I couldn’t help but think… this isn’t how I thought it would be.

Even still, it’s been one of my favorite destinations so far.

travel setbacks

Got banged up Mexico City, dang

Also, falling in front of hundreds of people really sucks.

And, he’s down

I got to Mexico City on a Thursday night. And the next day, less than 24 hours later, found myself face down in the middle of La Rambla (one of the main thoroughfares) in Zona Rosa, bleeding from several areas.

It’s not a great story. I ran into one of those little concrete traffic dividers – one second I was up and walking around and the next, on the ground.

Right away, I felt dozens of hands all over me, and me – stupid American with all the fear mongering about Mexico in my head – the only thing I could think was, “Great, now I’m getting pickpocketed. There goes my wallet and phone.”

Then I realized several people helped me up. My glasses flew into the street and blood ran into my left eye. Alone in another country, I noticed my hand was really really scraped and both my knees were bloody and soaking through my pants, which were ruined from falling. Damn.

a table with food and drinks

Treating yourself to delicious, opulent meals helps a LOT

A few people helped me to a convenience store where I grabbed bandages and disinfectant. Then went into a restaurant and washed myself up.

The next day, most of my body was in throbbing pain. I took a few Aleve and set out despite it. My left knee freaking hurt and I had a big bandage wrapped around my right hand, but dammit, I was determined to see Mexico City.

A few wanderings

I went to the big city park, Chapultepec, and the modern art museum, where I got to see Frida Kahlo paintings, and works from many other Mexican artists.

a painting of two women in dresses

Love this painting – The Two Fridas

And went to Mercado Sonora, one of the biggest witch markets in the world.

a group of objects on a table

Mercado Sonora was endlessly fascinating and shocking

And I even made it to the Historic Center of old Mexico City.

a flag on a pole with a building in the background

There was a concert in the gigantic old square the night I visited

Oh, and I had amazing Mexican food for pretty much every meal. I love Mexican food, and enjoyed the authentic recipes with variations I’d never seen in the US.

Everything was so fresh and delicious. I wanted a good time as long as I could get around reasonably easily. Ubers all over the city were $6 at most. And I even made it to a few bars in Zona Rosa.

But then another thing to deal with

So yeah, falling sucked. But I pushed through it.

But then, on top of that, I got the worst case of upset stomach I’d ever had in my life. I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say, I didn’t want to venture outside for fear I’d not be around a bathroom.

I’d heard of this: Montezuma’s Revenge. A bug that affects travelers, especially to Mexico. Despite drinking bottled water and avoiding raw produce and street food, I somehow picked it up.

Between that and my entire body screaming with every step, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to a pharmacy. I saw one on the map only 2 blocks away, and made it to get medicine. Then ran back immediately to patch myself up. I had sweats and chills, my bloody hand needed new bandages every few hours, and on top of that, could barely hold down water.

So I spent my last day in bed, immobile except to walk to the bathroom and back to bed.

Dealing with travel setbacks

Of course, if it had been easier to walk, I would’ve gone to a pharmacy sooner. And if I hadn’t gotten a stomach bug, I would’ve ambled my way through Mexico City anyway.

But both of these at once? I was down for the count in a new city. At some point, I accepted I’d just have to give it a Round Two in the future.

I didn’t get to Frida Kahlo’s cobalt blue house, the ancient Aztec pyramids, and many other cool places around the city. I couldn’t everything in 4 days anyway, so went into it knowing I’d have to hit the highlights.

a sunset over a city

I’m coming back for you, MEX

However. Everyone I met was so completely kind. When I couldn’t speak specifically about what I needed, people came to translate so I could get medicine. Several people helped me up off that street. A few sat with me while I washed up and when one guy asked how I felt, I just laughed sheepishly and said, “I need a beer.”

He said there was a chill bar around the corner and we grabbed a drink together. Then he made sure I got in my Uber.

It would’ve been easy to give up and cut the trip short. But I stayed and made the most of it. I even thought about extending the trip until I felt better, but wanted to get back and patch myself up.

What I did see fully convinced me to visit Mexico City again. I already can’t wait to go back and explore. What an amazing, amazing place.

Bottom line

To be sure, any type of travel setback sucks: delays, missed connections, hotel issues, and all the rest. I’ve dealt with my share of that. This trip was the most difficult I’ve ever had.

Falling and getting sick would be a downer during any trip, but felt particularly demoralizing because I’d looked forward to visiting Mexico City for so long.

It’s all in your attitude. I got dangerously close to saying “Eff this” many times. Especially in the sweatiest, grossest moments.

I made the most of it, got out and about as much as I could, and somewhere along the way, accepted it for what it was. It put me in the moment in a big way. And for all the setbacks, became one of my favorite trips so far.

Me and you Mexico City: rematch in the near future. So yeah, that was my Mexico City trip.

Have you had major setbacks during a trip? What did you do to deal? 

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. I’m glad you are fine and also that you wrote how kind locals were. Those not traveling do think something else.

    • I hate the media coverage of Mexico going on in the States. What I found couldn’t be further from the fear mongering and warnings. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. I got a case of food poisoning in Puerto Escondido in February (my fault: don’t ever take Lonely Planet’s recommendations), but 24 hours later without any food and only clear water I was right as rain. I agree, your attitude really does help or hurt in situations like these.

    • 100%. In a way, I’m glad it happened because I’ll know what to do if it ever happens again. For all my traveling, it was bound to happen sooner or later – and might happen again the more I keep exploring new parts of the world.

      Glad you are OK and pushed through the food poisoning. It sucks to lose a day of vacation, especially on a short trip. But it makes you appreciate the rest of the time you have!

  3. I am in Mexico city too. Enjoying good food. Today was presidential Inaguration day, so all museums closed.
    Agree with good kind people.

    Here for couple more days

  4. I’m glad you made it through! I got the flu in Maui, and it hit me hard. I happened to be staying in the best room I’ve ever stayed in. Fairmont free night, amazing suite upgrade, wrap around lanai, bathroom Bigger than my apartment. I actually got to enjoy the hotel room. Normally I’m out running around all day. I did cut the trip early when I was going to start paying for my stay. I was sick as a dog but really appreciated the amazing room. Fairmont, I’ll be back back some day to do Maui justice!!

    • Yes, you must return! Get back there and do it up properly in Maui! I love Hawaii, so any reason is enough for me to make the trip out there.

      And that Fairmont sounds incredible! At least you got to stay cooped up in a gorgeous room while you recovered. Thank you for sharing your story!

  5. Sorry you had to deal with all that, I feel your pain. I’ve never thought of myself as being clumsy, but your article made me realize that within the last year I’ve fallen on my face twice. Once in Times Square and once walking down the street in Salzburg, Austria. I also had to see a doctor in Costa Rica because of an infection on my leg. When you travel a lot, these things are bound to happen. Also, agree wholeheartedly about Mexico City. An amazing city, and wonderful people!

    • Those old streets got me! Lol.

      And wow, that’s a big variance of places – how cool you got to see them!

      Be careful out there and keep traveling despite a couple of missteps. Glad you got help and stuck it out. Thank you for sharing!

  6. I just got robbed in Zona Rosa.. I believe that’s the night life district? They got my phone and my wallet !!! And ripped off the back pocket of my brand new All Saints jeans .. which were expensive ! Ughhh!!!

    • Just got robbed, as in within the last 24 hours? What happened – was it late, were there multiple people, were you alone? Sorry that happened to you and glad you’re OK!

  7. Many years ago I went to Costa Rica for a two-month trip – a huge deal for me as I quit my job to do it. I had to save up not only for the trip but to pay my mortgage for two months, etc.

    The night I arrived I missed a step going up to my hotel room and heard a crack in my ankle. I hopped back down the stairs and went to a hospital. My ankle wasn’t broken but so severely sprained that the doctor recommended surgery to repair the torn ligament.

    I was very tempted to just go home. Even getting ice was crazy difficult. My sister (a doctor) was advising me – via phone – that I’d permanently mess up my ankle.

    But I thought “I came here to deal with whatever came my way” and I stayed. My plans completely changed of course, but my ankle did eventually heal, though very slowly.

    That was in 1997. My partner now (and father of my two children) was the receptionist at the hotel who helped me when I hopped downstairs the next morning. (Not why I stayed, btw. That came later.)

    So, you never know! It’s definitely disconcerting to be off your game when away from home (sometimes very far off). But maybe that’s why being able to work through it can be especially rewarding – even without meeting your eventual life partner.

    • That’s an amazing story. Goes to show that sometimes even setbacks are actually a huge step forward when you add a little patience.

      Thank you so much for sharing that, I loved hearing (well, reading) it.

  8. Glad you got through this. You’re right about Mexico City. I have always found the people to be polite and kind. I know it’s a big city and you have to follow big city rules (people do get robbed), but your experience is the more common one. I’ve been there more times than I can count for business and continue to go for long weekends. I love the place.

    This advice is too late for you to follow but maybe some of the other readers will benefit. There are clinics all through Mexico City that make house calls to hotels. The reception desk or concierge can set you up. I had a work colleague get the bug and an hour later a doctor came, gave him the right medicine, then set him up at his clinic near the Reforma for intravenous hydration. The total cost was less than $100 and it saved the trip.

    I had a bad allergy attack in Bogota and similarly the hotel sent me to a recommended clinic where they gave me a steroid shot to counteract (long story but I discovered that I have developed some serious food allergies without noticing, until I noticed.) It was $50 and got me back in action by the afternoon.

    You need to go back again to Mexico City. It’s too wonderful to not see when you’re feeling right.

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