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Alentejo: Portugal’s best-kept secret
A Wine Lover’s Guide to San Sebastián

Julie Meade

“I love the people in Mexico City: they are warm, frank, and often clever, with a rowdy sense of fun and a bawdy sense of humor. It’s surprising that a city so massive and unruly is simultaneously a very laid-back, warm, and welcoming place.”

Julie Meade is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a freelance writer based in Mexico. She has written about travel and culture for The Guardian, New York Magazine, and Roads & Kingdoms, and she is the author of travel guidebook Moon Mexico City, published by Avalon Travel, in Berkeley, California, as well as the guidebooks Moon San Miguel de Allende and Moon Living Abroad in Mexico. 

Essentialist: What sparked your interested in Mexico?

Julie Meade: I visited Mexico for the first time after graduating from college, and I was immediately and profoundly drawn to the country’s people and culture. Mexico is a fascinating, vibrant country with a central place in world history. I was surprised by how little I knew about it, despite having grown up right next door in California, and my appetite for Mexico was insatiable. I went back to Mexico the following year and decided to extend my trip indefinitely. I’ve been bouncing back-and-forth between the United States and Mexico ever since. Almost two decades later, it is the decision that has had the biggest impact on the course of my life and the person I’ve become.  


E: In your travels across Mexico, what is a region in the country that you could go back to a million times?

JM: The capital is a source of virtually endless surprises and delights, but I love southern Mexico in general—from the cities to the coasts to the mountains.


E: How did you get into writing, particularly travel writing?

JM: I have worked as a writer and editor for most of my adult life, but I didn’t set out to become a travel writer. I started writing professionally as a way to support myself while living in Mexico. Over the years, though, I accumulated a lot of knowledge—not only about the place I was living, but about Mexican holidays, customs, people, history, and culture. Travel writing was a way to share a lot of that intel, and to share a bit of my love for Mexico with other people. My first official travel assignment was a first-edition guidebook to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Querétaro for Moon Handbooks, in Berkeley, California, in 2010. Writing that book was a true labor of love, and kicked off my career as a travel writer. 


E: What is the first thing you like to do when you have landed in a foreign country or a new city?

JM: Walk around the oldest neighborhood in the city.


E: What are two essential items you carry with you on all trips? (besides your passport and wallet!)

JM: A camera and a pair of oversize sunglasses are musts. I always have my laptop, too, though I’d love to take a trip without it!


E: Any secrets for battling jetlag?

JM: I mostly travel between Mexico and the United States, so I rarely have to adjust the clock more than an hour or two. For long travel days, though, I’ve become diligent about packing a variety of tasty snacks from home. I really overdo it (I even pack real silverware) so I can treat myself to a full, proper meal on the plane, with dessert and all. For me, skipping airport food is a game changer—I feel so much better when I arrive.


E: What’s on your travel radar for 2019?

JM: In Mexico, I’m overdue for a trip to the city of Oaxaca, which has always been one of my favorite places. I’ve been daydreaming about the city’s balmy weather and unique old-time spots, like Tlayuderia Los Libres (an ultra-casual all-night tlayuda spot that’s perfect for a late dinner) – though I’m also excited check out some of the amazing new places that have opened in the past few years.

Outside Mexico, my sister recently moved to Lima, Peru, and I went down to help her set up house last summer. I got a chance to see some of the city on that trip, but I hope to go back later this year to visit the Sacred Valley, the Andes, and Paracas. If 2019 is good to me, I’ll also have a chance to visit family in Valencia, Spain, and Gent, Belgium. Could I also squeeze in a summer trip to New York City and a weekend in Palm Springs?


E: Backpack or roller suitcase?

JM: Roller suitcase—or roomy weekender bag for short trips.


E: In your bag: Books or kindle?

JM: Both.

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