Tormenting myself in Mexico City

 Someone I saw looking awesome on the Day of the Dead in Mexico City

Back in the 1960s, when “nice girls” from her Catholic background in Detroit weren’t pursuing careers, much less travelling on their own, my mother worked as a reporter at the Detroit News  and spent her vacations seeing the world. By her late 20s she claimed to be the only person in her high school class who wasn't married – except for the sizeable handful who’d become nuns. She was, as her relatives would say with rueful shakes of the head, “a career woman.” 

And she was a traveller, spending weeks in far-flung places including Egypt, Cambodia and Hong Kong. Despite her love of bargains and her guilt about spending on herself, she always stayed in top hotels — a necessary safety precaution for a solo female traveler and a way of putting her own mother’s mind at ease as she enjoyed her exotic adventures. Decades later, when my mom talked about her trips, I never heard her say “Gee, I wish I’d stayed at a cheaper hotel."


I thought of my mother’s passion for travel – and her hotel policy – during my recent trip to Mexico City.

This isn’t a travel blog, so I’ll skip over the trip (except to say I had a fantastic time and EVERYONE SHOULD VISIT MEXICO CITY). However, my trip did bring up some thoughts that seem really relevant to my topics here at Shopping for Happiness.

  1. Travel is probably the very best thing to spend money on, and I’m going to have to dedicate at least one month’s budget to a fantastic trip. 
  2.  My two months of buying new clothes really made a difference when it was time to pack for a trip. Normally I would have been self-conscious about my out-of-date wardrobe and worried that my lack of style would reflect poorly on my company. This time, I felt confident in everything I wore. What a wonderful change!
  3. I tormented myself for days over a $40 hotel room upgrade. 

With so much positive stuff going on during this trip, what was up with No. 3? That's what I hope to figure out here. 

I had added an extra day to my Mexico City adventure to do some sightseeing, so I was paying for my own hotel and expenses until the business trip kicked in. Following my mom’s example, I opted for security over savings. Three people I knew were also going early and had booked into a hotel in Mexico City's tourist district, so it seemed safest to book there too, especially as we'd all be going out at night together. The room was expensive – possibly more than I’ve ever paid for a hotel – but to be honest, the basic cost didn’t bother me as I didn't feel I had much choice. The problem arose at the moment of booking, when I was given the choice between a room for one (which sounded tiny) or a $40 upgrade to a junior suite. In an impulsive move, I opted for the upgrade. It seemed like a small sum compared to the overall price, and I did it with my Shopping for Happiness project in mind. I had at least $40 left over from my October spending allowance, and wasn’t I exploring a new philosophy of treating myself to nice things? 

Well, philosophy or not,  I tortured myself about that $40 – before the trip, on the flight over and even during my stay. Intellectually, I knew that $40 wasn’t a sum of money worth feeling unhappy about ever, much less on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I knew I wouldn’t be berating myself if I’d spent $40 on baggage fees, or even if I’d dropped $40 outside the airport and watched it blow away.  The problem, of course, was psychological, not financial: I’d chosen to spend more than required, just for an upgrade – and just for me.

Who did I think I was? 

Years from now, when I think back on my trip to Mexico City, I’m sure I’ll be savouring my memories of the Aztec artifacts, the Day of the Dead iconography and the Sonora market, not thinking “Gee, I wish I hadn't spent $40 on that hotel upgrade.”

Still, thank goodness I'm only two months into this year-long project, because I obviously have a lot of work to do before I can l silence the voice in my head that insists on telling me, “you’re not worth it.”