Mexico City is like New York but cool, maybe cooler.
Don’t believe it?
I didn’t believe it myself until I saw this incredible city with my own eyes.
“It’s a dangerous city!” many said.
Maybe they had watched Narcos Mexico on Netflix too many times.
Every city is dangerous.
In 2020 I read about a young lady who was shot to death in Madison Square Park, very close to my old New York City apartment, near the Flatiron district.
You can get a busted face in parts of Brooklyn if you look at someone the wrong way. Every time some hipster would come into the station with a bloody nose my NYFD friends would joke that Bushwick isn’t going down without a fight!
Danger lurks in all parts of the world. Do your homework, use sound judgment, and be respectful of the local population, it’s the best you can do.
Ok, back to your sponsored programming…
A Mexican Childhood
My love affair with Mexico didn’t happen overnight. It happened when I was just hitting puberty.
I’ve been coming to Mexico since I was a kid living on my parents’ 47-foot Canadian-built ketch. Yet, I had never been to the capital until recently.
(A ketch is a sailboat for you, landlubbers.)
Some of my fondest childhood memories are running around Mexico sunburned, skin salty, clad in flip flops and board shorts as an 11-year-old cruising kid.
I remember when Cabo San Lucas harbor was just a fuel pier and one long wooden dock where cruisers tied up their tenders to re-stock groceries and visit the small village. Where hotels now sit there used to be donkeys roaming. The only two bars in town were the Giggling Marlin and the Hagar/Van Halen bar (love those guys), Cabo Wabo.
I tried my first beer when I was 12. An older girl on spring break slipped me an ice-cold Pacifico with frost on the bottle. It felt great just holding that puppy in the hot Baja desert heat. I think the girl thought I was closer to 16.
Boy was I in heaven!
Sailing, snorkeling, running around town with pesos in my pocket, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with some of the older cruising kids. Yes, I was a D&D nerd, love that game — and it probably kept me out of juvenile hall when I was an older teen.
I still remember going to see Super Man 3 in an old Spanish colonial building, getting orange paint on my arms from the freshly painted seats, and afterwards grabbing Aguas Frescas with my beautiful toe-headed little sister and our fellow cruising kid friends.
If there was a paradise on earth in the late 80s, I was living in it.
Going My Own Way
Later, when I was 15, my family would end up taking the big trip to New Zealand. We sailed from Ventura, California down Baja, over to Mazatlan, all down the Mexican mainland to Acapulco, and then the South Pacific.
For those of you who’ve read, The Red Circle, you know how that story ends.
One of the stories I left on the cutting room floor of that book was how I lost my virginity in Acapulco. I’ll save that nugget for another campfire.
My dad and I had our big fight in Tahiti and I packed my bags. I was a stubborn coming-of-age young man that thought he knew it all… So I left home at 16 in Tahiti.
I found a boat sailing for Hawaii and was gone a few days later to tearful goodbyes from my family.
My family has its issues, like every family, but we truly loved each other and my dad knew it was time for me to stretch my wings and, like Stevie Nicks sang, “Go my own way.”
I love and respect him and my mom for having the guts to let me go before cell phones were a big deal and GPS existed.
Mexico City Beckoned to Me
Fast forward a few decades and Mexico still calls to my family and I.
My dad ended up building an amazing “off-the-grid” home (before it was cool) on the east cape of Baja and we’ve had many family gatherings over the years, including my 90 year-old grandparents from Toronto, Canada (rest in peace Gramps).
I’ve also had a few surf expeditions with my guy friend at his home. Including a great trip with Glen Doherty from Among Heroes.
Someday I’ll tell you the story of how Glen and my brain surgeon friend did spine surgery, Pacifico in hand, on our friend who chipped his backbone going over the falls on a wave and into the rocks.
Mexico is in my soul for good. It has really never left.
I went from a sailing kid to a young dive boat deckhand, to Navy SEAL, to author, entrepreneur, and creator. All the while living between New York and Puerto Rico.
The Pandemic Blues? Adversity Creates Opportunity
Then the pandemic hit us all in 2020. Nobody got out unscathed.
This caused me, all of us really, to pause and reflect on life. It was a real, “What the fuck am I going to do now?” moment.
But I learned in the Navy SEAL Teams that there’s always buried treasure in the mountain of adversity.
So… I packed up my New York apartment into storage, sold my house in Puerto Rico in early 2021, sold a business, and hit the road less traveled in the spring of 2021 as a true untethered nomad of the digital world.
(Note: our core business, SOFREP Media, has been a remote business since 2012. We were leveraging Zoom when most of you were still stuck in cramped offices wasting hours a day on your commute.)
I think that today, freedom is the new currency.
Last year was a pretty damn good year for me.
I placed my first WEBB & MANN novel, STEEL FEAR, with an amazing editor, Anne Speyer at Random House, for a record advance.
SOFREP Media sold our e-commerce business, the Crate Club, when our supply chain got ambushed by COVID and the business was in trouble.
I spent incredible time with my family and kids (got them all advanced SCUBA certified). I almost fell hard in love (I wrote about that love story here), and got to spend the majority of the year with my oldest son, Hunter, who became my roommate for his first semester as a psych major (and machine learning) at St. Andrews.
I’ll never forget my 2020.
But I had this little voice in my head calling me back to Mexico. Mexico City, the country’s capital, has been on my bucket list for a while. What I didn’t expect was what I’m about to tell you.
Some Unique Facts About Mexico City
At an altitude of over 7,000 feet, Mexico City, sitting amid the 13th-century Aztec temple, Templo Mayor, was love at first sight for me.
Like New York and Paris, Mexico City has long held its rightful place in history as a gathering place for rebels, misfits, artists, and creatives. Rivera, Frida, Mistico, Lozano, Paul Stanley, and the list goes on.
Due to its complex, colorful past, cultural wealth, and historical importance as the capital of the Aztec, Spanish and Mexican Empires, the city is full of incredible secrets and is packed with beauty both natural and man-made, providing visitors with thousands of attractions, its streets lined with vibrant culture, music, and delicious food. And if this wasn’t enough:
- The Chapultepec Forest is the largest city park in Latin America. It’s twice the size of Central Park in New York.
- Mexico City is the seventh-richest city in the world, after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, and London.
- The city has the largest number of museums in the Americas and the second-largest number in the world after London. It has 186 officially recognized museums (and over 200 that lack official recognition).
- It’s the most populated city in the Americas with over 20 million inhabitants. Bigger than NYC!
- Aztec temples and ruins lie below the city, which is also over a lake and slowly sinking each year by one cm.
- Mexico took its name from Mexico City.
- El ex Navy SEAL, Brandon Webb, autor y emprendedor digital se está mudando aquí.
Settling in Mexico City and Meeting Old Friends
I settled into my Airbnb in Polanco a week ago. However, I feel more connected to the bustling neighborhood of Roma Norte so will look for a place to long-term live here. The cafes and shops remind me of a more Bohemian New Yorkian West Village. The architecture and food of Polanco can’t be ignored either; both are amazing.
Arriving for the first time as a big foodie I tried to get into Pujol, a Mexican contemporary masterpiece of a restaurant where great design meets better food. Impossible! It had over a month’s long waitlist. BUT, Jose, my friend from business school who lives in the city, got us in the next day.
Pays to know people.
I talk about this constantly and this is another proof point. It pays to surround yourself with the best people you can possibly find and watch the magic happen.
Nine courses, three bottles of incredible Mexican red vino, dessert, and a mexcal, and I was, as we say in the Navy SEALs, “done training.” I hit the rack for the night and a throbbing hammer on the headache the next day! It was well worth it though.
As I was settling into my routine I ordered groceries off Uber Eats and planned to spend my afternoons hitting the museums. There are incredible local weekend markets in almost all the small neighborhoods. Plus the local architecture is fantastic, so it’s a great way to spend one’s time.
A Complex Beauty
There are very few signs of the terrible quake the city suffered in 2017. I began to realize that Mexico City is like meeting a beautiful, but complex, woman. The more you peel back the layers, the better she gets.
There are few places I’ve visited on the planet that embrace the soul as Mexico City did with me this spring. New York, London, Madrid, Barcelona… all great cities but there is something very special about Mexico City.
Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about this incredible city and my adventures.
I just bought a home in Miami and said yesterday to my mom, “To hell with it, I know I closed escrow in Miami but I think I’m moving to Mexico City.”
¿Ciudad de México? Sí, me encanta estar aquí.