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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Rangel

Journal Entry #6: Finding Shelter

Updated: Jun 29, 2021



YEAR 2013, DAY 1

A few missed buses and several wrong directions, and I am in La Condesa. It’s an enchanting neighborhood, decorated with tree-lined streets, beautiful novela-type girls, hip coffee shops, and trendy restaurants. It’s boujee and it’s not. If architecture was all I could see, I could have easily confused this neighborhood for an old European city, or with its dashes of Art Deco, an aristocratic, roaring ’20s neighborhood somewhere in East Coast America. It’s a Mexico that held no place in my American-bred stereotypes. This place makes me want to be a full-blown Mexican, who isn’t broke and directionless, who can actually afford to marry one of these beautiful and highly fashionable Latinas and settle down with her, here in La Condesa, and take our Shih Tzu for long morning walks in the park as we sip on the coffee from the quirky bakery shop next door.

I came here because according to the internet, this is where most hostels are located. And I know from past travel experience, that bunking it in a hostel is an inexpensive way to travel, a fraction of what a hotel would cost. So this is me trying to keep my costs down. But before I dropped any money, I wanted to see If I could get work at a hostel. I had seen in my other travels how backpackers were able to exchange work for a free or discounted stay. I figured I’d give this a shot. It seemed like an excellent idea. I almost started patting myself on the back, thinking I was brilliant for coming up with this.

With a list of hostels in hand, I enthusiastically went to knock on doors, thinking that this whole Mexico thing was going to be a lot easier than I expected. My first day and I was already coming up with these awesome ideas. And just as I was bathing in a moment of high self-esteem, reality came walking in, hand in the air, and like the true pimp that she is, slapped me across the face.

I found myself constantly getting lost, trying to find addresses that seem to not exist. Then, when I did find them, an uncanny number of hostels were out of business. And the ones I did find open—they were not looking for help. It turns out every cheap backpacker in the world had already come up with this brilliant idea. With the hours of the day my initial enthusiasm faded. But the cherry on top came from an old lady whom I decided is named aunt Gloria. From her balcony, in a flowery nightgown, she let me have it, “For the millionth time, this is not a hostel! A chingar a su madre,” she yelled at me and slammed the door. And that’s the moment I said, fuck this plan.

By 5 pm, tired of walking and sleep-deprived, I dragged myself to the hostel I am in now, and without even bothering to ask for work or the price, I booked a night here. I ended up paying $20, a sum that would not have been acceptable to my budget had I not been so exhausted and emotionally beat by aunt Gloria. It’s a nice hostel, though. The bunk bed I am in right now has a curtain for privacy and a reading light inside. But I can’t afford these luxuries!

Tomorrow I plan to move to a hostel that’s $10 a night. I currently have about $270 left, after today’s expenses. I figure about $70 can go for shelter, leaving with me about $200 for food and startup capital, which I need to jump on. Tomorrow I need to figure out how I am going to make money.

And by the way, for the record, I am using US dollars in my writing of this journal, translating it from Mexican pesos.

So, how do I feel about my first day? It was a rollercoaster, scary and exciting at the same time. Weirdly, at this moment, I look forward to tomorrow with confidence, and this kinda' concerns me. Was my roommate right? Am I a delusional optimist? Do I have a magical way of distorting reality? Do things play out so well in my head that I confuse them for inevitable truths?


ABOUT: This is a memoir, structured as a journal, meant to read like a novel. It’s a free book with new entries published regularly. It’s is the story of how I traveled the American continent, from Mexico to Argentina, starting with two-dollars and a string and a button. Subscribe to be notified of new entries.

This free publication is a small token of my appreciation to the thousands of people I met in the streets who made my journey possible. I might not be the best person to write this story, but here it is. It’s yours. Thank you. From the USA to Argentina, Thank you!


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