How Being Cheated Out of my Money in Mexico Changed My Love Life
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
It was May of 2016 when I left my son at home with my mom and took a 4-day solo trip to Cancun. I’d never been and really didn’t know what to expect as a woman traveling there alone, but I took the chance anyway. I booked a cheap flight, found a small Airbnb rental about 15 minutes outside of the hotel zone, and did all of my research to learn my way around using the public buses. I wasn’t 100% confident about the conversion rate or how much I'd be spending once my US dollars were converted, but I knew I'd be getting the most bang out of my buck if I used pesos. In an attempt to not be so "touristy," I did just that.
Following a group day tour that I took on Day Two, I decided to take the bus to the beach to relax over some food and a couple of drinks. I handed the driver a number of pesos that was clearly more than the bus fare, and as I stood there waiting for my change, he instead handed me a paper receipt. I thought to myself, “Oh, okay...this must be a bus transfer to use in place of the change that he owes me.” Although I didn’t feel quite comfortable with not getting my change back, instead of arguing with someone who may or may not have spoken the same language, I didn't question it and just took my seat.
A few hours (and drinks) later, I was ready to head back to my room. As I boarded the bus, I politely pulled out the paper receipt from the prior bus ride and handed it to another driver, expecting him to take it and move on to the next person boarding the bus. Instead he looked at the receipt, then looked back at me and said with an accent, “Oh no, you have to pay with cash only...” I immediately thought back to the prior driver who had clearly cheated me out of my money and felt my blood starting to boil, but instead just laughed it off, shook my head, and handed over some pesos.
At the same moment, I noticed the driver’s cell phone with a picture of an attractive female model as the cover. Clearly feeling the effects of the liquid courage from earlier, I smiled and asked him if that was his girlfriend. While part of me was just making conversation, another small part of me also wanted to know his status...was he single or taken? I’m not quite sure why I cared, since I only had about 15 minutes before I’d get off the bus and never see him again. He laughed and replied, “I wish...” Over the bus speakers played one of my favorite songs, so I complimented him on his music choice and asked him to turn it up for me. He did so without hesitation.
Found the love of your life and planning to spend the rest of your lives together? Keep your special vacation focused on each other (and not what you left behind at home) with this essential honeymoon packing list.
As I took my seat I noticed him glance at me through the rearview mirror. I smiled, thinking to myself that there was *something* about him. Literally seconds later, the bus stalled and the music that was playing cut off. He attempted to shift the gears and restart the engine, but to no avail. Eventually the bus slowed to a complete stop. After a few moments of unsuccessful attempts to get the bus back going, frustrated passengers began to ask for their money back and get off of the bus. I joked with him and said, “Seriously? Your bus broke, so now I have to leave and pay for another one?” He told me “Well, you can stay...” Eager to get to know him more, I did just that.
He asked my name, and I told him “Kimberly”. He then smiled and showed me his arm, which coincidentally also had the name “Kimberly” tattooed across it. I laughed and jokingly said that we must be meant to be. I then asked why he had the name Kimberly tattooed on his arm. He explained that it was his daughter’s name, as well as his favorite name for a girl. After making a phone call to someone to get help with the the bus, he asked if I’d be free later for him to take me out to dinner if he couldn’t get things running again. I agreed, and we exchanged contact information. His name was Tito. Well, unfortunately Tito ended up working later that night, so dinner didn’t happen. However, as I was wrapping up a night of partying in the hotel zone, he texted me from one of the major bus line ups in the hotel zone and offered to take me back to my Airbnb. I thought that he had just meant me taking his bus among the rest of the passengers, but nope...after all of the passengers had disembarked, he turned the interior bus lights off and went completely off route to personally deliver me to the front of my Airbnb. Wow, talk about personal service!
The next evening was my last evening in Cancun, and we were finally able to meet for dinner. It felt a little strange in the beginning, going on a “date” with a bus driver that I had randomly met just the day before. However, it turned out to be a lovely dinner, where we both had an opportunity to practice each other’s language while getting to know each other. After dinner, he took me to a quiet beach that I hadn’t yet been to, and we sat under the moonlight and talked for who knows how long about each of our lives and our kids. We ended the night walking through the main party strip in the hotel zone, dancing, and just having a good time. As the hours passed by, I knew I should be getting some rest in preparation for my early flight, but I was enjoying myself entirely too much. Needless to say, leaving Cancun was incredibly hard the next day. We agreed to stay in touch, and he and I communicated every day after I left. After begging my mother to keep my son again, I was back on a plane just six weeks later to see him over for the July 4th weekend. Although extremely short (and not so cheap this time around), the trip was worth every single minute and penny as we quickly came to realize that the two of us definitely had something special going. That following November, I went back for a third time, but this time with my 3 year old son for a full week. It was the first time I have ever had my son around another man for an extended period of time, and it was as if they had already known each other. Tito treated my son just like his own, and took care of everything for us as long as he was around. I’d never felt so happy in my life. Although we kept in touch during 2017, we didn’t see each other at all. He eventually moved from Cancun back to his hometown of Acapulco, and even though we didn't speak nearly as often, he still made it a point to stay in touch and check in every now and then and let me know that he was still thinking about me and missed me. I ensured him of the same.
Fast forward to January 2018: After informing him of my plans to travel to Puebla, Mexico to scout out the town of Cholula as a potential place for my son and I to move in July, he took a five hour bus ride from Acapulco to meet me in Mexico City for a night, then took a two hour bus ride with me to Cholula the next day to spend the next two nights. The moment I saw him through the crowd in the airport, my heart was full. Over the course of the trip, it was as if we were never separated in the first place.
So as I prepare to embark on the journey to move to Mexico in the summer of 2018, he and I continue to stay in contact and are already making plans to spend most of our time together once I arrive. In addition to the excitement and thoughts of being reunited with him once again, I’m also thankful that I will have him there to be a familiar face, as well as to help me with the language barriers and with getting around. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for us (or if there even is a future), but the one thing I do know is that whatever it holds, I’m completely open to it.
Update: Unfortunately, the love story between Tito and I did not have a happy ending. After making the decision to move to Puerto Vallarta together in June 2018, he abruptly left just one week later (while I was away from our Airbnb) without much of an explanation other than "I'm so sorry, but I have to go."
After angrily telling him to never speak to me again, he contacted me six weeks later to apologize and to thank me for everything. I ignored his message. Just three months later on October 31, 2018, I received a message from a mutual friend that Tito had been brutally shot and murdered in his hometown of Acapulco. He was just days away from his 40th birthday.
Stay connected! Follow the Travel Unapologetically Facebook Page for blog updates, travel news, and to interact with other unapologetic travelers!