Tijuana, Tacos, and Medical Tourism: Part One

Tijuana is a funny place. I’m sure you’ve heard of it – and I’m sure some of the things you’ve heard are less-than-savory. But after having just spent the past 3 days there, I only have one word to say about it: Go.

I guess truthfully, I have a lot more than one word to say about it. I could talk about its delicious food and the gastronomic revolution they’re currently experiencing. I could talk about the friendly people and how much I enjoyed practicing my Spanish with them. I could even tell you that it’s where the Caesar salad was invented – which is totally true, and yes, the original is worth trying. But let’s start from the beginning.

Devon at Caesar's
At Caesar’s on Av. Revolucion in downtown Tijuana

A couple of months ago, Spencer went to the dentist and got some news: his last wisdom tooth needed to come out sooner rather than later, and he had some cavities that needed to be filled as well. And with how impacted his wisdom tooth looked on the x-ray, this was all going to come out to be a significant chunk of change – especially since we don’t currently carry dental insurance. While doing some initial price shopping for the least inexpensive way to get all of this done, it occurred to me: why not just go to Mexico?

I’d heard of medical tourism before, but being young and currently in good health has never put me in a situation where it was a viable alternative. The more I researched it, the more attached to the idea I got. Not only would we end up paying half to a quarter of the price we’d pay in the US, we’d get to see another country while we were doing it. It seemed like a win-win to me. The only thing holding Spencer and I back was safety and quality of the work, which I’m sure is the main concern of anyone reading this post who thinks we’re crazy right now πŸ™‚

I’m lucky to currently work for a school district that has a high percentage of both Mexican students and employees, so I asked around to see if anyone had done dental work in Mexico before. Turns out, a ton of people had – and every single one recommended it. Everyone praised the high quality of the dentists and many even said it was better than the work they’d had done in America. I was sold.

So Spencer and I crunched the numbers, and even with paying for travel and lodging, going to Mexico was the less expensive option. We settled on Tijuana due to its proximity to the California border, and decided to drive down that way we had more flexibility with how long we wanted to stay. We planned the trip for our spring break that way we could take our time with a relaxing and slow road trip before Spencer had his procedure.

I’m of two minds about planning a trip. Sometimes I like to plan out every little detail and set up everything in advance, and sometimes I like to shoot from the hip. This one was definitely more of the latter. We made an appointment for the Monday of spring break, but other than that we didn’t set anything in stone. We decided to start driving south Friday afternoon after work with a plan to stop wherever seemed interesting along the way.

Since we’re currently living in Santa Cruz, we decided to take the 1, a beautiful route that hugs the California coast. While we get to experience a lot of the Pacific right here in SC, this was definitely a different vantage point – some of these mountains and cliffs go right up against the water, and the curvy highway is cut right into them. And I only had to grab the car’s safety handle a few times πŸ˜‰

Pacific Coast Highway
The beautiful Pacific Coast Highway

We drove past a variety of cute small towns sprinkled within Big Sur, but ended up making it all the way to SLO/Pismo beach that first night. I’m typically more of a budget traveler, but we decided to treat ourselves a little bit on this leg of the trip since Spencer would soon presumably be out of commission to enjoy the rest of it. We ended up finding a good deal through Hotel Tonight (feel free to use my affiliate code “dbreithart” if you’d like to get $25 off). One piece of advice I do have with this website is to always take whatever deal it gives you and contact the hotel directly – sometimes they are willing to match or even beat the price offered by third party companies. But regardless, this is my favorite way to find a hotel room for more impromptu trips – the hotel would rather that room get filled at a lower price than not get booked at all.

We had a relaxing morning spent eating breakfast on our balcony, exploring the tide pools and hunting for sea glass at the beach, and enjoying the heated outdoor pool and hot tub. We were sad to only have a little time here, and definitely want to return to this area on a future weekend trip.

But Southern California beckoned. I had been seeing pictures for weeks of beautiful fields of flowers, and knew there was no way I was driving towards Mexico without taking that detour.

A field of California poppies
Poppies as far as the eye can see

Holy hell, you guys. Just the drive into this area was beautiful. California as a whole has been experiencing a lot of rain this season and it has definitely paid off.

Spencer reclining on a hillside of poppies
What a pretty boy

The fields themselves were astounding. None of these flower pictures have been edited or filtered in any way. And despite complaints I’d heard online of people trampling the poppies, everyone we saw was very respectful and careful. And as much as everyone likes to deride getting a photo for the ‘gram, it was honestly a cool shared experience. All of these humans coming together to converge at one point. Despite modern technology, there’s something very pure and primal about that for me.

I’d had a birthday trip planned for LA last year, which we ended up having to cancel due to traveling to Canada for my grandmother’s death. So we decided to recreate some of those plans on this visit. While we’d originally planned to stay in a walkable neighborhood and rent an Airbnb, this time I wanted to do a more…traditional LA experience just to see if we’d like it. So we booked another nice hotel – this time in West Hollywood. We also made a reservation for a nice omakase place.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay, but we agreed that if we came back to LA it’s not how we would do it again. LA is a huge city and if you can’t find something you like there you’re probably not looking hard enough – but I can understand why someone might think they wouldn’t like it. People definitely spend too much time in their cars and there is a lot more vanity afoot than other cities – I’m usually a wet hair queen, but even I felt compelled to do something with it instead of looking like I just stepped out of the shower. Regardless, I was happy to have the experience and I think it’s good to sometimes take trips that are different than how you would normally enjoy a place.

After eating brunch, we did a quick drive of Hollywood Boulevard and then headed to our final destination: Tijuana. I’m so excited to tell you more, but since this post is already pretty long I’m going to split it into two parts here. Check the blog tomorrow to hear the conclusion!

Chips, salsas, and other accoutrements
Salsa and more tasty food awaits
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