I have been selling Mexican Insurance online since 2003, for 14 years! In those years I’ve met some amazing people while doing business in Mexico. One such person is Mike Nelson, who goes by “Mexico Mike” on the internet. He and I share life philosophy so we clicked almost immediately. As the years have passed I’ve known the man to be selfless, and absolutely enamorado (in love) with Mexico.
He’s an artist (photography), and author, and fortunately for all of us he has shared his knowledge and experience on his website: Mexico Mike. I’ve asked him to write a biography so that I can share him with all of you. Here is everything to know about this Great Gringo, in his own words.
Who Is “Mexico” Mike – And Why Should You Take Him On Your Next Trip to Mexico?
“Mexico” Mike has been an evangelist for discovering Mexico by driving since 1984. His 100+ page website, www.mexicomike.com has been recognized as an authority on expat living, driving and adventure tour ism to Mexico since 1986.
He’s been recognized for his expertise by The Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Contenido (Mexican news
magazine), Texas Monthly, American Way Magazine, The Guardian (UK), Irish Times, The News (Mexico
City), Atención (San Miguel de Allende) and wrote an internationally syndicated newspaper column. He’s
published 15 books, mostly about Mexico travel, culture and expat living in Mexico.
Mike was the media spokesperson for Mexico’s Tourism Department, promoting driving tourism to
audiences in the USA, Canada and Mexico. He’s written for several major guidebooks and wrote the
Sanborn’s Travelogs for more than a decade before they stopped printing them. He lived in Mexico in
the 1980’s and has driven nearly a million miles across the country. He drives about 5,000 miles a year
updating his own guidebooks.
Today he offers a consultation service to help people plan personalized driving trips to Mexico. Whether
they just want the safest route to a winter home or would like to explore the country, Mike tailors his
advice for them.
Through phone calls and emails, he helps first-time drivers overcome the fears and misinformation they
have gotten about driving Mexico. He feels that this service of one-on- one conversations encourages those who had reservations about driving to Mexico. By talking to someone who drives Mexico regularly and has for 40 years, people get the truth, not the rumors. It’s better to get your information from the horse’s mouth than the other end.
His roadlogs are mile-by- mile travel guides for solo travelers. He photographs and writes about thermal
springs and waterfalls whenever he can, in addition to more accessible tourist and expat destinations.
He fell in love with the country in 1957. His father thought he wanted to be an expatriate, so he drove
the family from McAllen, TX to Cd. Valles, San Luis Potosí to look at farmland.
Mike’s dad was unfortunately an Ugly American. The Mexican people were still polite to him and were
absolutely charming to the seven year-old boy. Heaven on earth is being a kid in Mexico. The Nelsons
stayed at a hacienda-type hotel, the Hotel Valles. It, like Mike, was born in 1950 and, unlike Mike, is still
in magnificent shape. Mike’s roadlogs will teach you from experience how not to be an Ugly American or
Dr. Pepper (the soft drink) started Mike’s love affair with Mexico. At the hotel’s posh dining room, the
little boy expressed a desire (judging from his adult behavior, he probably threw a temper tantrum) for a
drink only sold in Texas, Oklahoma and NW Louisiana at the time.
The next time the family went to the dining room, a dignified white-coated, black-slack- suited waiter
marched towards the little boy. On his upraised right palm, balanced a shining silver serving tray. With a
grave flourish, as if presenting a vintage champagne, he lowered the tray to the table. On it was an
ornate silver ice bucket with an solitary bottle of Dr. Pepper standing like a monument atop a sweating
bed of ice. “Your Dr. Pepper, caballero,” the waiter said. The boy was thrilled. He didn’t quite
understand the difficulties the waiter went to, but he knew that this was something special. Without understanding trading partners and international trade, he sensed that the waiter had gone to
extraordinary lengths for him. It was the sense of friendship or Amistad that the boy intuitively
understood. Fortunately the father left a decent tip. BTW, calling someone caballero (gentleman in the
old-fashioned sense) is high tribute for an adult and beyond polite for a kid. It’s stuff like that Mike
passes on in his roadlogs.
Mike and his first ex-wife were unemployed in Austin, TX in 1969. What better time to take a road trip to
Mexico? Ignorant of topes (speed bumps that can ruin a car’s undercarriage), driving rules and just
about anything, they drove off into the Mexican sunset in a powder blue Ford Mustang. They explored
all of colonial Mexico and some of the West.
In Zacatecas, he learned the importance of accents and pronunciation not from a language teacher but
from an old crone selling elotes on the street. Mike asked how to get to Juárez street. He pronounced it
the “Texas” way as WAR ez. The dignified old lady gently touched his arm, engaged his eyes and said,
“WAH rez.” The point of that is he learned that people will take the time to help you if you at least try to
speak the language or show an interest in their culture. And no matter how old a woman is, you call her
senorita, not señora if you’re unsure of her marital status.
It’s these little things, these insights into the culture of the Mexican people that Mike conveys in his
roadlogs. Modern Mexican roads are pretty well-marked and GPS systems can almost get you where you
want to go (though they sometimes will tell you to drive off a bridge, something Mike never does).
Mike’s custom-made maps and detailed roadlogs help you learn something of the country, not just get
from point A to point B.
Take “Mexico” Mike with you on your next trip to Mexico. Learn why it’s not just the destination that
counts, it’s the journey that makes it worth the trip.