Allow me to introduce you to…”Mexico Mike” Nelson

Mike Nelson at Chignahuapan i Puebla
Mike Nelson at Chignahuapan in Puebla

He’s an artist of photos, an author, and a guru of travel in Mexico.  Mike Nelson, “Mexico Mike” has been traveling Mexico for 40 years! 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, has been recognized as an authority on expat living, operating and adventure tourism to Mexico since 1986.

World Famous

Mike Nelson is 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 significant guidebooks and wrote the Sanborn’s Travelogs for more than a decade before they stopped printing them. He lived in Mexico in the 1980s and has driven nearly a million miles across the country. He drives about 5,000 miles a year updating his guidebooks.

Mike Nelson in Tabasco capturing the moment with his camera
Mike Nelson in Tabasco capturing the moment with his camera

Today he offers a consultation service to help people plan personalized driving trips to Mexico. Whether they want the safest route to a winter home or would like to explore the country, Mike tailors his advice for them.

Dedicated and Committed to Clients

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 conversation 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.

Zacatecas, Zacatecas.
Mexico Mike Nelson zip-lining in Zacatecas

His road logs 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 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 great shape. Mike’s road logs will teach you from experience how not to be an Ugly American or Canadian.

Dr. Pepper

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 vintage champagne, he lowered the plate to the table. On it was an ornate silver ice bucket with a single 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 a high tribute for an adult and beyond polite for a kid. It’s stuff like that Mike passes on in his road logs.

Mike and Love

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.

Mike Nelson on Baluarte Bridge - Sinaloa Durango
Mike Nelson on Baluarte Bridge – Sinaloa Durango

In Zacatecas, he learned the importance of accents and pronunciation not from a language teacher but 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 would take the time to help you if you at least try to speak the language or show any 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.

Conclusion on Mike Nelson

It’s these little things, these insights into the culture of the Mexican people that Mike conveys in his road logs. 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). Like’s custom-made maps and detailed road logs 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.

Tamasopo Waterfalls
Tamasopo Waterfalls in San Luis Potosi, by Mike Nelson

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