When Being Careful Isn't Enough: Food Poisoning in Mexico


North America

It was the kind of weekend where you find yourself constantly wondering, “How the hell did I get here??”

My boyfriend Matt and I were spending the weekend at a luxurious resort in Cancún as part of a corporate retreat for his job. (He works as a management consultant, and if we’re being honest, I’m still trying to figure out what that might entail.) This company literally rented out an entire all-inclusive for 4 days for employees and their significant others. You can bet your behind that I shut up and WENT!

A word on all-inclusive resorts – they are insane.

Booking a stay at one is pretty much a one-way ticket to feeling like a celebrity. You are constantly surrounded by eager staff who are ready to cater to your every need. We joked that if I fell over, there would be at least 4 workers there to catch me before I even hit the ground.

Now, it is incredibly relaxing to not need to lift a finger, but also sort of unsettling. Maybe even too good to be true. The experience of an all-inclusive resort is not unlike a trip to Disney World. Everything around you is carefully curated just so, to create an artificial paradise that dreams are made of. And if you are looking for that sort of thing, great. Lord knows I needed it. But this sort of formula won’t produce the same type of memories as a backpacking trip across Europe.

If you’re looking for adventure, it’s best to keep matters in your own hands.

When I eagerly told friends and family that I was going to Mexico, I was met with looks that might lead you to believe I had actually said I was vacationing in a state prison. Unprompted horror stories of food poisoning and unsafe drinking water bombarded me and left me wondering if I even wanted to go.

“My trip to Mexico was the only time I’ve ever gotten food poisoning!” “My bowel movements ruined my trip!” “Montezuma’s revenge!!!”


The thing with the tap water in Mexico is that it is not exactly safe for consumption due to inadequate filtration measures and outdated (rusty) transportation. After doing my research, I learned that even Mexican citizens will typically have their own filtration system at home, or simply purchase bottled water in large quantities. Even so, being warned to brush my teeth with bottled water and keep my mouth closed in the shower was worrying, to say the least.

And because of this water problem, this also means that, by extension, any food that is washed with tap water (produce/everything that’s good for you) is also best to avoid. As someone who doesn’t eat meat, that means that my diet consisted exclusively of tortilla chips, guacamole, and white wine for 4 days straight. That is definitely the sort of lifestyle that used to consume my daydreams, but living it left me never wanting to look another avocado in the eye.

Matt, on the other hand, threw caution to the wind and did whatever he wanted. You should have heard my gasp the first time I walked into the bathroom and saw him brushing his teeth under the faucet. You would’ve thought I caught him cheating.

If I were a Friends character, I would most definitely be Monica (with a healthy dose of Phoebe on a good day), but I wasn’t about to subject him to any controlling tendencies. I just quietly let him break the rules and was ready to watch him face the consequences… little did I know who would be laughing in the end.

Let’s fast forward four boozy, sunburnt days to the end of our trip.

We had an incredible time with no run-ins with my man Montezuma. We are now on the shuttle bus that takes us back to the airport and I start to not feel so good. Matt pretends that he isn’t worried about the fact that I’m rocking back and forth, mouth-breathing, and dripping sweat.

If you’ve seen the movie Bridesmaids, picture Kristen Wiig during the dress fitting scene, post-Korean BBQ. She painstakingly tries to prove to her friends (and herself) that she’s feeling just fine. Though Kristen and I eventually had to face the facts – we were just about as far from “fine” as you can get.

By the time I had no choice but to make a break for the bathroom, it was unavoidable what had happened here. My cautious little booty was the one who ended up with food poisoning! I’ll choose to tastefully spare you all the gory details. I don’t want a single living soul to know what happened to me in that bathroom while speeding down a Mexican highway.

So let’s just say that by the time we arrived at the airport, mother nature had done her worst on me. Cut to me in the security line sipping a bottle of Gatorade, shivering under an overpriced Cancún hoodie.

The most confusing part was that I had no idea what gave me food poisoning.

I had done so well all weekend and followed all the rules. My carbon footprint probably tripled in size because of all of the plastic bottles of water I went through! But still, I was the one blowing up the potty while my rule-breaking boyfriend was sitting pretty reading a book on the bus.

Luckily, we can look back and laugh at it now, and I learned a very valuable, humbling lesson from my time in Cancún. I went through each day petrified of getting sick, which definitely prevented me from enjoying the trip to its fullest. Meanwhile, for all I know, I could have not given it a second thought and ended up just fine!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Being careful will always be important. I am definitely never going to stop wearing a helmet or locking my doors at night.

But when taking precautions gets in the way of having fun, sometimes it won’t kill you to break the rules.

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