Canberra-raised traveller Kylie Bretag took on a second job so she could celebrate her 30th birthday whilst on a trip of a lifetime to Mexico this month.
But her adventure came to an abrupt end when she was detained by Mexican immigration officials for travelling without the proper stamp on her passport on October 20.
Her parents now say she has been left to languish in a detention centre, believed to be in the country's south, with conflicting details about when she will be deported.
Colleen and Graham Bretag, of Evatt, have been in contact by email with their daughter since she was detained and say she feels "up and down" and just wants to come home.
She entered the country on foot from California earlier this month.
"Kylie crossed the border into Mexico and assumed her passport had been stamped correctly," Mrs Bretag said.
She travelled around the country with friends for a couple of weeks but was detained after officials checked her passport on a bus at a checkpoint in the southeastern town of Tenosique and told her she had been "processed incorrectly".
In an email sent to her parents soon after, Ms Bretag told them she had spent the night in a holding cell and was upset, but all right.
"I thought it was a joke, I didn't really believe it at first. I thought it was a slight misunderstanding and nothing too serious," Mrs Bretag said.
"The first three or four days we were worried sick but we had this feeling, like Kylie, that it would work out and she would resume her travels."
But Ms Bretag, a seasoned traveller who lives in Melbourne, has now spent a week in an overcrowded cell with 20 other women and children.
She had used her mobile phone to keep in touch with family and friends but it had been taken off her.
"There's lots of cigarette smoke and no-one spoke English," Mrs Bretag said.
"The worst thing was she hasn't been able to shower for days."
"She was starting to get very distressed."
Officials repeatedly told her she would be sent to Mexico City and deported but she remained in limbo this week.
The family, which received support from consular officials, got an email early on Monday morning from their daughter.
She had been given flight details for travel to Mexico City on Tuesday morning local time.
"But she's really concerned they may hold her over there for another week or so," Mrs Bretag said.
"I want her to get to Mexico City on Tuesday and I want her to be shot straight through to Australia."
Her best friend, Natalie Wayt, who was due to meet up with Ms Bretag in Cancun, started an online campaign to call for her release.
Ms Bretag's family moved to Canberra from Cowra when she was two and she went to Rosary Primary School in Watson and Lyneham High School.
She completed her chef's apprenticeship at various Canberra restaurants before she spent two years working as a chef in Europe.
"She's a really focused, driven type of kid and I really hope that's stood her well over there, I think it has," Mrs Bretag said.
When she returned to Australia, Ms Bretag decided she needed a change and moved to Melbourne to study public relations at RMIT University.
She had saved hard for the trip and "loved" her time in Mexico, her mother said.
"She told me 'You can get sick from a taco but you can't get sick of tacos'."
Mrs Bretag encouraged Australian tourists considering a trip to Mexico and surrounding regions to ensure they had all the correct checks and documentation before they entered the country.