Enter reverse-culture shock, as alive and well as ever. We are familiar, of course, having previously endured it. But it prevails. Even knowing what it will be like. Even having previous experience with this strange idea. Even feeling prepared. It’s here. The feeling of being in a foreign land even though we are “at home”. Thats right, we are back in the land of flushing toilet paper.
Today I sit in Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico. Exactly where I sat 1 year ago today. It is no new news that our compass appears not just broken but totally deranged, leading us back here and not south to Central America where we were sure you would find us about now. There have been a lot of memorable moments and lessons learned from these last 426 days on the road~ not the least of which is that life is uncertain.
It has been nearly 14 months since we crossed the border south into Mexico. Nearly 14 months of fascinating history, delicious food, gorgeous countryside, and friendly people. Nearly 14 months and thousands of miles covering all of Baja and the vast majority of the mainland. During our time there, we have been disheartened again and again with the negative media regarding this most beloved destination. The myths of Mexico as highlighted in the media are profound.
What a great life we lead! We slept in a bit this morning after the fun of the 2nd annual La Ventana hot dog crawl and a few too many cocktails. The sun was peeking its way over the horizon on the Sea of Cortez and it was just chilly enough to really enjoy our cup of brew as we meandered the beach watching Aspen chase her coconut. The wander home culminated in the wonderful surprise of seeing Kato & George from 2born2travel had nominated us for the Versatile Blogger Award!
In 2015 my word for the year ahead was transformation and wow, did we ever do it up right. We sold our house and the majority of our material goods, we moved into our camper and headed south to points unknown in search of a different lifestyle.
2016 found me choosing surprise as my word for the year and, once again, the universe provided. In fact, no one is more surprised than I to find myself not somewhere in southern Central America, but back in Mexico!
For 2017 I may have found the perfect word to truly describe not just the year ahead, but a more general thought on our life in general:
Overlanders depend on their gear. After all, most of us are homeless in the traditional sense. The road is our home, and the gear we travel with can make or break the trip. As very active campers even in our old life, we were quite certain what cooking gear was going to make the list for the PanAm. Although we quibbled over and considered a few items, one item never in doubt was our Lodge Dutch Oven.
Most travelers have a bucket list. I have been lucky enough to have checked quite a few off my personal list, but one place I have not yet reached is Jakarta. The 13,000 islands of Indonesia are astonishing, and having spent a month in serene Bali, my dreams now turn to city life. Enter Jakarta, the massive capital on Java, the mixes cultural influences from around the world.
image via Flickr by Stenly Lam
What drives us, we nomadic types? What causes us to leave stable jobs, lovely homes, friends and family, to throw ourselves out into the world? To force discomfort upon ourselves by the mere act of having no home base, no tribe to reach to for comfort? To live a life outside our comfort zone, both mentally and literally?
Written in cooperation with GoodSearch.
Puerto Vallarta is not new to me. I have spent more time here than anywhere else on Earth but home. While some complain about the vast growth of the city over the years, I find that much of what I love has remained constant over time.
For the vacationer, Puerto Vallarta surely has it all: excellent dining, an endless array of activities, world-class hotels, and fantastic nightlife. In addition to all of the well-known and well-documented choices, I’d like to share a few of my insider tips to make your paradise vacation truly special.
image via Flickr by luckylynda74
Old Town, or the Romantic Zone if you prefer the new moniker, is not a secret. Nearly everyone at some point wanders across the bridge to check it out. Sadly, few take the time to discover the hidden gems, such as A Page in the Sun. Part used book exchange, part coffee shop, A Page in the Sun has been a Puerto Vallarta institution for over 20 Luisyears. Now in a new and larger location, it continues to draw us in for breakfast and friendly conversation.
Weekend Brunch with a View
Many amazing restaurants in town offer lovely views, but for THE best combination of a killer view and a unique experience, take a cab south of town to Casa Karma. This boutique hotel also offers up gorgeous rooms, but we go for the Bloody Mary bar! Each weekend, the Bar at Casa Karma whips up the most amazing “make your own” Bloody Mary bar we have ever seen. You start out with a delicious Bloody Mary, and you can add as many additions as you like — bacon, artichoke hearts, pickled asparagus, pearl onions, blue cheese-stuffed olives, and the list goes on. Admittedly, this is not a traditional take on brunch. You will certainly leave Casa Karma both pleasantly full and happy.
image via Flickr by cogdogblog
A Dress of Many Colors
One of my frequent stops is Luisa’s clothing store. Located on Juarez Street in the Zona Centro, Luisa has been one of the best seamstresses in Puerto Vallarta for years. Her storefront is artistically packed with dresses and shirts and scarves in every color of the rainbow. While you can go in and simply buy off the rack, the normal procedure is that you choose what you like, try it on for fit, and then Luisa will custom-fit that piece for you. Or, if you want turquoise, not green, for instance, she will simply whip up one just for you. She speaks excellent English, is knowledgeable about events around town, and is a joy to work with. Her clothes are well done, comfortable, and ready in a matter of days for a fair price. I am proud to say I have more than a couple of “Luisa originals.”
Of Tacos and Tango
To be truthful, for visitors doing research, El Carboncito is not a secret. However, in all of our trips there, we have rarely seen any tourists, so now the word is officially out. I love tacos, and I especially love tacos al pastor, which is meat slow-cooked on a skewer, served up on a freshly made tortilla with a slice of grilled pineapple, chopped cilantro, and fresh salsa. A squeeze of lime is mandatory.
The very best tacos al pastor I have found throughout Mexico come from El Carboncito, on a small side street in central Puerto Vallarta. Sitting in white plastic chairs, surrounded by chattering locals, eating two, or four, of these gems just makes me happy. For THE perfect evening out, so perfect, in fact, and that it is how we spent our anniversary this year, we walked down to El Carboncito’s for tacos, before heading for mojitos and tango at La Bodeguita del Medio. Technically, it’s salsa, not tango, but nonetheless, this is my favorite bar in Puerto Vallarta. I generally am not awake late enough to fully appreciate the dancing that randomly breaks out, but the live salsa band, excellent mojitos, and friendly staff are enough to keep me coming back for more.
image via Flickr by leduardo
My Puerto Vallarta doesn’t consist of the typical visitor’s experience. Having visited so many times before, I have experienced first-class resorts, and done the sightseeing. These days, I want to meander side streets and find the true soul of the city.