We traversed state lines and windy dirt roads from Sayulita to the old mining town of San Sebastian del Oeste, one of México’s "pueblos mágicos."
Hidden deep in the mountains some 4,600 feet above sea level, we were transported to another place in time.
A time of cobblestone streets and white adobe houses, of moss-covered walls, and fairytale creeks; where the fog waltzes in in the early evenings and hangs low, lulling its slow, sleepy villagers back to their restful state.
San Sebastian was full of secrets, we learned, as we explored its narrow streets. We poked at the fruit trees, and peeked in to open houses. We sat inside the church, studying its elegance. And we imagined—we imagined in all the emptiness. In all the stillness—we couldn’t help but think to ourselves, what was this place? Where did its magic come from?
And the day was spent like this: Wandering, wondering.
Wondering, as we passed the lonely village cigar maker, what had led him here? The pungent scent of tobacco lingering, longingly, in the air, enveloping us in its sweetness, begging us to go, to ask him all our questions. But we had too many and silence seemed to suit him. When we wandered into the Quinta Maria, while sipping on their local, organic highland coffee, the warm aroma swept into our noses, nestling deeply into our hair, we wondered—how long had all this been here, what had time stopped and settled on?
It seemed even the sleepy cat wanted to know. Though with his long, drawn-out yawns, he, like all the rest of us, was in no hurry to find out.
the destination: one hour north to the small town of La Peñita de Jaltemba, known for it’s Thursday market of things you might need but probably don’t.
pit-stop: lunch at a random family’s roadside home, where we had the most delicious birria tacos and fresh pineapple juice.
the market: unimpressive, but fun to walk through. i think we missed most of the action, which presumably happens earlier in the morning (we got there shortly after lunchtime).
detours: we had a few. the first was after the market, where we quickly explored the town’s desolate beach. the pelicans that lined rooftops and peppered the sand were the only reminder that there was still some life around these waters…
then we drove to Guayabitos, another little fishing town, for some freshly made tuba, a super cold milky drink that is served straight out of wooden pails, made from the sap of coconut palm trees. Chunks of apple and coconut made this a little more fun to drink. apparently tuba is a type of alcoholic beverage, known as palm wine, that’s found in Asia, Africa, as well as the Philippines and Mexico. here, it’s a drink touted for its super hydrating properties…but if there were any traces of alcohol, that would totally explain the giggles I had in the backseat of the car on the way back…
It’s just about an hour before I turn 34, and I can’t help but look back at this year and think about all the things I did and didn’t do. All the things I said I wanted to do and never got to.
There have been so many changes this year, and when I think about all the ups and downs, I feel so very grateful to all the beautiful people who have been on this journey with me. It’s hard not to get all sentimental. The adventures with friends, the road trips, being in love, Sunday mornings with coffee in bed, making new friends in new cities, spending time with my nieces & nephew, and my new godson :) , the heartbreak and heartaches, and all the laughing and quiet introspective moments in between, alone.
This year, I also vowed to do 33 things I’d never done before.
It began as a silly list that I cobbled together in hopes that I’d push myself to do stuff I normally wouldn’t. As much as I wanted to avoid an overly cliched list, some things made it on there, like riding my bike across the Golden Gate Bridge (never got around to it). But there were other things too. Things like taking myself out to a nice fancy restaurant. Building a piece of furniture. And facing some real fears. Things that would force me out of my comfort zone. Those were the ones I really cared about the most. As it turned out, 33 things were a lot of things. And halfway through, after crossing off more than a dozen off the list, I started feeling like a lot of these bulleted points were arbitrary and meaningless. (I mean, did I really need to take voice lessons?) So I ditched most of the list at some point, focusing on just the things that would push me in ways that were uncomfortable, but that I knew would be ultimately rewarding.
It all pretty much culminated in my trip to Mexico in late July when I decided to explore Guanajuato on my own, and spend some more time in Sayulita, writing. It was the best thing that I could have done for myself. And the first time I had ever really taken a trip on my own. I was scared, nervous, and worried. But I was also so excited. I threw myself into the experience and told myself to just be present. To soak up every moment and feel every emotion. And I did. I cried, I laughed, I ate amazing food, I spoke strictly Spanish, I almost peed my pants, I crashed my bike in the Nayarit jungle, I swam freely (wink) in the salty ocean, I danced and sang in the alleyways of Guanajuato, I had fireflies visit me and fill my bedroom, I got lost, I found myself. Again.
It’s been a truly great year. Here’s to 34…and more.
sometimes comes in the form of an intangible connection, a chance encounter, a serendipity of sorts, between two people.
i found myself to be the recipient of such gifts on my last trip to Mexico.
it was my first time traveling alone and yet, it was when I felt so vulnerable, that someone would come along and start up a conversation. conversations that led to adventures, and lots of shared laughter.
and those conversations—well, they couldn’t have been more perfectly placed at that specific moment in time. how could i not think that there was someone greater looking out for me?
One day you meet someone and for some inexplicable reason, you feel more connected to this stranger than anyone else—closer to them than your closest family. Perhaps this person carries within them an angel—one sent to you for some higher purpose; to teach you an important lesson or to keep you safe during a perilous time. What you must do is trust in them—even if they come hand in hand with pain or suffering—the reason for their presence will become clear in due time.
Though here is a word of warning—you may grow to love this person but remember they are not yours to keep. Their purpose isn’t to save you but to show you how to save yourself. And once this is fulfilled; the halo lifts and the angel leaves their body as the person exits your life. They will be a stranger to you once more.
En ese momento, por fin lo captó. En lo más profundo de sí mismo,Tsukuru Tazaki lo comprendió: los corazones humanos no se unen sólo mediante la armonía. Se unen, mas bien, herida con herida. Dolor con dolor. Fragilidad con fragilidad. No existe silencio sin un grito desgarrador, no existe perdón sin que se derrame sangre, no existe aceptación sin pasar por un intenso sentimiento de pérdida. Ésos son los cimientos de la verdadera armonía.
And in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all. In the deepest recesses of his soul, Tsukuru Tazaki understood. One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.
”—― Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Guanajuato, Mexico: It was unlike anything I could ever imagine.
This city with its colorful squares of life, Mondrian-like, all stacked up among the hills, separated yet connected by crumbly, cobblestone alleyways, some not any bigger than a few feet.
A juxtaposition of tradition and technology. Mariachi and charro outfits, Chichimeca Indians, the momias, and Mexican hipsters playing Lil Wayne and Amy Winehouse in their cool mezcalerias.
The streets full of people, all wandering to get lost. And underground, with its network of tunnels, teeming with travelers in cars.
When you travel alone, with heightened senses, you see so much more. People’s faces, the color of their shirts. You hear more conversations and you pick up inflections in all these voices. Songs become embedded as you move from place to place, and suddenly they begin to string along with all the faces, the voices, the colors and sounds to form the soundtrack of your days.
How am I supposed to see the rest of the world if I can’t get over my fear of flying? The truth is, I never really was that scared to get on a plane. I guess I’d always just visualize what new ground I would be stepping onto the minute the plane landed, that I never really thought about the in-between.
You know—the part where you are inside this teeny tiny metal capsule flying through space.
It just freaks me out. In a way I can’t explain. Sort of the same feeling i get in a planetarium. My palms get sweaty, my heart starts palpitating. All these irrational thoughts just start racing through my head. And it’s gotten worse. The older I get, the more anxiety I seem to have.
Like I said, I used to be fine. And thank god I haven’t let it get to me to the point where I stop traveling. But my fear has stopped me from sitting in the window seats simply because I haven’t wanted to see what was out there.
But on this last trip, I mistakenly overlooked that I was assigned to window seats (every leg of the way). So on my return flight home, I finally did what I hadn’t done in years — I opened the window and forced myself to look out, to see below…
And you know what? I was ok. I exhaled…and then took it all in.
Music has always had a special place in my heart. This time, while traveling alone through Mexico, I felt like I was even more aware of the sounds that filled the world around me.
The cumbia bumping out of a lowered VW bug while I walked down the street, the rap that spat out of the cantina as the bartenders got the bar ready for the night, or the mariachi that serenaded me over my first dinner alone.
Then there would be surprising contrasts in one-go - like Lil Wayne followed by Sonora Tropicana.
From day one, I jotted down the songs as I heard them and when I came home, I finally put a playlist together. Hearing these are like instant replays of this trip in my mind.
i found myself among the same group of guys, who I called “La Clika,” at my friend Christian’s bar, Estela, in Sayulita almost every evening. Whether the night started or ended there, i could always count on two things: that there would be great cocktails and good, good laughs.
Turns out, one of the guys is my neighbor in San Francisco!
The first: Planning. For most trips, it’s an integral part to making a vacation everything you want it to be (when you finally get there, of course). Then it’s the trip itself. Finally: Reliving it through the moments I’ve frozen in time with All. Those. Photos.
Though I’ve started going through my pictures of my latest trip to Mexico, I have to admit I’ve been sort of holding myself back from diving in right away. Part of me felt like I could just close my eyes and all those pictures in my mind were enough to satiate that desire to get back there. All those photos that never really materialized into anything tangible, the poignant snaps that I could only reference.
But back in the office now, it’s nice to see the visual manifestations in front of me. The frames that take me right back to all those quiet moments in Guanajuato, getting lost in that candy-colored labyrinth of a city. Or of the salty, humid days exploring the jungles and beaches of Nayarit. The smiles in my selfies.
And though I have a trip coming up soon, which means I should be moving into phase one of taking a trip—I’ve decided to hold off for a bit.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”—Jack Kerouac, On the Road
After years of wondering who would have the first baby in our family, all three of my sisters gave birth to their first babies within the last year. It’s been an exciting whirlwind of baby showers, hospital visits, birthday parties (we’ve had one already!) and lots of firsts for the whole family. It also meant I quickly became the aunt I’ve always wanted to be.
Eva Marita, the oldest of the three, is now about fourteen months old, and she is just so much fun at this age. Lucky for me, I got to spend Fourth of July weekend down in Encinitas, Ca with my little sister Claudia, where I chased Eva around with my camera.
my least favorite color happens to be my absolute favorite in nature
I don’t know why I don’t like the color pink. There’s something about its overtly feminine stigma that just turns me off. It always has. I hate that little girls are assigned this color from birth and I mostly hate when grown women are dressed head-to-toe in it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve looked into my closet and I definitely have my share of pink things. I’m ok with certain shades, like a hot neon one. But I think it’s that Barbie, bubblegum pink that’s just not cute as an adult. Or ever.
Here’s the thing though: When I see the color in nature…it just takes my breath away. Like when a burst of pink, so bold, yet so translucent, like a veil of cotton candy, spreads so easily over the sun and the sky. Or in spring, when gray branches suddenly bloom to life with the brightest, purest rosy blossoms.
Where does this color come from? How does it come to being in such a magnificent way?