In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me.
Where I’ve been
I started the month with a few days in Los Angeles, which were not in my travel plans at all… followed by a full four weeks on Mexico. Which, well, also wasn’t part of my original plan, but in hindsight, I couldn’t have asked for a better turn of events, leading me to Puerto Vallarta eventually, where I am writing this now. You might remember from last month’s round-up that I was basically stranded in the U.S. after my trip to Istanbul fell through… read on to find out how I ended up in Mexico instead.I flew into Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, where I spent a week, including a day trip to Tequila, and headed west from there to spend some time exploring the most popular towns along the popular Riviera Nayarit: Sayulita, San Pancho and Puerto Vallarta.
I had originally toyed with the idea of also visiting Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende, two towns north of Mexico City, but I quickly scrapped these plans – I didn’t want to travel too much and rush around, knowing I’d be having a limited amount of time because I would be flying back to California in early December. And even though I felt like I wasn’t moving around all that much, I ended up sleeping in 11 different beds over 30 days, meaning I was moving to a new places roughly every three days (that said, I moved places within cities several times, ending up sleeping in four different places in Puerto Vallarta, for example.)
Sigh. It’s been quite a month. Donald Trump is president-elect. I got sick twice. I turned 36. It could’ve been such a great month, enjoying Mexico.. but, you can’t escape reality. Even when you’re in beautiful surroundings. While I was completely bummed out about the canceled trip to Istanbul at the end of last month, I got over that disappointment pretty quickly. As soon as I hit the ‘Purchase’ button for my ticket to Mexico, I was giddy with excitement. And now, after a month in the sun, I think this was a much better way to spend November than in Istanbul, where it would’ve been equally as cold as it had been in Seattle.
The disappointment I couldn’t shake off all month however: the U.S. election results (see Lowlights below). I tried to make myself feel better in so many ways: I started reading a page turner. I went to the beach. I socialized. I spent hours chatting with my closest friends and family. I hugged puppies. And kitties. I ate tacos. Drank margaritas. Ate more tacos. But the news and social media were a constant reminder of what had happened and gloomy headlines made me realize that even though I was in Mexico, this was a reality that was still there.
But let’s look at the highlights of the month – and luckily, the highlights outweighed the lowlights by far in November!
Los Angeles.. again!
After I was in a bit of a funk when I spent nearly a month in the LA area in September, I was in high spirits when I arrived this time around. I was only supposed to have a layover in LAX, and fly straight to Istanbul from there, but after my trip to Turkey had been canceled only two days earlier, I decided to still use my ticket from Seattle to LA and figure out things from there. It was an excellent decision, because I arrived in LA during a heat wave and after basically shivering for the entire month in Seattle, I was more than ready for some hot weather. Being in 90F weather made me so happy. I also happened to be in town for a party my friends Jen and Chris threw at their house, I was able to reconnect with a friend I gotten into a little argument with in September, and I checked off a couple of neighborhoods off of my LA exploration list that I’d never been to: Highland Park and Mount Washington, which is up in the San Rafael Hills overlooking the city.
Returning to Mexico
Well, you might think the ‘returning to..’ was a theme this month, but I was actually traveling to places in Mexico that were completely new to me. It was during a morning stroll around LA’s Highland Park neighborhood, which is largely Hispanic, that I decided on a whim to purchase a ticket to Mexico. Now it would’ve been easy to go to Mexico City or another place I already knew, but I decided it was time to see a new place. During my month in Mexico this past March / April I had only visited a couple of new places (Cuetzalan and El Tajin), but there’s so much of the country I haven’t seen yet. And that’s how I ended up buying a ticket to Guadalajara, and it felt absolutely amazing to be back in Mexico when I meandered through the beautiful historic town center, picking up fresh fruit from a street vendor, and enjoying chilaquiles for breakfast. I just love this country, and it is one of those places where I can fall into a routine again easily, feeling at home straight away.
Beach life in the Riviera Nayarit
I just love beach life. There, I said it. Even though I’m a city girl through and through, sometimes all I need is a dose of beach life to make me feel better. You might remember that I was struggling a little bit in Seattle because of how cold and rainy it was – well, a few days on a beach is apparently all I need to feel alive again. I’ve already touched on my not very exciting routine of beach runs, ocean dips, SUP sessions and sunset beers in last week’s Polaroid, but I want to say it again: I love beach life, and I felt the same way during my time in Long Beach in September.
Birthday splurge in Puerto Vallarta
Being a freelancer means I am constantly hustling for business, trying to make ends meet, and this means: I am traveling on a budget most of the time. The times that I decide to splurge on a truly nice place to stay are rare, and my birthday this month was the perfect excuse for a little extravaganza. I had a visitor from the States, and so we didn’t only splurge on a fancy apartment in Puerto Vallarta, but also on nice meals during which I actually focused on the meal instead of working through it. The same goes for cocktails (which I wouldn’t drink by myself) and hours spent away from my laptop. When I wasn’t traveling solo this month, I felt like I was taking in every moment much more consciously, and particularly those that made my birthday so special: rooftop cocktails, SUPing in the ocean, jungle hikes, and setting working hours, because I have to admit that I can easily spend all day long in front of my laptop when I’m by myself, and that includes a whole bunch of ‘wasting time on the internet’, which would be better spent with a book on the beach.
Post election blues
The biggest lowlight of the month has been the election, without a doubt. Even though id predicted the outcome exactly as it happened, discussing it with friends of mine already back in Europe this past summer, once the results were confirmed, I couldn’t stop crying for two days straight. Two days straight. I don’t even remember the last time I cried that hard. I was sobbing uncontrollably in a Starbucks in Guadalajara, causing a scene. It wasn’t pretty. In case you’re wondering why this affects me, as a German, to such an extent, here’s a hint, but I have a detailed post coming up on that topic early next year, just in time for my 7-year quitversary (I wrote about my 5-year quitversary here) in which I will finally shine light on the big changes ahead of me that I’ve been hinting on for a few months now. (And if you belong to my inner circle of newsletter subscribers or Snapchat followers, you know what I’m talking about).
Anyway, back to the post-election blues. Luckily I know what to do in situations like this: do something that makes me happy. In this case, it was giving the green light to a visitor from the States to come down to Mexico (which I had been on the fence about), surround myself with other people (I moved from a deserted B&B to a social hostel), and get my ass to a beach. In all honesty though, I am still shaken to the core by the outcome of the election and it took me days to get a full night’s sleep after 8 November. After the first few days of resignation, sadness and disappointment, I am now trying to be more optimistic about everything but I have to admit that I am still struggling to come to terms with it.
Mexico arrival day
The day I arrived in Mexico, I nearly had a panic attack. I was so busy the day leading up to my departure from LA that I didn’t even have time to think about all the things that popped into my head during my plane ride to Guadalajara:
- OMG I haven’t traveled solo in months
- OMG I haven’t traveled outside the save havens of Europe and the US since April (and back then I didn’t travel alone in Mexico!)
- OMG I never traveled in Mexico by myself.
- OMG I didn’t put cash on my debit card, so I can’t use an ATM upon arrival.
- OMG what if I forgot all my Spanish?!
Full on panic mode! Luckily, as so often, everything fell into place as soon as I arrived in Guadalajara. I found 87 pesos in my change purse from my last visit to Mexico – just enough to get me into the city on the public bus, my Spanish came back to me as soon as I had to ask for directions to the bus into town, luckily traveling by myself is something I’m pretty good at, and, well, Mexico is one of the easiest countries to travel in, no matter if solo or as a couple.
Being sick on the road
This month I got sick twice: I had stomach issues on my first day in Mexico (I assume from some fresh fruit I had picked up) which led me to spend more time in the bathroom over the next couple of days than I was comfortable with, and then I got a cold just in time for my birthday on Sunday. I am still battling my cold (that’s the disadvantage of staying in fancy hotels with AC – I am sure it was the drastic difference in temperature between the chilled room and the 90F heat outside that made me sick) and once again I was reminded that being sick on the road sucks.
Luckily the peso / dollar exchange rate was in my favor this month, making Mexico even cheaper than it had been during my last visit in the spring. Because I didn’t earn a lot of money in November, which was quite disappointing. It definitely helped that I was in an inexpensive country, where I usually didn’t spend more than $35 a day (except for my week of birthday splurges).
I don’t really know in which section to put it, but I want to mention my Snapchat community briefly – this medium has brought me so much closer to my those following my raw, unfiltered journey on their phones. (For those of you who don’t use Snapchat, it’s an app that lets you record 10-second clips of anything you see / do and keeps it live for 24 hours. After that, it’s gone forever). And especially this month, I was so appreciative of all the supportive messages I received, not only for my birthday, but also when I was feeling really down after election day. So much empathy, outpouring of love and uplifting words from complete strangers still blow me away. Thanks to everyone following me and interacting with me – I love the instant feedback to everything I’m doing. (If you want to follow my adventures in real time, add me on Snapchat: Mariposa2711)
What’s next for me
I’ve already mentioned that I am on my way to sunny California.. for the third time this year! After a long weekend in LA I will be heading north, however – and that’s a first for this year, and a first in over six years, to be completely honest. The only time I visited the wine countries of Napa and Sonoma north of San Francisco was in 2010, and when the opportunity arose to revisit Sonoma, and the town of Santa Rosa, where I spent barely any time back then, I didn’t have to think long. After that, I will finally return to New York – but not for long. I had originally planned to spend the winter in South East Asia and already secured a housesit in Vietnam (which, you may remember, was on my travel wish list for this year), but urgent matters are calling me to Germany. You know that this must have been something super urgent, if it gets me to return to Germany in the death of winter (More on that soon, I promise).
I will now be spending the Holidays with my family instead of a kitty, and while I am not a big fan of winter, I do appreciate Christmas markets, baking cookies, drinking Gluhwein, and see my nephew’s and nieces’ eyes light up when they see the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. I only spent one Christmas at home since 2007, which was in 2014, and still have fond memories of it, so I am not too upset about this sudden change of plans… and Vietnam will have to wait a little longer.
I am not sure yet what I’ll be doing for New Year’s Eve – knowing myself, I might end up going on a last-minute trip, so who knows where the last round-up of 2016 will come from…