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Nayarit

Beach hopping along Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit

sayulita beach mexico1

The rain had finally stopped. I looked out the window of the bus and took in the scenery around me. I could see blue skies in the distance ahead of me and was surrounded by lush green jungle.sayulita jungleEarlier that morning, I had boarded the bus in Guadalajara in a rainstorm, ready to get out of the city after a couple of wet and grey days. I would have spent more time there, but was put off by the heavy rains. So I decided that it was time to head to the beach.sayulita sunset skyEven though I spent many months in Mexico, exploring Mexico City, Veracruz, Oaxaca, the Yucatan and Isla Mujeres, somehow I had never made it to the Riviera Nayarit, the Pacific’s counterpart of the Riviera Maya.sunset sayulitaThe Riviera Nayarit is a 200-mile stretch of coastline between the historic port town of San Blas and Nuevo Vallarta, the new part of Puerto Vallarta, a major cruise ship port. In between, you find small beach villages, colonial towns, luxury all-inclusive resorts, lots of jungle and hidden bays.sayulita beachSince I didn’t have all that much time, I decided to check out three places along the coast: Sayulita, a popular surf town, San Pancho, a laid-back beach village, and Puerto Vallarta, where I could get both: my city and my beach fix, because even though I love beaches, I tend to get restless quickly when there’s not much to do except for lounging in the sun.puerto vallarta archMy first stop was Sayulita, where the bus dropped me off four hours after leaving Guadalajara, on the side of Highway 200 which follows the coast all the way down to the Guatemalan border. I went from being freezing cold in the morning (wishing I had brought a jacket on this trip, which I hadn’t) to being drenched in sweat as I walked to my guesthouse in the midday heat.sayulita with jungleSayulita slowly appeared in front of me – colorful houses perched on the side of a green hill, and little houses now replaced the trees on both sides of the dirt road I was walking down. My guesthouse was not right in the center of town, but I didn’t mind that; I like seeing how the locals live.sayulita pueblo magicoOnce I reached my guest house, I didn’t waste much time: I checked in, put my bikini on and went straight to the beach, which was just down the road I was staying on. After the chilly days in Guadalajara, I soaked up every ray of sun. I walked along the long, white sand beach, watching the families that were picnicking on the beach, and taking in the surfers.
sayulita beach mexicoSituated in a bay, Sayulita gets quite a few waves, which is what most visitors seem to come here for: to surf. There are several surf schools around town, and whenever I went for a morning run on the empty beach, the ocean was already filled with surfers. After a while, I turned left onto a street lined with palm trees to explore the actual village.sayulita street with palm treesSayulita looked beautiful. Houses that were painted in bright colors, and with Mexican fiesta flags waving in the wind, spanning across the streets. I could see immediately why it had been declared a ‘Pueblo Magico’, a Magic Village, a couple of years ago by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism.Sayulita Mexico NayaritThe ‘Magic Village’ program was introduced in 2001, when the first few dozen villages were awarded this title, which is confined to Mexican small towns and villages that offer visitors a magical experience. This can be through natural beauty, historic relevance and cultural riches – Sayulita was awarded the title thanks to its stunning natural beauty but also because of its distinct architecture, cobblestone streets, the well-preserved bright white church and the little town square, the zocalo, a typical feature of Mexican villages.Sayulita Pueblo Magico MexicoIt was more touristy than I had expected – at first glance I counted more foreign restaurants along the streets than Mexican eateries and walked by several high-end boutiques, but that didn’t take away from the charming atmosphere of the village.sayulita sunsetWhile ‘touristy’ often turns into high-rise hotel complexes and all-inclusive resorts (which is what I’d find in Puerto Vallarta a few days later), Sayulita has managed to maintain its small town character, where Mexican mom-and-pop food stalls exist alongside the fancier restaurants, which are run by expats.sayulita flagsOverall, I found that most of the restaurants and shops seemed to be owned by foreigners, and over the course of my stay I learned that it was actually surfers who discovered this place around twenty years ago – and back then, there were no villas in the hills, whereas now you see many thatched roofs peeking out between the palm trees.sayulita bayAfter trying to find the entrance to Sayulita’s co-working space (I surprised to find out that there even was one!) without success, I made the Yah-Yah coffee shop my ‘coffice’, typing away on my laptop in between my beach sessions every day. In the coffee shop I was told that a lot of people seem to come for the entire winter, after spending all summer working in North America in seasonal jobs. A surfer’s dream life, I guess.sayulita beach mexicoI spent a few days working on my tan, hiked up the steep hills for stunning views over the bay and hiked to a couple of beaches outside of town – Playa Los Muertos, Beach Of The Dead, which is just south of town, an easy walk following a dirt road along the beach, passing the fishing boats and the fancy ‘Villa Amor‘ Resort at the very end of the bay before the road turns up the hill. Here, you pass a colorful cemetery, where candles are lit up on the graves every night, and when you descend the hill on the other side, you’re already at the small beach – probably named after the nearby cemetery. It is kind of neat to think that the deceased have their own beach here – a pristine one no less.sayulita carricitos beach daniThis small beach in between two sets of rocks is less rough, the waves aren’t crashing against the shore like they do in the main bay, which is what attracts most people to come here. Still, compared to Sayulita’s town beach, there aren’t many people around.sayulita pelicansThe second beach I visited took more of an effort to get to. I set off on the same route that led me to Playa Los Muertos, but followed the winding road along the coast, even though I never saw the ocean. I could hear the waves though and followed the sound of the sea, sticking to the right every time there was a fork in the road. The road was hilly and unpaved, offering vistas over the thick green jungle to the left, and I rarely saw any other people or cars. The walk itself was already worth it for me, getting away from the crowds and the city noise and taking in the jungle with sounds of monkeys, frogs and insects.sayulita carricitos beachI almost missed the little handwritten wooden sign near a concrete wall on the right side of the path which read ‘Playa Carricitos’ and pointed to the right, where a narrow path led along the wall down towards the ocean. I followed the path and three minutes later I was stepping onto a remote beach with golden sand, like Playa Los Muertos set in a bay, but much larger and wider, and most notably: completely deserted.sayulita carricitos beachI looked to my left and saw a couple laying in the sand on the far end of the beach, and to my right, there was another couple at the far end of the beach. I couldn’t believe that there weren’t more people here, considering how close we were to Sayulita – I’d walked for about 45 minutes – and how amazing this beach was. While Playa Muertos is calmer, Playa Carricitos has rough waves, rougher waves than the beach in town even, which is why I only walked into the ocean but didn’t go for a proper swim.sayulita dani playa carricitosOn the southern end, there’s a house on the top of the cliff – I couldn’t figure out if it was a private home or a hotel – and there’s a small abandoned house in between the trees that line the beach. Other than that: nothing. I felt like I’d discovered a secret beach that I had (nearly) to myself, and I spent a couple of hours there just watching the waves crashing against the shore. I was even hesitant about mentioning it here, for everyone to read, but decided to share this little gem because of what happened when I returned a week later.sayulita carricitos beach sunsetAfter a few relaxed days in Sayulita, it was time for a city break: I was meeting a friend in Puerto Vallarta, about an hour south of Sayulita, and was curious to see how the city would compare to Sayulita, before returning there together.puerto vallarta viewThe bus traveled through the jungle for about forty minutes before the first buildings came into sight. It felt like a different world from the village I had just left: modern skyscrapers, a cruise ship port where two massive ships were lined up, a golf course, casinos and shiny new malls. It was a shock to the system after my slow beach days.puerto vallarta playa los muertosLuckily, as the bus moved further south along the busy, congested road, the skyscrapers became smaller and smaller and finally disappeared in the rearview mirror. Instead, white colonial houses with colorful doors and windows came into sight. By the time I got off the bus, we had passed a couple of historic churches and I was walking to my hotel on a cobblestone street, past blooming hibiscus trees.puerto vallarta streetI liked this part, the Old Town, of Puerto Vallarta, much better, and never ventured over to Nuevo Vallarta – why would I, because here, I found everything I needed: plenty of restaurants, several bars right on the beach, plenty of art galleries, even a microbrewery.Puerto Vallarta1This part, Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta) is also where most of the gay bars and clubs are located, because PV is not just a popular vacation spot for families and retirees, but it is also the gay capital of Mexico.

There are gay bars, clubs and saunas on every street, it seemed, the one below the apartment I was staying carrying a big sign that said ‘Only Men Allowed’.puerto vallarta vochoI was wondering if I should feel discriminated, a feeling that rose over the week when I saw plenty of tour agencies around town advertising gay-friendly tours with two men holding hands, usually not wearing anything but tight speedos and showing off their toned bodies.puerto vallarta streetWhere were the women? If PV was such an LGBT-friendly destination, there sure had to be some venues for lesbians? I looked into it and was surprised when I found that while there were a few mixed bars, there was only one girls – specific venue in PV, Apaches Martini Bar. However, when I swung by for a drink, there were, yet again, only gay men.beach sunset puerto vallartaI also only ever saw one lesbian couple, whereas I couldn’t go anywhere without stumbling upon gay couples or groups of friends on vacation together. Where were all the lesbians? Maybe it’s time for me to open a women-focused B&B in the Zona Romantica?Puerto Vallarta Zona RomanticaThe beach down here, Playa de los Muertos, is said to be the best beach in all of Puerto Vallarta, so I made the right decision by staying all the way down in the Old Town, also called ‘Zona Romantica’. It is also here where the malecon begins, a 12-block oceanside promenade which is filled with people at any time of day, and which for me turned out to be great for running.Puerto Vallarta Malecon1One morning, before it got too hot, I ventured up into the hills, which make for a gorgeous backdrop for PV (as most people call it) and stumbled on small residential houses, overgrown with bougainvillea, squeezed between new condominium complexes. It was interesting to see how old and new co-existed here.puerto Vallarta hillsBanderas Bay, one of the largest and deepest bays in the world and covered in lush green vegetation, is also just such a gorgeous backdrop that I forgave Puerto Vallarta for having a Señor Frog’s right down on the malecon (the only thing Cancun and Puerto Vallarta have in common, by the way).puerto vallarta sunsetI made a daily visit to the new pier, la muelle de los muertos, a futuristic-looking structure in the ocean that overlooks both the beach and the bay, part of my routine, because I loved the views from up here. Sometimes during sunset, a bunch of local kids came to jump off here, at least 20 meters over the water, which always drew a crowd.Puerto Vallarta Muelle Los MuertosWhen my friend arrived in town a couple of days later, I moved from my first apartment, housed in one of the old buildings, into one of the brand new condo buildings, to treat myself to a fancy place for a change.

We had found an incredible deal on Booking.com for a top-notch apartment in a modern building, the Pinnacle 220, which did not only come with brand new appliances (even a washer and dryer, a BBQ on the balcony, a bar, a kitchen with a stove & oven) and two bed rooms, but also with a nice rooftop pool. Going up there for a sunset pre-dinner drink was my favorite part of the day, and we loved it so much, that we extended our stay for a couple more nights.Mexico Pinnacle ResortI came to appreciate the amenities of city life in Puerto Vallarta – fast wifi, a large number of restaurants to choose from, enough bars for a margarita crawl and a fun night of beer sampling at the Los Muertos microbrewery.Puerto Vallarta MexicoI also attempted my first SUP session in the ocean (rather than a calm river where I’d done it before), which turned out to be much more difficult than it looked, and then I was ready to return to the tranquil and slow life of a beach village.puerto vallarta SUP daniBack north I went, this time with a travel buddy in tow, and this time my destination would be a bit further north than Sayulita: San Francisco, better known as San Pancho. Ten or fifteen minutes after dropping off a bunch of tourists headed for Sayulita, I was dropped off again on the side of Highway 200, and we walked into the village where we had booked a room in a small hotel. My first impression was that San Pancho was very sleepy compared to bustling Sayulita, and what a difference from Puerto Vallarta!San Pancho Nayarit1We followed the main road down to the beach, which, similar to Sayulita, was set around a long bay. This beach however, was much wider, and in my opinion not as picturesque as Sayulita’s main beach. There were less people though, and most of them seemed to be surfers.san pancho beachThe main difference to Sayulita? Here, there were only a couple of boutique hotels, no high-end resorts like in Puerto Vallarta, and it seemed that there were primarily private rentals. There weren’t any bohemian shops like in Sayulita selling leather goods and high-end jewelry. San Pancho felt much more like a truly Mexican village, even though there were a couple of coffee shops and restaurants that were clearly geared towards gringos. The golf court on the edge of town seemed completely out of place – apparently a president who was very fond of San Pancho and came here regularly had it built in the 1970s.san panchoWe spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach and toasted to our first day in San Pancho with a couple of beers while the sun set over the ocean in front of us, and while watching the many surfers who’d come out for a sunset surf, showing off their rad skills.San Pancho SurfersThe next day, we set off to do something I’d wanted to do in Sayulita when I stayed there the week before: a jungle hike between the two villages. The path wasn’t described very well, and I found somewhat confusing tales from people who got lost somewhere along the way and turned back, and others whose trip ended in front of a fence or a closed gate. We were determined to at least give it a try though, and to make things easier, we decided to start in Sayulita, where most people seemed to set out on the hike, and hopefully end in San Pancho in time for another epic sunset.jungle hike to san panchoWe had downloaded some of the hike descriptions onto our phone and off we went. The path through the jungle was as scenic as I had hoped it would be. At times we’d end up high above the ocean, seeing the dark blue of the Pacific shine in the distance, before the path turned into the jungle again.jungle hike ocean viewI was also hoping to spot some wildlife, but sadly we weren’t very lucky – unless you count the Yellow Orb spiders that nearly caused me a panic attack as wildlife.Jungle Hike MexicoEventually we got to a road fork and instinctively turned right where we could hear traffic on the paved road, but upon reaching it we weren’t sure anymore and turned around again to try the other path, even though it said ‘private property’. That’s how we got to the gate that we had read about, which luckily was open and led to a gorgeous estate (some accounts mentioned it was the mansion of a Mexican ex-president). The estate sat on the top of a hill, to its right a small beach, and to its left we could see San Pancho beach.dani san panchoA guard slowly walked towards us as we were trying to figure out how to get to the beach and San Pancho which was indeed blocked by a fence. The guard told us we weren’t supposed to be there, but he pointed to a small door inside the fence which was open, saying we could go through there but not come back. I was relieved that the door was open because the fence was much too high to climb it and I really didn’t want to turn back.san pancho sunsetWe celebrated our successful hike with a couple of beers while watching yet another superb sunset. So far, all of the sunsets along the Pacific had been stunning, and I vowed not to miss a single one while I was here.san pancho sunset beers mexicoAfter a couple of days in tranquil San Pancho we headed down to Sayulita which felt now, after relaxing in this tiny village, like a busy, big town. It’s funny how quickly your perception can change.sayulita beachI was excited to introduce my friend to El Itacate, a hole-in-the-wall taco stall that had gotten the approval rating of Thomas Keller, the Michelin star carrying chef at the famous The French Laundry, and a place I ended up returning to over and over again after I first discovered it.el itacate tacoWe made watching the spectacle that are the sunsets our nightly routine, we bar hopped in the evenings, and I wanted to show off Las Carricitos, the isolated beach I’d found on my first visit. But when I arrived at the place where a week prior the sign had been, I noticed that it was gone! Had I not taken a picture of it the first time, I would have thought I’d imagined it. Instead, there was a brand new fence blocking access to the hill that leads down to the hidden beach.sayulita beach boatsA worker, who saw my confused face, explained we should follow the road a bit further and go down there. The hole in the fence we climbed through was probably not supposed to be an entrance, but we sneaked through it, and just like during my first visit, there were only a couple of other people, and we had the beach nearly to ourselves.dani ocean mexicoWe frolicked in the waves, watched the sunset and walked back into town. Again, I am not sure if I want to tell anyone about this beach find, but since it seemed as if they were making accessing it even more difficult, I don’t even know if there’s still going to be any access to it in the future.Dani Playa carricitosSince Sayulita is not only a popular surf spot but also has excellent Stand Up Paddling conditions, so good that the first ever StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard Championship (WSUPPC) was held here in 2015, I decided to get out on a paddleboard again while here to work on my SUP skills. While I don’t think I’ll ever take part in a championship, I enjoy SUPing so much that I’ll try to always incorporate it into beach vacations from now on. Since I can’t lay on a beach for too long anyway, it’s perfect for me. I get to hang out in the ocean and be active at the same time.SUP SayulitaAfter bidding my friend farewell, I was torn about staying a few more days in Sayulita or returning to Puerto Vallarta. Even though I preferred the vibe in the small beach town, I felt that the amenities in Vallarta were better. In Sayulita, it was a constant struggle to find decent wifi. There were no air-conditioned coffee shops to work in, and writing in temperatures in the 90s is quite a challenge. The running route in PV along the malecon was better than the hills in Sayulita. And there were more vegetarian restaurants in the big city.Puerto Vallarta Mexico2When my bus approached Puerto Vallarta this time around, I wasn’t appalled by the skyscrapers and malls, knowing I’d not be spending any time there anyway. Instead, I’d be enjoying the charming Old Town again, and the best beach in PV, Playa Muertos. I’d be able to sit on the new boat pier and enjoy the views over Banderas Bay, devour amazing vegetarian food at Salud (still my favorite veggie place in PV) and maybe even take advantage of the air-conditioning at Starbucks. Because sometimes touristy places aren’t all that bad.Puerto Vallarta MexicoNow that I know both of Mexico’s most popular rivieras, the Riviera Maya and the Riviera Nayarit, I think I still prefer the Riviera Maya. I’ve always loved the Caribbean Coast more than the Pacific (also in Costa Rica) and I love the cenotes along the Riviera Maya, plus of course the people its named after, the Maya, and all their stunning ruins on the Yucatan.
puerto vallarta coconutHowever, I loved beach hopping along the Riviera Nayarit, and I hope I’ll get to explore more of that coastline in the future – San Blas for example is supposed to be amazing, and I haven’t made it to Yelapa near PV, which was highly recommended to me.sayulita beachThere’s always more to see, and so I say: Hasta Pronto, Riviera Nayarit – See you soon.san pancho sunset

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Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: November 2016 Edition

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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.November 2016I 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.)november collage

Life Lately

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!November in Mexico

Highlights

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.Los Angeles november2016

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.Mexico November 2016

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.Mexico Beach Life

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.Birthday in Mexico

Lowlights

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).

Mexico Sunsets
At least the sunsets were pretty…

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

dani solo travelThe 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:

  1. OMG I haven’t traveled solo in months
  2. 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!)
  3. OMG I never traveled in Mexico by myself.
  4. OMG I didn’t put cash on my debit card, so I can’t use an ATM upon arrival.
  5. 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.

Mexico life
When I wasn’t sick, life was pretty sweet though..

Slow business

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).

pinnacle pool sunset
Slow business did not stop me from splurging on a hotel with a gorgeous infinity pool for a few days…

Other happenings

snapchat
The instant feedback on Snapchat is amazing.

Snapchat love

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).November travels

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…
November 2016 travels

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Polaroid Of The Week: Sunset and surfers in San Pancho, Mexico

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week mexico 2016 san pancho mexicoThe last few days in Guadalajara were rainy, grey and cold. I had planned to stay there longer, but the weather made me change my plans. Instead of spending more time inland, I’d head straight to the coast. My first stop would be Sayulita, a small surfer town on the Pacific, and then I would visit San Pancho, a few miles further north, even smaller than the already tiny Sayulita, but a few of my friends had spent a winter there a few years back and loved it.

I couldn’t have made a better decision than traveling to the coast. I started my journey on a rainy morning in Guadalajara (it was pouring down the second day in a row) and a couple of hours into the bus ride, the rain stopped and the scenery began to look a lot more tropical. Four hours after hopping on that bus, I was let out on the side of the road right next to a guy selling coconuts fresh off a palm tree. The air felt sticky and hot. This was the climate I felt right at home in.

I’ve been enjoying beach life in both Sayulita and San Pancho since I got here: Watching the surfers, taking in the spectacular sunsets every day with a beer or two, taking a quick dip in the ocean when it gets too hot. I went on jungle hikes, on sweaty runs along the coast, I sipped fresh coconuts and ate too many tacos. I almost feel as if I was on vacation, even though I am spending way too many hours behind the screen of my laptop – but I don’t mind it. Knowing that I’ll get to recharge my batteries on the beach after work is all I need to make me happy right now.

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