In September of 2020, I embarked on a 7 day vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco with my Mother for our annual joint birthday celebration. My mother and I share the same birthday and as I grew more and more into adulthood we made it a point to try to spend each one together in a new place or country.
Due to the pandemic, we chose Mexico, like a lot of Americans, and settled on the East side of the country since we had already visited the west in San Jose Del Cabo a couple years prior. I immediately fell in love, and instantly felt free in this city. It was the perfect combination of modern living and small village. Waking up to tropical rain and warm weather, sleeping outdoors in a hammock on rooftops and staring off into the beautifull hills and mountains in the distance. I hydrated with freshly cracked coconuts, swam care free in the oceans and in pools with happy Dolphins. I ate plenty of Chilaquilles and practiced Spanish on the go.
We stayed in a Villa along with a few of my mothers friends. I swam in the pool in the backyard every day and we acted as tourists during the entirety of that 7 days. And when the 7 days were up, I bid everyone farewell and decided to rent a small apartment that sat above a shopping center. I remained in Puerto Vallarta alone for the next two months and when I decided to return home to what I thought would be a short trip to retrieve the rest of my belongings and situate my small business for the change, I found myself speaking Spanish to everyone I encountered from the Uber ride to the airport gate on the way home.
I still have yet to return to this beautiful place but it has remained in my heart and marked a pivotal moment of change in my life. It was here that I began my locs, it was here I felt truly free for the first time and it was here I was reunited with my ability to feel emotions again. Emotions that were not tied to anger, frustration and resentment for my home country and politics of work and corporate structure. This trip was taken smack in the middle of social injustices, protests, marches, a pandemic, riots, looting, election. Everyone I encountered in the States were weary, anxious, on guard and tired. Hoarding toilet paper.
Mexico, despite its own troubles during the pandemic, remained peaceful, whimsical, joyful and free. It was a breath of fresh air that allowed me to break down over and over and rebuild myself to be stronger and more capable. It felt like I left one world and entered a new realm where I was energized, loved, included and not othered.
I found a young expat group to meet friends while living in Mexico and embarked on the most grueling water hike upstream to a waterfall lovingly called The Walnut. I wore the wrong shoes, fell on a lot of rocks, saw an ants nest in a tree for the first time that, to me, looked like a huge black jackfruit. I met a ton of people of all walks of life using the pandemic and remote work to their advantage to finally break free and explore and discover. It was there I swam beneath my first waterfall and celebrated just being alive and healthy. I discovered what options were possible for me. Over Ceviche and pina coladas in the middle of a forest, we discussed our past lives, what led us there and the possibilities of permanently living abroad. We educated each other on how to make things possible and exchanged contacts to help each other along the way.
In my heart I was looking for a new home, a place to escape and contribute and be appreciated and I found it there, unexpectedly, on what was supposed to be a short 7 day trip and to this day this place remains close to my heart and the first place that comes to mind when I think about “home.”