Finding Freedom #1 : A Short Hike to El Nogalito

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.

A short water hike to El Nogalito, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

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.

El Portal Magico .

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.”

3 Life Changes that Led me to Marry.

In a previous post , I mentioned never having a fantasy or dream of marriage or kids growing up and that led me to consider all of life’s twists and turns that finally led me to what is now a traditional-flexible marital partnership.

I often would refer to my now husband as something that was more of an arranged marriage. No, we are not of any sort of specified religion, Eastern culture or subculture of America involved with these beliefs or practices. We are regular degular middle class modern citizens of the western world. When I say arranged marriage I refer to what felt like the pressure and the absence of choice in the early stages of our relationship. We met each other on our own by chance on a random young night in our early 20’s and within a few weeks we had our first date, I met his family, he met mine and a few months later we went on our first trip together. 9 months in we were living together and after a year I decided he was not for me and we broke up. My phone was blowing up from his family pressuring me to marry and talking me into it and I was pulled aside by my mother telling me the importance of marriage. All of which caused me to feel as if I was being blind sided and set up.

The one thing I heard from both sides was

“Sometimes you marry a good person first, and later on love grows over time.”

I rebelled. And Without further ado, Here are a few of the ways I knew it was time to get married and how I knew my Husband was indeed “the one” after all. (As he sat patiently, smiling and knowing for the full 8 years of my rebellion).

  1. “The older I get, the less time I want to spend with the part of the human race that didn’t marry me.” —Robert Brault.

This quote has become one of my all time favorites as it sums up the complete and total end of my rebellion against tradition. It symbolizes my feminist defeat, the end of all of my solo travel dreams and the end of my resistance and trying to prove everyone who loved me wrong.

As I grew older into my rebellion, I got a glimpse of who I would likely become in the future. I was always the quiet child and introverted adult completely content with long stretches of solitude, isolation and little to no human interaction. And although I loved to travel and see the world and have new experiences, this fact never changed. I was quiet and introverted in other cities and countries as well, and there were plenty of days of my traveling journey where I would simply just want to stay home in the hotel, the air bnb the villa and watch tv or swim in the pool. I grew into an adult who thrived in the isolation of pandemic, who limited the amount of people who had access to me. Dating became less of an adventure and more of a waste of time and doing for others became more of a priority.

I grew into a woman who only wanted her family to be okay, taken care of and around her; and when things went good or when things went bad there were only a select few people who were always included and what I noticed was : my husband was always the first person I shared the news with.

2. Evolving from a Selfish spirit to a servants heart.

My twenties were fueled by a selfishness I am so happy I indulged in. I had to get that out of my system once and for all. Selfish with my time, my resources, my life path. For the 6 months prior to getting married to my husband, I lived alone in Dallas, Texas soaking up the southern hospitality, accents and solitude of my all too great studio apartment that offered me the best view of the sunset. My balcony faced the forest and every night my dog and I would sit outside and watch the night creatures come out as the sun began to set to the left of us.

A summer night view from my Dallas apartment.

It was during these nights of peace and quiet and freedom that I was able to think with a clear head of my future. I was self employed and financially stable in my own right and had plenty of time to ponder and consider all of the possibilities of the future. It was then and only then that I began to lean into the true desires of my heart to marry and give all I had to someone else. I rediscovered my joy of cooking and baking again as working as a professional chef during my twenties drained me of all passion and appreciation of my craft. I discovered new recipes and created new dishes during all of this down time and every time I made something amazing, my first thought was always of how much my now husband would love it. Especially if I purposely made his favorite things like a sexy Ribeye, mashed potatoes, roasted peppers and broccolini, or his much beloved shredded chicken nachos.

My husbands favorite shredded chicken nachos.

Every single day of these 6 months my husband sent me snail mail love letters without fail detailing his love for me, his desire to marry and love me forever and how much he missed my cooking. He would detail all of the meals of mine he dreamt about the night before and would tell me the first thing he would want me to make for him whenever we were able to see each other again. Little did he know, I already had my own list of things to do for him and places to take him to when we finally saw each other again. His entry to a new career prevented us from seeing each other at all during this period as we were living in two different states at the time and it was a definite blessing to us. We both got to see what we took for granted, gain a new appreciation for our friendship and love for each other and it brought us closer and ultimately tested our dedication to our relationship in this life.

3. Realizing I was already married.

One big thing I had to realize on my own was something he would always tell me here and there over the 8 years of sharing our lives together: We are already married. This is what marriage was.

When he would say this , I would take it as a joke because being married was not something I ever agreed to in the traditional and lawful sense. He would always say he was serious and again I would laugh. But during this time apart and receiving his snail mail and phone calls to check in on me I realized he was right all along. Sure we didn’t sign the papers for 8 years, sure our relationship to each other was not recognized under the law, but we were two people from different walks of life who remained there for each other through the thick and the thin and never abandoned each other. Our friendship was deep and lasting as we watched all of our other friendships fade away. We always had each other. As we grew together and grew as individuals we always had each other. Our devotion to the relationship never ended. We always celebrated together and we always leaned on each other when things were bad.

I had to let go of what the frilly Disney and the movies and tv shows showed marriage to be and pay more attention to the fundamental bare bones of what marriage was: a dedicated and devoted partnership in this life. In sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer who is there?

We were there.

The 8 years I spent rebelling against what everyone told me to do is not something I regret. I believe my drive for self discovery and not just going along with everyones coercion is what ultimately took all of the “what if’s” out of such a big decision of my life. Marrying that young would have been a disaster and because of where my life was going and my free-spirited nature I would have always felt trapped and likely would have built more of a resentment towards my husband instead of the deep appreciation I feel for him for still being here and loving me. I needed to experience the free life and have the full journey to truly know what was right for me. There was no other way.

The Marriage.

My husband and I married in the middle of summer 2021 in North Texas – a place I had just moved to 6 months prior and a place he had never been until the week he showed up to marry me.

We married in secret, alone together with two strangers : The Justice of the Peace and a Security Guard. That week was the first time we saw each other since the top of the year in January and would be the last time we would see each other until the end of October. We were not surrounded by the love of friends and family. We did not have a ring on our fingers, I did not have a frilly white dress or a photographer to capture me ugly crying at the alter or our first kiss as husband and wife. Everyone we knew found out via text message and our wedding photo was a quick selfie outside of the courthouse on the way back to the car.

My only regret about this is the photos. Damn I wish I had those photos for our history books and portraits around our future house.

In my youth, I was never the little girl who fantasized about finding a husband and having kids. My inner world consumed my life and my most anticipated goal of growing up was escaping my circumstances and traveling the world to learn and discover. I knew this for as long as I could remember. I was a very quiet child, very much so to myself – as I still am here in my early 30’s. I never understood the concepts of the culture or why people always wanted to buy me boring dolls and barbies instead of video games. Because I had an older mind and read a lot of books before even beginning first grade, I knew a wedding day never equated to that mythical happily ever after so trusting this ideology that Disney and the masses were trying to force me to believe just was not working out. There was still life and change after marriage and some times that union would not work out.

My goals for my adult life stayed in the forefront of my mind throughout my adolescence and as soon as I graduated high school I set them into motion traveling by myself to various cities around the United States. Skipping college and working various retail and secretary jobs to fund my new life in new areas from Los Angeles to Michigan to New York and the Bay Area, California. And one random night when I was 22 , back home, and in the middle of finishing my journey of becoming a certified classically trained chef , I took my best friend at the time to a night club. She was a young single mother with the urge to live and experience life as her self; and clubbing, which was not my thing, was a way for her to let loose from the confines of her life and be young with the rest of us. It was that random night of drinking water in a night club I didn’t want to be in that I looked up and saw my husband smiling at me from across the room.

I immediately avoided eye contact as men were not on my radar. I wanted to finish culinary school and go on about my vagabond life – cooking my way across the world, learning in different countries and remaining unattached in my 20’s.

God had other things in store and I can hear him laughing at me now because nearly a decade after this moment in time this very man became my husband and sat patiently through my resistance. He asked my mother for my hand in marriage after year one, asked me to marry him after year two, and three, and four, and 5, 6,7,8. Never wavering, never letting a mask fall to reveal a darker side when he didn’t get his way – which happened far too often in my personal dating history.

He would always just say ”Ok. Its whenever you’re ready, girl.” With that smile on his face. And he would continue to stay by my side for better or for worse. As the years of our friendship went on and life’s ups and downs hit us hard he never disappeared, always loved me the same, and often times was the only person by my side taking care of me and supporting me and patching up my wounds. He would always remind me that whether we married or not he would “always be that shadow in the background watching over me and making sure I was ok.” And if ever we were apart all I ever had to do was call him and he will be there no matter where in the world either of us were.

He always made sure to remind me of that throughout our years together. He never fell short of these promises and never once let me down.

The purpose of this blog is to revisit my life long passion for writing that was once discouraged in past relationships. A creative outlet of mine that has been aching for a comeback for years and to chronicle my personal journey through womanhood, self discovery and now marriage. I want to share my own story in hopes there is something to be gained by others and show all the ways my independent traveler life has been combined with that of my husband. To reveal marriage as a gift and not a burden as culture would like us to believe .

Ultimately my goal for this blog is to serve as a creative personal outlet and a new source of joy I hope others can find enjoyment in.

If you find me and follow, Welcome!

and Thank You.

-D. Nicole