February 14, 2023
FIRST VALENTINE’S DAY IN BAJA
I’ll let you in on a little secret… I love Valentine’s Day! Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but really, I love any holiday. I adore a good reason to get out of my normal routine. I’m a huge fan of getting dressed up and/or eating out. It’s fun to do something a little bit special! This Valentine’s Day was much different than any other that I have ever experienced, but it was just as good!
NEW CULTURE, NEW EVERYTHING!
This is my first Valentine’s outside of the states, and I am still getting used to being in Mexico. I love the sand in my toes, the rush of the ocean waves, and the breeze in my hair—especially in February. However, traveling in a new country is also exhausting! Like the beginning of Vanlife, I’m feeling extremely tired at night. Our days are so full, and my brain is constantly working: switching between Spanish and English, the considerations of the varying exchange rates and remembering not to flush toilet paper. To be clear, none of these are problems. I am entirely grateful for the experience of being here, it’s just different, and it makes me tired at the end of the day.
CONCERNS ABOUT THE FUTURE
This morning when I woke up, Zak and I were lying next to each other. I felt like he was being a little bit more quiet than usual. I asked him what he was thinking about, and he said, in a wistful but also slightly ambiguous tone: “How cool traveling is…” I couldn’t help but feel the anxiety press outward on my chest cavity and the slight burning in my eyes and throat as he said this. We had sort of a tearful (on my part) conversation about traveling and how our lives will change. Zak loves to travel and has adored Vanlife this past year, and I have too. However, we are about to have a huge change in our lives starting in August.
Since my acceptance to medical school, I have been anxious about leaving full-time travel for the world of stationary living. Zak has been anxious about this too. We love our life: meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, eating good food, learning new languages, and living life unexpectedly. Settling down for medical school is going to be extremely different. It will be regimented and stationary. We are trying to find a balance between the life we have now and the life we will have a year from now, where we will be situated in one place.
We’ve considered still living in the van, we’ve considered getting a house. We’ve considered renting. Zak is interested in real estate, and my move to medical school will also help him pursue this dream. A temporary hiatus will also allow us to build out another van if we choose. We are trying to devise ways to travel regularly while I’m in medical school. We’re thinking one big trip a year, and one little trip every six weeks or so. This will give us something to look forward to, and hopefully will satiate our excitement for adventure and exploration.
STUCK IN THE SAND
After our talk, Zak and I got up and went to take Auggie on a walk. It’s a nice way to get some us-time, enjoy the outdoors, and spend time with our pup. Jumping out of the van, we realized that, yes, our front wheels were a good 6 inches in the sand! We didn’t plan on moving for a while though, so we continued our walk. On the way, we met a kind but chatty man named John, from Vancouver Canada. (Funny enough, John also lived in Voorheesville, NY for a few years, very close to my hometown!) Anyhow, John was playing with his own dog, Burt. Burt was about twice Auggie’s size and was a big fuzzy thing! He looked like a mix of a Bernese Mountain Dog and a German Shepherd.
While we chatted, which went on longer than Zak and I intended, Auggie and Burt played together. Aug even let Burt get her ball and bring it back to us! We originally told John that Auggie can be iffy with other dogs, but John was very open to letting them try. He said that Burt could defend himself if needed. I really appreciate it when other dog owners are open to letting their dogs try. I often clam up and keep Augs away from other dogs because I don’t want Auggie to hurt another dog. Unfortunately, this also keeps her from being socialized (with dogs… for the record, she LOVES people).
At the end of our chat, John offered to pull us out of the sand with his 4-wheel-drive Subaru… I was very skeptical, but also gratefully accepted the help for later in the day. Later, John indeed pulled us out from our spot and we got to try Magnum and Kelsey’s sand tracks as well. That little Subaru looking car did a great job!
FIRST RUN AND SHOWER IN MEXICO
Today I also had my first run in Mexico! I ran about 2.5 miles total, down to the lighthouse on the beach. There was a turtle nest where I stopped, but I didn’t want to go closer in case I hurt any of the eggs. It felt so good to get in a little bit of alone time and get myself moving. I used to hate running, and I think it was because it was so difficult for me. It often made me feel like I was going to stop breathing or throw up. But now, I feel much happier when I run. I really appreciate the bonus of me-time and the endorphin rush. For me, running is such a great way to manage anxiety or any icky feelings.
A [Mostly] Cold Shower
After my run, I went right to the showers. I was very much looking forward to the hot water, the steam, and really scrubbing down my skin—especially on this relatively cool and windy day in Mexico. Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to make the warm water turn on. So, in about 60-degree (F) and windy weather in a partial outdoor shower, as quickly as I could, I got my hair and body wet to turn it off as soon as possible and soap up. As Zak and I sometimes joke: It was colder than a witch’s titty! Turns out though, about 95% of the way through my shower, I had let the water run just long enough that it got warm! LOL.
I always feel much more motivated to run when I have a shower available. It’s a lot harder to convince myself to run when I know I will stay sticky and smelly, and that I will bring it into our bed and sheets. I know that will certainly happen at some point in Mexico, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, it is Valentine’s Day, and I am clean!
VALENTINE’S DATE NIGHT: QUAD-COUPLE STYLE
One of the most different parts about Valentine’s Day this year was that we were with a big group of three other couples, so all eight of us went out to dinner together! Zak and I were originally going to have a little date at the café at Campo Archelon, Café Siete Filos, but it was super busy when we went in, and we had basically already tried everything on the menu. So, instead, we asked everyone else if they would want to accompany us to dinner in town.
We went to dinner at a place called Guillermo’s, which was maybe (?) attached to another campground. While we were there, we sat outside, and an adorable dog who reminded me of my brother’s dog Winston, named “Negro” (Spanish for Black) came to play with us and get snacks from under the table. He cheerfully brought us over empty water bottles to play fetch with!
We were the only group at Guillermo’s, and unfortunately, we sat down before we asked if they accepted card. Turns out that Guillermo’s only took cash and between the eight of us, we had very little cash on us. We were particularly low on Pesos, because Zak and I couldn’t get any in the states on a same-day basis. So, at the end of dinner (which was delicious) we ended up paying for dinner half in American dollars and half in MXN. It was incredibly confusing with the exchange rate, but we worked it out in the end. Tomás, the waiter, helped us out a little bit too and actually gave us back some of the tip that we gave him. (I suppose we must have tipped more than is customary?)
On the way back to Campo Archelon, we stopped at La Isla, one of the grocery markets in town. All eight of us, including Auggie, were piled into the van as we drove. We’ve never had so many people in the van before, and it was fun to bring everyone around.
The market itself was small, maybe the size of a small gas station, but it had to essentials: fresh meat and produce, boxed, canned, and dry goods, alcohol, and cleaning supplies and car supplies. Towards the front of the store, they had homemade baked goods displayed on the shelf, and I saw some mini pecan swirls. (Cinnamon sticky buns) I met Zak on the Appalachian Trail, and he has always loved the blue box (Drake? Hostess?) pecan swirls. He says he likes them so much because as a kid when he didn’t have time for breakfast, his dad would let him stop at the gas station and pick up pecan swirls. I quickly had Kelsey buy two rolls, so I could surprise Zak for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t the big romantic gesture that we used to make on previous Valentine’s Days, but both of us appreciate the little things.
AFTER DINNER VALENTINE’S DAY ROMANCE
Following our date night and grocery shopping at La Isla, put away our groceries, and I had surreptitiously put Zak’s swirls in our plate drawer. I had Zak open the drawer to put one last thing away. He was so happy to see the two little pecan swirls sitting in their little plastic bag among our plates and bowls. It was so nice to see him be so excited. We both had one pastry. Objectively, they’re not quite as good as the ones in the states, but surely, a lot of love went into baking them from scratch.
After eating our pecan swirls, we were getting ready to go to bed, and we had what seemed like a million flies flying around in the van. (This usually happens when we keep the door open all day.) We spent the next 30-40 minutes killing all the flies with our bare hands. Auggie helped too by barking at them and trying to eat them. There were actually 19 flies that we killed, which is our special number! What a romantic (and original!) Valentine’s Day activity!
SPENDING SO FAR (1 USD to 18 MXN):
- Camping for 2 at Campo Archelon- $288 MXN- $16 USD
- Coffee + Muffin at Café Siete Filos- $118 MXN- $6.50 USD
- Dinner for 2 at Guillermo’s (2 dishes + 1 pina colada)- $485 MXN- $26.94 USD
- Groceries at La Isla- $1331.78 MXN- $73.98 USD
CURRENT TOTAL: $6245.28 MXN — $346.96 USD