Dreams Do Come True

As a child I dreamt of being an explorer. I wanted to go to exotic places, see exotic people and do exotic things. I wanted to travel down the Amazon on a raft, stopping at all the villages along the river banks, eating foods I had never heard of before in Canada.

I wanted to be an archeologist. I dreamt of going to undiscovered places and finding lost civilizations. As a child I lived in the country and went on daily adventures, spending hours in the abandoned barn next door, walking in the woods pretending I was in a jungle and made forts in deadfalls. Bugs and spiders never bothered me.

I watched Swiss Family Robinson on Saturday mornings and dreamed of living on a deserted island. My hero was Amelia Earhart. If only I could learn to fly an airplane I could go to all the places my imagination took me.

My parents had a summer house in a small town called Chance Harbour on the Bay of Fundy. I would spend hours on the rocky beach, looking for crabs and other sea life. I collected all the sea glass and pottery I could find. These items were my treasures.

In the winter my family would go to Florida for a month to escape the cold Canadian winters. Florida was as far away from my home as I had been. The warm waters allowed me to see creatures I had only read about – octopus, manatees, pufferfish, rays, sharks. I got to try new foods – cantaloupe and honeydew tasted delicious as was the fresh squeezed orange juice. (Orange juice didn’t come from a can?) The water was so much warmer than the Bay of Fundy – I could spend hours swimming in the clear water. Hours searching the beach for sea shells.

Florida

Age 2 Florida Trip 

Looking back I had an incredibly wonderful childhood. I don’t think my parents realised how those Florida trips would shape me as an adult.

When I was 18 I asked my parents if we could go to Mexico instead of Florida. My parents told me if I could save up my portion of the airfare and hotel they would take me to Mexico. I was determined. I saved all of my paychecks until finally I was in Puerto Vallarta. The people, the architecture, the food, the sounds, the smells… everything was so foreign.

Nothing I read prepared me for the full reality of being in another country. No one can tell you what it is really going to be like for you in another country, you will have your own individual experience. I can honestly say that vacation changed me forever.

Peurto Vallarta

Age 19 Puerto Vallarta

I never became an explorer or an archeologist. I never got my pilots licence. But, no longer did I feel I had to live in Canada just because that is where I was born. I wanted to go everywhere, see and do everything I had ever imagined. I realized the world was waiting for me and it was only an airplane ride away.

I travelled to other countries with my first husband. Even though we only went to resorts, it did allow me to satiate my wanderlust. I went horseback riding on a mountain ranch in Hawaii. I climbed to the top of Diamond Head and was in awe of the beauty I saw from the lookout. I went snorkeling and swam with dolphins. I went scuba diving for the first time in Aruba. Explored Bahamas Cays. I went to Riviera Maya and trekked to Tulum to see the ancient Mayan ruins. I even went back to my beloved Puerto Vallarta and I got a chance to see the city with new eyes – adult eyes.

Fast forward a few years…. I had three children, got divorced and eventually remarried. My new husband had never traveled other than to Boston and he had never been somewhere tropical. We honeymooned in the Riviera Maya. He fell in love with Mexico just like I did all those years ago. Or maybe he just liked the warm weather.

Over the next few years we’d vacation in Mexico twice a year, always staying at resorts. Then, by chance, I heard of VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). I convinced my husband staying at the resorts didn’t allow us to experience the “real” Mexico and I booked a week stay at a house in a small town called Todos Santos about an hour north of Los Cabos.

It was that trip that once again changed me. No longer was I satisfied at resorts full of drunken vacationers. I was tired of bringing day clothes and evening clothes and I was tired of the structure. I wanted to vacation like I lived there. For the next 4 years we rented the same house, staying longer and longer each trip. We bought groceries and cooked at home. I saw the expats and said to my husband “if they can live here, we can too.” He wasn’t ready then but I planted the seed.

I decided I had to get out of Canada. I hated the cold winters. I was tired of all the rules and regulations. I wanted to be free. I wanted out of the city and my need to be near the ocean grew. I wondered why, when all the world was theirs, my ancestors settled in Atlantic Canada. My paternal grandfather helped build the Panama Canal – why, I wondered, didn’t he stay there in the warmth instead of returning to foggy, cold Bay of Fundy.

I was quite determined to move somewhere tropical but since my husband had never been to any other foreign country I thought we should start renting homes in other tropical destinations. So we rented a penthouse on the beach in Barbados, a cottage with a pool high on the cliff on the Dutch island of Saba and stayed at a resort in Sint Maarten. All were lovely but they were not Mexico.

Finally, after 8 years my husband was ready, he too was tired of the cold winters and working outside in -40C. We were lucky in the stock market so he did the Freedom 55 thing and I quit my job. We packed our cats into the jeep and drove from Alberta, Canada to Todos Santos, BCS. Finally, after what seems like a lifetime of dreaming, I am living in Mexico, in the little town where we first rented a house.

Living in Mexico is all I imagined … warm climate, friendly people, and the sound of the waves. It’s not perfect here – the internet is slow, sometimes we run out of water and there are power outages. I don’t like fish and it seems almost every local restaurant specializes in The Catch of the Day. (I miss the Atlantic lobster) There are too many dogs here, they wander everywhere and bark at everything.

I have discovered something about myself: I can be happy anywhere – warm or cold, city or country – but I am most happy here… by the sea.

If I can do it, you can too.

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Glamping in La Ventana

Two of my children came to visit us for Christmas. They are young adults and we decided instead of a lot of gifts we’d give them an experience to remember for the rest of their lives. I told them to pack clothes for 2 nights and a swimsuit, and explained we were going on a fun adventure without telling exactly what.

Christmas Eve morning we rented a UTV from Black Sheep Motor Sports in Todos Santos and headed across the Baja peninsula. Being two smart kids they guessed we were going to The Sea of Cortez but they didn’t know we were “glamping” for two days.

UTV

Our ride across the desert

We were headed to La Ventana. La Ventana (English “The Window”) is named for the ‘window’ to the Gulf of California. La Ventana Bay is well known for consistent north winds that blow from November to April, and is considered one of the world’s top kiteboarding destinations and home to over one hundred species of cactus.

Ryan, the owner of BSMS suggest we stay at Chilochill and honestly it couldn’t have been a more perfect spot. After about 3 hours diving through the rugged terrain we arrived the afternoon of December 24. The crystal-clear waters between La Ventana and Isla Cervalo were chockfull with a ton of kite surfers, I later found out there were 300.

Kites

So, what does glamping actually mean? Glamping is glamorous camping = Glamping. It’s the best bits of camping – crisp night air, proximity to nature but not having to ditch ALL of the comforts of home. You’ll find yourself in the lap of luxury. Queen size beds, wifi, hot showers, oh how the list goes on and on. Really I could never have imagined the ultimate luxury that was awaiting us inside the small yurt tent. Each yurt had its own private bathroom with HOT water. There was a small outdoor bar and a campfire pit which made the trip even more fun.

It was when the sun went down that things got unexpectedly beautiful. Above us was the most incredible mass of stars I’ve ever seen. Clusters so bright that I thought they could only exist in pictures scattered the sky and it was this moment that stays with me forever.

Chilochill

Ryan at BSMS recommended we visit the hot springs near Chilochill. So Christmas Day we set off to find the hot springs or hot water beach. Just down the road from La Ventana, in El Sargento are natural thermal hot springs where you can enjoy free hot water right at the beach, just between the reach of the high and low tide at the beach. We all tried digging but never managed to find the hot water. We still had a great day at the beach, swimming and looking for shells. All-in-all in was a fantastic way to spend Christmas.

The experience was so much fun and a real adventure. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Everyone Has a Story

I find myself in this small Mexican town of Todos Santos very much a foreigner. I look different, dress different, and don’t speak the language (yet). As I wander through a streets and eat at the restaurants, so many people smile, make eye contact, and say Hola. They are real and authentic and living their best life. The people are genuine and helpful, and show pride in their small community.

On a street with row after row of small stores I met the owner of the local book store with the most magnetic and happy personality. She cracked jokes with my husband and cracked us up.

At a local restaurant owner by two brothers, I met an older couple who have travelled the world and have so many interesting stories to tell. They are an inspiration.

I met two chefs at a restaurant on the beach. They talked about having passion for life and about the importance of being able to do what you love each day. They are living their best life.

Here’s the thing. I hear people say all the time that they love their job or that they are passionate about their job, but then the next moment they are complaining about it, looking for reasons to take off, or quitting and looking for the next best thing. These two young chefs really seemed to enjoy what they were doing. It didn’t seem to be an act. It’s kind of hard to describe, but you could feel the authenticity in these guys. They were real and honest and living life.

I remember thinking what a great way to live – waking up every day and doing something you are passionate about. Something you love. We, as Canadians, live in a society where happiness is often measured with money and cars and homes and things and power. Worth is too often judged on what you have and not who you are. Decisions are made based on what can we do for ourselves instead of what we can share with others. The lines are very blurred between needs and wants.

I want to remember everyone has a story worth hearing and I want to listen. I want to appreciate and learn about different customs and lifestyles. I want to recognize that coming from a place with more power, money and things doesn’t mean I know more. I want to appreciate how lucky I am. I want to focus on my needs more and wants less. I want to never forget how good people are. All people.

One of my children has been bitten by the travel bug. She backpacks around the world, by herself, staying in hostels, making friends wherever she goes. I hope my other two children will learn the same lessons that traveling has taught me. I want them to see that the world is a big place, that so many adventures await them if they have the courage to try new things, that you can find goodness and similarities in faraway places, that some of the most beautiful places and experiences are off the grid or tucked away, that finding what makes you happy may be the greatest treasure you discover, and that taking the time to meet new people will expand their thinking and open their minds.

The two chefs

The two young chefs

El Triunfo, BCS

Today we decided to drive to El Triunfo, BCS – a small mining community about 70 kms from where we are living. The picturesque drive took us though mountains, up and down twisting, winding roads – the perfect Sunday drive.

In 1862, silver and gold were discovered in the southern B.C.S. mountains, leading miners from Mexico and the United States to set up camp. Once the largest city in B.C.S, it was home to more than 10,000 miners.

In its heyday the town was a cultural center, where Francisca Mendoza taught and performed. Pianos and other instruments were brought to El Triunfo from all over the world and a piano museum still exists.

Another remnant of the past is La Ramona, the 35-meter-high smokestack designed by Gustav Eiffel (the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower in France). At the time it was built it was one of the highest brick chimneys in North America. The mines shut down in 1926 and most people left. The 2010 census reported a population of 321 inhabitants. It is located at an elevation of 483 meters (1,585 feet) above sea level.

 

Mining tower

La Ramona

Rusted mining equipment

Rusted leftovers from a time gone by

El Triunfo

Overlooking the town of El Triunfo, La Ramona stands tall

Mexico – It’s Not All Tequila and Beaches

Living in another country is like a dream to some people. Some are envious of the idea of someone who’s off exploring faraway places instead of living a normal, seemingly less exciting life. When I’ve spoken with people who have never lived anywhere other than their home country, they have this notion that it’s something reserved for these spontaneous nomad-type people, that there’s this unattainable spark about us adventurers living our dreams.

I think that people wrongfully confuse living in another country with touring it. Being a tourist and living are vastly different, and the value of living in another country is too often overlooked.

Right now I currently live in Mexico. Some imagine it is all beaches and tequila, hot weather and sombreros, while few others express a more violent imagination of what it would be like. But it’s neither. I live here like I did back in Canada. I pay bills, I do laundry, I make my bed, I take out the garbage, I watch Netflix and I cook dinner.

The perceptions most people have of what it is like to live in Mexico are very wrong. Even I didn’t know what to expect. People have only these superficial ideas of palm trees and cheap beer, or cartels and ramshackle houses — a view that they’re unable to look past. It’s a sort of ignorance that’s understandable, but it’s one that they’ve chosen not to correct.

Let me tell you — it’s worth correcting.

Living in another country reminds you how incredible life is. Though you get used to a new routine and enjoy a new comfort, something about it gives you an appreciation for everything — things that you wouldn’t usually notice or pay attention to.

You’re reminded that time is fleeting, that your experiences are what you make of them, and that you’re such a tiny piece in this big beautiful world. And, you realize that the world isn’t as different as you expected, that everyone uses Facebook and watches Netflix.

It may not be as glamourous as you imagined, and you might wonder why move somewhere exotic just to end up in that feeling of “normal”. But really immersing yourself in another country could be what gives you that spark you envy so much in others.

It’s the living that creates that spark.

todos-santos

Wildlife In Mexico

 

Suddenly Peko let out a terrible yowl as he was looking out the front door. Anyone that has heard 2 cats fighting knows just the sound I mean. My husband said “there’s a cat out there.” I turned on the outside light to investigate the interloper. I saw nothing.

We went outside to the back patio and “it” was there. Not a cat at all but a kit fox.

The tiny and secretive kit fox is about the size of a housecat, with big ears, a long bushy tail and furry toes that help to keep it cool in its hot and dry environment. They are difficult to spot with their buff, yellowish-grey fur and mostly active at night.

I have seen so many different kinds of wildlife since moving to Mexico. Some are a joy to behold, like the sweet kit fox … others like spiders and bugs I could do without.

KitFox

Itsy Bisty Spider

Tarantula

I don’t have arachnophobia but I’m not fond of spiders, especially big ones. So when I opened my front door one evening, just a few days after we arrived in Mexico, I was surprised shocked to see a huge tarantula on the walkway. My husband shooed it away with a broom and we haven’t seen it since.

As we have been out and about in the town, meeting and talking to people, I have learned that NO ONE has seen a tarantula. Not expats that have been here for 13 years, not people who have lived here all their lives. Just my luck.

In popular culture, tarantulas are often depicted going on the offensive. Movies showing tarantulas crawling on people as they sleep. (a big fear of mine) In reality, this is not something that tarantulas do. I have Googled and found out most spiders can sense the heat from our bodies and will avoid us. They are not naturally very aggressive unless provoked.

Still, knowing they are around, I take my flashlight out at night. They are night hunters and hide in the ground burrows during the day, coming out at night to hunt.

 

Water Woes in the Baja

todos santos coastline

Water. The most basic necessity of life and a precious commodity in Baja. Our little part of the planet receives a scant seven inches of rain annually, less than a third of what nature provides mainland Mexico. Todos Santos has enough water for 92 gallons per day per person, but in reality, consumption reaches about 211 gallons per day per person.

Many years ago during our first visit to Todos Santos we enquired about what it was like to live here. We were told, “Don’t build on the hill side of the road, they have water issues.” Now that we live here, and on the hill side of the road, I know what water issues really mean.

I’m not talking about drinking water. Drinking water, water for cooking, washing produce is all bottled. 20L jug of water is very inexpensive, cheaper than 1 500ml bottle of water in Canada. What I’m talking about is tap water.

For the second time in less than three weeks we have run out of water. Apparently the first time the water pump was broken. Yesterday we ran out again. We checked the cistern and, sure enough, it is almost empty.

We aren’t using a lot of water. Our water use consists of a shower a day, toilet flushing, dishwasher every other day and a couple of loads of laundry per week. Apparently that is still too much.

For a Canadian, who has never run out of water no matter how much was used, I find this the biggest negative since moving. Thankfully we have a swimming pool. We’ve been using buckets of pool water to refill our toilets.

Apparently water day is Friday here, which means that is when the pipes are open to let cisterns refill. Our rental agency is having a truck load of water sent over sometime today. When Friday comes around we will have to see how long it takes to deplete the cistern and may need to schedule a regular delivery of water by truck every Tuesday.

Today, an old-fashioned sponge bath is called for.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Explore Dream Discover

We get so caught up in the “American Dream” of finding the perfect 9 to 5 job, the perfect husband, the perfect house with a white picket fence, two cars and 2.5 kids that we forget that there is an entire WORLD out there to explore!

I don’t know anyone who has regretted moving abroad but I know plenty who have regretted staying behind.

Learning Spanish

fluent

I was born and raised in Canada’s only official bi-lingual province, as children we had French classes from K-10. I’m not fluent in French but I can get by.

French and Spanish are both Latin based languages so one would think I’d have an easier time learning Spanish. But no. I find myself confusing the two languages. So I end up speaking a mashup of broken English, French and Spanish. So confusing.

It will come in time, the more I use Spanish and the less I think in French.

The Spanish lessons I’m taking at Hablando Mexicano are helping agreat deal. My husband and I were able to get into a small group class that was paced perfectly for us. Twice a week for 4 weeks. Our instructor, Ivonne, is excellent. We’re having a lot of fun and learning so much.