Extranjera Update: April 2019 (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

April 2019 is my one-year anniversary in Puerto Vallarta. Here’s to many more!

Shooting for the Moon (aka a Half Marathon) in San Diego

Collage of photos from my trip to San Diego
3 of the longest standing loves in my life: My sister (28 years!), Bloody Marys (10 years!), and my college roommate (12 years!)… and I got to enjoy all of them in San Diego

I’d never run more than 30 minutes in one go when my sister suggested doing a sister’s trip and half-marathon in San Diego. My training got off to a slow start as I ended up in the hospital with a chest infection and hardcore bronchitis, keeping me from being able to run (or barely move without coughing) for weeks.

When I was finally able to work on training again, Pitillal Trail became like my second home; I think it’s the only place to run in PV without the interruption of crazy cars, aside from the track. I’m definitely not a great runner, but I actually started to enjoy it, especially the feeling after. Runner’s high is no joke.

I attribute going from a non-runner to becoming a somewhat-runner to taking the time to think about what I don’t like about running: it’s uncomfortable and it’s boring. To fix those problems, I invested in running clothes (and shoes) that made me feel good, made sure to put on some anti-chafe salve (that chub rub is real, and running in leggings isn’t an option for me in PV because it’s just too dang hot), and always had my favorite podcasts downloaded. I got an iphone armband that didn’t pinch my arm.

Beach and Bay 10k San Diego April 13 Results
The first race I’ve ever run

In the end, the half-marathon didn’t happen, but I still consider it a success. My sister and I decided at the last minute to do the 10k instead of the half-marathon, and it definitely worked out for the best. We weren’t sore for days after, and we were able to complete the run with enjoyment rather than pain… and training for the half-marathon made me push myself more than I would have, had I just been training for a 10k.

Hanging out with my sister, exploring San Diego, especially the areas of Pacific Beach and La Jolla, and not soaking in my own sweat like I would’ve in Puerto Vallarta (it’s hot in April) was super enjoyable. The timing was also perfect in that my college roommate ended up being in town and we were able to spend an afternoon together.

Blonde woman walking down a trail in La Jolla California
La Jolla Trail

While in SD, my sister also introduced me to Game Of Thrones (can you believe I’d never before seen an episode?!) and I *got* hooked (lol). When we weren’t hiking or walking around, I was chilling and hardcore bingeing. I was thrilled to find out that you can get all the GOT episodes, even abroad, on Amazon Prime Video, so that is what I’ve been spending my study breaks doing. (Note: It says “title not available in your location”, but I bought it and it works so idk)

*As my first trip back to the US in a while, I was a bit shellshocked by the prices of everything in the US. A $60 uber from the airport (in PV a similar trip would cost around $5-10)?! Drinks for $10 a piece? I can’t ever move back.*

School’s (Not) Out for Summer

I’m *thisclose* to finishing my master’s degree (currently in the midst of a course called Career Counseling, currently, and looooving it), and also started working on my College Counseling certificate through UCSD… because I’m going to start my first “in-person” position in about 5 years this fall, as a college counselor (I AM SO EXCITED). I’ll still be offering expat life and mental health coaching (and after my master’s practicum is finished, expat counseling and therapy as well).

If you’re in school or going back to school (or know someone who is), I’ve recently started buying all of my textbooks in e-book version and saving SO. MUCH. MONEY. It is also way better for someone like me who ends up moving houses/cities/countries ever year or so, as I like keeping and referring back to textbooks but I definitely don’t want to lug countless big ol’ books around. I’ve accumulated too much stuff as it is!

By the end of my master’s degree and my certificate program, I’ll only have bought 4 actual “physical” textbooks throughout my book-heavy higher education career. I’ve got nearly 50 e-books, though.

You can access your e-books via the Kindle app on your computer (free), sometimes on your “regular” Kindle (if there aren’t a lot of graphics), or on an Amazon Fire (which is weirdly somehow cheaper than a Kindle, though it can do more, like play movies). Sometimes you can get books on Audible, so you can even listen to your required reading!

Semana Santa, or is it Spring Break?

Dogs on Malecon
My sweet angels on the left; Satan on a skateboard on the right

This was my second Semana Santa in Puerto Vallarta, and it was just as strange of an experience as last year. Here’s why: When I think of Easter (and “Holy Week”), I think of church, bunnies, pastel eggs, and a certain innoncence.

In PV, however, Semana Santa is largely a time of partying. Tons of people flock to the city (while many of the residents leave). The emphasis for most is definitely on revelry over reverence, with a marked increase in suggestive, aggressive catcalling and public drunkenness. If I forget: please reming me to get the heck out of dodge next year.

After more than 5 years of living abroad with a dog, it was during Semana Santa that I ever experienced a dog attack (and the night before, a friend had the same thing happen to her!). Luckily, I was mentally prepared (having freaked out when I heard what happened to my friend’s dog, who ended up alive but worse for the wear).

I started screaming, loudly and high-pitched, as the pitbull pulled his leash out of his owner’s hands and lunged for Mickey, picking him up by the neck and shaking him. He dropped Mickey and then went for Felix (who was being walked by a friend), but the owner had recovered and grabbed his dog’s leash, pulling him away in such a hurry (and running off down the street to avoid retribution) that he dropped his cell phone. He didn’t even make sure my dogs were okay (they are).

What’s New in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Street Art Graffiti
Just a tiny selection of some of my favorite street art in Puerto Vallarta

I went on a street art tour and loved it so much. The walking tour is led by a local artist, and the suggested donation of 200 pesos benefits a street artist group. The group holds frequent walking tours of different areas of PV, with new dates and tours added regularly to the Facebook page.

Life Lately: Little Bits

Collage of women's walking group in Puerto Vallarta
Our “walking gang” on two different walks: along the Rio Cuale and along the Malecon
  • My girlfriends started up a weekly walk and talk and this activity is so simple yet so amazing. Getting your group together for some time outdoors and to catch up is free, healthy, and so easy/stressfree. We’ve been taking turns picking the meeting point and leading the walk, and whoever can join, does, and whoever can’t, just comes the next week.
  • Taxes. UGH. Even if you qualify for the FEIE (Foreign Earned Income Exclusion), if you’re self-employed – like me – you’re going to end up spitting up 15% of your wages in “self-employment tax”. I’m a bit salty about this, considering I spend an average total of a week a year in the US.
  • This is about to be so bougie but I’ve got to say it. I bought a milk frother because a friend was raving about hers. The little gadget is around $10 and has changed my matcha latte game (and I’ve recently started making a coconut cacao drink – literally just coconut milk, or any milk will work, and organic cacao – and the frother makes it so easy to stir up).
  • It’s mango season and I’ve been making mango overnight oats every morning for breakfast: 1/3 cup organic oats (avoid that glyphosate!), coconut milk to cover, 1 whole organic mango, shredded organic coconut, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp hearts (as well as pepitas when I’ve got them). Not gonna lie, that’s what I’m going to have for breakfast today (photo below).
Mango Season Oatmeal
It’s mango season!

What I Read This Month

To me, there are few things in life more redundant than reading someone else’s book summary, so I’ll save you the pain and just list the titles. If something sounds appealing, I’ve linked to Amazon (who does a way better job than I ever could summarizing each book).

This list includes two of my favorite authors. One, Alice Munro, has been a favorite for. ev. er. She’s a Nobel Prize winner in Literature. The other, Neil Gaiman, is uber-famous but this is the first time I’ve ever read his work. I’d describe his books that I read as magical realism with a touch of mythology (LOVE).

I’m Fine… And Other Lies by Whitney Cummings

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired by Benjamin Spall

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

This is the first post in a new low-key series, designed to give a behind-the-scenes look into an expat life… which, honestly, isn’t usually that much different than a “regular” life! I still go grocery-shopping, take walks, pay taxes (ugh, especially this month), and have stresses like everyone else.

With this series moving forward, I’m aiming to talk about a few main components/themes of my life that month, some little bits and bobs, what I’ve read, and what I’ve discovered here in Puerto Vallarta (or, wherever I end up moving forward).

As always, let me know what you’d like to see more (or less!) of by sending me an email. I love to hear from you.


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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