Extranjera Update: April 2022 (the State of Mexico)

Can we just stop with the daylight savings time shenanigans already?

I am SO ANNOYED that I lost an hour of light in the morning, and am now feeling like I need to stay up later. Plus in Mexico, it happens at a different week (this time around it was April 3), so I’m off from most of my clients (therapy and insurance) for a week or two, and it never seems to be caught by my scheduling software.

Metabolic Health Hacking

still stuffing my face with tacos, but this time with more fat (avocado) and protein (beans) rather than carbs

As I mentioned starting last month, I did an incredible one-month program with Tess of Hacked Healthy. It involved education on metabolic health, paired with wearing a continuous blood glucose monitoring and instituting longterm lifestyle changes.

I lost several pounds of fat (honestly without really trying or making any big or uncomfortable changes), but what I GAINED was so much more important! I finished the program feeling so empowered and excited. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like my days revolved around food and what I would (or would not) be eating. I felt full, satiated, and my energy levels were stable.

I plan on doing another round of the program in the future, and maybe even contributing as well (discussing the link between blood glucose and mental health). If you’re interested in the meantime, you can sign up for Tess’s program by clicking here.

Felix’s Birthday

Felix and his birthday “cake”

I found my beloved pup Felix in the road on March 16, 2019, the anniversary of when my mom passed away. I know most people like to celebrate their dogs’ “gotcha” days as their birthdays (that has always been my go-to, as well), but it didn’t really seem appropriate considering what the day already represented to me… and that I’d found him while actively grieving that day, on a run, crying my eyes out.

(I still believe my mom sent Felix to me. Nearly every year, around that day, she has sent me an animal that needs love and care.)

So, it seemed like it was high time to finally pick a birthday and celebrate it. Birthdays are SO important to me, and Felix is one of the most important people in my life. So: Felix’s first-ever celebrated birthday was April 9 (first ever with us, though he is actually now five-ish years old according to the vet).

Got the Van Back!

back in action and ready to roll!

We made some changes to the van (most noticeably the roof deck!), and celebrated by puebleando in some new places for day trips.

El Oro was not the most dog-friendly place we have visited (actually, it was the least dog-friendly place we’ve been in Mexico: Felix wasn’t allowed in any restaurant). That being said, I would absolutely go back, but would leave Felix at home.

Presa Brockman with the van and fam

We spent the morning exploring the old mining town before heading to Presa Brockman for the afternoon. It was so relaxing and so easy. Having the van makes such a nice “home base” anywhere we want to be: cold drinks in the fridge, a full set of kitchen supplies, and a convenient sink. And now all the extra roof seating!

El Ocotal Weekend

Total tranquility

After such a lovely day trip to El Oro and Presa Brockman, we made it a goal to use the van more, and immediately started researching.

We discovered a very cool public state park system in Mexico (neither of us had ever heard of it), and decided to start trying them out. For the first weekend, we decided to go to El Ocotal. We had the entire park to ourselves (aside from a few rangers for security) for the first night, and only a handful of people came the second. It was the best of both worlds: peaceful seclusion and protected safety.

It is super safe (with a 24/7 guarded entrance), and there are bathrooms, showers, and some spots with electricity. Go on a weekday to have the park all to yourself; Friday and Saturday were significantly busier than Thursday (when we were alone in the whole park). Even if you don’t have a van, this is a very secure location that would be good with a tent, too.


I just want to be home

Home sweet home in Mexico City

I wasn’t on a plane even once this month (for the first time this year), and I LOVED IT. I want to take fewer, more intentional long-distance trips. The hassle of airports and flying is just really getting to me lately. Now that air travel has picked back up after COVID shutdowns, it seems like the number of flyers is back to normal – but staff certainly aren’t. There are SO many delays (have I been on a flight this year that hasn’t been delayed?) and airport snafus and I’m just sick of that added stress.

Aside from that – I just really like being home, more than I ever have. I love my apartment, my community, my schedule, my yoga studio, my work.

I’ve mentioned this before (back in February) – but I am much more of a weekend trip person now.

I think that’s the ideal, though, isn’t it? To create a life that is so wonderful, you don’t need a vacation away from it, you want to be there for every day of it.

And that’s exactly how I feel.

Increasing homeless drug problems in Mexico City?

Be VERY careful if you see this man

The scariest Mexico City morning (by far) should have been super simple and peaceful. I went to grab coffee with a visiting friend before heading out on the Ocotal long weekend trip I’d mentioned above.

Instead, my coffee chat was interrupted by a very aggressive homeless man attacking another coffee customer (a woman and her friend), requiring assistance for their safety.

To make a long story short, NONE of the other customers assisted, and the workers at Tierra Garat declined to help, as well (and the police took over 30 minutes to arrive), despite repeated requests for assistance – leaving a terrified woman and her friend at the mercy of the clearly unwell man, who continued to run around the entrances frenetically, trying to hit and grab the woman, despite my friend’s intervention.

At one point, the man came to the coffee shop door, pulled his pants down (leaving his underwear on, thankfully), and began to masturbate over his underwear, while staring at us and shouting. This whole scene stopped only because my friend decided not to wait for the police anymore, and took matters into his own hands, and physically chased the man away down the street several blocks (and another coffee patron finally joined in to help).

Unfortunately, there’s been more incidences like this (including a super scary one in Roma Norte, where a drugged-up man smashed a boy with a rock). And even in my own anecdotal experience, I’ve seen more incoherent people wandering the street, and unfortunately been witness to several men exposing themselves.

I am not passing judgment on the homeless population, but rather concern for the safety of random people (including, and honestly, especially, women) and also frank shock at the lack of help provided by other passersby/employees/police.



One day at El Ocotal

waking up like this!

D and I both woke up early. He took Felix for a wander around the park, while I lazed a bit and read (this doesn’t happen normally – I’m typically very much a “get up and at ’em”). When the boys returned, I did finally get up and we went for a longer walk around the grounds, taking in the serenity of our surroundings. We visited the little zoo that they have on the property, and then came back to make lunch in our little van kitchen (there is something about making food outdoors under the bright blue sky that is just incredible). We spent the rest of the afternoon snacking, talking, and reading on the roof, before going to bed super early.

#notguilty Pleasures:

Learning to grow orchids
the orchid I received from my real estate agent when I moved into this apartment in July

This is the LONGEST I’ve ever kept an orchid alive. And I took it from a one-stem flower to THREE!! I am so proud! I have about a hundred photos on my phone of this process hahaha

my latest favorite is getting a chunky gold glitter accent tip

…. and yes of course I got my nails done as well. There is something super empowering to me about having long, shiny, color-of-the-moment nails. I feel like a badass boss (of myself) who can accomplish anything.

If I can have nails like this, what else can I do?


In Mexico, it’s important to drink filtered water. But I hate drinking out of plastic. It’s bad for the environment, it’s annoying to constantly buy (even if you get the huge jugs), and I’m not really convinced that consuming water that has been sitting in plastic (and likely at several points: been quite warm) is not bad for you.

I had this plastic PureIt purification system for a while, but it’s quite finicky, slow, and the replacement parts are PRICEY.

I switched to the EcoFiltro, which is a Latin American company (yay!) with a good dose of social justice (for every filter you buy, they donate one to a town in need). Each filter lasts two years, the whole thing is plastic-free, and it is incredibly low maintenance.

One tip: if you drink a lot of water, skip the small size and go for the medium or large. TRUST ME. I tried to save $$$ by going for the small one, and I was always waiting on water (I like to stay hydrated… and I wasn’t anticipating having a live-in bf who also consumes a lot of liquids). I bumped up a size and got the bigger one – the right choice!

The customer service through their actual website isn’t great, and shipping was disorganized and chaotic (as was getting a replacement when mine arrived broken). I’d recommend ordering on Amazon.com.mx for a more seamless process.



Mexico City

Mexico City Xochimilco
one of my favorite places in the city – Xochimilco!

The best city in the world? Prove me wrong! I feel so lucky to call this magical, colorful, vibrant city my HOME.

El Oro

the boys on the stairs I neglected to climb (bc: heights phobia)

A lovely Pueblo Magico to spend a morning in (just leave your dog at home).

Presa Brockman

a little lakeside relaxation

This is either a peaceful lakeside picnic location (just follow the dirt path, its not as rough as it looks), or a rambunctious family day trip (if you choose to stay by the pony rides and food/drink vendors).

El Ocotal

just a couple of boys living their best lives

If you’ve got a vehicle and can get your hands on a tent (or better yet: a van!!), this is a super tranquil forest getaway that you shouldn’t miss. It is amazing to see what natural beauty lies just a few hours outside of the enormous Mexico metropolis.

Thanks for reading!

Every month, the Extranjera Update discusses a reality check (a downfall, disturbance, or difficulty I experienced), runs through a quick review of my joys (small and large) and my journeys (where I’ve traveled), and shares how I worked on building community and connection – in my experience, one of the hardest aspects of living abroad (or really, being an adult, anywhere).

As from the beginning, the Extranjera Experience is a veryyyy 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 spend time with my friends, work, and still have to do the dishes… 

The Extranjera Update series is laidback and off-the-cuff – quite purposefully the opposite of nearly everything going on in blogging right now. The photos are all taken with my iPhone (or, more likely, my boyfriend’s phone), and unedited (though I do sometimes go a bit collage-crazy).

Again – it’s not because I’m so self-involved to think my life is so fascinating, but rather because especially when I first moved abroad, I felt incredibly alone. If even one thing you read, you relate to, or feel helped or supported by, I’ve done my job.

If you’ve got another idea for a section I should include – let me know!!

Let me know what you’d like to see more (or less!) of by sending me an email or leaving a comment. I love to hear from you (truly, the highlight of blogging for me) and I ALWAYS respond to emails.


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!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook

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