Extranjera Update: December 2021 (Mexico City and La Paz)

I think this was the best December of my life.

And, because of that, it feels like the PERFECT month to restart my Extranjera Updates. The scales have been tipped back (FINALLY!) to have at least as much good as bad each month. Actually, I can say, with certainty, that my months have been better than I can EVER remember them. Consistently. Ever since my move to Mexico City in July; I have never been happier, in my entire life. Leaving Puerto Vallarta and moving to CDMX was one of the bravest and best things I’ve ever done for myself.

Is it already annoying that I can’t stop saying that everything is the “best” (just wait – there’s more)? I swear, I’m not being hyperbolic, I’m literally living my best life right now. And I am experiencing only the tiniest bit of self-consciousness in entirely expressing it (quite unusual for me! I’m usually chockfull of good old fashioned Catholic guilt), because the last two years have been such total wretched shit I truly feel like I deserve some goodness.

I loooove the holiday season, and fully believe that it stretches from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, and December is the cherry on top with Christmas, my birthday, and now my bf’s bday to celebrate as well.

Post-Xochimilco Friendsgiving Feels

Friends gathering at Xochimilco to celebrate Thanksgiving
Yes: Bottom right is Jo the Van in her initial stage (empty and ready to become a camper) transporting us to Friendsgiving

December started while I was still riding the high that was my first-ever Xochimilco Friendsgiving. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to host (and also hate to clean). I’d been dreaming up the idea of a Xochimilco Friendsgiving for months (pretty much since I got to the city), and it seemed like the perfect solution – the trajinera would fit all of my friends in CDMX (and much more than the breakfast bar/makeshift dining table at my apartment), and clean-up would be minimal.

It wasn’t the biggest Friendsgiving I’ve ever hosted (one year I had more than 40 at my place in Fluvial when I lived in Vallarta… let’s beat those numbers next Friendsgiving!), but it was one of my absolute favorites. And definitely the most unique.

Jo the Van is Coming to Life

Lake Chapala Sunset
The sunsets in Chapala are WOW!!

We took our first out-of-city trip in Jo the Van (though this time, in a cargo capacity, to make a delivery, and not as a camper) to Guadalajara and Chapala, and I can already tell I’m going to love this #vanlifeliving ! I don’t know how to drive a manual transmission (and I lost my driver’s license at the Diplo show in 2019, right before COVID hit, and it’s been a pain to replace) so all of the driving falls to my bf, and I get to be chauffeured around. A pretty cozy situation for me, who hates driving but loves roadtrips.

The van is progressing and we’re told it will be finished February 10: the birthday of our project director, and just in time for us to pick it up and drive it to PV for a friends’ wedding!

Celebrated My Birthday

Vegetarian brunch foods
Thank you ladies so much!

My girlfriend Faith spearheaded a girls’ brunch for me that was a total surprise. I LOVE SURPRISES! She tricked me by saying we were going to a practice yoga class and I asked about a million questions (per usual) that she played along with perfectly. I showed up chatty af (also per usual) and didn’t even notice my girlfriends gathered in the dining room until they shouted at me. And then I cried (was this the most on-brand birthday brunch ever for me?).

I am surrounded by the most incredible, supportive people in Mexico City and I am endlessly grateful and humbled.

Off-Grid Dream Birthdays in La Paz

Images of La Paz Baja California Sur
THIS was the vibe

My boyfriend and I are born 4 days apart; he’s 361 days older than me. We’re both Sagittarius, but x10000.

For our birthday(s), then, we opted to take a trip out to La Paz (what better thing could two Sags do to celebrate themselves?).

Some tequilas were consumed on this day, evidenced by the photo of me devouring cake hahahaha

La Paz is a special place for him and a totally new place for me. We stayed in an off-grid eco-cabin on a ranch on a beach; that was a new experience for BOTH of us. We had cake, we ate sandwiches (no restaurants for miles), we drank tequila (of course), wandered the beach, read a lot, and dreamed of the future. It could not have been more simple or more perfect.

La Paz: the name fits

We talked about doing a day trip or seeing the sea lions, but we ended up spending the time we weren’t walking and talking or reading by driving around just looking at different beaches. I used to be much more of a bucket list traveler… but something I really appreciate about my bf is how he encourages me to do what I want to do, to listen to what I actually need/want in the moment, versus what I feel like I “should” be doing. And I enjoy SO much more of life because of it (doesn’t make for the most exciting blogging though; blame him!! haha).

Spent Christmas in Florida with Fam

Christmas in The Villages

We were back from our bday extravaganza just a few days when we flew into Florida for a week of family time.

We spent Christmas with my family in the Villages, a place I didn’t really know how to conceptualize before arriving. It was one of the most FUN places I have ever been. It’s billed as an Active Adult 55+ Community, but to sum it up with this visualization:
Nearly 100,000 seniors day-drinking, getting around in golf carts on the trails that link the whole community. There are pickle ball courts, basketball courts, baseball and softball leagues (that you must try-out for and get drafted), archery, martial arts, hiking trails, gyms, and pools. The town has its own stores, malls, and grocery shops (can’t forget liquor stores as well). There are town squares with live music, restaurants, and lots of bars. It’s like retiree sleep-away camp, or college for adults who actually have disposable income and endless free time.

SO MANY ACTIVITIES

My family spent a lot of time at the putting green, on the pickle ball court (I finally got to replace my unathletic self with my uber-athletic boyfriend in my family tournament and take the place I deserve – on the bench), driving around on the golf carts, hanging out in the pool, and just laughing at my dad’s house. It was one of my favorite Christmases yet.

After Christmas, bf and I drove across the state to spend the last few days of the trip with his family, relaxing, reading, and hanging out by the pool… before heading back to Mexico for NYE celebrations (which I’ll talk about in January’s roundup – we went to a SUPER cool and new-to-me place for the New Year!!)


LIFE LATELY: LITTLE BITS

BEST RESTAURANT/MEAL:

Taco Bell: the fast food of choice for myself, my bf, AND my brother. Three peas in a proverbial carb coma pod

Best Meal: Definitely my birthday brunch!! Thank you girls!

Best Restaurant: Don’t hate but I cannot go to the US without eating Taco Bell. Vegetarian Crunchwrap Supreme for LIFE!


BEST BAR/DRINK: Casa Olympia

This new restaurant in Polanco, Casa Olympia, just opened. The food is INCREDIBLE (Modern Greek/Mediterranean) with lots of vegetarian options but the drinks are extra special.


BEST BEACH: La Paz, Everywhere

Every. Single. Beach. we visited in La Paz. Don’t miss out on Baja California Sur; it is a (relatively) undiscovered hidden gem, especially compared to the rest of Mexico’s coasts, and I’d say the most underrated region in Mexico.


BEST BOOK I READ: Undress Me in the Temple Of Heaven by Susie Gilman

This book brought me back to my backpacker days. However, the author and her friend were WAY more badass than I, as they took off to explore Asia right after their college graduation in 1986 – way before Facebook, Instagram, or Google (let alone the internet?!) were around to help travelers… and before I was even born.

They start off in China, when the country just began to allow visitors. Soon, though, Susie realizes the biggest roadblock to her idyllic (and maybe naive) travel dreams isn’t a language barrier, money, or even cultural misunderstandings, but her own travel companion. 


FAVORITE DAY:

More great peaceful days like this one; someday I’ll learn to look at the camera but not today

I gotta be lame here and say it’s pretty impossible for me to choose. All of December was pretty freaking fantastic. Between the very peaceful trip to Lake Chapala, then celebrating my birthday, first with girlfriends and then in La Paz, and seeing my family (we hadn’t all been together since before COVID: 2 years!), and so many just small simple beautiful days in between, I’d be lying if I tried to come up with a fave.

May all months be so blessedly amazing!


REALITY CHECK:

I “should” be out adventuring, taking photos, taking notes, if I were a “good” blogger. But I really just want to be here.

December was amazing but there were a few rough spots.

I got in my only real “fight” ever with my boyfriend in early December. I always try to learn something from every tough moment, and this was no exception. I realized that fights happen, even to me, even in this relationship (this may sound silly because I’m a relationship THERAPIST and I tell every single couple this!! but I’m the kind of person that needs to learn everything firsthand), and that what’s important is apologizing, giving forgiveness, and finding a way to move forward. And: alcohol makes everything bad, worse.

On a lighter note, the off-grid cabin we stayed at in La Paz had a shared, compostable toilet that was literally a wooden seat that allowed for your “disposables” to be dropped into a bucket below. I thought I was a rough and tumble country girl. But I need a toilet IN MY ROOM or right next to it. Walking a couple minutes in the wilderness in the middle of the night to pee (which I need to do, often, I like to stay hydrated, guys) into a hole with who-knows-what below was NOT my cup of tea. I did not mind, however, the compostable aspect of things. It’s actually pretty freaking cool and it seems weird to pee into clean water now (and how freaking wasteful). Done correctly, compostable toilets have NO bad smell (actually, they smell nice, like wood chips).

I realized another thing about my ideal self. She’s not real. I WANT to be the person who WANTS to go-go-go and do dawn to dusk itineraries and eat at all the coolest restaurants and dress perfectly and do all the things on the TripAdvisor list. But actually, even writing that sentence made me feel tired. I don’t really want to do all. the. things. I like to read. And relax. My day-to-day life now as a therapist (and a health insurance representative) is SO fulfilling and amazing but takes quite a lot of mental and emotional energy and I need to relax a lot more on my free time than I did in my previous jobs.


I hope you had a great December!

This post is part of a 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).

With this series moving forward, I’ll be talking about the main themes of my life that month, some favorites, at least one “reality check”, and what I’ve discovered here in Mexico City (or, wherever I end up moving forward). 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, I’ve done my job.

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

As always, let me know what you’d like to see more (or less!) of by sending me an email or leaving a comment here. I love to hear from you and I ALWAYS respond to emails.

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Steph

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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