Extranjera Update: January 2022 (Mexico City and Bernal)

I’m hitting straight home-runs with these past couple months.

starting the year out exactly the way I love it: mezcal, wine, cheese, travel, great people, beautiful views, perfect weather

I swear I’m not just wearing rose-colored glasses; things have been just so truly incredibly good (if I’d started this series back up in 2021, there would have been quite a different theme to the mood).

It can be really hard to fully embrace the wonderfulness after so much heaviness and hardship.

Even amidst all the happiness, I feel an underlying anxiety, like: when is the other shoe going to drop? When’s this things-going-right carpet going to be pulled out from underneath me?

happy happy happy happy

To be honest, doing these monthly roundups is really helping. Reflecting on the good days (and even the not so good, which relatively speaking haven’t been so bad at all) feels very grounding. It is real. It is all happening. Writing always confronts me with the truth: right now, it is that my life really is incredible and joyous. And I want to fully own that, to relish in it, and to be proud of myself for doing the work it has taken to get to this point.

As my dad has said, enjoy it now, because you never know what tomorrow may bring.

Welcomed in 2022 in Bernal

How cute is Bernal?

Bernal is a magic town you should not miss (full post on it coming soon). In many ways it reminds me aesthetically of San Miguel de Allende, but at a far more reasonable price, and with many more local tourists as compared to Americans.

Cheese farm activities (clearly I failed at capturing the cheese – aside from in its resting state, photo on the left – in favor of focusing on mezcal and walking around, pretty on-brand for me)

For such a small town, there’s sooooo many activities (please tell me you got the Stepbrothers reference): restaurants, bars, wandering around the town, ATV tours, hikes, vineyard tours, cheese tastings (!), and more and more and more.

Onto the wine tastings. The more tastings the merrier!

If its true that the way you spend your first day is the way you’ll spend the rest of the year, I couldn’t be happier.

I celebrated NYE with some of my favorite people (my boyfriend and his family), in a new cute town, an early dinner, drinks, and watching fireworks from a rooftop and then a jacuzzi. I don’t think it could possibly get better than that!

Happy New Year (well, almost, at this point)

(Life hack: take your NYE photos at 10pm. This accomplishes so many things: whoever wants to go to sleep, can. Whoever wants to change into more comfortable clothes (ME!), can. And whoever enjoys bringing in the New Year completely champagne-drunk doesn’t have to be confronted with their waste-face preserved photographically the next day)

Jo the Van is almost done!

Eeeeek! All the pieces coming together!

The progress towards #vanlife has been exponential this month!

We are definitely on track for a February 10th finish date, which means we’ll be able to drive it to Vallarta in time for my friends’ wedding, and then spend a few weeks exploring the Riviera Nayarit region. I’m planning on showing off some of my favorite places to my bf (who has only really experienced PV/Punta Mita/Sayulita) – including Mayto, San Sebastián, and Tuito.

I’m incredibly excited to get in a bunch of solid friend time (I miss my girls), and to meet my gf C’s baby for the first time ever!



A bit of background before I SWEAR I will actually get to what the best restaurant was…

With the nonstop flurry of travel, and meetups with friends, and celebrations with family, I had the sudden realization that my boyfriend and I had never been out on a “real” date in Mexico City (by “real date” I mean out to dinner just the two of us).

Our first date was unconventional in every way (really set the mood for the rest of the relationship, tbh hahaha). It was less of a “date” and more of an outing, as we went to La Marquesa with my now-boyfriend’s employees and their girlfriends/wives for a work excursion outside the city.

on a mountain, about to storm, on a horse (which I was terrified of), I don’t know anyone, far from home, days after arriving in CDMX

Retrospectively, from his side, a bit of a ballsy choice – what if I was insufferable or inappropriate or any other number of things? From my side, also a bit strange but not entirely surprising, to jump into spending a whole day with a near-stranger and a whole bunch of total strangers more than an hour from the city I’d moved to just a week before.

this is not my bitch face, this is “I really like this guy but I am absolutely terrified to be on this enormous horse and trying to be cool about it and not have a panic attack” face

And to top it all off, of course we went horseback riding. I’ve been terrified of horses since an accident with one in the middle of Bolivia, years ago.

Luckily, the date went more-than-great, and the rest is basically history.

basically been smiling like an idiot ever since this moment

After that first “date”, we didn’t ever really get into that whole dinner and drinks pattern, which I LOVED. I like eating healthy, I like being at my house, and I’d rather spend time/money/energy on activities and travel and experiences, which we absolutely do.

If we go out, it is with friends (our first real dinner out consisted of my bf, myself, and 3 girlfriends). I always yearned for a relationship with a partner who wanted to be social with me, and who would want to do group activities with me, because I’d also experienced the other side of the coin (partners who refused to spend time with my friends, or wanted to only do things with just me). So no complaining here!

But, as someone who prescribes date nights to her clients on the reg, I do understand the importance of dedicated one-on-one time, away from the standard routine and the responsibilities of home.

Photos from Filigrana FB

So we had our first “real” (or I guess we could say stereotypical) date in Mexico City more than 6 months after meeting, long after we’d become boyfriend/girlfriend officially, this night, at Filigrana. It was perfect: quiet, moody, romantic, lots of candles.

Filigrana date night

The waiter was super amenable to my vegetarianism (YAY! not always the case) and had so many suggestions for us. We tried so many different plates, all of them fantastic, most involving cauliflower (when did cauliflower become the MVP for veg cuisine? I like it, just a bit surprising).


Photos from LingLing FB

Everything I tried at LingLing.

Great drinks, unbeatable views of the city. Awesome date night location!

The food was also superrrr good (vegetarians and carnivores agreed).


La Marquesa

Sadly: No beaches this month!

But I did visit La Marquesa again, which has some streams and a lake (and was the place my bf and I had our aforementioned first-ever date!)


Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (in MX)

Lately I’m really into books told by self-aware female narrators, and Cedar Hawk Songmaker is no exception. She fights passionately and intelligently for her own life, and the life of her unborn child.

This book hit a little uncomfortably close to home, with themes of government control, a mysterious disease, and distortion of media. It is somehow terrifying and hopeful, funny and dark, intimate and universal, all at the same time.

What happens when the world seems to be ending, big-government control tightens, and women lose control of their reproductive rights (though in a new and jarring way)?


The first day of the New Year.

crazy for Cantaritos

For the past few years, I’ve kept the tradition of drinking a New Mix on New Year Day (“it’s not New Year New Me, It’s New Year New Mix” was my saying). This year, though, I changed it up. I had my first ever Cantarito, which is basically the more delicious, handmade not canned, ancestor of the New Mix.

This year, it really is New Year, New Me. I’m thankful to barely recognize the person I’ve been in most New Years past.


(I list product links first in US and Europe, followed by in Mexico)

Roomba 677 (in MX)

After years of dreaming about this day (and too many decades of living in hair- and fur-filled apartments while still choosing to wear a lot of black), I finally got a Roomba. We opted for the 677 and it is just perfect – under $200, it takes itself “home” to charge when it has a low battery, can be controlled from a phone app, and you can schedule it.

If you’ve got a furry pet (or are prone to losing large amounts of hair), this is going to change your life. I AM OBSESSED. Felix, though, feels differently. Weirdly enough, he doesn’t mind the mopping Roomba (the Braava which I’ve had for years), but he hates the new robot.

Pueblos Mágicos Map (in MX)

As our van nears completion, I really wanted a visual representation of all the places we’d be going (for my new-and-improved office wall, of course). I found this awesome scratch-off map.

Doorway Pull-up Bar (in MX)

After going to my amazing physical therapist turned friend Nichole (who I’d originally connected with on FB months ago, then sent my bf to her), I realized I needed to prioritize more shoulder and upper back strengthening. I have kettlebells and dumbbells at home, but wanted to mix it up a bit (I am 100% team home workout, especially with masks being mandatory in gyms – working out in a mask to me is more than torture than exercise). This doorway pull-up bar has been so great for me! Every time I walk by I hang for a bit (I do not have the upper body strength yet to complete a pull-up solo) or my bf helps me with an assisted lift. He’s also really gotten into it, and does 50 reps on most days.

Lacrosse Balls (in MX)

Another purchase I owe to Nicole, putting a few lacrosse balls in a sock and then rolling up and down with them between you and a wall is really a game-changer for your back. They are firmer than tennis balls and just the perfect texture for getting into those tense back muscles after a long day at your computer.

New desk (in MX)

My boyfriend – the engineer – took hours building this desk before giving up about 1/3 of the way through. He handed over the task of its completing to me.

bf doing engineer things…

I needed to undo all of his work (it was totally wrong – mostly upside down), and had it completed in less than an hour. All this to say: do it yourself, don’t entrust your boyfriend, and it’s an easy and affordable option.

Dr. Bronners (in MX)

I am Dr Bronners OBSESSED but the castille soaps seem so much more expensive in Mexico than in the US! I got a sandalwood and jasmine scent from Amazon for a pretty good price but there are a bunch of different scents; I’ve been combining it with water, more essential oils, and some coconut oil for a hydrating bath soap (the lather is great and my skin isn’t so dry).


I struggled to find something that felt like it fit right for this group gathering I was so excited about; same with the date night at Filigrana

My weight creeped up

Another difficult thing to say out loud: I have always struggled with weight.

More than one friend and relative has commented on how much my weight fluctuates, never unkindly, but each time sends me into a shame spiral. I’ve battled disordered eating, overexercising, and restricting/bingeing at various points in my life.

My healthiest natural set point feels like it is around 120 pounds, but I very-frequently go up and down 10 pounds from there (which causes me to go up or down one or two sizes, considering that’s nearly 10% my bodyweight), depending on my stress levels, commitment to exercise, and alcohol intake. The past few years I finally felt like I got a healthy handle on food, weight, and body image.

When I met my boyfriend, I was in the midst of one of the fittest times in my life. I felt strong, lean, and comfortable in my body (for one of the VERY few times I can remember). My relationship to my body felt cooperative, not punitive.

And then: we started ordering in UberEats a lot, the amount of “bad” food I was consuming increased tremendously (my bf loves French fries and always shares), I was skipping workouts in order to spend more time with him, and I was consuming more alcohol. Little by little, my clothes felt tighter and my body felt less strong. “Love chub” was making an appearance.

Cue the holidays (my kryptonite!!). I fully embraced all of the delicious family food, and all of the White Claws (I’d never had them – they went big long after I’d moved abroad) and Taco Bell meals I missed out on living in Mexico. I allowed myself to relax and enjoy food like I probably haven’t at any other time in my life since I’ve been conscious of calories. It was wonderful.

…Until we got back to Mexico City and I stepped on the scale. I was at the heaviest weight I’ve been since moving to Mexico 6 years ago. I’ll be honest; I definitely shamed myself and retreated into negative self-talk. Bless my boyfriend, who has been nothing but supportive, encouraging, and complimentary (and who mirrored my weight increase with some gains of his own).

I don’t feel the same level of stress or anxiety around my increased weight that I have in the past. I’m not going to jump on a fad diet or ramp up the cardio in order to punish myself back into my ideal weight. Instead, I’m getting back to my regular workout routine. I’m prioritizing proteins and greens again. And I have no regrets.

Happy New Year!

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 walk my dog… 

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, to be more honest, probably 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 been up to 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 think and what you’d like to see more (or less!) of by sending me an email or commenting below. I love to hear from you and I ALWAYS respond.


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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