Extranjera Update: July 2019 (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

To sum up this month in two words, it would be “first” and “last”.

I Organized My First-Ever Retreat: Extranjera Experience

extranjera experience expat retreat backs

For years, I had dreamed of organizing an expat retreat for women, with the purpose of bringing together people who are going through similar experiences, and providing an opportunity to create community in this frequently transient lifestyle. I had felt the need for a sense of community myself, deeply, as I moved from place to place and often went long periods of time without a single friend in my city (or country!).

Instead of continuing to wistfully play with the idea, I put it into action.

extranjera experience expat retreat attendees day 1

I somehow got incredibly lucky, as an amazing group of women signed up and attended this first-time retreat.

extranjera experience expat retreat presentation sustainability

I’ll certainly be hosting more (as well as doing a full write-up of the experience, and the lessons I learned!)

I Finished My Last-Ever Master’s Course

It definitely felt like the end of an era when I turned in my last master’s paper on July 26th. I’d been working on this degree for about two and a half years by this point. So many hours had been spent on this undertaking, so many social events skipped, so many stressors accepted, and other opportunities rejected.

To finally close the textbooks — and put down the metaphorical pen and paper — was like letting go of a huge weight. Yes, I still have to do my practicum (which is a huge chunk of work in itself), but now I can read for fun without feeling guilty that I should be reading research. I can go out on weeknights without thinking I should be at home writing. I can have the mental freedom to WRITE for myself, rather than feeling entirely mentally burnt out from churning out pages upon pages of research papers.

Side note: who organizes their first retreat a few weeks after returning from a month’s long absence, and a few weeks before finishing their master’s? Learn from me: just don’t do it.

Life Lately: Little Bits

Best Restaurant/Meal:

Credit Veggitalia

Veggitalia and Opa are two of my favorite restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, and I was at both of them this month, so this is a toughie, but I think Veggitalia’s vegan-cheese pizza wins out by just a bit (mainly because I haven’t had pizza in soooo long).

FYI: Veggitalia will deliver if you’re in the Romantic Zone (we’ve even had it at Colibri before).

Best Bar/Drink:

Bar and Tequila Pineapple

My bar, Dom and Christine’s famous tequila pineapple (literally, tequila and pineapple).

Best Beach:

I didn’t get a photo of the actual beach, but the W in Punta Mita is gorgeous. You can’t really get to it unless you’re a guest (they’ve got the beach access all blocked off) or a guest of a guest, or there’s an open-access party.

Best Book I Read:

I wasn’t expecting to like it so much but Normal People by Sally Rooney was SO FREAKING GOOD. Yes, the main characters are high schoolers, but the writing is so psychological, complex, and deep. I felt for the characters, I felt like the characters.

(I still like Rooney’s Conversations with Friends better, though).

Favorite Day:

Dom and Christine's Birthday Piñata

Two of my favorite people (who also happen to be engaged to each other!) have their birthdays within a week of each other, so we celebrated them with a pool party at my house. Hanging out in the pool, grilling, laughing, even bashing open a piñata, all with my closest friends – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Reality Check

My computer crashed a week before my retreat, and just a few weeks before my final course for my master’s program was set to end… with all my information irretrievably lost.

The guys at the MacStore at La Isla were incredibly rude and unhelpful (aside from the actual technician, who was great), and charged me 1000 pesos just to look at it (and then do nothing) which just topped it off. Apple products are also about 20% more expensive than in the US, so ugh.

I pretty nearly lost my mind. I ugly-cried at the news, but then pulled it together and became grateful for the unexpected blessing. I had an incredible friend visiting at the time, Danasia of the Urban Realist (who really supported me and offered the use of her computer), and instead of being glued to the computer I was able to spend some serious screen-free time with her.

This is the fourth 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 spend time with my friends, study/work, and still have to do the dishes… even in paradise.

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

With this series moving forward, I’m aiming to talk about a few main components/themes of my life that month, some favorites and at least one “reality check”, and what I’ve discovered here in Puerto Vallarta (or, wherever I end up moving forward). 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. I love to hear from you 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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