Extranjera Update: June 2019 (Grand Rapids, MI; Oaxaca, Mexico City, & Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

June was a “full” month in every way.

On my first full day in Oaxaca – thanks for the snap, Jenn!

I had 24 days of travel: Michigan, Oaxaca, and a few days in Mexico City, packed with visits with friends and family, busy-ness with school and work.

And physically speaking, I ate and drank so. freaking. much. nomnomnom

I arrived back home in Puerto Vallarta more than ready to return to a routine, ready to jump back on the fitness wagon, and ready to dry out a bit (alcohol-wise). I wasn’t ready, though, for just how freaking hot it would be!

Summer is a sweaty beast. Er, maybe I am. It’s legit 3-showers-a-day weather currently.

Back to Michigan

Walking the trails of Reed’s Lake

June 1 started with a few flights’ worth of a trip back to Michigan. This was my first trip back to my home state and home town in several years. It felt familiar and strange at the same time: my little corner of the world, the little city of Grand Rapids (strangely enough, it’s a city that pretty much exactly matches PV in population).

Trendy new restaurants and bars seemed to have exploded everywhere (so many rooftops! so many happy hours! so many patios! alllll the bloody mary bars). Michigan is a place that is so often dreary and grey, its inhabitants really know how to make the most of rare sunny summer days.

Alcohol and Ice Cream in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Rockwell’s / Furniture City Creamery / Terra GR

I stayed with my sister in her pretty East Town apartment, just a few blocks from where I used to live with some guy friends in my early 20s, in a much more carefree and fun time of my life. It was weird to remember I’m 30 now? I feel the same, and yet different.

Mom scrapbook for me as a baby
I found a scrapbook my mom had kept for me, which had SO many meaningful and tear-inducing nuggets of love, like that she wanted me to “grow up to be a happy person”, and in another part, that I was so pretty and precious. I’ll cherish this forever.

I caught up with family (including going through old mementos at my dad’s house, as he’s now a jubilado pondering selling his house), old friends, and a special blessing was being able to spend an afternoon that turned into an evening with my mom’s bestie from high school (who is an extensive world traveler and phenomenal human being).

A Group Trip?

Birthday with Lauren
The birthday girl on her birthday night (middle photo after she’d had her face smashed into cake; important and hilarious tradition)

Lauren – one of my favorite and most fun humans on this planet – planned a birthday trip to Oaxaca. One week, 10-13 people (depending on the day: some got in late, some left early, etc), one big main house and a few side apartments, and a pretty loose idea of what we wanted to do. I knew about half of the people who would be on the trip (all of whom I loved), and I’d been to Oaxaca before, but…

I have to be honest: group trips never really appealed to me. It’s embarrassing to admit but I spent years as an adamant solo travel snob. I preferred to travel alone, to make my own schedule and stick to it, seeing the things I wanted to see. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve come around to appreciating just how much friends can make a trip something special. Lauren and her friends (who met in the Peace Corps) really exemplified that point, as they’ve shared such incredible memories in so many places around the world.

While I had planned to attend while working and going to school, I did absolutely zero work aside from the very first day.

Exploring around Oaxaca
Exploring cultural sites around Oaxaca

It was just so much fun. I actually have to nerd out and repeat that. So. Much. Fun. I didn’t realize just how hard I’d been being on myself, and how lost I’d become from what I want my life to feel like, until I was staying up til 6am talking with then-strangers now-friends, and laughing until I cried, and letting go of my worries and having that umpteenth mezcal.

Some of the group in Oaxaca
Some of the group on the first full day in Oaxaca

I didn’t know that I needed that trip, or how much I’d been punishing myself, until I was there, having fun, being me again.

What’s New in Puerto Vallarta

Extranjera Experience: Connection and Community in Puerto Vallarta, Expat Retreat in Puerto Vallarta July 12-14

I am SO FREAKING EXCITED for my upcoming Extranjera Experience retreat! If you’re an expat/immigrant woman in Mexico (or considering becoming one), you should totally come. 

If you’re not able to attend the retreat but know someone who might be interested, I would love if you’d share with your network!

Life Lately: Little Bits

  • I had a nightmare of house sitter situation that ended up costing me hundreds of dollars (it was very nearly thousands: my car was “thisclose” to requiring a tow to Guadalajara after my push-to-start keys were vandalized), hours of headache and anxiety, and that my dogs are still recovering from. When trusting your home (and more importantly: furbabies) in someone else’s hands, always check references. “Nice” does not equal responsible or trustworthy.
  • After having deeper realizations about the reality of the clothing industry’s impact on the environment, I’ve committed to getting 95% of my clothes secondhand (either through the amazing clothes swaps my girlfriends do, or through sites like Thredup). And trying to cut out polyester altogether; it feels like crap in this hot weather anyway.
  • Every time I go back to the US, I stock up on some random staples, including Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, tinted SPF moisturizer by Andalou Naturals, and skincare by LilyAna Naturals. This time I also bought some new-to-me but used clothes through ThredUp (which doesn’t ship to Mexico) and it was soooo fun.


To me, there are few things in life more redundant than reading someone else’s book summary, so I’m trying to save you that pain by keeping it short and sweet. If something sounds appealing, I’ve linked to Amazon (who does a way better job than I ever could summarizing each book).

I didn’t read very much this month (again) because I was busy having so much fun and being in real life.

A Visit from the Goon Squad (National Bestseller, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, A New York Times Book Review Best Book) – this is one of those books where the narrative is told through multiple interconnecting stories (my absolute favorite kind). The characters feel real and flawed and not always entirely likable (also my absolute favorite kind), but usually understandable and easy to empathize with.

The Baby Sitter – a total fluff “psychological thriller” read where you can basically guess the end from the very beginning… but it’s nice for when your mind just wants to forget everything.

Almost Sisters – a quirky, unconventional, and sometimes surprisingly dark story with unexpected all-female protagonists

The Marrow Thieves – a dystopian novel based on the premise that indigenous Americans are being hunted for their bone marrow, which holds the cure for society’s problems

Conversations with Friends – funny and sometimes so sharply real it hurts, this story centers around a female friendship and is one that I wished kept going

This is the third 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 family, get hangovers, and struggle with language learning.

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 tend to 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 little bits and bobs, what I’ve read, 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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