Extranjera Update: March 2022 (Tulum, Mexico City, and BCS)

This month was definitely calmer than February (when we spent nearly the whole month in the van), but we still traveled a LOT…

Originally, we’d planned on going straight from our Jalisco road trip across the country to the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, but we nixed that idea, dropped off the van for some comfort-creating changes, and decided to fly to Cancun for just a few nights in the area, versus spending another few weeks on the road.

Wedding in Tulum

Tulum wedding vibes

We spent a long weekend in Tulum for one of D’s best friend’s weddings.

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about going to Tulum.

Yes, I spent an amazingly fun NYE there for 2021.

But in general, it just GRATES on me, the number of pretentious foreigners (specifically my own people: Americans) who splash around ridiculous amounts of cash on wildly overpriced EVERYTHINGs while feeling like modern day Columbus (all negative connotations intended) personally discovering Tulum. The quintessential Tulumism: stating that they live there (in seeming contradiction to the other fact they totally unselfconsciously explained: they’ve been there 3 weeks)… while on a tourist visa. And you just MUST hear about their revolutionary podcast/clothing brand/life coaching business. Overrated, annoying, predictable.

Hotel Wakax: cute porch swings at your room, beautiful boho details, and best of all: the hacienda’s very own lagoon!

BUT – we were staying at Hacienda Wakax which, blessedly, is a far enough drive from Tulum to keep out most supposed Tuluminati (though there was a hat photoshoot on the grounds one day, lol). And this place is GORGEOUS. It’s so big that you could go days without seeing another guest: they’ve got their own cenotes, subterranean river, lake, and multiple pools. You can traverse the grounds via one of the many bikes scattered about for guest use, or hop a ride in the golf cart.

just swinging in my own private cenote

Stunning… and I didn’t come across even one other American, so it’s the opposite to every previous Tulum experience I’d had.

Yoga progression

Yoga mats on wall

Years ago, I received my yoga teacher training certification after a little over a month spent at an ashram in Guatemala (and years prior to that studying and taking classes and practicing on my own).

But I really fell off the practice. It is hard to be present on your mat, when you don’t want to be present with yourself, ever. So in the years following my divorce, and the darkness that seemed to rise and crash over me like a tidal wave, I could not make myself practice except for occasionally and mainly inspired by joining my friends in classes or retreats.

When I moved to Mexico City, though, I really moved back to myself as well, and to my practice. Several friends suggested I try Atma, and after the first class, I immediately bought a whole year’s unlimited pass. I would go once or twice a week, mainly to the yin classes, and started working up the nerve to try the others. I’m not going to lie – I was very intimidated, and also very disappointed with how far I’d let my practice go, how much I struggled in poses I used to feel ease, and how much my flexibility had been lost.

These days, I have a goal to attend at least 2 classes a week, and I’ve been mostly nailing it so far! It feels GREAT combining yoga classes in such a supportive and encouraging studio with my own at-home strength training program.

Mulege for a Baja Dream

Mulege is a dream itself

Another long weekend trip, this time to end the month. We had visited La Paz earlier in the year (December) for our birthdays and stumbled across some property that we got REALLY excited about.

A dream, to let go of our busy city lives, and to have a ranch and some land, was born. Unfortunately, the land that initially got us so pumped up was not meant for us, and didn’t have a positive end, due to a negligent and irresponsible agent, resulting in a lot of disappointment and loss of money.

D wasn’t giving up, though, and he continued reaching out to agents for the next few months, before coming across an agent named Robin in the oasis town of Mulege. They exchanged some texts and emails and calls, and we found yet another property we were interested in (actually, several). So, we very quickly flew out to La Paz (buying tickets for just two weeks later), and drove 5 hours north, to spend a few days in the tiny town of Mulege, while considering properties in the community of Punta Chivato.

Punta Chivato is pretty remote, and consists mainly of large single-family homes, not a lot of options for short-term rentals (literally: just one beachfront Airbnb for $800/night), and is just 15 minutes away, mostly down a dirt road, from Mulege.

We spent our days admiring the sunrises and sunsets, going for long walks, and really enjoying the slower pace of life, seeing if we could imagine ourselves so. far. away.

I’ll save the end of this story for another time… because, to be honest, it looks like just the beginning.

REALITY CHECK:

IG vs Reality

photo from out my plane window on the way to Cancun as I was not speaking to my boyfriend

Instagram is not reality, or, at least not all of it. Our perception of reality is always subjective, but on IG even more so, because only certain aspects are being shared, usually purposefully.

D and I had an incredible time in Tulum, and I shared a bunch of beautiful photos. These moments were real (authenticity is a core value of mine) but I will admit: they were curated.

I really only shared photos of the second part of the trip, because the first 24 hours or so, I was furious and mostly hid away in my room reading and trying to process.

If you were to know the whole story, it would include more than the last few days of bliss, but also the night and morning before the trip, in which I had decided not to go. I was so upset and angry with D, I thought the most growth-encouraging and boundary-respecting decision for both of us would be for me to stay home, so I could have some space, while he attended his friends’ wedding. We talked it through (I will pat us both on the back for having excellent communication 99% of the time), and I ended up deciding to go at the absolute last minute (so very last minute, in fact, that we didn’t even have time to check in bags and he had to send his golf clubs back home from the airport in an uber).

We have an amazing relationship overall, and I am SO happy and so grateful for him; this is the happiest time of my life. But this does not mean that either of us are perfect, nor that our relationship is.

Please do not compare yourself, your relationship, or your life’s reality to anyone else’s highlight reel. Including mine.

33 is tiring

When I was in my 20s, I felt like I could travel for days and weeks (and months!) on end without needing a break or a routine.

I feel so completely freaking differently now.

After a few days of travel, I’m tired.

After Tulum, we booked a night in Playa del Carmen (my easy low-key beach town crush in Mexico), and planned on going out and getting dinner and maybe drinks.

Umm… no. We were both exhausted from the weekend and DIDN’T EVEN LEAVE OUR HOTEL. We had a few drinks in the pool bar, ordered in pizza… and passed out!

Joy

BEST BOOK I READ:

The Sympathizer

After living in Thailand for 2 years (and being obsessed with Thailand for, like, 20) – I am so quick to jump on any book about Southeast Asia. I want to learn more about the region I love so much.

This book is about Vietnam, not Thailand, and specifically about the US and the Vietnam War. It shines a bright and not-so-flattering light on white saviorism and manipulation, and how it falls beyond short to the point of being so incredibly harmful.

The perspective shared in this book is about the Vietnam War from a very different perspective than the one I was raised with, and provides cultural commentary. I felt uncomfortable at many points, as I should, and devastated at others.

The main themes that stuck with me are friendship, loss, sacrifice, honor, and the relativity of morality. I left this book thinking a lot about empathy and subjectivity, and the importance of trying to understand others, along with the danger of dehumanization.

FAVORITE DAY:

Snapshots of my favorite day: sunrise from our Airbnb in Mulege; a shell I found on the beach of the property we’re considering; Mulege dam; some delicious snacks and seltzers; D and I kayaking after quite a few of the aforementioned seltzers

These days, the simple days are the best days to me.

So many of our days in Mulege were indescribably amazing. I guess it makes sense why we’d want to live over there!

One, in particular, felt especially incredible. We woke up early to an incredible sunsrise and went for a run along the river. We met our real estate agent and his team to drive out to look at the properties we were interested in (and spoiler alert: we fell in love with the land). We drove back from the land to Mulege (hopefully, our future land), had the COLDEST MOST AMAZING seltzer of life, and debated a swim along the dam (too cold!) before heading back to our Airbnb to do some kayaking. We fell asleep, sunburned, happy, sometime before 6pm. We woke up in the middle of the night in a start, realizing we were both starving, and went on a food-finding expedition (in a tiny town, not that easy of a task). We eventually hit gold after driving around and found (a pretty tasty!) pizza and purchased some pops from the local “nightclub” (where the bartender was the same waiter who’d been taking our lunch and dinner orders at the Carlos Racing Bar days before); success!

#notguilty pleasure:

wedding ready nails: a soft pinkish purple with chunky gold glitter. thanks from Angie at Mint Nails in Condesa!

I never used to get my nails done. I always wanted to, but I could never justify the expense to myself. For a long time, I’ve struggled with spending money on myself, to be honest. Scarcity mentality, and feelings of undeserving-ness (yes, even therapists struggle with these kinds of things).

Then, while living in PV, I came across Gin Nail (I think my gf Ally introduced my to it) and it was so inexpensive (200 pesos for gel polish change) and SO good, I could not not justify the expense to myself. It made me feel so good and so happy, and their gel nails were so great, they would last a whole month. So, it became my beloved monthly ritual… that I never abandoned.

#treatyoself

CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION:

When I moved to Mexico City, I basically needed a whole new wardrobe, because it is a TOTALLY different climate than the coast. In PV, all I wore were sundresses and sandals. Seriously.

I prefer to shop secondhand (in the US, ThredUp is my JAM but unfortunately they don’t ship to Mexico), but I haven’t found any stores I really like in CDMX yet.

So, I’ve really been leaning on the H&M Conscious Collection, and trying to think of the longevity of the pieces I get.

I signed up for their loyalty program, which gives access to special deals and discounts, and is free to join, and I’ve been stalking sales like crazy. I won’t bore you with outfit examples, but I’m not exaggerating when I say more than half my closet is now H&M.

Journey

All the places I spent days this month (along with any of my latest and greatest recommendations for each)

did you even visit a town in Mexico if you didn’t get a photo with the colorful name sign?

Mexico City

  • Where to stay: Casa Goliana in Roma Norte (on Agoda or Booking), each room is unique (and somehow with the perfect balance of period pieces and modern luxury), and the hotel itself is housed in a gorgeous “pink” building.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Nice Day Coffee – cute and quiet, with outside seating or an easy grab-and-go counter. I met the owner on my last visit and she was super nice!
  • Try: a class at Atma Yoga in Roma Norte. The 9am Vinyasa with Anna or the 530pm Yin with Eli are my favorites!

Tulum

  • Where to stay: Wakax Hacienda (on Agoda or Booking), where we stayed for the wedding, was incredible. The best (and best-value) accommodation I’ve EVER stayed at in/around Tulum, by far.

Playa del Carmen

  • Where to stay: As the cat is already out of the bag, we didn’t really “make the most” of our time in PDC. I am glad we stayed at Reina Roja (on Agoda or Booking), so at least it felt like we had some kind of experience. It’s a weird place (kinda creepy, kinda sexy) but open bar beer/wine is included in your stay, and the rooftop pool is a fun vibe – and we paid less than $50/night.

La Paz

  • Where to stay: Hotel Catedral (on Agoda or Booking) with a view of – you guessed it – the cathedral just two blocks away includes a great complimentary breakfast, and pretty rooftop pool, starting around $100US/night.
  • Restaurant recommendation: CinnaRolls – huge cinnamon rolls, good coffee, a great location on the Malecon for people watching.
  • Try: to take a trip out to Rancho Cactimar, to learn about permaculture, take a horseback ride, or stay off-grid.

Loreto

  • We took a quick boat trip here (scouting for properties), but haven’t stayed in town or done anything else yet. Send me your recommendations!

Mulege

  • Where to stay: it’s all Airbnb, folks! Air conditioning is super helpful, especially in the summer months.
  • Restaurant recommendation: We ate at Carlos’s Racing Bar almost every meal, mainly because it was right next to our Airbnb. Lots of vegetarian options, very American fare (and full of Americans every time we went) – fried pickles, burgers, etc.
  • Try: to experience the sunrises. Even if you’re not typically an early riser, it’s worth it. And the sunsets. In terms of activities: Definitely borrow or rent a kayak and take a leisurely paddle down the river

Punta Chivato

  • There’s not much to see or do here (YET) – but definitely check out the long beautiful beach and gorgeous, calm water. Eat and stay 15 minutes away in Mulege

Community and Connection

THIS is the column I should have always been writing. This is the subject I’ve always wanted to write about, but I didn’t know where. I didn’t know how.

But I’m going to try. It’s already a priority in my life, and I want to make it a priority in my writing (and sharing) as well. Here’s why:

If I had to sum up the most important thing to me and my life, in one word, it would be connection (and, if I could add one more word, it would be the community that results from it).

Almost everything I’ve ever done, both personally and professionally, has come back to connection, especially the work I do now:
Therapy – I truly believe that the most healing aspect of therapy is the therapeutic relationship (otherwise, it’d be simpler and easier and equally as effective to just go to a therapy robot). Being authentically seen, heard, validated, and attempted to be understood… this is where safety and healing begin.
Health insurance – I don’t market nor promote my services, outside of mentioning them on this blog. Instead, I do excellent work for my clients, form solid relationships, and receive word-of-mouth referrals. Because I value the connection over the commission, I also refer clients out to other health insurance resources, if I know they could be better served with other options.
Blogging – Writing has always been my favorite form of self expression (just look at my journals, or ask anyone I’ve dated about the long text messages they never wanted to receive), but self-expression has never been just about getting my thoughts out into the world. For me, it has always been mainly about connection. What can I share? What might be of value (no matter how small) to someone else? What might help someone feel less alone, isolated, unsupported, if they knew someone else felt/thought/wrote similarly? This is why I write, this is why I blog.

Community: Supporting a Fellow Female Entrepreneur

wearing my cool new blood glucose monitor!

Creating community means, for me, supporting my community.

There are many ways to support your community (and I’d love to hear how you try to support yours!), including financially. As any other small business owner will definitely know, word of mouth can be everything. By trying out your friends’ offerings, you’re able to be a firsthand reference, and (honestly, authentically) share your experience. I love seeing female friends living out their professional excellence, and use their services whenever I can.

This month, I began participation in a program run by the incredible Tess of Hacked Healthy. I’d been hearing about continuous blood glucose monitors for a while, and what better opportunity to try it out myself, than by going through Tess’s weekly, step-by-step, information-packed program. I’m only in the first week of the program, and I’m already a glucose control evangelist. I can’t wait to share after I’ve completed it!


This month was the first month (since the beginning of the Extranjera Update, a few years ago) that I’ve done some reconsidering and reconstruction of the format.

I’m eliminating the categories I didn’t feel excited to write about, or that I no longer have much to say. For example: I very rarely go out to eat anymore (unless I’m traveling, which is still, a lot) much preferring to cook at home for the health of my body and my wallet – so I don’t have so much to share in way of specifically great restaurant meals. And I’m really cutting back on alcohol, so I’m not visiting new bars or trying new cocktails.

Still, I’ll be going through a birds’ eye recap of my month, discussing a reality check (a downfall, disturbance, or difficulty I experienced), running through a quick review of my joys (small and large) and my journeys (where I’ve traveled), and then sharing 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… 

I write this post each month 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. I love to hear from you (truly, the highlight of blogging for me) 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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