After facing some initial adversity - and realizing the little Spanish I learned before my trip was nowhere near enough - I found my new home for the next three months.
One of the most well-known digital nomad hotspots in Mexico lies on its Pacific Coast an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. The town of Sayulita, population 4000, has been fittingly called a “hippie village.” Boasting calm waves, a kind and welcoming populace, juice bars, yoga and meditation options, and a safe and relaxed environment, it meets all the requirements. It also has fast WiFi, and last year an internet café even opened. Though the heat of Mexican summers worried me a bit, Sayulita was an easy choice for my first location. Why Mexico, you ask? Easy: I wanted to learn Spanish, I wanted to learn how to surf, I love Mexican food, airfare is cheap from the US, and it’s the closest country to home in the event I freak out and decide I’ve made a huge mistake.
I arrived in Sayulita on May 4, 2016, after an initial struggle finding the bus at the airport (“Uhhh pardon senor, donde esta la autobus a Sayulita?”). I had reserved a room in a local couple’s house on Airbnb for 3 nights, giving me a home base while I conducted an apartment search. During my first day walking around town looking for “se vende / for rent” signs on houses – to no avail – I made a worrisome observation: Sayulita was loud and crowded! Once a quiet little beach town, in recent years it’s been “discovered” and overrun by tourists. Also, my neighbor in town was an aspiring DJ and liked to practice his craft, meaning he blared awful music all day long on a gigantic speaker system in his yard. I now faced one of my first obstacles: I didn’t want to stay in the first stop of my trip, the town I had planned to spend at least three months in, and the town I’d just flown and taken a bus to. Thanks to my knowledgeable host and some Googling, however, I learned of a smaller, quieter beach town ten minutes up the road. On day two, with a nervous energy coursing through me, I took a taxi there to check it out.
As soon as I arrived in San Pancho, I liked it. With only 1400 residents and one main road, it’s tiny and peaceful. I started walking around some of the side streets, and almost immediately came across friendly locals selling tacos or sitting outside. By “friendly,” I mean they smiled at me politely in between laughing to themselves and others at my pitiful Spanish. The third woman I randomly approached was Paula, who, upon learning I was looking for an apartment, promptly got up from her chair, directed me to follow her, and with a “Mira, mira (Look, look),” showed me a fully furnished apartment connected to her house. I was sold immediately, and asked if I could move in in two hours.
My new pad is a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment 5 minutes from the beach (although everything here is 5 minutes or less from the beach). Paula pays for water and electricity, I pay for drinking water and gas. We settled on 10,500 pesos for three months, which is about $195 a month. Paula also cooks and cleans for me, for which I pay 100 pesos plus food costs per meal (usually totaling 200 pesos, or $11) and 200 pesos per cleaning. She likes introducing me to new authentic Mexican dishes; last night was cactus from the backyard. It was okay.
The beach here is gorgeous and not too populated, with bigger waves than Sayulita. While I found a Spanish tutor I meet with a couple times per week, I haven’t started learning surfing yet. So far, I’ve had fun simply body-boarding, although Paula cautioned me with the below note. It’s ok though, I have no idea what those words mean yet. Ignorance is bliss, right?
As for my other goals, learning web development and teaching English, I’m making headway. I’ll save those updates, as well as my new “average day,” for another post, though. It’s time to hit the beach – “las ovas son muy grande hoy!” (the waves are very big today!)