Friends in Mexico

Making friends on the beach near the Casa de Los Artista. I’ve always found Mexican culture to be so artistic and to very much value the arts. These cuties sure do support my theory.

I was locked in. I wasn’t locked out. I was locked inside the Casa.

Plein Air in Boca

Plein air painting done on the beach of the Boca.

It was just over three weeks ago, and I was studying art at the Casa de Los Artista in Boca de Tomatlan, Mexico, a small fishing village located 10 miles outside of Puerto Vallarta.

The rest of the participants had headed into the big city for the night. I decided to stay back. I wanted to paint and have a little alone time. Workshops are amazing, offering the opportunity to learn and grow and meet new people. But we’d been on the run, and we were eating three meals together a day.

Tree near Puerto Vallarta

Just look at that tree. This is Tuito, a small old western town in the mountains near Puerto Vallarta.

I’m an introvert by the definition that I get my energy from being alone. So I stayed back. I wanted to work on my paintings in the open air studio on the third floor of the Casa, have a meal by myself and get to bed early.

As my fellow participants had left they left me a key and reminded me to lock up when I left. A hour or so later I did leave. Or I tried to. The key they left me might have allowed me to lock up, but it did not let me out. A brief panic set in. This was not how I planned my night.


Plein air painting done on location near the Boca.

I put all my paint gear down and began to problem solve. I looked out every balcony and window available to me. There were options, but they all involved barbed wire and jumping. So options, but no good options.

I headed up to the third floor, the studio. The Casa was built into a hill and — who knew? — there was that door up there I had never opened, so I tried it. Hallelujah, it was a back door outside!

Boca de Tomatlan 2

A plein air painting done of the sweet fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan.

But to get out, I’d have to climb down the hill and maneuver under a barb wired fence. No problem. Just call me Houdini — I was out!

A margarita at Ramon’s sounded perfect. Ramon’s is the big restaurant in town, and right on the beach.  It was, in fact, the only restaurant that I knew of. The Boca has a population of 800 — not exactly a bustling metropolis.

So I beelined it over to Ramon’s. It was closed. It was only 7:15 p.m., but still, it was closed. I asked, where I could go? Around the corner to Ana’s — closed. Hungry, I started asking strangers on the street. Eventually with my Spanglish (see last week’s blog) I was guided up to the main road to Vallarta, where I found a very local eatery that I knew would be good and hoped would be safe.

There is Anthony Bourdain, and then there is me. I do not have one of those sturdy systems that can take anything. I can get sick from crossing the state line and experiencing different water. Nonetheless, I sat and ordered. I had are from food trucks in Puerto Vallarta that winter I’d spent studying there, and I’d only got sick once. My odds were good, I guessed.

Jim McVickers

Our teacher for the week, Jim McVickers, rocking out another masterpiece.

But what to order? They didn’t have a menu, and only spoke Spanish. My Spanglish wasn’t holding up. “A cerveza and comida, por favor!” (“Beer and food, please.”) In the end, I got a killer carne asada, and though they didn’t have beer, the convenient store across the street did. I was in business.

You might think this was a story of a bad night, but it was not. It was my favorite night of the trip. I walked away from that street food stand reminiscing about my time as a backpacker back in the day, about having limited resources and time to figure it out. I remembered that magical feeling of being alone in a foreign land with only your own desires and thoughts, and feeling like the world was your oyster.


Fishermen and their nets in the sleepy town of Boca de Tomatlan.

I got home early and journaled, something I had always done religiously in my solo travels, travels where I truly did find myself and become my own best friend.

It was a gift beyond measure. This night helped me remember it still is.

I do understand these kinds of adventures are not for everyone, for a variety of reasons. But if you think it might be, I hope you take this series of blogs as a push — or better yet, a invitation.

I have traveled on a dime because it was a priority. I had that luxury because I had no dependence and a flexible job. I’d also purposely arranged my life that way, but my privilege is not lost on me.

I also know travel doesn’t have to cost a dime; it’s a mindset of openness and adventure. You can travel inside the pages of a book or the sequences of a movie. You can have the spirit of a traveler in your own backyard, going downtown or to a little local farmer’s market.

Go, be travelers, my friends. There is always something to learn.

I don’t this this series is over; I hope you will indulge me for a few more blog posts. I invite you to join me next week. In the meantime, when have you traveled without ever leaving home — at least, your hometown? I love hearing from you in the comments and on Facebook and Instagram!

Boca de Tomatlan

Plein air painting of the fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan.