Last week I shared the video montage I made of our trip to Yelapa, Mexico. This week, I would like to share our story with you, as to why we went, what we learned, and how much traveling can really help one’s soul. I’ve always felt that it is extremely important to learn about different cultures and experience the world around us. It is so easy to stay comfortable, and it can be scary to travel to far away places, especially if one has never gone outside their town, state, or country.
Some trips are taken to spend quality time with people while learning and experiencing something new. Sometimes, we travel to escape. This trip to Yelapa, was definitely an escape. Kaleia and I, although in different places in our lives, the one thing we had in common, was that it was time to runaway for five short days, and hit the reset button.
I was working as a restaurant manager, and although I at one point loved my job and enjoyed going to work there every day, everything that comes with working in a restaurant, on top of other stresses; I was debating if I wanted to spend another five years of my life dedicating all of me to a job that was not what I ever intended to make a career. It became toxic. I was crying all of the time, stressed out beyond belief, I had become depressed, but I was scared of quitting and having only two months of finances to back me up. I had nothing lined up, and I was lost.
Kaleia, is born and raised in Austin, TX. She only began to really travel in her adult years, and after she got the bug, she can’t let go (which is a good thing). She’s worked at her job for four years, and after feeling like she’s running in place this entire time, she needed to runaway to figure out where in the world she wants her journey to go. Again, my best friend needed to hit the reset button on her life, and fortunately, we were in this together.
Now before I really get into this journey, I must say, our lives are not bad. We have a roof over our heads, food in our kitchens, people who love us, but personally, spiritually, we needed something to change. I felt consumed by a job that became toxic for me, and she felt like a hamster on a wheel, just going and going with no end. We wanted to reinvent ourselves, we wanted to figure out what we were going to do next. What changes do we need to make, to accomplish true happiness, and get back on a journey of what we really want to do with our lives? We’re almost thirty, and neither of us have accomplished what we really wanted to. So, how do we get there? How do we figure it out? Well, we went somewhere we knew we could go for super cheap, just to hear our own thoughts. It’s a spiritual trip, without the LSD.
After speaking with my boss about my contemplating quitting, he gave me a week paid vacation to figure it out. Knowing that it was a paid week, I jumped on the opportunity to get as far away as financially possible to get the hell out, and figure my life out. I refer to it as, “My Quarter Life Crisis.” I had been getting emails about “member pricing” from Expedia, and saw a flight to Puerto Vallarta for $319.
It was St. Patty’s day when I called Kaleia while she was at work and said, “Hey, I need you to take off Monday through Friday of next week.” She asked why, and then I replied, “Because we’re going to Yelapa.” Kaleia and I always face time, and I thought the phone had frozen because she didn’t say anything at all and just sat there stunned. The big question was, how are we going to get her boss to give her next week off with a three day notice? Kaleia’s job is much more corporate than mine, and usually, unless it’s a life and death situation, this would be a stretch. Kaleia, more than willing to lose her job just to get the hell out for an adventure, decided instead of lying, to just tell her boss the truth, which was, “I need to get the hell out of here and process my thoughts.” We bought our tickets the next day.
Everyone, meet my Great Uncle Donn. A small town Texas native who for almost a decade has lived off and on in Yelapa, Mexico. He has survived war and cancer, and the one place that feeds his soul and makes him happy besides Texas, is Yelapa. He was having medical issues back in 2010 and asked if I would be interested in house sitting for him for a month. That’s right, a full thirty days. Of course, I said yes, and that was my first taste of Yelapa. It was so magical, I had been dying to go back. Kaleia had come out to visit me when I was there so the idea of a reunion trip was perfect. This was our chance. I emailed him and asked if Kaleia and I could stay at his house. He welcomed us with open arms and was so excited to hear we were coming. The last time I saw my Uncle was in November, so I was just as excited to see him as well. P.S. He wears this Viva Yelapa hat every, single, day.
We were ecstatic beyond belief. When we woke up Monday morning in Houston, it was 44 degrees outside. We knew, that as soon as we landed we were going to have to change clothes, because it was almost 80 degrees when we got there. Once we stepped outside the airport, it was like sweet relief. We made it! We actually freaking made it back to Yelapa for the first time in five years, and we were so broke, but we knew that with a 17-1 currency exchange, what little money we had would last us. Not only that, it didn’t matter. We were on a mission and we were going to feel alive again. This was the greatest idea either of us have had in a long time!
The one bad idea we had, was that we did not do any research upon arrival. We landed on Benito Juarez’s birthday, which is an ex-Mexican president, who’s birthday is celebrated in a grand manner. Uncle Donn had told us to not exchange our money in the airport, because you get a better rate at the banks in P.V.. Well, we took a cab from the airport to the boat docks in P.V. and while waiting for our boat taxi, (we had about two hours), we spent one of those hours hunting down different ATM’s and banks. Well, since it was a Mexican holiday, the banks were closed, and their were so many travelers, that none of the ATM’s had money in them. Oh yeah, not only was it Juarez’s birthday, but it was Easter week as well. Meaning, everyone in Mexico, and from all over, travel to the coast to celebrate.
Travel tip number 1: Even if you’ve been somewhere before, do your research before you get there.
Uncle Donn fronted us some pesos and on to Yelapa we went. A boat taxi ride to Yelapa is 120 pesos one way. An equivalent of $7.
Welcome to Yelapa. The photo above shows the main beach, and the types of boats they use to fish and taxi. It’s about a 45 minute ride from P.V. to Yelapa. A very enjoyable ride, if the seas aren’t too high. After funneling a couple of beers on the ride in to celebrate, we had actually made it. It was just as beautiful as we remember, definitely busier considering the holidays, but gorgeous. It’s like heaven there. There are no cars, and you can really only get there by boat. Once you’re there, you don’t want to leave. There are the Mexican locals, and then there are the expats. A lot of Canadians and Americans that live there part time and full time. You never know who you are going to meet but trust me, they are all just as equally interesting and friendly.
After setting our suitcase down in Donn’s house, we hung out and chatted for a little bit and Donn told us he had plans to take us to dinner at Tacos Y Mas. TYM has the BEST coconut shrimp I have ever had. The breading was so crunchy, and the chili aioli sauce they serve with it, is fantastic. Pairing the shrimp with a Pina Colada is an unbeatable combination causing your taste buds to explode with happiness. Trust me on this.
Travel tip number 2: There are very few restaurants in Yelapa, and they are all open at different hours and different days. You can either 1) walk by and check to see if a restaurant is open, or 2) ask any local and they’ll let you know!
The next day we woke up and gave our debit cards to my uncle’s friend David, who was going into town (or P.V.) that day so we could get some money. Then, went and had breakfast with my uncle at Los Abuelos. It is right down “Heart Attack Hill” (pictured above) and it serves the best huevos rancheros ever. This hill gets its’ nickname because it is a huge incline and will definitely get your glutes burning. The huevos rancheros only cost 50 pesos, which is about $3. After breakfast, we went to the boat dock beach, (pictured top) just to walk around and look for shells. Rodolfo, one of the captains for the snorkeling excursions, cruised by and asked if we wanted a ride to the main beach. Although it’s not a far walk, why not? So we jumped in his boat and he took us cruising through the bay.
The view of Yelapa, no matter if you’re in the water or on land, is absolutely breathtaking. I was just shooting away, and Kaleia had the GoPro filming things underwater. I was already at peace more so than I had been in the last year. I felt like I could breathe again. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like I could hear myself think again. I felt at one with myself. Sitting on that boat, it was like I was getting to know myself again. I was just focusing on the beauty of Yelapa, how simple the lifestyle is there, and I was appreciating the fact I was alive, and taking a risk for myself, and no one else. I could not be bothered.
After our boat ride, we went to the main beach and walked around, found a spot to lay out, and that’s what we did. Then, we decided to go get what I knew, was the best Sangria I’ve ever had. Right behind us was Hotel Lagunita, a hotel with little huts you can rent and a restaurant. We ordered two Sangrias and at that moment, I was refreshed, in my body and my soul. Two Sangrias and two bottles of water was 140 pesos, which is equivalent to about $8.
Wednesday, as usual I woke up at about 7:30 am to the sound of the Pacific, birds chirping, and locals on their way to work. I then, like every morning would make coffee and step out on the patio to reflect on my days past, and the lingering decision of what to do when I got home. It’s a beautiful thing to drop of the grid for awhile and reflect on your life. All of these ideas of what I wanted to do were springing into my mind at rapid rates. I knew that I wanted to feel as peaceful and content at home as I was there. I was finally able to really listen to my gut feeling, my heart, and thoughts without the pressures of coworkers and peers telling me what I should and should not do. I could hear myself think, and I have that damn patio to thank for it.
Although Yelapa is very small, and I had spent a month there before, I still had made discoveries that I hadn’t experienced the first time. Along the opposite side of the beach from where my uncle lives, is two more hotels available to rent. When we finally made it past the beach, and past the hotel pool, we found that the path did not end just yet. There was a concrete path, that looked something out of Lord of the Rings, that led to the last hotel along the edge of the bay. It was the coolest discovery. Pictured above, is Kaleia standing beneath this cliff, along the path in which I speak of. I love feeling small, and that cliff, definitely did the job. We spent the entire day wandering around along the beach, but it was time to head in as the rain clouds moved in. We went home and got some sleep, because we knew that the next morning, we were going to the Marietas Islands.
Thursday morning we woke up at 7 and caught our boat led by Captain Franco to the Marietas Islands. There were 6 other people heading out on that excursion with us. Two were from New York, and the other four were from Mexico City and Guatemala. Pictured above is one of the islands. I was so excited to go there, because I had googled the “Hidden Beach” which is a cave on one of the islands you swim into to reach said beach. I’ve snorkeled out at the islands before, but I had no knowledge at the time of the “Hidden Beach”. I was elated to be there, although it was slightly scary how high the tide was, knowing we were going to be swimming into a place that is meant for low tide. I didn’t care, I knew that if anything happened to me, I would be doing something I absolutely loved, adventuring.
So, after we searched for shells off of one of the islands, Kaleia and I were making a run for it back to the boat. The waves were slamming against the islands, and we had to make a run for it. Right before we got to the boat, a wave slapped us in the face and we tumbled feet over heads, backwards, flipping and tossing us back to shore. Once Kaleia got her boobs back in her bikini top, and I could finally stand up and catch my breath, I realized that the GoPro that was once around my neck, was gone.
Side note: This was not our GoPro, we had borrowed it from our friend Rylan who told us, “If anything happens to this, you pay for it.” Well, knowing that I might not have a job when I get back, and definitely didn’t have $500 to just give her for it, we began to panic. We freaked out and Franco threw us some snorkel gear. We put on the masks and as the waves are consistently slamming us, we were absolutely determined to find this GoPro. Once the rest of the group caught up, they were given snorkel gear and we had all eight of us out there looking. The water was foggy from the waves and the current was so strong. I was so desperate to find that damn GoPro, Franco could have left me on that island. I was going to find it. After about fifteen minutes, one of the New Yorkers, a guy originally from London, found it. I damn near cried thanking him, and Kaleia gave him a beer. We had nothing else to give except cerveza and appreciation. To London, I still thank you so much for finding that GoPro. As someone who holds pictures so close to them, I was more upset about potentially losing the memories, than owing one of my best friends $500.
The “Hidden Beach”. There hundreds of people there, coming mostly from Puerto Vallarta on the Vallarta Adventures boats, so swimming into the cave was quite difficult. People were kicking me, I was kicking people, the tide was moving in and out so at one point everyone would be swimming in place. After about one more solid push of the ocean, the crowd and us had made it in. It was exhausting but so worth it. Kaleia and I look pale as hell but boy did we get sunburned! The “Hidden Beach” is literally a beach hidden inside one of the islands. It’s almost a perfect circle of a hole at the top. I think it would have been a little more enjoyable, and the pictures would have been better, had there not been so many people visiting at the same time. Nonetheless, if you ever have a chance to go, please do. From Yelapa, our excursion with Captain Franco was only $60. I’m not sure what the price is coming from Puerto Vallarta, but I can’t imagine it would be too much more. To the left of where Kaleia and I are standing, there is another cave within this one, which you can see more of in my video montage.
It was an epic day, filled with more adventure than I could have ever imagined. Although we almost lost the GoPro, and my thighs ended up four shades darker than the rest of my legs from sitting on the boat so long, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Later that night, we went to a restaurant far back in the jungle, by the river, called El Manguito. There was live music being played from some locals, and I started sucking down margaritas like nobody’s business. I hadn’t partied the entire time we were there, and after the extreme adventure from earlier that day, I decided it was time to really let loose and celebrate. Franco, Kaleia, a woman we met named Terri and I all took an ATV ride from the restaurant back to the house. We dropped Terri off and decided we were going to go to Angelina’s. Angelina’s is a bar on the main beach that plays really good music, and serves great drinks. Considering Kaleia and I had met the bartender back in 2010, we wanted to stop by and say hello. We were served what my drunk ass at the time thought was tequila but it was Raicilla, a Mexican moonshine. We ended up partying with everyone at the bar until 4:30am, which consisted of us, the bartender, his girlfriend, and the Canadian Navy. It was a doozy, but so much fun.
Our last day we woke up extremely hungover, but satisfied. Later that day after sleeping what felt like twelve hours, I made my final decision. I was going to quit my job, and take a huge risk. I know myself, and I know that no matter what happens, I’m a hustler. I always have and always will find a way to support myself, but I need to focus on my dreams. I need to focus on making my life as pleasurable at home, as it is on vacation. I emailed my boss, and closed that chapter of my life. I had finally, through months and months of clouded thoughts and going back and forth on being reasonable, or taking a huge risk, I went the road less traveled among people in today’s society. I went with risk.
The rest of the day was spent with my Uncle and his friend Alan, hanging out, enjoying each other’s company, and eating the best fish tacos ever from Gloria’s. It was the perfect ending to our trip. We learned that not everything in life goes the way you plan it, but only you can have control over your journey, and in which direction it takes you. If you want to make a change in your life, you have to be proactive and do it, no one else is going to do it for you. I am now happily unemployed, working day in and day out on getting my name out there as a blogger, and a photographer. It is my dream to travel the world, and document everything in writing and photographs. Although I am not making a ton of money, I am happy. I feel relieved, I feel like I’m following my heart, and it will lead me in the right direction. No matter what I’ll be okay.
As for Kaleia, she learned that you can’t always plan for everything, and that it’s okay to break the mold of what the pressures of society make you feel like you should be doing at this age, and be selfish. She is moving back home with her mom to save as much money as possible so she can continue to travel. She then wants to, for the first time ever, put herself through school.
I could not be more proud of us. We went for it, and we did it. Now, it’s all about how to make our dreams come true. No matter what happens, life is one big adventure, and you must take risks, because otherwise, you’ll be saying “What if?” for the rest of your life.
Until next time…
For more information on Yelapa, click on any of the hyperlinks above.
To see more pictures of our trip to Yelapa, click on the “Travel” tab at the top right of the page.