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