Random Musings

!Feliz Cumpleaños! 🎂

Due to its timeliness, I am once again breaking into our regularly scheduled calendar of events… Why? Because February is my birthday month & I get to do whatever I want 😛 Let’s be honest the month doesn’t really effect that. So a quick interlude about an impromptu girl’s trip in what we refer to as a month of Jessicas, you see it begins & ends with 2 of the best.

Beach @ The Reef Playacar

She is at least the second Jessica in my life to call a best friend. We met a dozen years ago when we found camaraderie in parenting & marriage. We have seen a lot of life in those dozen years, growing children, passing relationships, moves from here to there. We have worked for each other, we have worked with each other, then counseled & supported one another through exciting changes & tough times ❤️

Jess & Jessica – the names we prefer, if anyone is asking 🙂

Jess joined me for a minute on the beach 🏝️ in Mexico for our February birthday month.  We stayed at The Reef Playacar, the same place Dave & I spent our anniversary a couple of years ago. The Reef is a cute & cozy all inclusive hotel/resort along the Playacar neighborhood beach.  With the exception of randomly locking ourselves out of our bathroom because of a janky knob, our room was quite nice. Comfy beds, cold a/c & good water pressure – when traveling as a way of life these become priorities. 

As a talker, it has taken me a lifetime to learn & cultivate the ability & enjoyment of sitting in silence. The best relationships are those where we do both. Jess & I share more than a birthday month & beautiful name 😊 although you can tell us apart by our preferred monikers, Jess & Jessica. We also share beliefs, values & experiences that make it easy to catch up on life & at the same time, sit quietly enjoying our books. Add some cushy beach loungers & we were stuck in for days.  Read a little, talk a little, eat a little, drink a little (or a lot one afternoon 🥴) The days went too fast.

Sidebar: Some places in MX only use third party booking sites for their accommodations, others give you added benefits for booking with them directly. The Reef Playacar is one such place. The Reef is also sort of a timeshare something or other… that is how we originally discovered it when some friends of ours shared their bounty of weeks with us for a great 25th anniversary deal. This time I booked directly through the Reef website & by doing so received a gift of a 2 for 1 massage. (Those massages could have been free, had we sat through the 2 hour TS presentation, not surprisingly we passed on that.)

We did however avail of our massages & an afternoon in the spa steam room, sauna, cold plunge & relax room. Nothing quite like a little extra pampering on an impromptu girl’s trip. 

As our visit came to an end, we booked the hotel shuttle to the Reef’s sister property in town, Cocoa Beach to enjoy dinner at their Japanese Samurai restaurant. We had an almost lovely evening of birthday laughs. We were joined by a family of four with two teenage girls who spent most of the time on their phones & a couple celebrating their 6 year anniversary, who pretty much argued the entire meal 🤦‍♀️  The restaurant put on a pretty good show, though there were moments I thought maybe our hibachi master was just learning the trade 😆  

Another birthday in the books, another decade coming to an end (at least for me), another girl’s trip full of cherished memories made. Not to mention another half a suitcase worth of “stuff” she took back to the States for me! That is true friendship right there!

Now where was I? Right….. Progreso 🏝️

🪳Cockroaches & Cabinet Reorgs

I think most folks would agree, the only good cockroach is a dead cockroach 🪳

So in a slightly better frame of mind than the night before, I set out to clean & negotiate. Now to be fair we are in the jungle tropics 🌴 There are bugs here. As much as I hate the creepy crawlies, I wasn’t going to overreact. AndI certainly wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to pursue a financially beneficial situation.

You can take the professional organizer out of COS but you can’t take the OCD entrepreneur out of me!

So as some of you know & many may not, I had a thriving & successful professional organizing business in Colorado Springs for 15 years. I loved my business. I believe I never felt more truly alive, in the zone, who I was built to be than when l was designing, creating & organizing space! https://www.facebook.com/MAS.Movement (If you are interested in more back story.)

I know a lot of people who are not big fans of cleaning & organizing. But even more so, hate the idea & cannot even bring themselves to ask for something when things are not right.  I actually love doing both of these things! Not only am I all about bartering & negotiating, but I truly believe there is zero harm in asking. What is the worst they can say? No….better than not asking!

We have stayed in ten different AirBnBs over the last 11 months in a dozen different cities. Half of those have said yes to some sort of refund or stay extension. Almost every host has been eager to “make things right.” I infer that means they would rather give a little than receive a bad review. Which of course works in my favor! Some times I ask for too little, sometimes I asks for too much, but in the end there is a mutually beneficial resolution.

I should have asked for more here at the bug condo but got a quick refund for one night & the cleaning fee. I did give the kitchen a minor cleaning, including washing every dish before we used it & also bought a can of bug spray at the store. 

Other AirBnBs have agreed to similar refunds, usually due to lack of cleanliness more than anything else. A “nice” resort place in Pagosa had hair every where & no vacuum 🤢 $100 cleaning fee refunded. Our AirBnB in Albuquerque was actually wonderful all the way around & as it turned out we were actually acquaintances & now good friends with the owners. NOTE: Always really look at the person’s name & photo, you might end up knowing them 🤦🏼‍♀️ & could contact them directly 😉 At their place, I reorganized the kitchen just for the shear joy of doing so & sharing some ❤️.

One of the worst was our AirBnB house in Colorado Springs. After collapsing on the couch from the exhaustion of moving in all our crap, I noticed all the trash under the beds I could see from my living room vantage point.

The host offered to resend the cleaners, which almost all offer to do. I always decline this in exchange for a refund of some kind. Why? Mainly because they didn’t clean it well the first time & I can do a better job better! BTW have I mentioned how much crap we still seem to have during this living on the road period of our lives?! I don’t need or want some random person “cleaning” around the melee. 

Needless to say, this turned out to be one of my most lucrative negotiations. I spent a day doing a pretty thorough cleaning of the entire house & re-orged the kitchen. The host was so pleased, he asked me to check out his other AirBnB across the street. I spent a day there as well. In the end, we were refunded our cleaning fee & nearly an entire week! 

What advice can I give to help you get a deal? Quick & easy… 1st thing, always when you arrive at a vacation rental, check everywhere & take pictures 📸 The 3 places I focus are: 

Bathroom: 🚽 check the space behind the seat, check the seat & raise the seat – if there are any areas of concern, take a picture.

Kitchen: 🍽️ I start in the cutlery drawer, how does this drawer get so crumby? If it is overrun with crumbs or worse little black spots (roach poop) – take a picture. I check the fridge. I also check a few dishes to make sure they are clean, especially if there is no dishwasher. 

Bedroom: 🛏️ have a good look at the bedspread, I don’t think these ever get washed 🤢 then pull back the covers. Grosser still, I found crumbs & hair in one place that was given no grace, we just left & got a full refund.

It hasn’t happened yet, but my goal is to create a “business” where I am able to barter stays in vacation rentals in exchange for design, organization & efficiency advice & implementation. Once again, remember, Dave is working 8-5, M-F. I have a lot of time on my hands 🤲🏼

Our other five AirBnBs have been clean enough not to warrant complaint. However in an attempt to garner my own own great reviews, I try to offer constructive criticism on how they can improve. Again most hosts have been very receptive. But as I ramble on, I realize this is a story for another time. 

In case you were not counting there is one AirBnB I left out. This AirBnB is the reason why I am off track & this blog is out of sync with our actual location & timeline as well as why I haven’t been posting a ton on the socials. Hopefully you will stick around for that one, it’s a doozy 🔪 😬😉

💼 Baggage Difficulties & Other Airport Fun👮‍♂️

Let’s discuss why you want to decorate the hell out of you luggage… because people do not pay attention! The pilot gift at Balloon Fiesta one year was a rolling carry on size suitcase, black with AIBF artwork embroidered on the front. We were one of 650+/- pilots that received these, so it’s safe to say at some point we might be traveling with someone with the same suitcase 😬 Our FIG bus to GTO, the Bajío airport was the day. I didn’t think much of it when we left our suitcases with the porter, I didn’t even think much of it as we exited the bus to retrieve our suitcases until… I reached for the black carry on with the embroidery of the front, not noticing the absence of my signature ribbons & our balloon sticky on the front.

What I did immediately notice was how light the wrong suitcase was, because mine was heavy as Ffffff… Only then did I notice the lack of identifying bits I adorn all our suitcases with much to Dave’s chagrin & this would be why! Panic set in pretty quickly. I called my girlfriend who was already gate-side & asked her to be on the lookout as I headed to security. Dave stayed back at the ticket counter scouring the crowd. Just as I was about to hand the guard my passport, Dave called & said he had the bag 💼 PTL 😇 Dave just happened to notice a Brazilian pilot at the counter looking confused as he lifted a way heavier bag than he expected 😬 Once again, crisis averted, well this one…

On to security, where we would discover that a metal comb apparently could somehow be used as a weapon so that got confiscated along with our channel lock pliers… Why do did we have channel lock pliers you ask? Well that would be because I brought a shower head with us 🚿 Yes, you read that correctly, a shower head. A shower head, channel lock pliers & plumbers tape. In nearly every bathroom we replace the shower head for our time there. Why, because I want what I want & I want descent water pressure! (The shower head has no flow restrictor on it, btw.)  So, channel lock pliers confiscated because they should have been in a check bag, with that I can agree, metal hair comb, not so much. Not nearly a crisis, but certainly an annoyance 😣

On we went, we caught our flight to Mexico City after a lovely chat with friends in the airport. We landed without issue, we tried to rebook on an earlier flight but because we had checked bags, we had no joy. So we found a place for dinner, then settled into a spot near an outlet to watch Netflix for our 6 hour layover.

We finally boarded our flight around 730/8pm. It was going to be a late night. I had already informed our Airbnb host that we would not be getting in until after midnight, he recommended a driver to pick us up at the airport & we seemed to have all in hand. Little did we know the adventure to come….

We arrived on time into Merida, Yucatán, collected our bags & headed out to find our ride. My first clue for concern should have been the vague WhatsApp message that the guy I had been expecting was sending another guy. A young guy pulled up in a car I wasn’t sure would hold all our luggage but it did. We were loaded up & ready to roll when two police officers joined us as the car. My second clue should have been when our young driver asked if we spoke Spanish. Our reply as usual, “Un poco.” He then said to us in Spanish that we were amigos, si.? Si.? We then spent the next 20 minutes going round & round in Spanish, broken English & Google translate with the police officers. The officers were very nice, they were clearly trying to be both understanding & impart information to us, at no point did we feel unsafe or threatened in any way.  So as it turns out, only licensed taxis are allowed to pick up at the airport & post Covid, Merida & most of Yucatán has continued to enforce a strict curfew & general licensing of other, non taxi drivers. Apparently our young man & us were breaking all kinds of rules 🤷🏼‍♀️ Long story longer & this is only the half of it…. we got out of the car & unloaded our bags. We were told by the police & our young amigo that we should walk to the corner & he would circle back around for us. 3rd clue!? We walked, we waited, we saw him drive by & on… I called him & asked if he was coming back for us, he said no. 🤦🏼‍♀️ It is now 1am  🕐 We walked back to the airport. I opened my Uber app & picked a new driver. $650mxn. Just to cover our bases, I asked a taxi driver their coast, $950mxn. Save $15usd, sure. So off we walked to our pick up spot, clue #4. As we stood on airport property, the taxi driver drove around to us & said he would take us for $650mxn & explained again that non licensed taxis were not allowed to pick up at the airport.

Have you ever heard that one about the guy who was waiting for God to save him in a flood? When the water was low, a truck came by, when the water got higher a boat came by, as the man sat on his roof along came a helicopter 🚁 All asked to help him & take him to safety, but alas his response was always God will save me… he drowns & goes to heaven, where he meets God & asks, why didn’t you save me? God says, “what do you think the truck, the boat & the helicopter were for?” 😬😉🤣

Nope, taxi-man, we got this! But just in case, we walked out to the main road & waited for our Uber. Uber stupid. Our second driver arrived, we loaded our bags, we got in the car, we almost got away & then 🚨 Poor Dave had held it together but was now at the end of his rope. The police were very nice & with little to no conversation, we got our bags & headed back to the airport. As I write this, I chuckle because it is as laughable now as it was then. Some how, some way we seem to keep our shit together 😝 Our $650mxn taxi-man was gone as was the offer. At 2:30am & $950mxn later, we were finally headed to our apartment in Progreso. 

We arrived about 3:30am, still fully hyped on adrenaline 😳 After a little unpacking to calm us down, we headed to bed for the few short hours before Dave had to be up for work 💻 The next day, I would clean the kitchen & try to find & kill the giant cockroach 🪳 I had seen the night before but was too exhausted to care about. That of course, is another story, for another time, maybe next time…. 

Back On Track…🧳

With our res cards in hand, after only two & a half weeks in Mexico & a full three weeks before we expected & were scheduled to, we once again regrouped & repacked & rescheduled & rambled on…

We have been coming to Mexico for the last few years to participate in the Festival Internacional del Globo (minus a Thanksgiving conflict in 2019 & that thing in 2020 🦠)

FIG is the first international event we have done as a married couple, with our own balloon. Not to discount our family adventures ballooning in Ireland & France in the early 2000s or Dave’s family trips as a teen. You see, I married into hot air ballooning where as Dave was born into it. That of course is a much longer story for another time…

So FIG, the Festival Internacional del Globo in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. Our good friends Chris & Anna urged us to join them in 2017 & we are so glad we did. Not just because it was a new adventure but reflecting on it now, I think it helped us regain & rediscover our identities outside of parenting, work & a decade of little to no international travel. 

It takes a little bit of extra trust & faith to ship your rig to another country. Every year we get slightly more proficient at it. This year we included an AirTag so we could track its journey. As it has in all the years we have been coming, it arrived safely with the other hundred or so balloons from the US. It had been unwrapped & inspected, which was a first for us but not unexpected. 

Having been on the road for nearly seven months & the last month prior to León in Mexico, arriving at the familiar hotel & seeing friends was a great boost for morale. Especially after my morning meltdown. Packing continues to be a huge stressor & feels like it will be at every transition going forward.  Not to mention the decision fatigue I have had to deal with after every accommodation booking & rebooking, along with the adventure scheduling to ensure we are making the most of our time here. Does it

sound like I’m complaining? That certainly is not my intention & I also don’t want to give the false image that everyday goes as smoothly as we would like. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Catharsis over!

So FIG! León is a great city of leather & shoes & tacos 🌮  The rally is said to be the biggest in Mexico. It is incredibly well run & well organized. 😬 Most of the time. 

We have watched the city grow & flourish over the last years. Our favorite taco stand across the street from the hotel gained a seating area & a neighboring burger truck. But most exciting is the crosswalk they literally finished the day of our arrival! Why so amazing? Because this is where we discovered Mexican Frogger 🐸 Unlike SMA, where pedestrians always seemed to have the right of way, not so much in León. In León, it’s run for your life 😬😆 

Mexican Frogger 🐸

This year’s event was a bit unusual as compared to previous in that our weather was not as stable & typical for the time of year. We launch from a beautiful park just north of a large lake. The goal is to fly over the lake, then head west to land. Dave has found his groove here after our first year when we landed in a less desirable field amongst trash & rebar & our second year landing at the zoo, thankfully on the prey side of the fence. 

As I said, the weather was a bit unusual & unexpected this year. Thankfully, we were in agreement in our discomfort about putting up the balloon Friday evening. There were moments we nearly reconsidered & in the end we were glad we did not.

45 minutes of lovely glowtime…
and about 5-10 minutes of pandemonium 😬

Shit happens! Unfortunately yes, a few people got hurt, balloons were damaged & resolves were shaken. It’s a rare occurrence & an opportunity to check our safety procedures & debrief our crew.  Speaking of crew… we have been lucky enough to have some of the same kids year after year. I call them kids because they are the same age as my kids & I love them as such ❤️ They make fun of my Spanish & bring us gifts & are eager to participate & learn.  💕 Pepe, Cynthia & Axel (missed you Enrique!)

All in all, a pretty good time was had by all…

Until 2023…

🇲🇽Best Laid Plans meets Bureaucracy🇲🇽

Wonderful food, beautiful art & amazing culture were a nice distraction to what would become a plan of changing plans, with stops, starts & many changes in direction.

Here is the incredibly long story about the drama on Monday & Tuesday, the beginning of November at the immigration office for those of you who were concerned & wanted to know. We were never in any danger ⚠️  just jumping through hoops, as rules & schedules changed. Originally we were told we had to make an appointment w/immigration in order to exchange our 30-day entry visa that we got in Albuquerque into a temporary residency card. Which I did on the first business day we were in town, as you may recall. It was good that I got the appointment; however the appointment was for November 30th.

Our original plan was to be in SMA until November 16 then go onto the FIG balloon rally in León, then continue to Mérida, Yucatan, naïvely thinking we would have completed the residency process. Thankfully, we didn’t have plans set in stone, except for the rally in Leon. We had not yet purchased plane tickets & I had specifically booked a refundable Airbnb in Merida. We regrouped & began looking into accommodations to stay in SMA through the end of the year because we had also heard that even when you go to your appointment, you might be sent away without your card which they would later email you to pick up.  We really had no idea how long the process was going to take. 🤷🏼‍♀️ We knew this part of the journey would require flexibility  & it certainly did 😊

So we filled out our paperwork & settled into a longer stay in SMA, waiting for our appointment. Then one evening I was scrolling through Facebook only to see an announcement from a local advocate that all future appointments had been canceled & anyone that had an appointment would now have to go to the office, stand in line & get a number to be seen. To be clear, this was the one  & only announcement about the change & canceling of appointments, on Facebook, not through the government website, not via email. 😲 After a small amount of panic, we decided we would go first thing Monday morning. Let’s remember at this point that Dave works Mon-Fri, 8 to 5 depending on the time zone. We are not retired, we are not on vacation, we are living down here for roughly 6 months. So Dave took Monday off, we woke up at 4 AM & started walking the 2 1/2 km in hopes of finding a taxi along the way. 🚕 About halfway there we got a taxi which shortcut our route 10-15 minutes, we arrived at the INM at roughly 5:55am. There were already a few folks there, when the place actually opened at 9 AM. When numbers were handed out we were 5&6, we felt pretty good about this. We brought snacks, the Internet was good to keep us preoccupied about the passing of time. At about 10:45 we were called into the building. Dave went up first & then came back down five minutes later…pretty quick!  I knew this was not a good sign. He said, “we filled out the wrong form.“ 🤦🏼‍♀️ I was then called up & decided to go up to ask a few more questions. I asked her specifically where on the website was the correct form, she showed me the drop downs, the URL & I literally took pictures of computer screen. 🖥️ Then we went home.

After some hemming & hawing & gnashing of teeth & trying to decide who’s fault it was, we found the correct form, filled it out & I walked down the street to have it printed.

Dave took a second day off, we woke up before 4 AM & began our walk down to the INM. This time we did not grab a taxi & arrived at roughly the same time as we did the day before. There were now twice as many people there as the previous day. When numbers were passed out we were 12&13. Long story continuing to be longer, we finally got called in just after noon. Dave went up first, they confirmed his form was correct, took his money, & began to finalize the process. Now this is sort of the important part, you know when you feel like you have a plan & it doesn’t go to plan & then you feel like the world is against you? That was our Monday & then when we were super successful on Tuesday we better understood why Monday happened as it did. As I said before, if we had had the correct form on Monday, we still would have left the INM without our actual residence card because they were not making cards on Monday. However, because we went back on Tuesday, they were making them & we left with our cards in hand 💳

I would later learn from Facebook via the same advocate who had posted about the canceling of appointments that the process had further degraded. The first Monday we went they were passing out numbers 1 to 30 & I heard on Tuesday that the INM stayed open an hour later than normal to process all 30 of those people. When we arrived on Tuesday, they only passed out numbers 1 through 20. After Thanksgiving we heard, they were only giving out numbers 1 through 15 & people were queuing up at 2 AM in the morning to make sure they were seen.

It was quite a mess! Could they have done better, sure. But the bottom line is Mexico has seen more than a 100% increase in residency applications over the last two years. As people complained & tried to find someone to blame, I did my best to muster as much grace as possible. The ladies at the INM never stopped running up & down the stairs, they had lunch brought in & barely took time for a bathroom break. 

So were we lucky, blessed, in the right place at the right time? Yes to all of those I would say. We are officially done (for now) We are temporary Mexicans, at least until October 2023 when we will have to decide whether or not to come back & trudge through the process again to extend our residency for an additional four years. Thanks for reading all the way to the end. We are in fact, good, most of the time we are having fun & some of the time we are not 🤣❤️

If you are looking to learn more about the Mexican immigration process, I highly recommend these two websites… https://www.mexperience.com/tag/residency-in-mexico/ and https://soniadiazmexico.com/category/visas/

San Miguel de Allende 🖼️ Art & Foodie Wonderland 🇲🇽

If you ever find yourself self in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, I highly recommend not only the colorful city of San Miguel de Allende but also its two other nearby cities, the state’s capital & university town of Guanajuato City & the larger, Leon with its Zona Piel (leather market) & Plaza de Zapatos 👠 (plaza of shoes.)

We have visited this general area on multiple trips to the Festival Internacional del Globo over the last several years. We decided to extend our travel to the event by coming early to check out San Miguel de Allende. As I said before, 3 weeks was not nearly enough time to explore all SMA had to offer, so we did our best on weekends & after Dave’s work days to explore as much as possible. (However at the writing of this post, I am seeing there is so much more we missed. Clearly we will have to return and continue to explore.)

San Miquel is a city of quaint patio restaurants, rooftop bars, & stunning sunsets 🌅 Here were a few of our favorites…

Relox 25, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto.

Restuarante Patio Relox

Strolling along the cobblestone streets, we discovered this inviting courtyard cafe, Patio Relox. Sadly, it has some pretty bad Google reviews, mine being one of the only 5 star 🤔 I guess we found them on a good day. The highlight was the best guacamole we would find along our travels.

Xoler Wine Bar

A hard to find, corner wine bar that was totally worth the hunt. Xoler is a tiny spot with just over half a dozen tables. We had no reservation but gladly accepted a couple of spots at the bar. The recommended wines & charcuterie board were plenty to accompany our casual conversation & people watching 👀

La Posadita Cocina

La Posadita Cocina

Tradicional Mexicana

Again, no reservation for two but lucked out with a table on the rooftop patio at sunset on the evening of Halloween, when the city was a bustle 😉 We even got to practice a bit of our Spanish as Dave ordered the highly recommended Pozole Verde. The waiter humored us, then switched to his better English in light of our hesitations 😬 The sunset did not disappoint.

Mexican Flan

Neither did the Mexican flan, although I do not believe my Cuban stepfather would have approved of the cherries 🍒 but then again, it turns out there is a significant difference between Mexican & Cuban flan 🍮 Having been raised on Cuban flan, I will have to agree that Cuban flan is the best in world (when made correctly 😬)

This may have been our most spectacular sunset in San Miguel de Allende, which is why I made (I mean asked 😉) Dave to hike up hill a kilometer or so… for this stunning view (minus of course the radio tower 🤦‍♀️) Once again, without reservations, we were seated on the patio. You might be getting the sense that reservations might be worth considering in SMA. You might also be realizing, we are fly by the seat of our pants renegades 😆 We were graciously allowed a spot on the balcony with the understanding that we could only have drinks or eat quickly, we chose drinks & a lovely conversation with a gentleman from Oregon, who himself was in the tourist industry, clearly at the Terraza 48 to check things out. 🍽️

Sometimes you just need a burger. Grandpa & Sons 🍔 fit the bill & was a quick five minute walk from our apartment inside the Fabrica de Aurora (an incredible textile factory turned gallery of galleries 🖼️ ) Chili dogs, mushroom burgers, shrimp 🍤 w/manchego y aguacate 🥑 🤔 We could have eaten here several times & still not tried everything on the menu, but that is true of all SMA, you would need to live in the city for a year to experience all the amazing restaurants.

Milagros & Milagros Terraza

A bit of mixed reviews on this one but we stopped in for the highly recommended molcajete.

Molcajete refers to both the mix & the stone bowl it comes in. The waitress was nice enough to point out when I ordered my own dinner that Dave’s molcajete would be more than enough for both of us & it was, even the night after with what we para llavared 😆 We ate at the location nearer our apartment & then later realized there was a second location, they share the same menu & live music but as can see the view from Terraza was quite stunning 🌅 If you ever find yourself here, this is one for which you definitely want to make a reservation.

Our last night out on another uphill stroll to capture the sunset & soak up the last of San Miguel de Allende, we happened across, quite possibly our best meal of the entire adventure. La Parada, a Peruvian restaurant inconspicuously located about a block off the Parque Benito Juarez.

Around every corner, between every eatery, along every route, there was a continual feast, this time for the eyes. Street art, gallery art, interactive art 🖼️ It took twice as long to get anywhere just because one had to stop & admire along the way.

To combine it all we made a stop slightly south of town at the Viñedo San Miguel, where they have created a beautiful gallery & tasting room within their winery & production facility 🍇 After a short tour of their dormant fields & lonely fermentation room (sadly, we were a few months late to see anyone at work) we enjoyed a delicious food pairing with several of their signature wines. It was a great lesson in changing flavors & highlighting notes 🍷

It would be a good distraction to keep our minds off the ever changing INM process & the sudden & unofficial announcement that all previously scheduled appointments would be cancelled, effective immediately. Up next… the first of several adventure dramas. If you have made it with us this far, thanks for stickin’ around as you may have also noticed I haven’t posted in the last 2 weeks due to other drama that found us further down the path, but alas we will get to that too 😬💜

🌼San Miguel de Allende💀

Three & a half weeks was not nearly long enough to take in the beauty & grandeur of this quaint yet bustling town. SMA was the perfect spot to get started on this adventure, a bit of comfort in the expat community with plenty of opportunities to learn how things work & gain the courage to use & improve our Spanish skills.

We arrived near the end of October 2022 because I specifically wanted to enjoy the Dia de los Muertos celebrations & although SMA is not the top place for the spectacle, it was everything I had hoped & imagined. It was a week long celebration where the city transformed into an even more colorful site, with its shop doorways adorned with iconic yellow marigolds, calaveras & catrinas 💀

I am sure Dia de los Muertos deserves an entire post & I may circle back to it one day but that is not today, so on we go…

SMA is an incredibly walkable town, so that is what we did, we walked, we walked a lot. Our first Monday was my day to venture out solo & move things along as though this is where we lived. First stop, a bank to exchange our American $$$ into Pesos. A young man directed me down a few blocks (in Spanish) I decided to pause on a bench in the jardin as not to look like a total tourist scanning my google maps. Per Samantha Brown’s advise, I struck up a conversation with two American looking folks, Oklahoma it turns out. Your man directed me to a currency exchange app & then on to the exchange bank, one block down on the left.  Dollars exchanged 19 to 1, the best we would do over the entirety of our MX adventures. 

Second stop, the INM, or Instituto Nacional de Migración. San Miguel is a relatively small city, so by the time I was to the bank, I was a quarter way to the immigration office, so I decided to continue, 2km mas o menos. Arriving at the immigration office is when the real fun began. I realized I didn’t have a mask, which apparently was still a thing. I scanned the .gov QR code, which translated itself into English & was still not clear. 🤣  A women came out & asked me what I needed, I said the form to get my residency card as l already had my temporary visa & an appointment for finalization (all this in my ridiculous Spanish) She invited me in to the office & took my passport. I was still trying to make sense of the translated website & asked her if she spoke English, but not before apologizing for my subpar Spanish 😬 she said no, then added, “no more English.” Long story longer, I got outta there with 2 appointments, one for me & one for Dave. Will that be it? Who knows? Information is not super forth coming here. Would it be better if I were more fluent in the language, ABSOLUTELY!!

I would later learn that showing up & asking for help & actually getting it, doesn’t generally happen. We would also begin to realize the temporary visas were probably not something we necessarily needed to do as it began to be more of a time & money sink than was necessary but as with any adventures there is much learning along the way. You may notice that becoming a theme here, rest assured there are going to be many more opportunities for flexibility & learning at every turn!

🇲🇽 Mexico Landing ✈️ *Afterthoughts, Mistakes & Unexpected Upheavals

🇲🇽 I went back & forth a dozen times trying to decide from where to continue… from the beginning? May? Our first destination, Pagosa Springs?  I even began to confuse myself, so after much “choice paralysis” I am just going to start where we are, or close to it… Our Mexican arrival 🇲🇽

We left ABQ, NM on Oct 22 for BJX, Guanajuato, MEX. I have to say, we felt pretty proud of ourselves, having packed all our necessities & then some into our allotted bags. Unfortunately, we may have been a bit too focused on the physical stuff to remember to check a few key items we failed to attend to. 🤦🏼‍♀️

We arrived at the airport & realized neither of us had TSA pre-check, which is part of our Global Entry. If you travel out of the US at least once a year, like we do, Global Entry is a game changer! $100 for 5 years & way less lines ✈️ GE gives additional international advantages over the $78 TSA pre-check only or the $50 Nexus 🇨🇦 & Sentri 🇲🇽 We had, in fact logged our numbers with our airline but failed to notice the error when we checked into our flight the day before. This would be the first of our ridiculous rookie mistakes. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Note to self, double check all our carrier sites for our correct & logged known traveler number! But better to have made the mistake on the front end where we only had to stand in line with the regular people through security versus on our way home when we will skip the very long passport reentry queue.

On we went, ABQ, DFW, BJX. Not one, but three opportunities to buy 🇲🇽 pesos & we didn’t. Why, because we are fools 😬 Thankfully, the first few places we encountered took credit cards, which allowed us to have dinner & buy coffee ☕️ for the morning 🌤️ Rookie mistake #2.  Couple this with rookie mistake #3 & you will begin to wonder how any of this works out for us 🙄 Any guesses??? We brought one debit card, for an ancillary bank account we have (& don’t generally use as an atm) that also expired a month after we got here, IDIOTS!

Dave & I like to consider ourselves to be lifelong learners. Sure we read books & watch documentaries, but more times than not, our biggest lessons come from our mistakes. We are both really good at over complicating the simple & completely overlooking the potentially more important. I’ll get back to that when I write about why & how we ended up as temporary Mexicans 🪅

Needless to say, we made it…

Our first stop was San Miguel de  Allende, a town made popular by American GIs in the 50’s & 60’s who came here for post service education on the GI bill. San Miguel has one of the largest ExPat communities in Mexico. San Miguel is where we would spend the next month settling into this life, enjoying its spectacular beauty & experiencing some unforeseen upheavals.

We have learned along the way that there are a few amenities we will not forego… Air conditioning, swimming pool & washer/dryer, so far in that order 😆 Good internet is always a top priority since Dave is still working his remote 9-5 with Formstack

You might be asking, what do I do during all this time? I’m still keeping up on our finances, as this adventure does have a budget 😉 This adventure also has a plan, its loose most days but has about half a dozen firm destinations over our time here. 

Our initial plan was to be in SMA a few weeks before the FIG Balloon rally in León then head on to Merída in the Yucatán for Thanksgiving through Christmas with an eventual longterm landing along the east coast, Playa del Carmen, Akumal & Tulum 🏝 And that all sounded really good until we figured out what was about to happen around our visa & temporary residency process… best laid plans meets bureaucracy.

Not For the Faint of Heart 💜

I guess I feel like I have never really had a home. Home is specific people, home is freedom, home is courage & adventure, home is a place inside myself. Others along the way ask us where we are from… I am never quite sure how answer that question. Sometimes I say, “most recently, Colorado” other times “a little bit of everywhere.” Our love of travel & experiences & adventure are a cornerstone of our marriage ✈️ So it was not a hard decision to make another move. When we settled in COS in 2006 from Ireland (that’s another story) it was because we wanted our kids to have some stability & the chance to finish their school years in one place. I never believed this was our forever home & likely don’t believe such a place exists this side of heaven ⛅️ As high school graduations neared, my heart yearned to go & deep in my spirit I felt change was on the horizon. It would not be long before job changes & job losses & client cancellations & business closures & Covid would propel us forward into a completely new way of thinking & living 💭 Could we make a life “on the road?” Could we live with less? Could Dave continue to work? Could I find something to do with my time, since I would not be “working”? Could we be uncomfortable at times & could that be okay? Mostly, yes 😬

Many questioned our sanity as we had only recently, in 2018 done a complete kitchen remodel & even feeling strongly about our upcoming listing, remodeled & rehabbed all the bathrooms. I guess, I never truly believed Lange Ter. was mine but always wanted to leave it better than with what we started 🏠

Now, I was my own client. What would I have said to a client who wanted to have a garage sale, because, “I could get some $$$ for all this crap!” Or questioning myself, “how many toiletries & office supplies DOES one person need?” 🤦‍♀️ I will wax poetically later about how & why I became a professional organizer, yes it is rooted in hoarding, perfectionism & anxiety of lack. Thankfully, my desire for freedom & change was able to convince my other self that just letting go, opened my whole self to receiving what was to come.

With the house purged & stored & listed & sold, it was time to load the truck & trailer & see what lie ahead. Good God we still had a ton of stuff!!! Enough to fill the short bed of the truck, its back seat & any empty space in the 5×8 trailer that also housed the hot air balloon. It would literally take us the next six months & eleven transitions to get it down to two checked bags, two carry on suitcase & two personal items 🎒 to leave the country!

We have been “on the road” for almost 8 months now, two+ months of that in & around Mexico. Guess what, we still have too much stuff! Or I should say, things made it with us that we have not used or worn, not much but some. 🧳 There are other days we say, “gosh I wish I would have brought that, insert item here.” There has definitely been a learning curve & a need for greater flexibility & we have no regrets 😉

💻✈️ He’s a digital nomad 😉❤️ She’s a vagabond (ME!) 🌏💼

A little back story… May 2022, we sold our house 🏡 in Colorado Springs, where we raised these kids who are now adults, grown & flown. We purged most of our stuff & put the rest in storage. We are hot air balloonists, who love adventure & traveling ✈️ and skiing ⛷ & hiking and golf ⛳️ and Mexico 🇲🇽 and being together ❤️ We decided to hit the road 🛻 and see where we might end up! We are starting in Pagosa Springs, CO. From there NM, TX, LA, CA, OR, WA, ID & eventually on to MX 🇲🇽 We will be joined by our fearless companions, Dave’s business buddy, Walter aka Donkejoté, Alipaca Bag, my fluffy Ecuadorian alpaca 🦙 & Maria Ragdoll, the latest addition to our little on the road family 😉 Feel free to find us here or anywhere along the way 💜 as I muse about random places, experiences, memories, organizing, travel, relationships & whatever else may strike my fancy at given time 😊