Snowbird I Has Landed

When Alex and I returned from our around the world adventure in 2016, I was not ready to go home. I was excited to reconnect with friends and family and snuggle with my kitty, but after a few weeks I would have hit the road again. I fell into a pretty significant depression, which resulted in hours of conversation between Alex and me. The upshot being that as soon as we could swing it, we would split our time between Portland and traveling with the hope of spending at least three months a year (preferably winter) in another (preferably warm) country.  Thus, last month, these snowbirds took flight and landed in Mexico. More specifically, we spent our first month in San Pancho, Mexico.

When we hatched the snowbird plan, we knew we would travel, but slowly. An important lesson learned from our year of travel was that we are happiest when we have a home base and can explore the community and the surrounding area with plenty of downtime to read, exercise or just relax. Moving around every few days is exhausting. We much prefer to really get to know a place, its hidden corners and secret spots, our favorite restaurant or where to buy organic veggies.

Enter San Pancho! This little gem of a pueblo sits towards the southern end of the Riviera Nayarit, just north of Puerto Vallarta. In this town of about 3000 people, you could walk all of the streets in a day. There are no traffic lights, but an influx of expats and tourists means that you can buy organic eggs at the market, organic produce at the weekly tianguis, and vegan fare at a handful of restaurants and cafes.

The beach here is about a mile long, with course golden sand and surfable waves crashing at the shore. In the evening, it seems as if the whole town gathers to watch the sun dip into the Pacific, which is frequently followed by a round of applause from the spectators. And thanks to a local recycling program and a campaign to end the use of plastic straws, the beach is relatively free of the plastic garbage that litters so many coastal destinations.

After sunset the town comes alive for a few hours, with live music on the street and in the open air restaurants, breakdancers performing for the al fresco diners, the pan casera pickup truck making its rounds vending homemade bread from the covered truck bed (and playing an awesome homemade jingle) and people strolling the streets enjoying the cooler temperatures.

There isn’t much to do in San Pancho and that was just fine with us. Most mornings I played pickleball at The Haciendas (a “fancy” resort that looks great from the exterior, but with much of the interior falling apart, including the ceiling in the old gallery where we played), through which I met some super friendly people (Hi Dan and Korin! Hi Ron and Sharon!).

Alex ran barefoot on the beach almost everyday, where he managed to step on a piece of puffer fish and get an acacia thorn lodged in the middle of his foot, but still refused to wear shoes. He later learned that, luckily, the poison in puffer fish is in their internal organs not their spiky exterior.

After our daily exercise routine, we would usually head to the outdoor market (on Tuesday) or to our favorite (and tiny) veggie and fruit market. This was typically followed by a trip to the tortilleria where for 9 pesos (about 50 cents), we could buy a pound of fresh, warm tortillas.

We spent many afternoons volunteering with the San Pancho Bird Observatory, clearing invasive water lilies from the local estuary. We even organized a service day and with the help of some local expats and visitors, cleared over 2000 pounds of vegetation in one day!

We also helped repair and install new interpretive signs for the birding trails highlighting common and endemic bird species in town.

Our experience with the Observatory offered us a window into the inner workings of a Mexican non-profit, which was fascinating to us having worked for U.S. non-profits for so many years. And Luis, the tireless director, kindly shared his knowledge of the history of San Pancho and the surrounding region, as well as where to find painted buntings.

We frequently hiked early in the morning or just before sunset to look for some of the 21 endemic bird species in the area, while enjoying the northernmost tropical forest in North America and discovering hidden beaches and amazing miradors along the way.

And we were often amused and intrigued by life in a small Mexican beach town  where you buy mattresses, chairs, or churros out of the back of a pickup truck.

Alex’s parents visited us for five days, giving us an opportunity to play tour guide. We watched the sunsets (and saw the green flash twice), let them beat us at cards, enjoyed lunch at the small palapa restaurants on the beach, took a birding tour with Luis and visited the Puerto Vallarta botanical garden, which included an amazing drive down the coast south of the city.

We enjoyed being in one place so much that we decided that our next destination would be another month-long stint, this time in Oaxaca de Juarez. And so far that is proving to be an excellent decision. Stay tuned!

6 thoughts on “Snowbird I Has Landed

  1. Erin, thanks for this wonderful update, your e-mail to us and your telephone message. You’re really a very good writer and it’s always a delight to read your work. It’s amazing how much we miss you guys. We think about and talk about you every day. So the depth of our feeling is related to just knowing you’re within reach and 15 minutes away when you’re home. And the looking forward to our letting you win just enough to keep you interested.

    Within our void we have every confidence in your judgement and abilities. I, particularly, appreciate your wanderlust and need to explore this big world and to meet its many peoples.

    So we say “good on ya” and come back to us for a while soon. Our love is with you where ever.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Erin (and Alex),
    Your account of adventures in Mexico is wonderfully written with lot of descriptive detail and interesting observations. And the photos!!! Sounds like a great place to visit. I am wondering if you did any body surfing or was the water cool? ( I saw a vest on Donald (who, by the way, looks a lot like John).
    I am sure they miss you a lot when you are gone, but keep traveling.. I think it is part of the Brown genetic makeup. Your granddad, Paul, loved to drive-just like Donald and Allie.
    I have been to Oaxaca and Monte Alban and it is a lovely city with good elevation. They also have great rugs and handicrafts.
    Lots of love and I will be thinking of you all in June when we scatter John’s ashes in Yellow River Forest (his favorite May trout fishing spots). Pam Brown


  3. Pingback: A Bucket Full of Monarchs | Lower the Bar for More Fun

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