Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Seven days before Seth and I boarded our plane to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I was stuck on our sofa overwhelmed with uncertainty as tears would not stop streaming down my cheeks.  My body was giving up. I had two swollen knees that gave me severe pain and forced me to use a walker to simply move around the house.  This had never happened before and my lack of knowledge on why this happened, caused an immense amount of fear within me.

My mind became consumed with what-ifs and I could feel fear spreading over every inch of my body. My thoughts were no longer positive, instead became negative with doubt about myself and my ability to travel.  In that moment I was ready to give up. Say no I am canceling the hotel and refunding our flights. I allowed myself to express all my worries to Seth and cry until my eyes were red and puffy.  He listened patiently as I rattled off my list of doubts and then gently said, “Kirstin, you are stronger than you think and we will not have to back out of this trip even though your body is deciding to act up.”

We then sat hand in hand as he helped guided me through deep breaths. The increase in oxygen to my lungs and his confidence in me helped me relax.  Once I allowed calmness to flow throughout my body, my mind shifted from fear to determination. He was right, I am stronger than I may think and I wanted to fight to show my body that I am the one running the show.

Even though I was worried about traveling outside of the country with my autonomic system acting up, I boarded that Southwest plane on October 28 and I was heading to Mexico dammit!  My body was not going to stop me from enjoying this trip!

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View from our balcony.

Walking up to our fancy resort took my breath away!  We booked our stay at an all inclusive resort called Fiesta Americana and it was beautiful! I had never stayed at such a grand hotel before! The lobby was similar to a huge Tahitian hut and the grounds were beautifully manicured with bougainvilleas, palm trees, and shrubs. It had a very relaxing vibe making us want to lounge under a palapa for the rest of days. Of course that didn’t happen but for one day because both Seth and I are always antsy to go explore and take in as much as we can.

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Two days after we arrived, I felt strong enough to go on an adventure so we booked two tickets for the Marieta Islands Tour with Vallarta Adventure.  We were excited to ride on a catamaran boat to the famous uninhabited National Park that is known for its beautiful hidden beach.  Sadly the beach that we were dying to see thanks to photos on Instagram, was closed because tourists were damaging this special place.

The Mexican government protects these interesting uninhabited islands which sit a few miles off of the coast of Puerto Vallarta because of its beautiful wildlife and vegetation. This is one of three locations in the world where Blue Footed and Yellow Footed Boobie birds live. I remember learning about them in elementary school and I was giddy to see how large they were in real life.

Sure enough we were able to watch them for over 3 hours (an hour and a half to and from the boat dock) in their natural habitat. The Yellow Footed Boobies soared next to the boat diving for fish the entire boat ride putting on an amazing show for us!

We had a fun day snorkeling, kayaking, and bird watching.  I couldn’t have done all these activities without Seth. He was my tugboat while snorkeling, pulling me through the water so I wouldn’t have to expend much energy. Paddled us around the island in kayaks so I could enjoy the view and helped me walk about the boat safely. No matter how large or small the boat is, my balance is always thrown off making me look like a girl who has had one too many cocktails (thanks equilibrium).

I was reminded on this excursion that if I am honest with others and tell people what I need, people will help me. When I told the crew that I have bad knees and terrible balance they then paid special attention to me.  They would give me extra hands when walking around the boat and onto different platforms for activities. They also would make the ladders accessible and made sure I was doing things as safely as possible. It was a wonderful reminder that people can’t read my mind on what I need help with, that I need to use my voice.  When I do so, life is always much easier.

Feeling very accomplished!
Yellow Footed Boobies hunting for fish as we rode out to the Marieta Islands.

The next day we decided to go into the city to explore the town of Puerto Vallarta. It ended up being the perfect day to go downtown because it was Halloween or Dia de los Muertos!

This young town was vibrant with festival flags, sugar skulls, marigolds and beautiful alters honoring their deceased loved ones.  Being immersed in another culture during a holiday was a special eye opening experience. I love that they set aside three days out of the year to celebrate their loved ones who have passed. Their spirits were evidently still alive with all the love that was on the streets and stories that were shared.

Seth has a slight obsession with donkeys..

As we were walking down a sidewalk, Seth and I stopped to admire all the beautiful marigolds that were neatly lined against a railing outside a store front. As we were taking pictures a lady poked her head out of the shop I am sure to make sure we weren’t being destructive. After we captured the moment, we continued on walk.  After a few steps I stopped and told Seth that I wanted to go back and tell that lady who was hard at work cleaning, how beautiful her storefront was. I walked back into her cozy little building and said, “¡Hola!” – she lifted up her head while sweeping with a stern look on her face, probably thinking geez what does this tourist want.. I proudly said “¡su tienda es bonita!” with a big smile on my face and her frown immediately turned into a huge smile! She thanked me and in that moment I could feel love between the two of us. Even though there was a language barrier I did my best to compliment her on her hard work and I could feel a jolt of happiness in her which made me feel proud!

 

She carried on sweeping up her shop which was supposedly a wonderful jazz lounge and I continued on my journey of discovering downtown PVR.

I learned that if you try to make an effort to learn and speak Spanish to communicate with the locals you gain much respect from them. They change from just being employees to the tourist, to being your amigos.  Their smiles became bigger expanding from ear to ear as they listened to me attempt to say words and sentences in their native language. They genuinely seemed happy that I was trying and I noticed then that many people would place their hand over their hearts.  To me that was the ultimate sign of respect.
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The day of our departure back to Texas, we rose early to enjoy a quiet breakfast and stillness on the beach.  The sun was just starting to peak above the horizon and the ocean was still with calmness.  It was just Seth and I and one other couple enjoying the beauty of the morning.  It felt so magical to be present in the moment with your loved one in one of the most beautiful elements in the world, the ocean.

We had an hour together in our peaceful cove and we wished time would have stayed still.

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No matter how long of a trip we take, I find it is never long enough.  Five days in Puerto Vallarta was way too short and we wished we had more days there to explore in and around the city. Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to this beautiful place, but I know we will be back to PVR in the future.

As I meditated on our plane ride back home, a flood of satisfaction consumed me.  I was very proud of myself for not backing out of this trip and pushing through my fears. I was happy I was able to gather up my emotions and pull myself together to remember how badly I want to take advantage of all opportunities that are presented to me because one day things may all change.

“You can do this Kirstin, just breath.”

“I accept the place I am in and I will be ok.”

I said these two mantras to myself from start to finish.  From breaking down on the sofa before our trip to coming home exhausted and exhilarated.  With the power of a positive mind, the awareness for the need of my voice and a little bit of help from others I showed myself that I really can do anything.

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