Hi Mar! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a mid-life mama, who quit a high-paying job to travel the world on a “grown-up-gap-year.” I never really stopped. When I’m not traveling, I live in San Francisco, California. I started Testarossa Travel to share adventurous, funny and often humbling, or downright embarrassing, stories to inspire readers to ignore “FearTV”, get out there and see the world.
So, where’s your happy place?
My happy place is Pescadero, Mexico, a small pueblo on the Pacific coast at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. It’s 65km by highway from tourist-crazy Cabo San Lucas, but it feels like a world away. I found it by accident several years ago, when I clicked on a Groupon ad for a four night stay in a tiki hut on the beach. I immediately fell in love with the place.
The chilled, laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals and surprisingly large population of ex-pats from Canada and the U.S. made it instantly feel like home. After my initial four days ended, I went back for a month, fell in with a group of Americans renting a house, and ended up staying for a whole year.
It was a rough period in my life, so Pescadero and its people hold a special place in my heart for helping me heal. Beyond that though, it’s the perfect combination of surf beach, gorgeous mountains, and cheap tacos that bring me back time and again. Fewer than 1,000 people live in Pescadero, so except for the highway that runs through it, the town is all dirt roads. The people are simple and humble, and their daily stresses are over real things, like can they afford to buy protein this week.
And yet, they always greet friends and strangers alike, with a smile. I love the small-town community atmosphere, where everyone helps each other out. See someone’s car stuck in the sand? Better stop to help, because next time it could be me. Once, I stopped on the highway to change a flat, and in less than two minutes, a stranger stopped and changed it for me, refusing any payment. I never pick up hitchhikers at home, but I do it all the time in Mexico and I’ve met the coolest people that way.
How did your time in Mexico shape you as a traveller?
Living in Mexico, I dealt with incompetent phone companies, friendly but corrupt police, confusing dirt roads, and donkeys on the highway at midnight. It prepared me to travel the rest of the world with ease. I learned to break through media-induced stereotypes. I got used to dirty feet and endless insects. And I acquired an affection for hand-washing my dishes and hanging my clothes in the sun to dry.
After awhile, I learned to drive on unmarked, unlit, rock-infested dirt roads without getting too lost. And I learned how to work remotely like a pro. If I can sell big-ticket enterprise software with less-than-ideal 5mbps internet conditions, while the sun-drenched beach beckons me, I can do any work, anywhere.
What are some of the best experiences you’ve had in Pescadero?
These days in Pescadero, I balance my time between working in the mornings, watching surfers at the beach in the afternoons, marvelling at the whales playing in the ocean at sunset, and visiting friends at night. By now, I’ve collected so many experiences and stories, I could write a book. There’s the time I snorkelled with baby sea lions, or the time I kidnapped the Telmex guy and made him fix the internet.
Then there’s the time I helped release baby sea turtles, and the time I four-wheeled over treacherous mountain roads to search for waterfalls. I’ve taught Mexican kids to speak English, made friends with vendors on the beach, and almost run out of gas in the desert. My friend once found a message in a bottle and we added our own messages to it, and we’ve skinny dipped in the Pacific after midnight. The list seems endless and guarantees I will be the old lady with the coolest stories in the nursing home.
Would you describe it as a good holiday destination?
Mexico is a cheap place for us Norte-Americanos to visit, especially these days with the U.S. dollar being so strong and the peso being so weak. A killer margarita at the Little Lebowski Lounge runs me $80 pesos, or about $4.50. I can get two yummy carnitas from Carnitas de Machín for only $30 pesos, or $1.65. A massage on the beach under Hector’s magical hands sets me back only $500 pesos, or $27. As far as get-aways go, it’s a real bargain.
N.B. All photos in this post belong to Mar
What would you say you love most about Pescadero?
My favourite part of the day in Pescadero happens late at night when the stars come out. Being a city girl, I don’t get to see the sky put on a show very often. But in Baja, I go out of my way to stargaze every night. Sometimes I get lucky and catch a meteor shower – pure magic! Within just a few days, I can tell when and where the moon will rise. It makes me feel a connection to the greater universe I don’t get at home in the big city.
Perhaps that’s why I feel all my cares disappear the moment I arrive, every time, without fail. To me, that feeling is why Pescadero remains my happy place.