Every year, I head somewhere for my birthday. Or at least try to. It all started in 2009 when I was in Atlanta and working in PR. I took the first trip of my adult life — a two week excursion to Croatia — seven years after my first foray into solo travel, which netted me about one month of backpacking with a far-too-heavy backpack around Europe.
The humid air hits me on the jetway, causing a smile to remain plastered to my face from immigration to crossing the street outside of the airport to get a taxi (hint: it’s cheaper if you grab a cab off airport property).
I hop in the front seat of my taxi and produce the address to my hotel, a boutique property a two-minute walk to the beach.
We wait down the hill in Boca de Tomatlan. It’s humid, but a fan blows gently on us, cooling me down … and my french fries. Icy cold Corona placed on the wooden table in front of me, I look off into the distance, squinting for signs of a little motor boat coming to whisk me and my friend away for three days of bliss at the Majahuitas Resort, an eco-friendly property tucked into a private cove south of Puerto Vallarta.
At 4 p.m., as scheduled, our boat arrives and the driver grabs our suitcases and drops them in the boat, then takes my hand and guides me down into our transport as it bobs ever so gently on the water. Once my friend, Mike, is in, our journey begins.
The surf pounds the well-packed sand, littered with seaweed. I sit, toes buried deep where the water meets the shore. Behind me, local vendors run a sales rotation at Puerto Vallarta’s Sea Monkey, a beach bar with a handful of tables and umbrellas nestled on the coastline.
They sell everything: Drawings. Jewelry. Marionettes. Clothing. Massages.
As each one passes, my friend, Paula and I, tucked into 17 peso margaritas that could use a little more tequila and a little less sweet, catch up on life and quickly report to each seller, “no, gracias.”
Hailed as the “house of dreams” by New York interior designer Billy Baldwin, the former home of “Silver” Maria Cortez is now open to house guests, thanks to the Alex Killen, who is the third generation owner of the mansion-turned-boutique Rivera del Rio hotel in Puerto Vallarta.
Here, eclectic meets lavish meets indoor plunge pool complete with fake ducks bobbing under the gentle movement of air from the balcony overlooking the city’s Rio Cuale.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for,” the ticket agent said to me before we hung up the phone on that winter night in Atlanta in 2010.
Pure joy shot through my veins after we disconnected. Sitting in my apartment in the 100-year-old house, listening to the cars pass my house on their way home from work in the bustling city, there was more excitement pumping through me than I’ve ever felt before.
Editor’s Note: This should have been published on Dec. 15, 2016. I was hella sick so never published it on the actual one-year anniversary of surrendering my status as an expatriate. Better late than never, right?
Tucked on a cobblestone street, perched on a steep slope, this boutique hotel in Puerto Vallarta seems inconspicuous. If it wasn’t for a tiny sign hanging on the outside of the old building announcing the presence of Luna Liquida, it’s easily missed.