Life Begins at 60

My early December arrival to take up residence in Puerto Vallarta makes me a so-called “newbie.” Based on conversations in the ensuing months, anecdotally, it seems I have lots of newcomer company.
So recently, when I met a friend of a friend, a Canadian, who has lived in PV for 30 years, and was recounting my 2,208-mile journey from Kansas, she wondered aloud, how – of all the places to live outside of the U.S. – did I end up here?
We’ve all followed our own paths to PV, mine beginning with my grandparents, Frances and Clydie, world travelers who themselves made their way to PV in 1963 during the filming of “Night of the Iguana.”
One night at a bar they ran into Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, both very married and carrying on a torrid affair. La Liz, my grandmother said, was of an ethereal beauty, and Burton, she recounted, was the most charming drunk she’d ever met.
Thus, the scene of intrigue and adventure was set when my sisters and I four decades later made our own way to PV, visiting places like La Palapa and Hotel Rosita, scouring the old photos lining the hallways, wondering if Frances and Clydie, too, had once been there.
Like my grandparents, I’ve traveled, including to a half dozen Mexican destinations – Cozumel, Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and San Jose del Cabo – but it was always Puerto Vallarta to which I returned. I was so smitten, I visited at least a dozen times between 2000 and 2008 – including three trips in just one year.
What kept me coming back is no secret to other expat PVers – the natural beauty, the charm of Old Town, the plethora of fantastic restaurants and the gracious and kind native Puerto Vallartans.
But I hadn’t really planned on moving here or anywhere outside the U.S. until the political situation became, for me, unbearable.
Specifically, in late October of last year, the White House yet again did something that made my skin crawl. I don’t even remember what it was, but in a snap moment, I said to myself, “That’s it. I’m moving.”
I was in a position to make an on-a-dime decision. At 60, I was retired from a 35-year career as a business journalist, I was a widow, and my only child had died in 2015. I had no strong ties keeping me in the U.S.
I’d been renting, and had already rid myself of many material possessions that, as I moved about to New York City and then Florida and back to Kansas, had became more albatross-like than comforting.
I found a place on Craigslist that, for me, fit the bill – a very Mexican-style casita dubbed the “Jungle Bungalow” in the foothills of the Sierra Madres, in a local neighborhood above the Hotel Zone. At 250 feet above sea level, the posting showed sweeping million-dollar views of the city, the Bay of Banderas and the Pacific Ocean.
I packed my Toyota 4Runner to the hilt with my books, artwork, lamps, family photos and personal effects, and hit the road on my 2,208-mile drive.
Once I crossed the border at Nogales, and not knowing a lot of Spanish, was a bit nervous and uncertain of the road ahead. But I’d planned well enough that I stayed on schedule, arriving in PV the afternoon of December 7.
It’s been mostly a fascinating learning experience, and also sometimes a little frustrating, like it taking five trips to los correos in Pitillal to get a post office box. I’ve found that humor and patience are good ways to survive and thrive in a new and unknown environment.
Escaping the political situation in the U.S. is mainly what drove me here, but immersing myself in a new culture and pushing my comfort zones, traits instilled by my grandparents, has become my own raison d’etre.
So we’ve all have taken our own roads to PV, and we all have our own stories. For me and my journey, everywhere I explore, I search for the ghostly traces of Frances and Clydie, who helped me pave my own path to Puerto Vallarta.