Beyond the Bay (The Marietas Islands, Mexico)

Sunset on Bay of Banderas

In my mind, it’s better to “go” than to wait for that perfect someday.  Branches of my family tree sag with somebodies who waited upon “somedays” that never came.  And so, when the choice is between traveling by myself or staying home, I water my plants and pack a bag.  Faced with a full week of unfettered days a few years ago,  I opted for Nuevo Vallarta and some time with a new favorite friend, Me.  On one of my final days, I joined a group sailing out of Banderas Bay toward the Marietas Islands.

One interesting element of traveling alone is the way it enables one to drift in and out of conversations.  One can listen to others -or ignore them.  There is the opportunity to engage with those around you or to take a personal retreat. One can rev up the brain or simply observe as your senses soak in the impressions of each moment.  The optimal method to achieving this mental utopia is to situate oneself within groups of a certain size.  My sailing trip from Nuevo Vallarta to the Marietas Islands violated that self-imposed standard by at least one hundred people.  The gleaming wood sailing vessel was elegant, classic, but unfortunately, much smaller than I had expected and hoped for…  My fellow passengers numbered only twenty and included cozy couples, a family of four and an extended family group of about twelve from Appleton, Wisconsin.  But, the morning sun was warming up a perfect day, and it was infinitely better to be there alone than to not be there at all.  I settled onto a white canvas cushion and floated into my own thoughts as we sailed out onto Banderas Bay.

Children climbing ladder and Mother; Puerto Vallarta

Grief over the closely-timed deaths of my parents, grandfather and marriage had created a watery barrier around my moments of joy and muffled its volume.  I was no longer somebody’s daughter, nor anyone’s wife.  And for this week, I was a mother traveling without children.  I was simply “Heather.”

The difficult part comes during the “look at that!” nudging moments. Sharing the remarkable seems almost an elemental part of processing it and saving it into our internal hard drive.  We define the extraordinary against those who are familiar with our ordinary zones.  That afternoon in Mexico, I knew I was sailing toward “extraordinary.”  And, instead of saving it for “someday,” I was ripping open the package and taking the first bite all by myself.

The Sierra Madres merged into a singular broad expanse behind us as the sea sprayed the bow and the afternoon rolled into a brilliant sort of serenity.  I somehow became part of a couple of family groups,  learning the early and mid-chapters of lives for which I’d be unlikely to read the endings.  Although the whale migration season had officially ended, two humpbacks swam in the mouth of the bay.  Our guide, Gustavo,  speculated that the stragglers were a mother and calf who had not been ready for the pod’s swim north.  I’ve watched bus-sized humpbacks breach with dramatic splashes in Maui’s waters. This was different.  We were further away, but the glimpse of determined mother with her child was a more intimate encounter.

Schooling dolphins by Marietas Islands

We cut sharply through the dark blue waters, eventually spotting the stumpy blobs of volcanic matter that are the Marietas Islands, but before we could get there, we were surrounded by about four hundred dolphins. They circled us again and again as a dancing, leaping parade. From the reactions of the boat’s crew, I knew it was unlikely I’d see such a spectacular display again.

The largest island loomed ahead like an overly puffed and then squashed marshmallow…

The magic of the Marietas lay just ahead.

16 Comments to Beyond the Bay (The Marietas Islands, Mexico)

  1. I love the way you found all of the right words to describe your experience and feelings. This is very well written and an emotional treat for all who read this post. Thanks!

  2. Suzanne Perazzini

    I’m back from Las Vegas, where I took a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Had a great time.
    I loved this post and so identify with it. By the way, you write beautifully.
    Aren’t dolphins the most glorious creatures on earth?

  3. Hi, I see you are a talented writer and as such I would like to invite you to write for, it’s a high traffic site and as a result your post and your blog here will get lots of exposure.

    Your post will be featured on front page, you have a bio, pic and banners for your site. Please pass by and check it out. Thanks Leah

  4. What a treasure of a location.

  5. Lovely posts. Any woman afraid to travel solo should read it. Beautifully done. I can’t wait to read the next installment.

  6. You make words dance Heather. You evoke emotion from a reader as you take them with you on your journeys. Write a dang book girl!

  7. Good on you for doing it! I hope you are going to publish this account. Any mag or paper would snap this one up.

    ps. You don’t teach writing do you?

  8. Intrepid: Thank you. Once the thought starts spreading, the words kind of find their own way out! Our most compelling experiences seem to hold elements that all of us bump into at some point in our lives.
    Suzanne: I enjoyed reading about your Vegas trip and am hoping there will be more…?
    Leah: Thanks for the invite! I’ve marked your site and will check it out.
    Jean-Luc: It truly is. The crescent beach of Nuevo Vallarta sparkles gold in the sunlight, and the Marietas were obviously quite memorable!
    Thanks, Donna! I think the occasional solo trip is beneficial for most anyone willing to try it. It’s kind of fun to find out what you have to say to yourself. -Without actually mumbling out loud, because that would just be strange, ha!
    Brad: Big smile. Thank you, sir! I have manuscripts and short stories that I will maybe eventually do something with… One positive aspect of getting out of your twenties (cough!) (and thirties, sigh….) is the wealth of “living” one finally has to write about.
    Thank you, Cate. ~And thanks for the idea; I hadn’t thought of that.
    The only writing I teach is to my ten-year old (although I correct misspelled signs in my head, ha!).

  9. What lovely imagery and photos, Heather! I could read your posts forever. WOOT! that you traveled to Nuevo Vallarta alone. I admire you for your great way of thinking and for your oodles of talent. You have one beautiful and inspiring blog.

    That must have been amazing seeing the whales.

    Hugs, JJ

  10. I agree — it’s always better to “go” than wait for the perfect day. Traveling like that was easier when I was younger, but I still get away once in a while these days.

    If you forget to water your plants before leaving you can always replace them with plastic ones when you get home.

  11. Heather

    JJ: Whales ALWAYS take my breath away. A whale encounter is a glimpse into a whole other wonderful world. I would love to give my kids that experience before too long.
    Thanks very much for the kind words! Writing about Life’s highlights extends the joy that much further for me. Hopefully, it also inspires others to try some new adventures.
    Delmer: When I was younger and unencumbered by real responsibilities I lacked the courage to travel alone. Now, it’s always about the logistics (but I love my little “logistics”)…
    Plastic -always good to have a back-up plan.

  12. Heather,
    This is a wonderful post. All your feelings about the trip come through vividly. I love solo travel, for me, that’s the best way to really experience a place because you don’t have any body else to keep you in your comfort zone. Loved the dolphin photos. I’ve connected with you on twitter, facebook and linkedin.

  13. Heather

    Fly Girl: That’s an excellent point. I think our “comfort zones” are somewhat variable. The perimeter is smaller when I travel with my kids than when I travel alone or with an adult friend. Thanks for the “connects”! I did the same.

  14. Many people should to pay attention to your thought about “going” and “waiting”

  15. Awesome post.

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