We’re nearing the end of our first extended trip as a family — Ryan returns home by plane to attend some meetings, and Eliza and I will drive north, enjoying spring in the Baja and the pace of travel with two dogs.
With the exception of a couple overnights, we’ve been parked these past five weeks(!) in the same spot — La Ventana, a pueblo about an hour south of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez. Our road to discovering our place here felt long and bumpy, but it turns out our reasons for stasis are simple: we need community and routine to thrive.
Driving south out of the cold last February, we put in long days on the road, which made it hard to get out of each other’s space or unpack our books, laptops, art supplies, wetsuits — our ‘comfort sprawl’ that makes life rich and easy. And while we met cool people at virtually every stop — in fact, we’ve been following other travelers’ recommendations the whole trip — we were missing the depth of conversation beyond small talk.
In La Ventana, we met the kiteboarding community — devotees of el viento 6-30 knots. Many have been wintering here for decades, riding the wind on whatever equipment best harnesses its personality — billowy foil kites when the breeze floats butterflies; sturdy, twitchy front-edge inflatables when it’s dangerously daring. Many also have windsurf boards, with a sail and boom. These are people who look to the sea for companionship, who don’t care how the wind rakes dust through their hair or hurls sand, rasping against their skin.
This community is made mostly of gringos — true — from Canada and the Northwest US, where outdoor sport is a common language. Some, like Don and Laurie from Tahoe, raised their kids on the beach, taking them out of school or homeschooling for weeks or months each year, defying the judgement of family and school administrators alike.
Some are young, like Dave, Lane and Sara, making a career of seasonal sport employment in some of the most beautiful destinations on Earth. Still others are long retired, their octogenarian bodies blending with the other rippling wetsuits edging into the water, still muscled and capable.
These are people who understand that if you’re here, you’ve made some sacrifice. You’ve traded some amount of the known, sure thing for want of more. You might get hurt. You’re definitely at greater risk of skin cancer. You might change in ways that make it impossible to go ‘back.’ But, you’ve made it happen. These little bonds make them easy to talk to, share a meal with, brush teeth beside and spit around the same sink.
We’ve also found that families traveling with young kids are both rare and special, probably for all the added chaos and compassion that comes with having your child under your care all day, every day.
With meet-ups so fleeting, we rush right in, introducing ourselves to youngsters on the street and in restaurants, even before their parents arrive on the scene. We’ve arranged one-time playdates with kids we may never see again — both families glad for that small respite from same-ness. Thank you, Mateo, Tovah, Claire, Anna, Talon and Tinsley!
Eliza has made another connection on her own that we are especially proud of — invitations to play at the home of a local Mexican family. After weeks of palling around before school started each day, Eliza and Melissa, a kindergartener, hatched the play plan and approached Melissa’s mother, who manages our camp facility. Three days in a row, Eliza spent 4+ hours with Melissa and her cousins and neighbors, jumping on a trampoline and scrounging up snacks, all without a common language.
At trail’s end, we’ve all earned a certain valuable awareness of what traveling does to a person: you’re forced to be your most real, best self much more of the time. Or you will miss out.
This might sound stupidly simple and obvious — and something all of us should do all the time, but until you feel yourself rising to the challenge, you can’t appreciate what it might mean for your body and mind.
We’re glad we came. We’re happy to take what we’ve learned home. And we’re ready to do it again.