Months after I had recovered from my Buenos Aires trip, I started getting antsy and anxious to start traveling again. Since the previous three trips I had taken were due to Dan’s work, I decided I would strike out on my own again. For some reason I had become fixated on Mexico, and thought maybe I should aim for somewhere in Mexico next.
This would be my first truly solo international trip. I figured at least the Spanish in Mexico would be easier for me to work with than in Argentina. Still, I wish I was fluent, it would help me a lot. It is of course on my to do list, to learn Spanish well enough to be fluent, but I need to find the time to work that into my schedule.
After a few weeks of obsessing, I started looking at airfare. I typically now just look for cheap airfare and base my timing around that. I got an email with a really great roundtrip fare to Puerto Vallarta. That’s how I came to choose PV as my destination. I felt like it was a safe city for a woman to travel to on her own. It turns out that a coworker of mine at the time had been to PV a lot and a friend of Dan’s used to live there for a bit. Both of them were very helpful in suggesting things for me to do and places to eat.
I learned that PV has a lot of LGBTQ tourism and that helped me make my decision because I am much more comfortable in places that embrace the LGBTQ lifestyle. I love open minded people (who doesn’t?) and find they are more accepting of people who look like I do. It’s always a concern of mine even if only in the back of my mind. Even growing up in the Portland area was hard for someone ‘different’ like me before it became sort of “known” for people with alternative looks/styles. I get especially nervous when traveling to a place where I do not speak the language and worry that I will stand out in a bad way. Turns out I probably worry more than necessary because I haven’t experienced anything negative regarding the way I look anywhere but home, and even then over the past five years or so it seems to have calmed down a lot.
So, I wanted to book the affordable flight I had found but of course had to turn in a vacation request first. Of course all the nervousness of waiting for that to be approved took its toll on me, but when it was approved, luckily my fare was still there and in fact had gone down $45 or so. Score! I made sure to book a flight that had a layover in an airport I was familiar with, which turned out to be a good idea, because my layover was only 1 hour and I was worried about making the connection.
I also booked a hotel and arranged for transportation to the hotel from the airport and vice versa. Some people prefer to book hotels in person because you can usually talk them down but I felt like the online prices were cheap enough for me, plus I liked the idea of knowing where I was going and being able to rest without wandering around with my stuff looking for a place to stay in a town I had never been to before.
The reason the hotels and flight were fairly cheap was because I was traveling outside of the typical tourist season. Summer in Vallarta is humid, hot and stormy. I went in May, figuring it was outside the tourist season but before the stormy weather starts.
I found a hotel that I liked with a room that had a kitchenette and a balcony with a view of the ocean. It wasn’t beachfront, it was up a hill and I knew there would be a lot of stairs to climb. I found it funny and kind of sad that a lot of the bad reviews on the place revolved around the stairs and the fact that there was no elevator. I assumed it was common sense that a hotel that is family owned and not a giant resort is probably not going to have the amenities that many hotels have in the United States. I was sad that the hotel got bad reviews for stairs people had to climb, I am pretty sure it’s noted on their website as well.
I was fine with that and even opted to reserve a room with no air conditioning. I figured since I am always cold and have no problem dealing with heat and can just air out the place at night it shouldn’t be an issue. It was a bit of a mistake; the room layout wasn’t really set up to cool off with a breeze, there was no window, only one sliding glass door so I couldn’t get a good breeze in.
Either way, the hotel is still decent and I appreciated it while I was there, however I would probably stay down closer into town next time. The hotel is called Casa Anita. I was very happy they offered free purified water also!
So everything was set up, I had my hotel room reserved, my transportation arranged, and my flight booked. I tried to brush up on my basic Spanish and borrowed a little dictionary with me to help. I spent a lot of time looking around at the area on Google Maps which is one of my favorite things to do! It allows me to get a feel for the area, see what it’s like and see where things are in relation to my hotel before I even arrive. It was helping me become very excited for the trip.
The day of my trip started with a shock. Right when I woke up, I had an email that said my first flight would be delayed by 45 minutes. That would mean my one hour layover just got cut down to 15 minutes. I had no idea if I could make a connection from a domestic terminal to the international terminal that quickly at SFO. I got ready and headed out to the airport early and was hoping the flight delay would turn out to be shorter.
When I got to the airport, I was very happy to be there early because the lines were huge. Once I got up to the desk to check in and check my bag, I attempted to ask about the flight situation. It turned out the 45 minute delay was a mandatory rest period because the crew had to work overnight unexpectedly due to a storm in the Chicago area. There was no way my delay would be less than 45 minutes. Unfortunately, no one at the desk was available to help me with my issue. I was basically ignored and was beginning to panic. I looked at my options on the self-check in computer. It said I could keep my same flight and try to make it or switch to a different flight with a layover in Texas somewhere. I overheard the people next to me being helped by someone at the counter and it turned out they were in my very same situation. I talked to them a bit, they were a family of three, and the woman helping them told me it wasn’t her job to do so but was doing them a favor and would not repeat that favor for me. Okaaay then. So I chatted with the family and we discussed our options. Both the family and myself decided to keep our original flights because it turned out the other flight option was to arrive the next day in PV, not the same day. That would mean losing out a night in my hotel and having to rearrange my transportation. Since I already paid for everything, I didn’t want it to change now. I printed my boarding pass and went on through security.
I have dealt with delays plenty of times but none that may prevent me from getting on another flight. Luckily I was able to talk to the people at the gate about my issue and they were incredibly helpful. I asked them if there was anything that could be done, and it turned out there were at least 9 other people in my situation as well on this flight. The woman who helped me was also able to tell me which gate my flight from SFO to PVR would be at and which gate this flight would arrive in so I could study the terminal map in the magazine on the plane and know where to go.
The family I had talked to hurried up to the desk as well and talked to the woman about their situation, they also had seats that weren’t next to each other so they worried about getting their child and moving fast enough to catch the second flight. I felt bad for them!
The whole way to San Francisco I just stared at that terminal map of SFO and planned my course. When we arrived at SFO I had another terrifying moment of panic because I had to pee SO badly! I didn’t know if I could manage to get to the bathroom AND get on my flight. Luckily I was able to run down to the gate and make sure the flight had not left yet. I felt comfortable enough to make my bathroom trip and by the time I returned, I saw the family arrive wide-eyed and hurried and I gave them a thumbs up to let them know they didn’t miss the plane. Of course I am probably making this seem overdramatic but it was really scary at the time!
I think they were able to delay the plane a little bit because of the handful of people who may not have made the flight otherwise. I did see some empty seats on the plane when I was told it was a full flight. I hoped they were just from people who may have chosen the other option with the layover in Texas.
When I arrived at PVR, I knew exactly what to expect from reading some experiences online and from the people I knew who had been here. At customs, they decide whose bag to search by random chance. You hit a button, if the light turns red, you get your bag checked. If it turns green, you’re good to go. My light was green. Off I went!
I knew there would be a place where a lot of hard sell type people would try to sign people up for “free” things in exchange for watching a presentation about time shares. I didn’t want to get caught up in this sales pitch, but unfortunately I did, since I was trying to find where to get my cab I had prepaid for. I asked a man for help finding the stall I needed but he roped me into his sales pitch after pretending he could help me! Luckily I am good at battling these types of things and eventually he gave in, realizing I wouldn’t budge, shook my hand and sent me on. Once I was past that area I saw the transportation booths I had been looking for. I was told to wait outside because another flight was arriving and they were hoping there would be more people for the shuttle. Out there I chatted with a driver who told me he had family in Oregon, in Roseburg specifically. He had been there and described how far it was from Portland and everything, he seemed very familiar with my state. Unfortunately, I was whisked away into another cab with a driver who was not very friendly at all. By the time I got the hotel I was very glad to be out of the cab with the driver who didn’t talk to me at all and because the Casa Anita website suggests not to tip cab drivers (apparently it’s standard to not tip cab drivers in Mexico, however many tourists have a habit of doing so and now they expect tips and there are arguments online that this makes them want to pass up local fare for a tourist who may tip) I did not tip my driver, and this made him angry. I didn’t know what to do since that was the advice I had received and I didn’t have any pesos yet. I told him all I had was one US dollar, which was true, and he begrudgingly took that. It was a super awkward situation and he was very confrontational. I was not prepared for that situation.
I pulled my luggage all the way up the stairs to check in to my hotel and a man helped carry my luggage up to my room, which was a couple more flights of stairs up from the office. The office is located on a balcony type area with a small pool and lounge chairs with a lovely view of the ocean.
I probably started regretting my decision to rent a room without air conditioning right when I got up there. Just walking up the stairs was destroying me and was super embarrassing compared to the guy carrying my luggage without any issues. It was incredibly humid and hot. I love the heat but sometimes humidity really does me in. I was happy to finally be in my room and just unpacked and took a shower and changed. I think for that evening I mostly stayed in, resting, traveling always takes a lot out of me. The next day I would head into town and get some pesos and a good breakfast and explore the town. But for that day, rest was definitely necessary.
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