Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Life Lessons From Mexico: Waves, Love, Hula Hoops

“Way down here you need a reason to move…….Oh Mexico, You sound so simple, I just gotta go… The sun’s so hot I forgot to go home….”

In San Francisco’s cold fog, no one forgets to go home. Even in July we rush indoors hoping for a fireplace and steaming cup of hot chocolate. And unlike most Mexicans, San Francisco’s type A tri-athletes need a reason NOT to move….like a broken leg. Hoping to find a different type of energy, I decided to head south of the border. In the amount of time it takes to cover your body in sunscreen, I lost my SF ways and embraced a whole new way of living in beautiful Sayulita, Mexico.

Hot is Better
When it comes to food, weather, and people…’hot’ is the only applicable adjective in a Mexican beach town. Fiery salsas, warm sunshine and scantily clad beach bums turn the country from the third world into paradise.

In the United States we get so darn busy and cover up so much of our flesh it’s no wonder we rate low on the world’s “Work-Life Balance” scale. If we spent more time in the tropics our energizer bunny bodies would slow down to a languid sensuality…or at least a happy shuffle. I arrived in Mexico with a good Aussie friend of mine Alicia. At first I had wanted to spend our first day trail running while she sunbathed on the beach. However the 100-degree heat made type A movement impossible and so I resorted to beach bumming. It was the first day in years I allowed myself to sit still. I read books, I played games, I solved world problems. With the time to think all the answers I had been seeking came to me. Perhaps it was my emerging tan line, but I vowed to have more ‘hot breaks’ in my life to force a rejuvenating slow down.

Pick a Man (and a Job) Like A Wave
I had met Javier and his Wildmex surf crew 4 years ago. We reunited again over beers, tacos and my favorite surf spot-the hidden beach of La Lancha. Steve, one of Javier’s crew, paddled out into the ocean with me to remind me how to read the waves…and other life signs. Apparently surfing wasn’t the only thing I was rusty at.

1. Wait for the right one. “Wait for the one with the right shape.” Steve said. You’d think good lookin’ waves were a dime a dozen. But according to Steve, “Some are too mushy and never form and others are too steep and will just crash on your head.” If you want a long ride it pays to be picky.

2. Don’t be overeager “You cannot be too eager,” he said. Don’t go for every wave and don’t paddle too fast or you’ll get too far in front of the wave. It’s not going to chase you.” Right. Nothing chases the over eager.

3. Don’t stop too soon. “Match your paddle speed with the wave speed and KEEP PADDLING. Do not stop until you feel the wave pick you up. THEN and only then jump up.” Some things need our effort to gain momentum.

With Steve’s advice, I caught a dozen waves at La Lancha that day. Now I just needed to apply those tactics to the rest of my life.

Embrace Everything You Normally Wouldn’t
When in Rome I eat noodles. When in Mexico, I eat tacos. So what I am supposed to do when Surfer Steve told us of a homemade Italian pasta place in the center of Sayulita? Especially a pasta place that had swings instead of chairs? Alicia looked at me, “Heidi, we are not eating tacos tonight. We are going to sit on a swing and eat pasta.” I relented and gave up my pre-set carnitas plan.

At the swing bar was a young redheaded woman with a flower in her hair and a wiry blond man that swung beside her. The couple had just quit their jobs and moved to Mexico to embrace doing “as little as possible.” Eating spaghetti in a swing was part of that plan.

After oohing over the soft gnocchi in my mouth, I asked the two how they met. They claimed it was love at first sight….and kept going strong through 3 years of marriage. “She is more important than all my own bullshit.” He looked at her adoringly.

I asked the girl how this made her feel. She smiled, “It makes me feel like I need to work to be worthy of that.”

Who knew that I’d get relationship advice in a swing while eating pasta in Mexico?

It was a night of adventure and so we grabbed our new friends and headed to a Cumbia (latin dance) beach party. We arrived to join a motley crew of surfers, hippies, hula hoopers and travelers crowded around a DJ hut swinging their hips to the exotic beats. In San Francisco I kind of avoid hippies…especially the ones that hula hoop. But here in Mexico we were all united under the moon and music. Rigid class, language, age, and income barriers were broken. I danced with young men, old men, anyone who could rapidly spin me…and a hula hoop. This warm unrestrained night was turning out to be my best one in months.

They say the unexamined life is not worth living…but perhaps it is better to say that the unexplored life is not worth living…

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