Zen and the Art of Staying in One Place — By Erin

I’m sitting at one of the eight tables that form a circle around the bar at The Sands Hotel, overlooking the pool. A cool breeze pushes aside the palm fronds behind me and hits my back, sending a shiver down my spine as beads of sweat evaporate. The napkin that rests beneath my Pacifico lifts like a wing about to take flight, and then relaxes again when the zephyr moves on.

This puff of air began its journey far offshore before it traveled to the coast of Barra de Navidad (or, Barra, as the locals call it). It wound its way through the orange and red and yellow restaurants that line the beach, past the butcher shop with slabs of meat hanging from hooks, around the massive mimosa tree in the center of town, past rosy tomatoes and luscious mangoes in the market, and through the lobby of the Sands Hotel to the outdoor bar, where I am.

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I’m at my regular table: the rod-iron round top with an uneven leg that jumps off the floor when I lift my arms. Sometimes I stick my sandal under the leg to balance things out; today I let the table dance. Diego, the bartender, is playing his usual tunes—a mix of electronic trance, world beats, and sultry female covers of Bob Marley and Jimmy Hendrix. He grooves his way around the circular bar, his curly black hair bouncing with each beat.

My laptop is connected to the world through an Internet connection at the hotel, so for the next hour or so, I am too. I type a sentence into the body of an e-mail and I feel my shoulder muscles contract—sore from our morning excursion to the surf break. Today the waves were smaller than they have been, the dying swell of a storm that passed through. Tomorrow the waves won’t be breaking at all.

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I finish my beer, put away my laptop and wind my way down the garden path toward the lobby, passing hibiscus, bougainvillea, and philodendron plants. I stop to chat with Sergio, the owner of The Sands Hotel, who invites Brian and me to a cookout this afternoon. His brother caught 30 red snapper yesterday and family and friends are gathering at 1pm to eat them, along with fresh oysters and lobster. And tonight is the weekly dart tournament—we aren’t going to miss it, are we?

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I walk outside, down labyrinthine streets made of cobblestone and brick, to my favorite butcher shop. I buy two pounds of T-bone for 110 pesos ($8.50 USD) and a pound of bacon for 35 pesos ($2.70 USD). Then I walk two blocks to my favorite fruit and vegetable market, where I load a backpack full of beautiful, fresh produce for 100 pesos ($7.70 USD).

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Tomorrow we’ll feast on my bounty. Tonight we’ll eat dinner at our regular taco stand, Dos Soles, where we’ll each order three big tacos, loaded with cheese and meat, for 24 pesos ($1.80 USD).

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This place is starting to feel like home.

When Brian and I dropped our anchor in the lagoon in Barra, we didn’t know we’d be here almost a month later. Barra was just another place to explore, another town to check to off the list. But my parents flew down in January, so we decided to stay put at least through their visit. And now Joe and Eric, Brian’s partners in the company, are coming to visit in a few days—yet another reason to stay a while longer. We do want to spend another week or two in Tenacatita, nine miles north, and a week in Manzanillo, 20 miles south. But we’ve decided to make Barra our home base until we sail to the South Pacific at the end of March.

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A month ago I would’ve expected us to feel guilty or antsy about being in one place for so long. This is the longest we’ve been in one place since we left Seattle. We’ve seen boats come, go, come again, and go again. We watch familiar faces sail away and new faces take their place. Our new friends on Rockstar and Sapphire will leave in a few days, and our old friends on Capaz and Totem, who left one week ago, will be back again in two.

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The basic tenet of the cruising lifestyle is to see and do new things, to experience the world in a new way. But, oddly enough, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that out here everything is new. We sail to new destinations every few days, deal with new weather systems, navigate new waterways, explore new towns in a new country, meet new people, eat new food, learn a new language, and pick up new hobbies. And when we sail to the South Pacific, everything will be new again. It’s fun, but exhausting—both mentally and physically.

We couldn’t have arrived in Barra at a better time. Things are starting to feel familiar again, and it feels good. The pull of this town is really undeniable. It’s grown on me, and I think I’ve grown since being here. I’ve had time to rest my mind and body.

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Most of the boats that are sailing to the South Pacific this year are leaving from Puerto Vallarta. But we can buy food, stock up on dry goods, and prepare our boat for the long voyage here, just as easily as we could up there. The French Baker makes pastries that we can freeze and store away for the long passage. The local sail maker is already repairing our sails. Sergio has family in Guadalajara, where the nearest Costco is, and can arrange for our order to be brought down to us before we leave. And Maria, the proprietor of a local market, can deliver to our boat as many cases of beer and coke as will fit in the bilge.

I learned a long time ago in one of my science classes the theory of “Ockham’s Razor,” which basically states that everything should be made as simple as possible. For me, right now, this means relearning the art of staying in one place for a while, appreciating the familiar, and knowing when to rest when I start to feel overwhelmed by this new life. And this is a pretty great place to be while I’m doing that.*

*Note: Joe and Eric have come and gone, as some of you might already know. I wrote this before their visit—apologies for the delay in posting it. Also, the sunset picture above is courtesy of Eric.