Travel Blog 28: Living in Vallarta

6 weeks in Puerto Vallarta was a time frame I’ll never forget. I haven’t had an apartment to myself since 2015, but this one had a gated parking area, a complex swimming pool, and access to downtown Zona Romantica two blocks from the beach and pier. Fully furnished, the two bedroom condo provided space to write stories, lay in my hammock, and cook meals whenever I wanted. Of course I explored the local cuisine, but walking to the local vegetable and fish markets gave me an opportunity to expand my skills further than ever before.

The apartment itself was two bedrooms with a full kitchen and large room to sit on the couch or hang around the chair-filled table. I hung my hammock on the patio, which entertained the other residents as they walked by waving at the young gringo swaying in peace. The beautiful aspect of this complex was experienced individuals enjoying their elder years in life. While some were women escaping winters in their home countries, the main victory was older gay men feeling free from their lifelong dramas of hiding their secrets. With grandkids from decades long marriages, these gay men finally found a space in their lives where they could freely be who they feel inside. Zona Romántica, Puerto Vallarta is a space where gay men from the states, Canada, and Europe don’t have to hide who they really are. One man in the swimming pool said, “I’ve never seen a place where I could hold hands with my partner walking down the street and feel as welcome as we do here.”

While gay men dance on the beach, locals welcome them long as there is a small tip involved. Straight couples also flock to Zona Romántica as it’s a wonderful neighborhood full of live music, perfected seafood, and an incredibly safe environment. While walking the pier on a Sunday morning, I came across Rich and Lisa. The most beautiful places in the world can be horribly boring if you don’t meet tremendous people. This couple, from my father’s home town, welcomed me in unlike I could have ever expected. We ate breakfast on the beach, connecting on Chicago-land favorites. Conversations spanned from our love of the Blackhawks to visiting the quiet beach town, Maito on the exact same day. When they invited me over the first time, they fed me bagels and lox, hooking me in for good. There is no more welcoming vibe in this world than that for a half Jewish boy from Chicago. Walks with Lisa and her dog Dante were spectacular. Scotch cocktails with Rich and conversations about extra-terrestrials gave me new perspectives on life. These two provided friendship, being the perfect gift a person can give.

Speaking of giving, Puerto Vallarta is a city where I felt like I could never give enough. Whether it was a few pesos while walking the streets or a pair of shoes and a long sleeve shirt, the locals are really struggling. Some battle drug addiction while others have lost their businesses due to the pandemic. Without tourism, Puerto Vallarta hit a heavy lull. Some northerners live there year-round, but the challenges of this year have hit everyone differently.

There is one guarantee during my time in Puerto Vallarta; the sun will set over the Pacific before fireworks light up the sky above a pirate ship. The malecón is full of masked individuals observing street performers, restaurants with live music, and skateboarders practicing their tricks. Beaches give locals and visitors a chance to play in the sand. Teenagers jumped off the pier while their father’s boated in fresh fish. With plenty to do in P.V., observing daily lives was my favorite entertainment.

Whether I was enjoying a cold beer at sunset, walking the swing bridges over the river, or practicing my Spanish and English with literally everyone I met...6 weeks in Puerto Vallarta was a perfect break from the Mexico road!

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