Hola amigos! Jamie here. In this post I’ll describe my month of slow travel in Baja California Sur. Let’s start with my decision to go on a trip.
As news of the worldwide pandemic, California forest fires, and intense presidential election played on repeat through every podcast, radio station, and news channel, I felt myself slipping further and further out of touch with my joie de vivre, my cheerful enjoyment of life. Much like most of the world, things were looking gray, stormy, and just…hard. I felt that I desperately needed a change of scenery. As I searched for a spot where I could practice the beautiful art of slow travel, I decided on Mexico. The decision was simple. In all honesty, it was one of the only places U.S. citizens weren’t banned from traveling.
How to find a place to live when slow traveling
I packed my things and took a one-way flight to La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. The first step to slow travel is finding a place to stay long term. Nightly stays in traditional hotels are too pricey on a long-term basis, so I usually research Facebook groups, ask locals, and search on local rental websites like Craigslist for monthly rentals.
My first day in La Paz, I had breakfast at a café and asked the barista what the average rental cost is in the area. Just like that, I set my rental budget for the month based on a local’s advice.
Over the next couple of days, I viewed four different apartments in the central downtown area of La Paz. Each place was unique, and I went for the one that was by far the most beautiful. Unlike my experience of renting in the U.S., most foreign countries are pretty relaxed about rental agreements.
La Paz, Baja California Sur: Home for the month
La Paz is known for its regenerative sustainable fishing practices, reviving the health of the Sea of Cortes. This has led to a thriving marine life and eco-tourism. Consequently, La Paz attracts tourists who swim with the whale sharks, snorkel with colorful fish of all shapes and sizes, and kayak by a nearby island called Espiritu Santo.
Though tourism is one of the main industries, it’s still very much a Mexican town. That’s what struck me most about La Paz. It’s a place where families still gather in the plaza every night for ice cream. I loved the wholesomeness and slow pace of La Paz. Not to mention, there’s some incredible seafood! To sum it up: La Paz is a sweet, down-to-earth place.
I was lucky enough to stay at ‘the Angel’ as I referred to it. El Angel Azul Hacienda is a local-owned boutique hotel. I am grateful to meet and get to know Esther, the owner who transformed ‘the Angel’ from an abandoned courthouse into a gorgeous villa/hotel more than 20 years ago.
Some of my favorite aspects of the Angel are its focus on green travel and its comfortable remote working environment (lots of places to sit and work, central location, great wifi, cute dogs, and an amazing massage practitioner next door). For slow travel, it’s often a necessity to be able to work comfortably on weekdays if you have remote work.
The Angel is for the independent traveler. With a big kitchen for guests and open courtyard, you can stay for longer periods of time and embrace slow travel.
An important aspect of slow travel is that you’re not just visiting a place as a tourist. You’re actually living there for a while, so finding a comfortable place that you feel like you’d be happy living for a month (or however long you’re there) is key! Plus, finding a way to balance your life/work/play ratio is super helpful. I stuck to the weekday work schedule and played aka went to the beach, traveled to nearby towns, and ate out at restaurants on the weekends.
I lived within walking distance of all the things. The Malecon was about 10 minutes away, which was perfect for an afternoon stroll to watch the sunset. The church was even closer, a 4-minute walk from home. Across the street was the best fish taco stand in all of La Paz. Life was simple, and the tacos were good.
Lessons learned during a month of slow travel in Baja California
For most, traveling is a fast, exciting adventure. If the average trip were a drink, it’d be a double shot of espresso. Moving from one place to the next quickly. The slow traveler takes in the scenery of a village, town, or city with cool composure. She knows she will be there for a while, so she sips her red wine slowly. The difference is palpable. She learns where the locals eat and shop and blends in with the crowd the best she can. She is a thoughtful observer and a contemplator of life. That’s how my time in La Paz felt. I rediscovered mi chispa, my spark. This can be found when you are present and smitten with the world as it smiles back at you. Ah, solo travel is so good.
Respect the locals.
Traveling during a pandemic has been a huge eye-opener. I learned how to be respectful of the local community. As a traveler, some locals are grateful that you’re visiting since the tourism industry is hurting worldwide. On the other hand, some locals are fearful and reluctant to welcome travelers for safety reasons, which I understand.
Regardless of what stance anyone may take, 1) keep a healthy distance and 2) wear a mask. This is out of respect for them and safety for yourself. Some travelers blatantly ignore the mask mandate, and many locals voiced their disapproval to me. If you travel in the future, please be aware that what you’re comfortable with doesn’t mean others feel the same.
Road trip home
The end of my time in Baja was the opposite of the month I spent in La Paz. My friend from Esalen visited me (whatup, Charles!), and we took a 10-day road trip up the coast from La Paz to Tijuana along with a Mexican friend of ours named Benazir. It was fast paced and adventurous. We had zero plans and laughed a lot. My partner, Sam, met us in central Baja in a tiny village called San Ignacio. We drove back north to California together. FYI: Southern Baja was about 100 times more enjoyable than Northern Baja in almost every way in our opinion. Sorry, Sam! We’ll be returning to Baja California Sur soon!
Would you like to try slow travel in the future? Would you slow travel in Baja California Sur? Or would you go somewhere else? Let me know by commenting on this post! Follow us on Instagram to stay up-to-date on the latest adventures.