I’m writing this from the roof terrace of my new home, surrounded by palms, fuchsia pink flora and the sounds of tropical birds. Later, I’ll walk three minutes to the beach to watch the sunset as surfers catch waves in the evening light, and volunteers release baby turtles into the ocean. On my way I’ll pass new friends – bartenders, artists, musicians. When you walk through San Pancho, Mexico, it’s as though the whole village smiles.
My yoga teacher training was up in the jungle, an hour’s walk out of town, but we came down once or twice a week, high on our freedom from the awesome but intense retreat. I made dear friends, was enchanted by the sunsets and cobble-stone streets, and felt inspired by the active local community. It felt like a paradise, and as I pondered the question ‘where next’, it slowly dawned on me that I didn’t have to leave.
Would Steve like it?
Steve was away for the whole month of the training, the initial two weeks extended as he successfully chased an elusive but awesome interviewee across India. I worried that he might not like it in San Pancho – perhaps yearning for city-time rather than a one-street, tiny town – but when he got here, on the day my course ended, he fell easily for my paradise’s charms.
Now we’ve moved into our beautiful apartment in the centre of town. We initially planned to stay two months but have extended that to five. Steve is working on the edit of his feature film Continuum, and in March the rest of Planetary Collective will join us down here to work together on the film.
A different pace of life
My life is very different to how it was in Ecuador. Instead of working 12-hour days online, I begin each day with my own yoga practice, and then teach a Vinyasa class in the town plaza. If you’d told me this before I did my yoga teacher training course, I’d have laughed, but my teachers showed me I could do it.
My class ranges from 3 students to 15 and we’ve built a little community around it, often going for breakfast together after class. I offer the lessons by donation and get all sorts of treats in return – from meals to cash to massages to a weekly box of fruit. Most of all, I get the satisfaction of teaching. I love every part of it, and it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to practice my teaching four times a week.
Returning to the computer after four weeks on my course with barely any internet was difficult. I had gotten used to living in nature, absorbed by the practice and study of yoga. The hum of my laptop felt draining and toxic. Before the course, I had been spending too much time looking at a screen and I didn’t want to fall back into that habit. On the other hand, I still wanted to write and work on this blog.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been learning to find a happy balance. Most of the morning is devoted to yoga, and afternoons are alternated between the blog, freelance writing and yoga study. At some point, the Vegetarian Travel Guide will be added to the mix, but for now it’s on hold while I wait for the designer and programmer to reach the next stage. It’s a process that will continue to evolve but I’ve definitely learnt that time away from the screen, and face-to-face interaction with people, is something that’s important to me.
Another aspect of San Pancho that Steve and I are enjoying is having a community of wonderful friends. Right from the very first time I wandered down to the town, I started to meet and make new friends. It was the off-season when we arrived so we met the people who live here – a mix of Mexican locals, ex-pats, volunteers, artisans, musicians, long-term travellers and seasonal workers. There are also a few ibogaine clinics, used largely to treat drug addicts. Many of the patients stay on for a while to continue their recovery, adding an interesting element of retreat and healing to the town
A month after we moved here, we hosted Christmas at our house and ended up with around 30 guests. It already felt like a sort of family and, while Steve and I have enjoyed our time travelling alone, it felt good to be with others. We like walking down to sunset and knowing we’ll likely bump into someone. We like watching our musician friends play every week, and it’s great when the shopkeepers know our name. The street dogs even recognize us. And although tourists are now arriving, it’s still very low-key, with most of the partygoers heading to nearby Sayulita.
Both Steve and I have spent 10 years living in London and we wondered if we’d ever be able to adapt to small-town life, away from the cultural deluge of the city. This time in San Pancho is proving we can – perhaps not forever, but for now it feels like paradise.