Sun south of the border

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So I may have mentioned that when I was visiting recently in Puerto Vallarta, I was taken enough with the condo we were staying in to actually purchase a timeshare week (!). For those who know me, this is pretty much out of character. I like to be footloose and free to go anywhere on vacation, at least so I’ve loudly professed in the past as my friends and family bought timeshares :D

There are a lot of reasons why this time, it seemed to make sense. Foremost among them was the sense of incredible peace I had there. The temperature was perfect to open the sliding doors at night and let the waves lull me to sleep. It’s a rocky beach below the sand, so they’re actually quite loud. Sitting on the balcony and gazing out over the perfect view of the ocean, I could easily just sit, read a book, or take the time to write one. That was a nice thought – a writer’s retreat. This place has amazing sunsets…

And every winter/early spring I get fed up with the weather here in the Pacific Northwest, beautiful as it is, and wish I were somewhere south. Now, I’ll be able to almost literally just pick up the phone and go. This condo is very liberal in their booking policies – they save 20% of the rooms for last-minute visits by owners, and it was easy for us to get the best room on the 25th floor with less than a month to spare. Not to mention that Alaska Airlines (and a few others) has direct, daytime flights there several times a day for non-exorbitant prices.

I have 30-year contract – but you may have noticed that long before then I intend to be living somewhere south of the border anyway. As it happens, I am allowed not only to bank several years if I can’t use them, but accelerate up to three years worth from the end of my contract in any given year. This means I can spend up to a month there at a time if I want to. Not only that, my one condo is actually two rooms with a connecting door. I can split it and rent the other half – or get twice as many weeks. When it’s just me, or me and a friend, there’s no need for both rooms.

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This is a nice place – tile floors, marble kitchen, large walk-in shower, large ocean-front balcony, amazing pools and jacuzzi area that’s like a little island surrounded by lush plantings. Yet, it’s pretty casual too. Across the street is the local soccer field and flea market, two blocks away is a huge grocery store where I can buy anything I need. It’s not in the upscale tourist enclave, nor the spring break party zone – just in a nice area with lots of services, great restaurants, art galleries, and beach. You can walk to almost anywhere in the city from there, and where you can’t walk, an almost-free bus will take you.

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Puerto Vallarta turns out to be a birder’s paradise – just one more of its many attractions. Sailing by our condo balcony were flotillas of pelicans and frigatebirds, which I could pretty much watch all day. The jungles in the surrounding mountains are home to over 300 bird species, including several endemics. The people there seem very nice and there is not the separation between tourists, ex-pats and locals that you find in so many places – everyone’s hanging out together and there seems to be a relatively high standard of living.

The hotel itself has cleaning service every day (unlike most condos), yoga three times a week, a spa and exercise area, and those amazing pools. You can get a nice massage out on the pier, or go parasailing. Me – I’ll probably stick to the yoga and long walks around the city. It has wireless, though at the moment it’s not cheap (the concierge quietly directed me to the internet cafe across the street, where it is $0.50/2 hours).

I won’t go into the timeshare swaps, extra weeks at other condos around the world, and last-minute travel deals that came with the package (all of which I am likely to use). But to me, one of the big selling points was that this a place I can go and relax, enjoy the sun, and learn what it’s like to live south of the border. I can come alone and work on my Spanish, use the time to learn about real estate and medical care, talk to ex-pats, and just see what it’s like to be there a month at a time. I’ll use my timeshare swaps to check out other Central American countries and see what they’re like.

I hope some of you will join me south of the border!

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