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VACATION QUESTION: Could an introvert and her family find happiness sharing a private villa in Mexico with near strangers?

By on January 28, 2019 in Travel with 0 Comments
Helping newly-hatched turtles begin their scramble to the ocean was a trip highlight.
Roper plays on a boogie-board in the surf: His absence of fear worried his mom, but his joy was worth the disruption of peace.
Sunsets around an unspoiled beach created a relaxing glow.

By Molly Steere

After several surgeries last year, including a total knee replacement, I was desperate for something to look forward to. 

However, my husband, Toby, and I were trying to save money (I hear college is expensive these days) so I kept reminding myself that well-adjusted adults can get through a rough year without participation awards and head pats. 

I almost believed it.

Then two things happened: a) Toby bought a dump truck and b) my friend, Amy, told me that the private villa she rented in Troncones, Mexico had room for us. 

These entirely unrelated events triggered a cascade of internal justifications resulting in me immediately booking tickets for Toby, me, and our nine-year-old son, Roper.

We were going to Mexico! And we were going with 13 other people, most of whom we didn’t know. This was a bold move for a couple of introverts who actively avoid socializing. 

Primarily a senior trip for Amy’s oldest son and four of his good friends, our merry band of travelers would also include a handful of parents, a couple of siblings, and us.

In typical fashion, I didn’t research the area and haphazardly packed at the last minute. My token bit of preparation was to buy a hideous skin-toned swimsuit printed with an unpleasantly hairy man’s torso. If I was going on vacation with a bunch of people I barely knew, I needed to quickly determine if they have a sense of humor.

Once there, I learned that Troncones is a relatively undeveloped beach town about 20 miles north of the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo airport. 

Once a small fishing and farming village, it is now an eclectic mix of dirt floor restaurants, shanty stores, boutique hotels, and surf shops along a stunning beach. 

Expats have already discovered the sleepy town and it feels poised on the cusp of becoming a tourist hot spot. 

For now, the area is still quiet enough that Eddie, our taxi driver from the airport, remembered Amy and her family from their visit almost two years prior. In another incredible display of small-world-coincidences, we learned that he had lived in Brewster for five years. 

Eddie delivered us to our villa, Casa Delfin Sonriente, where a quick tour revealed a private pool, ping pong table, surfboards, boogie boards, and Beanie, a rambunctious kitten who eventually charmed us all. 

Before the trip, Amy (our intrepid organizer) employed several mobile apps to ease the chaos of group travel. 

She set up a shared Google Photos album for the trip, created a WhatsApp group for texting without international fees, and downloaded Splid, an app that tracks and splits group expenses. 

Amy also organized yoga sessions at the neighboring open-air studio, signed the guys up for surf lessons, and sniffed out which establishments had live salsa music, the best views at sunset, or served drinks out of a VW bus converted into a bar. 

I recommend packing an Amy on every trip.

Toby and I have always planned our vacations around activities like biking, skiing, or diving that consume large portions of the day. 

We had no planned schedule on this trip, but our days took on a relaxed rhythm that usually included eating, surfing, boogie boarding, playing in the pool, wandering into town (Ignacio’s silver shop saw an uptick in sales with our group’s arrival), board/card games, and always ending with a group dinner at sunset. 

I have shown zero talent for surfing over the years, but I love swimming. In the ocean, I was able to quiet my mind and temporarily stall the usual tornado of ideas, worries and questions. 

That is, until I remembered that Roper has no concept of fear, or rip currents, and I’d spy him getting tumbled by the waves like laundry on the spin cycle. The grin on his face every time he popped to the surface — a slippery seal, ready to play — was worth the disruption of peace. 

Roper shadowed the older boys as they surfed, swam, played games and hung out at the “internet cafe” (the one corner of the villa with WiFi) and was delighted whenever they generously made room for their new mascot at their table, in their taxi, or on their lounge chairs.

The area is relatively safe, which allowed the boys freedom to move between activities, independent of the adults. The food was amazing and the locals were friendly, kind, and impressively patient as we practiced our Spanish. 

But the magic of Troncones really came out at sunset. 

Late one afternoon, our group spied a pod of whales breaching and spouting in the distance. Watching them from the unspoiled beach with a hint of orange and pink of the approaching sunset as the backdrop gave the whole scene a movie set feel.

The trip’s highlight was releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean at sunset. At Roberto’s Bistro, volunteers rescue sea turtle eggs from the beach and bury them in an enclosed area to protect them from beach activity and predators. 

Each of us carefully extracted seven drowsy, newly-hatched turtles from the packed sand of their marked nests. We deposited them into numbered tubs and then enjoyed a drink at the restaurant. When we were summoned to pick up our tubs, the turtles had gained strength and were scrambling around and over each other like tiny-shelled puppies. 

Simultaneously releasing our turtles, each one of us was fully present and invested in their journey as they scrambled toward the ocean. I watched proudly as each of my tiny charges reached the water, paused, was lapped up by the next wave and (literally) swam off into the sunset. 

Based on my emotional response watching the turtles set off, I’m going to be a basket case when Roper leaves for college.

When our last day rolled around, Roper was eager to get home to see his dog. 

Toby and I, however, were dreading leaving paradise and snuck out for one last swim in the ocean. Toby boogie boarded, while I bobbed beyond the break trying to absorb as much warmth and calm as I could before reentry into reality. 

As I reflected on our experiences, I decided that group travel as an introvert wasn’t something to fear — at least not with this crowd. Everyone was easy-going and ridiculously fun to hang out with (yes, they passed the swimsuit test brilliantly), but we also felt comfortable opting out of group activities at any time. 

I left with a new appreciation for group travel, and an even bigger appreciation for the little beach town of Troncones.

Molly Steere is a local freelance writer who loves to explore the world. Her impulsivity often creates awkward situations while traveling.

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