Our trip is so large that it’s difficult to pick the exact places we want to visit. Aside from big attractions like Tikal, Machu Picchu and Salar de Uyuni we don’t really know where we’re going and generally choose our next destination only days prior. This has worked out really well for us and has let us be true to the no plans no schedule theme of our trip. I had since forgotten most of the locations I drooled over when reading other travelers blogs, but had a little town called San Pancho on the short list.
“Backpacker’s paradise,” “Tiny Yoga Town,” and “Full of Charm and Character” were some of the descriptions used by travel bloggers and other overlanders. Looking at the map we found San Pancho, or San Francisco, just north of Sayulita and within a couple hours of where we were camped. I couldn’t believe we had already reached a town that seemed so far off. I’d seen pictures, much better pictures, of the staircase below while sitting behind a computer at work. I never actually thought I’d find myself walking passed it daily while picking up my laundry or grabbing breakfast. It’s not that San Pancho is a remote or difficult destination to reach. You can hop on a flight to Puerto Vallarta and be there within a few hours. San Pancho was more so a place that I remember reading about during a different time in my life and through different eyes.
We used to joke about quitting our jobs and venturing out to such places, but never imagined that we’d actually do it. That we’d actually get here and oddly be the ones now writing about it. This is one of the many lessons I’ll carry with me after this particular adventure is over; the realization that a series of small decisions and actions towards a seemingly impossible and far off goal will likely put you exactly where you intended. For us, there wasn’t a big moment where we announced “Let the adventure begin! We’re overlanding to Argentina!!!” It was more like “What did we forget? I gotta pee. Wanna stop at that donut place?”
Similarly, we didn’t make a decision, jump behind the wheel and set off in a day. We shared conversations with friends and family to feel out our intentions and test our mettle. We set far off dates for actions and found ourselves in holy shit moments when they arrived. And before we knew it we had built a website, moved out of the apartment, quit our jobs, bought a truck and camper, prepped, saved, sold and convinced ourselves that we could do this. As quickly as a year of work, a promotion and a few happy hours would pass we had set ourselves on another course. Basically all this rambling to say that it doesn’t take some grand action to do what we are doing. All you need is a small decision, followed by another and the ability to ignore the doubters, which includes you! And if ever, or likely when, in doubt try to find someone who has made these “crazy decisions” and regretted it…good luck!
Now back to San Pancho. Was it the delightful backpacking yogi’s dream of a town? Sorta kinda…from the moment we arrived we knew that we wanted to soak up what this little retreat had to offer. Jenna and I even did some serious research on whether we should have our wedding here in the future. The town was a nice blend of local-traveler-gringo-ness.
Walking the main drag towards the ocean you’d find a local spot with local food. Next a smoothie bar full of backpackers sucking down the WiFi and an acai-coconut-papaya concoction. Then a typical Mexican tienda and hardware store, followed by an italian restaurant, followed by a taco place and possibly a little juice bar. Finally a BBQ joint, some fruit vendors and a couple oceanfront restaurants. Not the U.S. type, but the ones you find all over Mexico. Plastic chairs and tables set in the sand and covered by palapas. Everything branded by Modelo, Tecate, Pacifico, etc. A dish of salsa picante that must be tried before applied, if you value your taste buds, and a plastic shaker of salt. If the standard beers are 20 pesos we’re happy, 25 ok, and 30 moving on. 15 and we don’t even care if the place serves food. Hang a right before the beach and you’ve found the town plaza.
Since the one camp spot in San Pancho is run by a grumpy greedy human, our caravan decided to post up directly on the town square. As luck would have it, a yearly music festival was set to begin that weekend in our new “front yard!” We often look back on our time in San Pancho when we get together with Chris, Jenn, Pete and Natasha. It always seems surreal, and even stupid, that we were allowed to stay directly in the square for a week. Somehow setting up camp on the sidewalk, taking showers at a nearby pescaderia (fish market), and sharing meals and drinks in the town center as children played fútbol, seemed acceptable. We’d surely have been run off if we attempted this nonsense in the States.
One evening a fútbol rolled our way with one of the local kids chasing behind. I figured providing some assistance was the very least that a squatting-hippy-gringo should do, so I went after the ball. Poised to show off my Renaldo footwork I watched the ball as it crossed the grass, hit the retaining wall ledge, popped up and then dropped down to where I was. Maybe it was a miscalculation of the sphere’s velocity and rotation or possibly it was the beer in my hand; either way my obvious lack of talent prevented me from stopping, or even glancing, that stupid ball. The young kid jogged past and solidified my embarrassment with a “thanks anyway!” in perfect english.
If it wasn’t for the music festival, the awesome food, the bars full of character, the friendly people and the beach days full of cold beverages, shady naps, baby turtles and sunsets, I may have left San Pancho hanging my head. Instead, we had an amazing time turning expectations for this tiny town into our reality and memories, and possibly a preconception for those who will follow.
Love the update. I am planning a moto trip down from the States beginning in October. Just starting the planning now.
Coming from the states can you guys share what you’ve done for health insurance, if any, while on the road?
Thanks Justin! We have friends from OR beginning their trip in Oct as well (Taylor & KP- RunningFromMonday). (So exciting!) I just sent you an e-mail with some health insurance details. Let us know if you have any other questions!
Josh, I was just wondering who that is behind you, touching your ass if Jenna was taking the photo?
Hmmmm well…..we sure enjoy reading your posts……however, now Don is posting daily blogs about his weekend trips with the RV, and he has collected over 900 likes. Not sure, but I think he envies you guys……
He must have tipped the laundry lady well…
900 likes!? Wow, celebrity status RV’er.
Love all your adventures I get to share through you!
You have this one LIFE,- how do you want to spend it
Be Brave, Be Yourself
Do what feels – Good Take Risks
You have this one life make yourself Proud…
Thanks mom! Love you!
Thanks for the wonderful memories of San Pancho. I spent month there and subsequently we sent our daughter there the following year to spent the summer at the turtle camps (San Pancho Turtles) as well. We love San Pancho and are looking forward to returning there in November on our way to Argentina as well. Safe travels and you said it best ” All you need is a small decision, followed by another and the ability to ignore the doubters, which includes you! And if ever, or likely when, in doubt try to find someone who has made these “crazy decisions” and regretted it…good luck! ”
PS, We camped in front of the turtle camp in our truck on the street, lol.