Those words resonated in my mind as I worked my way to a remote coastal section of Baja California along with a few friends in a caravan that began with two cars in Ventura and picked up more along the way until we were a sizable group. All things being equal, when traveling south of the border there is at least the semblance of safety in numbers.
But the thing is, in spite of all the perceptions of Mexico concerning safety, some valid and some over-exaggerated, it’s really a place not much different than home.
I grew up on the coast of southern California in what I affectionately like to term “the last of the golden era.” The ‘70s in Huntington Beach still had some of that California spirit: We knew our neighbors, left our keys in the cars, and took in the beach and ocean with abandon. People who lived on the coast mostly worked and played there. It was also when the “rich men came and raped the land / Nobody caught ’em / Put up a bunch of ugly boxes / And Jesus, people bought them.” Don Henley was a prophet, in my book.
An air of entitlement replaced the vibe of good will among people, and it would flat out confound the intelligent mind that you could find yourself being hassled by someone for having the nerve to enjoy the beach or water within sight of their damned box they never set foot from.
But a little gumption and a sense of adventure has the potential to cure some of this condition.
The Baja coast is in essence what California looked like before the industrial boom. Small fishing and farming villages abound, and the people are usually genuinely friendly and helpful.
I’m not saying that my fellow Americans are not genuine, friendly, or helpful. I am not generalizing so much as I am observing the distinct contrast between the life I live in real time and the life I sometimes must escape to.
I am not on vacation, mind you. I am here shooting some work for a couple of sponsors and one customer. It just so happens that my swell is on the rise, and some surfing and spear fishing will invariably become part of the work routine. Damn it.
On our way down here, we took a turn on the wrong dirt road and drove forty miles to the coast only to come to realize we had driven to the wrong place. The sun was setting, and the idea of wandering around in the dark to find our spot was not appealing. We were looking at staying on the beach, (no permit required) when we met some locals who set us up in their front yard a little ways in from the water. Try to do that in Huntington.
This week, I am not bantering about the ills of the political sphere or the corruption and nepotism of a small town. I am not overly concerned about the environment or the sustainability of the water supply in our little town.
I am instead somewhat clear of mind and, believe it or not, missing the place I have come to call home and the people who live and work there. Travel is fatal to prejudice, and sometimes all it takes to really appreciate where you are from is to travel and experience other places and people.
I am fortunate.
See you out there.