Seeing the world... in the Heart of Baja's Untamed Beauty

Traveling to other countries will always fire me up. 

There's something about the journey that leaves you with a refreshed perspective on life. And when it comes to certain trips, you know they'll be filled with adventure and the thrill of the unknown.

Our excursion to Baja was just that. 

It was rocky from the start; tempers flared and anger hung over us. We weren’t in the best place as a couple to begin this journey. 

We went anyway. 

I'll admit, the idea of traveling to Mexico left me uneasy. My imagination ran wild from tales of the cartel capturing us to being innocent bystanders caught in a crossfire.

When I mentioned our plans to my son Andrew, his imagination went into overdrive.

“Mom, really... you're going to  Mexico?” 

He painted a dire picture of us held captive, me, in the back of a pickup truck tied up, dehydrated, and Thom with a gash on his forehead from being hit with a gun. We laughed about it while I tried to calm my nerves and reassure him that everything would be fine.

Despite the apprehension, we pressed on with the plans. Our guide, Rafael, seemed trustworthy enough…Thom knew him as the honest mechanic who troubleshooted any problems for our Tacoma truck.

Still, it was hard to shake the feeling of uncertainty, especially since we didn't know anyone else on the trip. What if they weren't "our people"?

The drive down to Southern California and our first stop in El Centro where we stayed the first night was unforgiving. Ten hours on the monotonous stretch of I-5 left me feeling irritable and exhausted.

The following day, we prepared to cross the border.

Arranging insurance for the truck and exchanging dollars for pesos was a breeze because we had Rafael and Tammy, Rafael’s wife to help us. Crossing the border itself turned out to be surprisingly straightforward.

The towns

Driving through Mexicali just across the border was eye-opening but not a surprise.  At every stoplight, faces with hopeful expressions greeted us, holding up signs we couldn’t read but it was clear they were asking for money. Despite the urge to help, the sheer number of individuals in need left me feeling helpless. As always in situations like this, I feel giving or not giving money is a conundrum. It brings up sadness for the people on the streets just trying to survive.  

Photo by Thomas Roberts

Baja, Mexico is a place where the desert meets the sea in a breathtaking kind of way. I was surprised as I’ve never been to a location where the ocean and the desert are side by side. 

As we ventured deeper into Baja, the landscape transformed into a dusty, arid desert adorned with towering cacti, unique to this region… cardons and boojums standing tall against the backdrop of the sun-drenched terrain. Amidst the rugged beauty, bursts of vibrant wildflowers added splashes of color to the parched earth. It was rich in biodiversity. 

Photo by Thomas Roberts

The People

Throughout our journey, we encountered a diverse array of people…mostly we met local expats from the US and Canada of which there were many.  All had that sense about them that life was easy and relaxed. The local Mexicans had beautiful warm but worn faces. I only met the ones who were working in restaurants and hotels but they were quiet and friendly. I wished more than once I was able to speak more than a few words of Spanish. 

Fellow Travelers

I felt at ease immediately with the people we traveled with and got to know as the days unfolded. There were bonds formed, and by the journey's end, we parted as friends. They were my people after all. 

We were a group of adventurers, our little convoy of four "rigs". Everyone except Thom and I had traveled through Baja with Rafael. I quickly learned to trust these people who were experienced in off-roading and felt safe every step of the way.  Everyone helped guide us when we went over huge boulders and sketchy washed-out roads. 

Everyone drove Jeeps except us. There was a touch of can you go through the tough places off-road in that Tacoma? 

We proved ourselves. Thom showed off his hard-core driving skills and passed with flying colors. 

When we went through security checkpoints (with Mexican armed guards), Rafael went first and reported to the guards that we were a group of four so we quickly passed through without inspection. 

On the final day, we were stopped about an hour from the US border and asked to open the back of the truck. Rafael asked the guards what they were looking for and they replied, “weapons, drugs, and dead bodies.” YIkes. Luckily we had none of those.

The sea

It was ferocious and wild on the Pacific side, tame and gentle on the Eastern side of Baja… the Sea of Cortez was mostly calm.

To see the most stunning off-the-Richter scale view on the coast, we traveled off-road through deep washed-out roads. At one point our truck's right passenger tire fell directly into a deep chasm…this tested my nerves and I immediately thought, OMG, we’re going to roll. Rafael jumped out of his Jeep and guided us to back up slowly.  By some miracle, we were able to get back on the road without the drama of having to be pulled out of a crevasse. 

.At the end of this scary but not terrifying road, I realized that it was all worth it. The view was jaw-dropping.  

Photo by Thomas Roberts

The Pacific Ocean was pure untamed energy. I was mesmerized. I could have stayed and watched the waves crash over the rocks for days. It was violent, then peaceful, like a rocking boat in a storm only with blue skies and white clouds above. 

The seals

In this location was a hidden cove with seals basking in the sun, oblivious to our presence. 

They were lying inside the small cave that the sea rushed in and out of. Some of the seals were strewn on their private beach while others hurled their huge bodies into the sea.

A baby seal flopped and skidded until he made it from the beach to the water, happy to be floating again. His determination and unwillingness to give up was powerful to see. 

On two different occasions, we drove on two other beaches, the tide inching closer to our tires; we drove 20 miles, seeing only 2 other cars of fishermen. It was thrilling. 

A birthday 

It was my 74th and I felt incredibly touched when my new friends surprised me that night with a tres leches cake…a sponge cake with “3 milks,” popular in Mexico.  It was divine. 

It was so sweet that these new travel friends thought to make my birthday special. The candles on the cake lit up the night with the backdrop of Gonzaga Bay on the Sea of Cortez where we camped on the beach. 

Stepping into the 74th chapter of life is a realization that time is precious, urging me to pursue what truly matters. It’s a time when you let go of the nonsense, the wasted time doing something you don’t want to do. It’s when you think, I’d better do what I came here to do, and I’d better do what I want because time is running out. 

The Sunrise 

It wasn’t easy to get myself out of bed but I woke up at 6:00 am to see one of the most beautiful sunsets of all time. I watched in reverence when the sky quietly and slowly shifted from gold to crimson to pale blue daylight. I wanted to stay here in silence, watching the seagulls with a quiet mind.  

Photo by Thomas Roberts

I took my blanket and journal and found the perfect place to sit with a log behind me. I wrote with the seagulls around me. As I wrote, three dogs playing together ran right up to me but stopped short, barking at me, as if to say who are you and what are you doing on this beach?

And just like that, one of the young dogs in the pack ran up behind me and gave me kisses around my head. Then he took off with his friends, as quickly as he appeared. I felt welcomed and nurtured although it was a bit slobbery. 

I reveled in the beauty of the moment, grateful for the gift of another year and the adventures that awaited me. 


There is nothing else like yoga on the beach. Tammy, Rafael’s wife, is a yoga teacher…she led us through our morning asanas each day as the sun warmed our skin and bodies filling us with warmth and vitality. The wind passing through my hair during these moments left me with a deep sense of tranquility. 


Baja is diverse. As we drove back up the Pacific coast and back near the border, the landscape changed drastically from desert to farmland. Vast greenhouses occupied acres of this area. Rafael told us that this area of Baja feeds 80% of Mexico. Workers are in the fields and greenhouses 24/7 to harvest and plant the crops. Mind-blowing. 

Photo by Thomas Roberts

The hard part

Mexico is not the wealthiest of nations. It was apparent that there is a great disparity between the US and Mexico. Very basic hotel rooms, plumbing that was erratic…sometimes there would be hot showers, sometimes not. I would search for receptacles to plug in my phone only to find a receptacle without covers, one was used for the lamp. Sometimes there was a lamp or a refrigerator but nowhere to plug these in. One night I nearly burned my face in the lavatory the water was so hot and the cold water tap was closed off and didn’t work. 

It was dirty and cluttered in many places. Electrical wires ran rampant throughout the towns, making it seem sleazy. Signage was unregulated. Wrecked cars stacked up for acres. Everywhere seemed run down. And still, there was so much beauty in the starkness of the desert and the deep blue ocean close together.  


It’s always a sobering reminder when I visit other countries of the disparities that exist in the world. I always come home knowing I’m privileged and grateful for the life I live. 

I learned to trust…in the unknown, in our companions, in the journey itself. Though we started as strangers, united by a shared sense of adventure, we emerged as friends, bound by connection and camaraderie.

Thom and I began nervous and ended up serene and safe. We came away more connected as a couple and more resilient. 

I have so much gratitude for being able to make this trip

And for the people who were so welcoming and inviting. 

And for our travel companions who made the adventure unforgettable. Thank you, Rafael, Tammy, Gina, Joe, Carol, and Jayne.  

Baja. You are beautiful. I’ll be back. 

Over to You:

Have you been to Baja or other parts of Mexico? What was it like for you? 

How do you feel when you travel to another country? What’s been your favorite place to visit in the world?  Send me an email at [email protected]. I’d love to know. 

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