Quarantined in Paradise: Isla de la Piedra

I arrived on the small island peninsula of Isla de la Piedra near the port of Mazatlán, Mexico in 2014. It was in the early days of my freelance travel writing career. And I immediately fell in love with what I experienced and decided to call it my winter home.

As countries around the world continue to struggle with the global challenge known as COVID-19, I count my blessings for what I do and where I find myself. Pelicans are diving for fish as I sit at a little beachfront palapa. Waves are endlessly crashing the shoreline and the warm breeze is brushing by. I’m deep in thought while reflecting on how fortunate I feel to be in such a place as this… with nowhere else to be for the foreseeable future.

This year, as cases of COVID-19 spread across the globe, snowbirds and annual visitors on this Island Peninsula began to consider how they would get home. Some had insurance issues, such as the Canadian government’s social medicine system putting a deadline on covering COVID-19 related illness. Others were concerned the border would close. And a few were nearing their original departure date and decided to cut their losses and leave early. The transformation on the Isla came quickly and the immediate population has greatly diminished. Now there are just a handful of expats, a few snowbirds, and the indigenous population that are occupying this small village and beach area here on the Central Pacific coast of Mexico.

I’m in a special place, yet still in a quarantine of sorts, as the entire country is in total social distancing mode. Restaurants, hotels, bars, and many businesses nearby are closed just like every other part of the world. The beer and alcohol sales have been suspended in all of Sinaloa, but the essentials… food, water, fresh vegetables, fruits, and other necessary provisions are all still readily available including spectacular seafood, beef, poultry, and pork which are all locally sourced. And largely due to the price of oil, the peso is at nearly twenty-five to one, making living here extremely cost-effective. Currently, there are zero cases of the virus on the island and a very low count in the entire state. Clearly preventative measures being taken are doing a great job.

Typically, there is no shortage of amazing things to see and do here. Beach restaurants line the short stretch of the populated beach area and offer a relaxing atmosphere, fantastic local cuisine, and a heaping helping of cultural hospitality. Sunset rides via horseback, strolling meticulously kept botanical gardens, exhilarating banana boat rides, and hiking to inspiring vantage points with 360-degree views are a few of the activities available. Fishing is abundant right out front where dozens of different species are reeled up from the bottom on any given day. Right here at the southern end of the Sea of Cortez is known as the Billfish capital of the world with the nearby waters supporting marlin, swordfish, and roosterfish as well as tuna and mahi-mahi. Additionally, the port of Mazatlán is home to one of the largest shrimp boat fleets in the world and the abundance of fresh delicacies makes feasting on them one of my favorite routine sources for a great meal.

Fabulous day trips are an essential part of the tourism and economy in the region. Some as close as twenty minutes away in historic areas of Mazatlán, while others require a car or tour bus into the mountains where small towns each offer their own unique view into what’s occurred here over the last four to five hundred years. Copala with its amazing 14th-century cathedral and considered home to the original banana cream pie; El Quilite with its famous restaurant where dancing horses come in to show off in an open-air section of the establishment; and Concordia which tells the story of the national conflicts won and lost throughout the last several hundred years. Concordia also draws many tourists and visitors with a world-renowned handmade rocking chair and wooden furniture factory.

Paradise can be defined in many ways. Everyone has their own vision of what that looks like. If high-rise hotels and condominiums amidst exotic tourist landscapes are your thing, then Isla de la Piedra probably is not. That said, those things can be found within a reasonable distance.

For me, the simple life with basic necessities and local Mexican neighbors suits me just fine. Here on this small island peninsula, where the greater population lives primarily off the land and sea, I have found my paradise. It’s a place where the temperatures rarely deviate from between seventy- and eighty-degrees Fahrenheit all winter long, the sunsets are some of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring anywhere in the world, and organic food and beverages are all locally sourced. Add in the fact that I can walk fifty steps from my door, take a left, and can walk the beach for hours without seeing a soul… sometimes words cannot describe how blessed I feel to be here.

I have met people who arrived here twenty- five or more years ago… and never left. I have also met people who prefer a more upscale lifestyle but keep returning to visit from time to time.  But I have never met anyone here who did not sincerely appreciate some aspect that the area offers.

Being a freelance writer and “work from anywhere” enthusiast, my daily routine suits me quite well. Most days, and under a typical non-virus environment, I work a few hours in my little office overlooking the beach, take scenic walks, shop a bit if I need anything, and visit with friends. All this while enjoying my time in a tropical paradise where the waves endlessly crash the beach, the sun shines every day, the nights are pleasant, and just doing nothing can be incredibly relaxing. This is when some of my best ideas come to me. Ones that enhance and re-enforce my ability to work anywhere I please provided I have an internet connection and my laptop.

During this pandemic, I’m spending more time in my motorhome office. And with the workplace view I have and social distancing restrictions in place, my work output has easily doubled.

The local Ejido, or indigenous, are great people and I’ve come to know and appreciate many of them. I love immersing in the culture and living alongside a simple lifestyle. There are no condominium high rises or mega tourist attractions that many travelers go after on the Isla. But if that’s your thing, you can find it a short distance away just a few miles north of here. Even so, tourism (domestic and international), expats, and snowbirds are the heartbeat of the economy on the island, particularly when weather is cold up north and people are retreating from the harsher seasons. The local businesses appreciate people coming to patronize the awesome beach restaurants and rental properties peppered throughout.

When I first arrived here, it reeled me back and conjured memories of what life was like in the 1960’s growing up in the U.S. The family values, enthusiastic holiday celebrations, and common-sense approach to taking care of their own is amazing. Mexico in general is a nation of people who exude the well-known saying “Mi Casa Su Casa”… my house is your house.

This incredible journey for me all started with some emails from International Living Postcards. I began noticing and reading them after being laid off from my nine-to-five as a sales rep for high-performance flooring. Seeing people working from phenomenal places around the world with just a laptop and Wi-Fi connection grabbed my attention. I gravitated toward travel writing, went to a workshop, and found a mentor. A long story short… I’ve now found myself in Mexico working from the beach. I’ve had scores of print articles published, written informational pieces, tutored others, and shared my experience at workshops. I still write articles as well as involve myself in other online revenue-generating efforts like video creation, website building, and “work from anywhere” opportunities.

The world has changed… probably forever… and learning a skill that enables one to earn a living from anywhere in the world they want to be (or are) is simply a smart idea. There are so many roads to choose from. Heck, even the willingness to teach English could be enough.

Indeed, getting started took me out of my comfort zone and took some persistence, but now I count my blessings every day as I wake up and gaze out into my little Isla where I’m currently “Quarantined in Paradise.”

It’s not the only beach in the world… but over the last two months, it has sure felt that way to me. And even though there are restrictions in place, I can still hear the sound of the waves, see them folding onto the shoreline, feel the pleasant breeze off the ocean, and dig my toes into the sand in my daily routine.

I wouldn’t trade my remote income lifestyle for anything!

Related: France’s Beckoning Town of Béziers

The article Quarantined in Paradise: Isla de la Piedra by Jed Vaughn first appeared on International Living.

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