The obsessive-compulsive planner in me was extremely nervous about my trip to Baja with a friend; as far as I knew, all that was planned was that we would arrive. Where would we stay? What would we do? When I prodded my friend for answers, she was equally in the dark—we were meeting up with her brother and (maybe?) some of his friends, young wanderers who flew by the seat of their pants. I admired them, secretly jealous of their courage, yet at the same time, I dreaded jumping in blindly.
I slowly forgot about my insatiable need to plan every detail.
When we arrived, it was pretty much as expected—nothing was planned, so we were at a loss for a place to stay. My friend’s younger brother admitted, okay, maybe planning should have crossed his mind, but oh well. He and his adventurer friends had been camping on the beach for a month already anyway, and we can always fall back on that, he suggested nonchalantly. (I panicked—spiders? Scorpions? The Mexican cartel? I don’t even have a sleeping bag! EEK.) We drove for hours down dusty, pothole-ridden roads outside of San José del Cabo, six of us crammed tightly into a red Ford Ranger. The rugged desert landscape perplexed me—its arid desolation, in juxtaposition to the vibrant blue waters, didn’t seem like something that should be able to exist. We ducked into a few places along the way to find lodging, but nothing was available.
As the day passed, and our search for lodging continued unsuccessfully, I oddly found myself still having an unbelievable amount of fun. Distracted by the sights and all the good laughs, I slowly forgot about my insatiable need to plan every detail. A sense of comfort washed over me. Worst case scenario: we camp out on a beach. We make a fire. We lie down under the stars and fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing. I actually kind of began to hope that we wouldn’t find a place to stay.
I contemplated the duality of this place.
But fatigue eventually took over, and even the vagabonds craved a bed after roughing it for a month. We settled for a cozy bungalow in Cabo Pulmo. Drank beers on the beach under the moonlight. Went to look for more beer to buy, but no such luck—this place was a tiny, isolated, quasi-ghost town. Instead, we wandered aimlessly in the dark, and suddenly found ourselves diving under a barb-wire fence, narrowly dodging a horse running down the dirt road as a dog chased after it.
We still had no plans, but we knew it had to involve some place that had beer.
The next day, we still had no plans, but we knew it had to involve some place that had beer. We headed across the peninsula to Todos Santos, marveling at the huge cardón cactuses, winding mountain roads, mesquite shrub land, and peculiar wildlife along the way. I contemplated the duality of this place. At first, I wondered why the water had never transformed the desert into something else; later, I quietly appreciated how the two could exist side by side.
Over the next few days, I got more and more used to this no planning thing. I allowed each moment to be a surprise. I binged shamelessly on fish tacos. Enjoyed un cafecito and empanaditas de cajeta while chatting in broken Spanish with an old man who was reading his morning paper. Lounged on the beach all day watching surfers and whales. On our last night, we watched the sunset, built a fire on the beach, and sat around chatting as the full moon rose.
I was shocked to learn that someone like me could let go and drift in the current for once.
I was shocked to learn that someone like me could let go and drift in the current for once. It was a paradoxical concept for me—just like this parched desert surrounded on all sides by water.
Special thanks to Brianna Felmlee for contributing her photograph of the crested carcara, and to Kelli Carpenter Gunderson for her photograph of the cardón cactus.