Adapting to Challenges —> Embracing Challenges (A Zacatitos Baja Sur Live Log)

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It’s a tough sell anymore

Comfy and convenience are double-edged swords, because I can get to any of two Walmarts, a Costco, and a Home Depot within an hour—the only negative feedback being lots of miles of dirt roads with trucks kicking up dust, potholes, and washboard.

I suppose the big difference for me is that I don’t use any of them to fill a line of pantries and box freezers—or fill a house with stuff I don’t need (everything I need fits in the back of my car). To me, this is about challenging myself to live more minimally, see how it goes, figure out management, and end up embracing it as the better, more humane way to live…for me. So in that way, I’m simply reporting on my experiences as I endeavor to learn. It’s been just over 5 weeks, now. I’ve learned a lot.

Still, when I mention things I’ve learned or simply observed around here, I sometimes get the old flapdoodle: ‘Try 20 or 30 years living here and then open your mouth; you have no right until then; because, I have, and I don’t want you to make me look inept; and because, since it took me 20-30 years.’ Really? It took you 30 fucking years? You must be excruciatingly slow—to the frustration of others—on the uptake. Thanks for letting me know to steer clear or your general buncombe. …Or, did you just mean to dominate me with twaddle, rather than see if you could learn anything from me too? After all, I’m embracing learning from others in a new environment and I struggle to understand any resistance, should any random individual have valid insights of their own—even if discovered just right now.

The greater and deeper reality is that I’m growing very fond of this place, inexorably tied to the eclectic group of very weird people who call it home. You’ve got people poorer than dirt, and multi-millionaires, and one’s financial assets seem to be largely irrelevant here—save for cliques and villa monuments. Mine’s just a sliver of a notion that in Zacatitos, what makes us the same is monumentally more important than the things that differentiate. Zacatitos blurs meaningless distinctions because when someone’s house is on fire there’s no fire “department,” and the ability of a millionaire to ‘bucket water’ is similar to everyone else’s. Perhaps more importantly: every single person here cares deeply about the community they created and inhabit.

Did you catch the italics?

…I previously wined about all my challenges. For context, here’s what I call home. At this point, the challenges that most impact quality of life are stifling heat and bugs. I’ve been working on managing those issues…and learning as well that smart little things have big impacts. I’ll give you two blurbs and then I’ll get to the photos.

  1. Heat, especially dead-air humid heat—and especially at 2am—is something that gives rise to a degree of panic in the pampered soul. It’s a positive feedback mechanism; for, the more you agitate, the worse it feels. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. But, have you ever had the urge to stick a foot or two outside the cover? I’ve been doing it for decades and turns out there’s SCIENCE! How Your Feet Help You Sleep. So simple. I sleep corner-to-corner on the mattress, with the fan at mattress height, aimed at my head. So, whether on my right or left side, I can stick feet out to have the fan blow on my two radiator soles, and it blows up the whole way so I feel it on my face, too. Stick a hand or two out for extra heat exchanging. This one simple thing got me the 4-5 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep I needed, after a month of never sleeping more than two hours x 3-4. Keeps the bugs at bay, too.
  2. Bugs. They go in cycles. There’s macro cycles when dry, and micro cycles when wet, after rare rains. While I have various trap and chemical measures (chemtraps, basically, not spraying), the very most effective intervention has been to become a clean freak. It has the added benefit of becoming a “simple habit” when you get up. I wipe off every horizontal surface with a wet towel (water only) every morning. My guess is that a bug perceives a dusty surface as natural; whereas, clean concrete or tile is foreign and uncertain. Beyond that, all food prep gets put away immediately, all dishes get washed immediately after use, all recycling without a cap gets rinsed (like a can that had something in it), and non-recyclable waste gets burned. All receptacles are outside, even the ones you normally keep in the kitchen.

…It’s been a long 30 years….

So, there’s the challenges and I’ve come to embrace them all. Every single one. But. Why? Well I’m glad you asked because it would suck if you didn’t.

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There’s a distance along the 1,000 mile Baja highway, between El Rosario and Guerrero Negro, where there’s no Pemex gas stations for 225 miles. It only cost Jose here—halfway point—$25,000 for the environmental impact study, remediation plan, and union membership.
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This was to be the world’s coolest office view. But since it’s open around to the left and behind as well, ambient natural light just washes out too much, so I had to take it all downstairs, under cover. Shit!
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Twilight, from my comfy chair.
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I get to go visit my rental property at the Grand Solmar now & then.
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When I go driving and exploring, should the sand be found too dry and fine, there’s a flip-flop scoop for that. If there’s drift debris, you can scoop less.
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Mindy, Emily, and Tiffany give me the much needed doggie love I miss from home. I love going to Paulie’s place down the road, honking the horn and yelling “Doggiesssss!” They are sweethearts, disposition similar to my rat terriers (mini dobermans and rat terriers are nearly identical). I get to babysit them for 2 weeks very soon. Yes, they will try to kill you if you’re not a friend, as is the natural order.
If all else fails, there’s always San Lucas. Just avoid Hagar, because he ruined Van Halen.
10 million sceneries where these come from. It actually gets boring. Always have someone in the car with you to point stuff out because it’s really hard to stay awake. So boring. Urban American traffic: now you’re talkin’. Exciting!
VidaSoul. Off Grid hotel. 100 solar panels on the roof and a big bank of batteries, backup generator. Enamoring to me because the favorite place I ever lived was an urban loft. Joan, the owner, is a joy to have a chat with.
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We get full moons and because we’re the un-urbaned, we pay attention. I sleep “under the stars?” No, fucktards. I sleep under an asshole moon. Every single night.

We had a Full Mon Party on July 1, from 7pm to 6:27 am and here’s a brief taste from the compound about 100 yards from my place. This is 100% battery; or, think of it as extending the power of the sun, to give a nod to the moon.

And so there’s just how awfully bad it is around here and I encourage you all to get every political pamphlet you can find, set your schedules to the next election, get your 1 in 300 millionth say in your own affairs, and pin something on your lapel that turns your profound impotence into some fantasy of power.

I’ll just be lafing at you from Baja.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. David Smith on July 7, 2015 at 19:16

    Somehow not surprised you’re by yourself!!!

    • Richard Nikoley on July 7, 2015 at 20:02

      Hey, look over there at that guy jerking off in front of everyone. Wait, is that David Smith?

  2. Steven on July 8, 2015 at 06:47

    First, awesome. I am the slightest bit green with envy. Seriously great…

    Second, You can still jerk-off with 300,000,000 people with an absentee/mail-in ballot.

    In case you get lonely living in all that loneliness and feel like partaking in a moment of complete and utter shame and self destruction.

    And stupidity.
    And ignorance.

    Anyway I digress, live it up my friend. Keep turning me green.

  3. pzo on July 8, 2015 at 07:45

    I hope you keep in mind that you have several things going for you that the natives don’t: A good (well deserved, sir) retirement income, and an escape hatch. You can always return to the US for a bit of respite or more.

    As to heat, humidity, and bugs, them’s my summer here in Florida. Running the AC adds $350 to the electric bill, so I don’t. And a lot of the screens have holes.

    Except my office view is aquatic, and I’ll go up against yours! From here to the mouth of Whitaker Bayou, across Sarasota Bay, to Longboat Key.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2015 at 08:59

      While I could have the car loaded in two hours and head out (or take a flight) I do not have any “retirement” other than my ability to hopefully earn money by actually doing stuff in perpetuity. Wife has a retirement, which she’s yet to exercise, but which is hers in any case—in spite of “community property” law in CA.

      I guess there’s SS eventually. Not sure how I feel about that, yet. After all, it’s tens of thousands of my money that would be hundreds of thousands had I put it in a 401K. On the other hand, to repay me, they have to steal from the checks of young people, and that rubs me the wrong way.

    • Doug on July 8, 2015 at 10:30

      “… they have to steal from the checks of young people, and that rubs me the wrong way.”

      Aren’t US Dollars fiat anyway?

      Perpetual debt paid off with more debt which in theory could be paid off with more fiat dollars. We live in interesting times. It defies logic how less people work everyday and more money is created.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2015 at 10:33

      OK Doug, try this. Pick a random stranger and pick his pockets. When he protests, just shrug and justify it by telling him it’s just paper, just fiat.

      Good luck with that.

    • Doug on July 8, 2015 at 10:57

      I am not following….but that is not usual 🙂

    • Doug on July 8, 2015 at 10:59

      I am not following….but that is not unusual 🙂

      I would be interest in your take one day in FIAT money and Bitcoin.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2015 at 11:42

      I’ve blogged about both. Check out the search.

  4. Dan on July 8, 2015 at 10:01

    Richard, I hope it goes well for you and you find what you are looking for. I hope to do something similar someday, maybe not as far off the beaten path. I am soft, need my bug-less AC.

  5. Sharyn on July 8, 2015 at 13:37

    Sleeping tip from my time in hot places – a damp/wet towel instead of a top sheet. Probably won’t need the fan. Evaporation is your friend.
    All the best

  6. John on July 8, 2015 at 14:22

    I spent a few summers in Romania. No AC in any residences. Crazy heat. People regularly die from it.

    I was sharing a bed with my girlfriend, thus extra heat. We always left the windows open at night. Mosquitoes were so bad it was difficult to sleep more than a few minutes without buzzing or stinging waking you up.

    I bought a fan, and put it about a food from my face. That solved much of the heat and all of the bug problems. There was a new problem – my girlfriend hated fans – I told her she’d get used to it (or maybe, “get used to it”) and I was right, haha.

  7. Amy on July 8, 2015 at 15:54

    I’m curious…what are you doing with all your food scraps? Fruit rinds, stalk ends, bones and inedible fat, etc. Do you leave all the fruit and veggies leavings out for the burros and the birds? What about the leavings from edible protein?

    Wondering because of the bug problems and attracting other pests.

    Also your non-edible trash…where does that go?

    We used to give all vegetarian stuff to the cows/horses and burn the rest once per week when my grandparents lived out in the boonies where there was no trash collection. Plus the occasional trip to the dump if something couldn’t be easily burned. Just wondering what y’all do there.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2015 at 16:31

      Excellent questions, Amy!

      All the fruit waste WAS getting tossed out to the birds and the tiny chipmunks (yard is fenced, so no burros—though I sometimes take a bucket of water out to the front gate when I see them). Fruit is the only thing I tossed out. Other food waste goes down the toilet (no garbage disposal) for the septic system bacteria.

      Haven’t had fruit to speak of in a couple of weeks, so it’s an open question as to whether that attracted bugs. I tend to doubt it but am open to the possibility. Bugs have been very reduced, but then again, it’s about a month since we had a spec of precipitation and that’s what really builds bug populations.

      Non edible trash gets bagged and there’s precious little of it because everything burnable gets burned in the fire pit. Plastics get bagged in one set, and metal/glass in another. This makes Moises very happy when he picks up on Tuesday (“Perfecto Ricardo”).

      Sounds to me like you learned well and could master this place quick.

    • Amy on July 9, 2015 at 10:46

      Probably so, and in fact you’ve got me thinking. Except for the snakes in the house it sounds about like heaven. 😉

  8. Harriet on July 8, 2015 at 17:02

    One of the difficulties I had when moving from a cool damp, tree, bush and green, green grass dominated environment to a desert one was that I had to learn to see a new type of beauty. It took about five years to start to see the beauty. Even after 15 years I still have to look for it though it is increasingly easy, but interestingly when I look at at landscapes I previously saw as beautiful I tend to see amorphous blobs of dull grey green that are unappealing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  9. Matthew on July 9, 2015 at 08:49

    Interesting that heat at night is a problem. Usually in a desert cold at night is what gets you.

    In Palm Springs I’ve been out there for a 20 degree temperature drop in an hour once the sun sets.

    Maybe because your close to the ocean?

    • Amy on July 9, 2015 at 09:50

      Not Richard but I suspect it has as much or more to do with the latitude than simply the type of terrain or proximity to the ocean. I was born and raised approximately parallel to Zacatitios (but much farther east, little farther north) and I remember those hot sticky nights from before we all got air conditioning. I never did this (maybe by the time I came along the family was rich enough to by enough fans, lol), but my old people tell me they used to put mattresses out on the screened “sleeping porch” to sleep when it got too stagnant. We’re not in a desert here but the pattern sounds very similar to what Richard describes. I was told about the hanging a foot off the bed thing when I was very young and it always worked. Still do it when I get a ‘flash. 🙂

      But then, we’re surrounded by oceans here so maybe proximity to the water is it.

  10. Rob on July 11, 2015 at 03:58

    Are there hallucinogenic cacti in the area?

    • spanish caravan on July 19, 2015 at 20:11

      Hallucinogenic cacti? LOL, Rob. That’s another desert. Richard is down in Baja Cali Sur, not the Chihuahuan Desert where you’ll find peyote, from which you can source mescaline.

  11. MissMcGillicuddy on July 20, 2015 at 05:47

    I’ve been reading blogs of various expats/immigrants scattered around different parts of Mexico.
    One blogger, writing from Cabo, claims that the area is the only part of Mexico where English is the primary language.
    I’m mostly bilingual, so that doesn’t matter much to me, but I’m curious. In many ways, she makes it sound like the U.S. but far south, rather than Mexico….predominantly gringo, US type services and restaurants, US way of doing business, etc etc etc.
    If true, that would be quite a departure from the rest of Mexico that I know – so as I said, quite curious about that since that is the one part of Mexico I have yet to visit.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 20, 2015 at 06:12

      Well, I’m at a hotel in San Lucas right now in the very heart of the downtown action. It’s a small hotel with great AC, cool pool, and good food. But it’s 80% middle class Mexicans staying here, on holiday themselves.

      I wouldn’t call the corridor between here an San Jose particularly expat city. More just tourist, like any other resort areas around the world. Because of location, it seems very disproportionately American whereas over to the East you’ll probably find a decent mix of European.

      But, if you get off the beach corridor and cabo SL center, seems pretty Mexican to me. I don’t find a huge number of Mexicans speak much English at all, just mostly in the hotels, restaurants and other services that predominately cater to tourists.

  12. MissMcGillicuddy on July 20, 2015 at 15:37

    Thanks, I was curious. I tracked that blogger down and seems she is a realtor there, transplanted from CA. She likely has an interest in telling gringos to come on down, it’s not like the rest of Mexico, lol.
    As far as I can tell, many US expats/immigrants in Central MX and the Yucatan – are from Texas.

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