I have a talent for ending up as far south as geography will allow.
That’s one of the answers I give when people ask me how I came to live in Cabo San Lucas, and it’s the truth. (The other answer is that I’m not married, and don’t have children, and thus have no one to tell me no.)
At the age of 22–in 1990–I was living Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States. By the age of 42–in 2010–I had somehow migrated across the country and down to Cabo San Lucas, at the southernmost point of the Baja California peninsula.
I hadn’t ever planned to live in either place: the U.S. Navy sent me to Key West, and I came to Cabo San Lucas on vacation…and never left. But it has always seemed something more than coincidence that I followed both the East and West Coasts as far down as the roads would allow.
Maybe I come by my “southernmost” tendencies honestly, since I grew up in Southern Indiana, as far south as you can go before the Ohio River carries you across to Louisville, Kentucky.
Or maybe the earth exerts a personal gravitational pull on all of us.
Then again, maybe it was just life’s way of telling me I was supposed to be a travel writer.
I had always wanted to write, and by the time I landed at the bottom of Baja my résumé was filled with the sort of jobs that only truly belong together on the back of a book jacket.
Pallet maker? Sailor? Bartender? Bicitaxi driver? Teacher? Sommelier? Check, check, check, check, check, and check.
But it was only when I discovered that vacations have term limits – hint: it’s when the money runs out – that I finally began to write for a living.
I got a job that day, as a stringer for The Gringo Gazette, for whom I wrote a handful of articles over the ensuing months. My personal favorite was about book exchanges and the dearth of good reading material in Los Cabos:
“Books are often passed around like joints at Grateful Dead concert in 1967. It is not a rare sight in local watering holes to see people performing ‘open book’ surgery, glueing or taping bindings together to keep books alive for a few more readings. And it is generally enough for one to be overheard praising a new novel for an impromptu waiting list to form, or a gang of master criminals to plot the liberation of said book like a Las Vegas casino heist.”
That same day I applied to be a local expert for a now defunct online travel site, despite the fact I had lived in San Lucas for a grand total of about three weeks. The cover letter was dictated by a yacht captain I knew from college, who said he could absolutely get me the job if I bought him vodka sodas at the Cabo Lounge. I did, and he flawlessly dictated a long, eloquent “5 reasons to go to Cabo” style sample article in lieu of a typical cover letter. It was a bravura, albeit alcohol-fueled, performance that would have passed muster in any publication, and I was hired shortly afterward.
Those first few jobs got me started in the travel writing business. A few months later, I started writing for local magazines like Cabo Social and Los Cabos Magazine. A year later I was contributing regularly to Baja.com and USA Today/10Best, and a few years after that I caught the eye of an editor at Fodor’s, who engaged me to work on a few chapters for the most recent edition of its Los Cabos guidebook.
But it was Cabo San Lucas itself that made me want to write. I fell in love with the place the moment I arrived. There was something intoxicatingly different – not just the language and customs – but a lifestyle and an attitude I’d never before encountered. And yet there was also something quite familiar, a combination of incredible beauty and outrageously eccentric characters that reminded me of the Key West I knew twenty years ago.
Key West and Cabo San Lucas are a lot alike, by the way, only Cabo has Mexicans instead of Cubans, Canadians instead of gays, and Sammy Hagar instead of Jimmy Buffet.
And I guess Cabo has me, since I’m unlikely to leave without a deportation order.
I’m happy being an expatriate and an outsider, a sort of “stranger in a strange land,” to quote an old Robert Heinlein novel. But every day I’m here I also become more of an insider, more knowledgeable about local people and businesses, privy to the insights and open secrets that come with long-term residence.
Ninety-five percent of what I’ve written is about Los Cabos, and I expect that percentage to climb in the coming years.
But who knows…maybe by the time I’m 62 I’ll find myself living in Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost point of the Americas.
Stranger things have happened already.