In my mind, Texas and Mexico have always been two parts of the same mystical West. The setting for wild Cormac McCarthy novels, pirates, and cowboys. When you get outside of the cities and into the huge desert regions, that pioneer spirit still hangs thick in the air. The drive down the Baja peninsula is a reminder that “civilization” hasn’t even come close to taming the raw landscape of this continent. It took me over seven days to drive from Austin to Todos Santos, and I loved every minute of it. When I got there, I set up shop for two months in Alma de Gracia — a simple casita I chose for it’s proximity to the beach and the fact that it was dog friendly.
For all of February and March, Moondoggie and I slid into an alternate world. One where the dirt roads along the beach have no names, cows wander freely on the highways, and dinner is a communal effort – most often raw fish cleaned and prepared right off the boat. I brought a few things with me to make my temporary house a “home” – some bed linens, baskets, and a bag full of command hooks. But it really was the things I found there, in the moment, that transformed my Mexico house into something of my own creation.
Scroll down to see inside my Todos Santos dreamworld, but don’t look for it when you’re there. It’s the kind of place that only exists for a summer, ultimately to be washed away by the sea.
First, my “backyard.” Miles of beach to explore, both sandy spots good for surfing and rocky parts good for climbing and looking for shells. Watching the waves break against the rocks never got old, and every day I came home with a new treasure.
I was surprised by the joy I found in having LESS. The simplicity of “making do” with one suitcase of clothes, a couple of surfboards, and the baskets I brought my shoes in.
Necessity brought my creativity to new heights — I found approximately 900 uses for a plant dyed cotton scarf including: sarong, wall hanging, table runner, and impromptu dog leash. My boards doubled as art, and some of my best decor finds were from nature. Giant palm fronds I got from a guy trimming a tree down the street, oyster shells I kept after eating, and a jar of colored sand given to me by a new friend.
This board was made for me by my friend Tyler at Wax Surf Co, and this was the last time it was photographed “clean”. It’s so beautiful, I wanted to document it before covering it with wax and taking it in the water.
Since I was going to be in Mexico for two months, I chose to bring my own bed linens with me to my rental. High maintenance? Un poco. But the comfort and familiarity for me and my pup, Moondoggie, made it worth it. Since I was driving, the linens didn’t take up that much room in my car. And this trip taught me that decorative fabric (like towels, scarves, and thin blankets) are a gypsy’s best friend. Ugly table? Cover it up. Bare floor? Turn a towel into a rug. Harsh light? Drape a scarf over the lamp.
My aesthetic these days has become very neutral. I chose Alma de Gracia as my rental because I loved the bare concrete floors and natural wood furnishings. Moondoggie loved lying on the cool polished concrete in the hot part of the afternoon.
Even though I’m just a “campfire strummer”, I always take my guitar with me on road trips whenever I can. It’s fun at parties and it seems like there’s almost always someone else who picks it up and shows off their chops. I have now officially subjected half of Mexico to my Robert Earl Keen renditions, but they didn’t seem to mind too much.
Hotelier Liz Lambert brought attention to Todos Santos two years ago when she opened the Hotel San Cristobal just up the road from my place. It’s one of the best spots in the area to order a margarita and watch the sun set over the ocean. My friend Landrie gave me this little booklet designed for the hotel before I left on my trip. I’ve been into learning about saints for a long time, and Saint Cristobal (the patron saint of travelers) was the perfect one to appeal to for protection throughout my trip. I also wear a necklace with Saint Valentine (for love) and Saint Francis (to protect my animals) everywhere I go.
Alma de Gracia roughly translates to “Soul of Gratitude”, and that’s exactly what I found during my time in Todos Santos. A renewed appreciation for our earth, and all the wild and wonderful people who inhabit it. This journey gave me the confidence I needed to make new friends, explore new territory, and bring back a decidedly slower pace of life with me to the states. For all this and more, I am grateful.