Things I Learned in Baja

We went on a three week vacation last month. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Our goal was to see whales and birds in Baja California, Mexico. In preparation, we got out some old duffel bags because we were warned our boat–Searcher–was small.

Small but mighty–Searcher

We rolled and packed what we thought we would wear for temps between 50-80 degrees. We needed sturdy shoes and bathing suits, snorkel equipment and water shoes. Also in the mix were cameras, binoculars, and various field guides, all of which were heavy.
And clothes. According to the literature, we did not need ‘smart’ clothes, but we needed to  carry our own bags. (We always fail at this, but we try.)

I learned a few things on this trip, listed below, with elaboration. The list is not in any particular order, and some things I re-learned:

1. You can share 4 bathrooms, two of them with showers, with 28 other people. It helps that the crew cleans and tidies the bathrooms every day and changes the bathmats. There is not as much waiting as you might think. Also, don’t be too surprised if the occupancy sign says “vacant” and you walk in on someone. People forget. Side note: All toilet stalls everywhere should have “vacancy” and “occupied” signs. It helps.

A handy sign
A handy sign

2.*** You can get used to sleeping anywhere. Our bunks were small and my top bunk was challenging to get into. (Leg flinging was involved.) John’s had a cut-out section in the area reserved for his feet, due to the mysterious tiny sink in our cabin.

Small means small

3. Three weeks without TV, only occasional internet and no phone is doable. You will not miss the TV. Trust me. It is fun to actually talk to people and listen to their stories.

4. Jeans don’t need to be washed frequently. If you get a spot, sponge it off and hope for the best. Three weeks is not a long time to wear jeans.

5. Take sunscreen lip gloss. Your lips will thank you and you will be more comfortable.

6. Flip flops work. They are light, and you can wear them on a boat which is pitching and rolling. If that happens, stand firm and bend you knees.  All shoes you  take must be tried and true.  On the boat, walk carefully and hang on.

7. Take sea sick meds ahead of time–don’t wait until your journey begins. Take the pill even if the sea is calm when you get up in the morning. Things change.

Place used tea bags in the silver container on the shelf
Place used tea bags in the square silver container on the shelf near the coffee machine

8. If you are on a boat with Brits, find out what the tea bag etiquette is. Do not take your teabag out and place it on the table near food. Find the waste bin and jettison it. (Use the container for coffee stirrers.)

If you need them, you probably have some
If you need them, you probably have some

9. Little bars of soap you’ve kept from other hotels are pretty handy if soap is not provided in a shower. (At last! A use for little soaps.) 9A. Take many plastic bags as well. That way, you can keep using the soap from shower to shower…and you will feel like the queen of recycling.

10. Bring and use ear plugs when you travel. Sleeping masks are also recommended. (Both are also useful on red-eye flights; drugs are even better.)


One final note–when you are bone-tired, go to bed. Forget about time zones, stick to Ship’s Time and adjust. And if the captain blares the PA at 10 pm for everyone to get up and watch the smooth-tailed mobula rays attracted by the boat’s night-time searchlight, get up. (I plan to share much more on the fantastic critters we saw in later posts.)  John has already posted some wonderful photos and video:

If the captain calls you to the side, get up!

***It should be noted that I learned the sleep-anywhere lesson as a freshman at Syracuse University. My room was in an old house, used by freshman who didn’t know any better. It was tiny, with a single bed and soft mattress. My room had a full length window facing the busiest street in the city. The first time a motorcycle roared by at 2 a.m., I swear I levitated over the bed. But I got used to it. You can get used to most anything.

You can see how old the cottages were--I'm not that old, but they were still in use in 1966.
You can see how old the cottages were–I’m not that old, but they were still in use in 1965.