Friday, June 14, 2024

Going Back Home to Lake Chapala


The quote from Thomas Wolfe that “once you leave, you can never go back home,” seems to be so in my life in every case but one: MEXICO.

I am getting ready to board my flight headed back north. I have a lump in my throat because it’s been three of the most amazing weeks of my life. I’m leaving as I tenderly mull over the laughter and healing, heart stories, nurturing and a sure knowledge that Lake Chapala is a special place.

Twice I have left Lake Chapala in Mexico to live in the US. The first time it was to be closer to family and a sense that we needed to have a more “adult” existence, and the second time it was because I had stars in my eyes thinking I was in love and headed for a beautiful future near Raleigh, NC.

HometoMex-Friends1Both times I ended up coming back to the place that has become home to me. For some reason, Lake Chapala is a place you can ALWAYS come back to. Just as a child ventures off to new things, but comes back to touch its mother’s knee for reassurance and know she’s still there, Mexico is still there … to heal, nurture, inspire and bring a sense of peace that settles like a gentle mantle around your shoulders.

I went back in September for several reasons. To begin to heal after a change in the course
of my life, to see my father who has been ill and to reconnect with old friends and a part of me that somewhere in daily living and stresses I had forgotten existed.

I first arrived in the Ajijic/Lake Chapala area in 1995, with my then-husband and 2 small children. The area had ONE stop light along the carretera or main road that runs from Chapala to Jocotepec. We had a few restaurants and two hotels.

Now there are many incredible, world-class restaurants in Lake Chapala. They’ve added a few more lights to help ease the flow of traffic but you’ll still see people riding their horses down the road, children walking to school, and the slow and amiable flow that makes it a delight to be outside in the sunshine, greeting friends and strangers alike.

It’s been said that we are all connected and never have I felt this more keenly than in Lake Chapala.

My dear friend Karen McConnaughey went on a tour of colonial Mexican cities and what she came away with is that Lake Chapala isn’t Mexico. But neither is it Little America or Canada. Lake Chapala is its own unique place that has been shaped by almost a century of philanthropic expats and retirees from all over the world and the warm Mexican people who have shared their hearts and their
homeland with us.

It’s a magical and healing place but it’s also understood that it’s not perfect and it never will be. In fact, that’s part of its sometimes cheeky, maddening charm.

Lake Chapala is a good example of what happens when two cultures blend…sometimes with frustration, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes with childlike delight and openness. The lifestyle is incomparable. The slow pace is a steady flow of get-togethers for the extroverted, yet it’s also a good place to find solitude.

Most importantly, I came away stronger, vowing to return, and I began to feel the magic of myself, people I love and my connection to God again. Once you leave, you can never go back with one caveat… unless it’s to Mexico.