Vacation in Mexico. I know what you’re thinking. All-inclusive resorts flooded with drunk and sunburned Americans, Jose Quervo by the shot, and street vendors vying for your dollars. But Mexico isn’t all like that. In fact, most of it is nothing like that. Take the time to travel a short distance outside of the major tourist areas and you’ll find another side of Mexico, a natural side where the locals still see tourists in a positive light and where American companies have yet to find a market. There is certainly nothing wrong with Cancun or its kind; it’s just that the other kind of Mexico is truly a special place.

Having just returned from Boca Paila, admittedly I’m still a bit jaded. Only a couple hours south of Cancun by car, Boca Paila is just beginning to be discovered by those tourists seeking reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the major tourist centers. There are a few Americans, but by and large you’re more likely to find the real Mexico and all its magic. Things happen a lot slower, the beach is much quieter, and the bonefish cruise the bays undisturbed. That’s the part I like.

Our trip didn’t start out as a fishing trip. My wife and I were invited to tag along with some friends who’d rented a beach house and intended to hang out for a week. We’re no fools and quickly jumped at the invite. But the angler in me reasoned that some minor fishing tackle might come in handy and so packed a few things that have been effective in Florida in days past. It proved to be a wise move.

Our gracious hosts had packed snorkeling gear and it didn’t take long to figure out that the house was situated in a great spot to view, and subsequently catch, fish. The reef protecting the lagoon was alive with fish of all sorts and we had a couple of kayaks at the house. Things were looking good for catching snappers and the full kitchen at our disposal meant that fish tacos and ceviche were in our future.

Now I’m all for catch and release and as a fishing guide, I return all fish to the water unharmed. But keeping a few snappers out of a school of a few thousand for the sake of nightly dinners with friends – well, I can be persuaded. It didn’t hurt that another of the folks traveling with us was a chef and promised good things if we could just bring him a few fresh fish. Now I had a specific and obtainable goal and immediately went to work – if fishing for dinner can (or even should) be called work. In relatively short order we had procured enough snappers to feed the crew. Some quick work with a fillet knife and we were looking at seriously good eats

During our drive down from the Cancun airport we stopped and bought groceries and cocktail supplies. Fresh produce and good spirits dominated our purchasing, supplemented with the necessities of course. The kitchen was stocked with spices and such. We had even borrowed a guitar for evening sessions. Now it was on.

For the next days we lived like kings, sipping great wine and cocktails, nibbling on fresh and expertly prepared seafood, singing with friends, and generally watching the days go by in a way that is impossible outside of the Caribbean. Absolutely perfect.

Now we’re home and left to reflect on the adventure. As great as it was, I’m glad to be home. But we should all strive to achieve that level of contentment in our daily lives. It is truly healthy and good for your soul to be in tune with the environment and the rhythms of the universe, if only for a while. A vacation in Mexico is just what the doctor ordered.