Having just returned, from a fly-fishing trip in the Mexican Caribbean, I am left with emotions that have become very familiar to me. Many years ago, having been a trout fisherman all my life, I was invited to go fly fishing in a remote part of the world with a good friend that spoke very highly of my, would be experience. I truly had no desire to go. I was very content as a trout fisherman and really didn’t feel that I was missing out on anything. After several years of prodding by my friend, I received a phone call from Bobby Settles, the man responsible for transforming Ascension Bay, Mexico into the world class fly fishing destination that it is today. Bobby owned a fly fishing lodge in the bay, and understanding that I was not necessarily dying to go, he invited me to his lodge and sweetened the pot by making the price very attractive to me. He was convinced that if I would just give it a chance, I would fall in love with it and want to return. He could not have been more correct.
The magic of this place runs far deeper than its obvious beauty and remote location. Deeper than its rich history of Mayan culture, the pirates of the Caribbean that frequented the area using it as a safe haven and an ideal ambush location and deeper than the almost forgotten ancient artifacts leftover from shipwrecks, a faint reminder of a Spanish invasion that rewrote Mexico’s destiny.
It took me years to understand what it was that drew me back again and again. What it was, that after going there with me, made friends and clients recount experiences for weeks and plead with me to quickly schedule another trip.
At first, I thought it was the amazing fly-fishing that called me back. Later I began to believe that it had something to do with the endless shades of green and blue that paint the landscape. After several more years I thought that the magic of this area was a combination of its beauty, the fly-fishing and the elusive creatures that appear and then quickly fade away as if they were never there. The manatees, crocodiles, jaguars, dolphins, sharks, eagle rays and the over 300 species of birds all came to mind…
I had visited many beautiful places in the world but my curiosity remained, a baker can add any number of fresh, rich ingredients to a bowl, the sweetest chocolates, rare and unusual sweet sprinkles and any combination of fruits and nuts, but until he ads flour, he does not have a cookie. All of the other ingredients were obvious to me but I was intrigued as to what the flour was in this amazing place that turned its inherent beauty into a mystical paradise.
Eventually, the light in my head switched on. I experienced a huge paradigm shift. I finally understood the magic that transformed the glamor of this area into an enchanting wonderland that touched souls and changed hearts forever. The elusive flour was the people… the wonderful, wonderful people… amazing people that live a humble existence. People that work hard, serve others and appreciate small gestures of kindness more than material possessions. People that value friends and family in a way that I had never seen. These people choose to live where they live, because they love it there. They work tirelessly to ensure that tourists enjoy their stay and want to return. Most of these people go unnoticed. They work behind the scenes to provide the “trip of a lifetime” to each and every traveler to the area. The unobservant tourist may not notice them but will undoubtedly wonder at some point, how in the world water, electricity, fuel and gourmet food becomes readily accessible in a place so far from civilization.
These incredible people have not only earned my respect and appreciation, but they have become life long friends and I consider many of them family. I have been blessed with their generosity and their kind hearts. I have attended weddings, birthday celebrations, church, family parties and quinciñeras with them. They’ve invited me into their homes, treated me like family and taught me more about life, love and happiness than I have learned in my existence as a U.S. citizen and a United States Marine. I am always happy to see them and I miss them when I’m not there. I’m grateful to know them and proud to call them my friends. I have watched these same friendships form between these fine people and several colleagues who have traveled with me and subsequently chosen to return again and again. The flour seems to spill over. I not only treasure the priceless memories, but I cherish the friendships of those who travel with me. Sometimes, I wonder if they have discovered what the flour is…