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A day trip from the seaside town of Puerto Vallarta to Talpa de Allende and Mascota is a must!

First stop before we really get on the road to Talpa de Allende is Panaderia Carmen’s Bakery to pick up some breakfast. This is a must-do on the way to San Sebastián, Mascota, or Talpa. Carmen’s is located just before the Progreso Bridge.

You can not go wrong with any choice you make here. They make the. most delicious fresh baked bread and pastries filled various fruits, one with delicious vanilla filling, another warm sausage, or meat. The bakery is a garden oasis where you can sit, relax, and enjoy your break. Each item was roughly $25MXN pesos or $1.15USD

We have stopped here twice and would go back again in a heartbeat.

Talpa de Allende is a municipality and magical town in the state of Jalisco

Talpa de Allende is home to the Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa, housed in the magnificent Cathedral built in 1644  and visited by pilgrims from all over the world. Founded in 1599 the town of about 10,000 people sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains. Most of the visitors here are religious pilgrims from Mexico, who travel to Talpa to visit the Virgin, not to play. But Talpa is a beautiful place and a great experience with or without participating in religious ceremonies. We surprised (and pleased) to see the art line streets juxtaposed to the traditional buildings and religious feel of the town.

On the way into Talpa de Allende you’ll pass the Cruz de Romero by the Talpa sign (pictured above). From here you can climb to the top of the monument up some winding stairs for the most incredible view of the mountains and the town below.

Like most Mexican towns the center of Talpa is the plaza and the Church. The town is very walkable so just park up or jump off the bus in the town center and start walking.

We visited the Church and were blessed by the bishop and received a diploma to verify our first pilgrimage to Talpa de Allende, despite neither of us being Catholic we appreciated the experience and would recommend anyone visiting to embrace it and take the time to gain some understanding of the main religion in Mexico. There is a museum just behind the Church (this is also where you pick up your certificate) where you can learn more about the history of the town and the Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa.

The plaza itself is the social center for the town, and you will see all ages of people gathered there during the day and into the night. It is flanked by shops and restaurants. We recommend heading into the main market for Birria at Birrieria El Gran Chivo for a cheap, authentic meal. It was $320MXN / $15USD for lunch for and drinks three people.

The farther you get from the plaza, the more varied and modern the architecture. The walk from the Church up the main street (Independencia) out to the large arch just where you enter Talpa follows La Ruta del Peregrino, which is the route of the pilgrims who walk through the countryside on a pilgrimage to see the Virgen de Talpa.

When you are finished exploring the Church and town center you can take in the scenery further up the hill, at the statue of Christ the King. The views from the statue, overlooking the town and the valley, are remarkable, and worth the climb.

On the way back down from the lookout, you’ll pass through the beautiful callejones (alleys) filled with murals, be sure to take your time and check these out – it was a highlight for us.

Mascota

Fun fact: The name (Mascota) is not Spanish (where it would be translated as “pet”), it is from Teco and means, the place of deer and snakes.

When you drive into Mascota you immediately notice it is a beautiful and picturesque town like you’ve traveled back in time, to a quiet, peaceful period, you’ll also notice that the air is cooler here especially if you compare it with Puerto Vallarta.

There is, of course, another beautiful church and town square to see in Mascota but the real gem here is the Unfinished Temple de la Preciosa Sangre (Temple of the Precious Blood) The temple is an unfinished ruin of a church that was to be built in the late 1800’s. Its entrance is framed in a Roman arch; its neoclassic altarpiece is one of the best in the region. There is also an active church on the property. The bougainvillea in the gardens provides vibrant color on the stone background.

We booked a private driver for the trip, less risky than a group tour with Covid-19 still an ongoing issue. a similar price to a group tour and gave us a lot more freedom to see what we wanted. We used Jose from Xplore with Chamaco who we’ve now booked four times because he’s the best.

For a 12-hour day, it cost us $4500MXN / $200USD plus $500MXN / $22USD for our food, coffee and beer, and snacks for the day.

If you’re excited to get back to traveling again, you’re not alone. The locals in the places you visit can’t wait for you to arrive. Bearing that in mind, your visits can help a place become even better when you find ways to give back during your travels.

Wondering how you can give back during your travels to help the communities you visit thrive again while caring for the environment? These 6 tips will give you a better travel experience while bettering the world.

Buy local goods

No travel experience would ever be complete without souvenirs. When you buy them, choose authentic crafts made by the locals. It helps support the very people that live there and makes their community stronger. Besides, nothing is more unique than gifts you can’t get at any chain souvenir shop.

Dine locally too

When you travel far from home, part of the experience in other lands revolves around the foods the locals eat. Try their cuisine, stopping at the family-owned restaurants, cafés, and street vendors when hunger strikes. Avoid going to big chains you might recognize from home. You can eat there any time, but when else can you get home-cooked cuisine in the country you’re visiting.

Choose local accommodations

Big hotel chains will survive the world as it is, but those local independently-owned hotels need business. With travel shut down for so long, they can’t wait to host you. While it might be smaller than what you’re used to, you get a chance to make friends with locals and be a part of their world. Plus, they will know all the inside tips about what to see and do that will make your experience unique and real. 

Go green

If you do choose a local hotel, chances are it will be eco-friendly. But if you’re determined to stay in a larger chain, you can also reduce your carbon footprint by taking on a few green travel habits. Reuse your towels and sheets by selecting the card that comes with your room declining a change unless they become dirty. You should also bring a reusable water vessel to cut down on plastic waste.

Other ways to go green during travel are to use biodegradable or organic products that won’t cause damage to the environment. Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags. Those canvas totes you use for grocery shopping are a great way to bring your souvenirs back from the local markets.

Look for ways to volunteer

Anywhere you go in the world, there is always a place in need of volunteers. Take a look before you book your adventure and find a way to help the locals. It could be a few hours or even a few days of your trip, but it will mean the world to the people you help and you’ll gain the kind of experience that will bring you fulfillment.

We’ve been volunteering at Vallarta Food Bank as Covid-19 takes hold of people’s livelihoods in Puerto Vallarta. Find out about the Vallarta Food Bank and how you can help here.

Submit your travel shots for sale to Our Paper Promises

Disclaimer: Our Paper Promises is our new initiative!

In a nutshell, creators from all over the world will be able to submit their photos/art for print. 20% will go to the creator and 25% to the nonprofit. 

Every month we’ll be supporting a different nonprofit around the world to give them exposure and much-needed donations.

Our mission is to make Our Paper Promises a way for creators to give back and also make some money on the side to fund their journey. 

Don’t stop traveling either. Tourism is essential for every economy and every one of them will benefit from our visits if we find the proper ways to give back during your travels you help the communities you visit to thrive.

1. Hablas español?

While you don’t need to be a fluent Spanish speaker it is a good idea to pick up some key phrases and make an effort to speak the language.

A few phrases we recommend learning are:

  • “hola” (hello),
  • “por favor”(please)
  • “buenos dias” (good morning),
  • “buenas tardes” (good afternoon) and
  • “adios” (good-bye) or
  • “hasta luego” (see you later)
  • “habla despacio” (speak lowly) or
  • “otra vez por favor” (once again please}

2. Be Polite

Mexicans are some of the politest and friendliest people you will ever meet and you should match that by using niceties, so at the risk of sounding like your Mother remember to mind your Ps and Qs.

Always greet people when you enter and use “Desculpe” (excuse me) before asking a question of or directions. It also pays to ask if they speak English before assuming they do and launching into a request.

Mexican communication is more subtle than a lot of tourists are used to and being too direct can come across rude or even aggressive. This is especially true of American communication and Kiwi’s probably lay somewhere in the middle with our direct-ness.

A good example of this is if a street vendor approaches you or offers you something, you should say “Buena Suerte” (good luck) or “Muchos Gracias Ahorito No” (thanks very much. not now) not ‘no gracias’ (No thank you).  It is kind of like the Kiwi ‘yeah, nah’, let them down gently.

3. Take it easy

In Mexico everything moves at a slower pace so you’re better off relaxing and accepting that before you arrive than getting your knickers in a twist. Getting frustrated is only going to get you labelled as rude and then you’ll never get anything done.

As a US citizen regardless of if you are in the country to not or paying taxes to another country, you need to file your US taxes while you are overseas.

After neglecting my US tax obligations for years while in New Zealand before we left New Zealand and hit the road I knew I had to take my head out of the sand and get it sorted.

I had been in New Zealand for over 5 years without filing. Luckily there is a process for Americans in this situation – the Streamlined Process so I’m guessing it’s not uncommon. It doesn’t come cheap but it allows you to catch up with your US tax filings without facing any penalties nor any undue scrutiny by the IRS.

How much does it cost?

I’m sure it’s possible to do it yourself and save some coin but I chose to have an accountant do it which set me back $1,276 for the Streamlined Process plus the current years return.

Wondering if you qualify for the Streamlines Process?

To qualify for this amnesty program you must

  • File your last 3 federal tax returns
  • File your last 6 FBARS (Foreign Bank Account Reports), required in years when you had over $10,000 in foreign accounts
  • Pay any taxes due (often nil, once you claim one or more expat exclusions)
  • Self-certify that your previous failure to file was non-willful  (conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.

How does it work?

I filled out a quick form online at BrightTax! and scheduled a call with my assigned CPA to give them the lowdown on my situation, they confirmed I’d be eligible for the process and once I paid the 30% deposit (balance due on filing) we got underway.

I had to supply information for the past 5 years including:

  • Employer name and address
  • Dates of employment 
  • Income
  • Taxes paid
  • Deductions and expenses

I was a little bamboozled at first and reminded why I had put this off for so long but eventually figured out it was actually pretty simple and I could get all of my records from the NZ Tax service IRD and I was away laughing.

I happened to submit return during peak tax season in the states so it took close to six weeks for BrightTax! to complete but off-peak you’re looking at only 2 – 4 weeks to wrap it all up.

I was relieved to find out I didn’t own anything to IRS, phew!

What happens next?

The completed Streamlined paperwork needed to be mailed to the IRS in Austin, Texas. Being in Sayulita, Mexico where there is no post office and in the middle of a pandemic, this was the most difficult part. We ordered a DHL to collect the package for $33 on a 3-day delivery service. The next day we received a call from a lost driver, he couldn’t find our casa and didn’t speak English so we had fun trying to direct him to our location. Once he arrived we handed over the envelope and the waybill and he asked for some pesos, umm but we paid online? We showed him the receipt and whipped out Google translate to explain we’d already paid but he insisted that it hadn’t been. The transaction was showing as pending on our bank statement (in transit between our account and DHL’s) so we gave the driver the benefit of the doubt and paid, again to send the taxes to the IRS.

We’ve contacted DHL twice and not even an acknowledgment of the email so we aren’t holding our breath to get that money back.

Cost: Antelope Canyon Walking Tour
= $109 for 2 x adults, (1-hour tour)

This is one of those places that pops up a lot on Instagram with unreal looking photos and you can’t help but wonder if it’s just hype and clever photography – it’s not! It’s even more beautiful in real life.

Antelope Canyon is a ‘slot canyon’, a cave/tunnel formed in the red sandstone by seasonal flood rains and wind over. The narrow openings allow the light in, reflecting and illuminating the rock.

To take advantage of the best light for photographs in the canyon try and time your tour to fall between 11am to 1pm, from March to October.

The tour, which you have to take to get in to see Antelope Canyon, because it is on a Navajo Indian Tribal Lands is great, our guide was super knowledgeable about the geology, history, photography and loads more which made the experience even more enjoyable. The tour groups are small so you get a good run through, don’t feel rushed and get the space to take the dreamy IG pics.

There are loads of different tour companies available offering tours of both the upper and lower canyon. We used and highly recommend Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours.

We took hundreds of photos, here are just a few highlights.

When we first started looking at traveling and working online one of the biggest questions we had was how much does it actually cost and how much do we need to earn?

Expenses vary country-to-country and even city-to-city so we have been keeping track of all of our expenses from beer to rent and documenting it to provide some understanding for anyone looking to go down this path. 

Below is a full list of all our expenses and income from 1 – 30 April 2020 in Sayulita Mexico. We are currently in quarantine due to COVID-19 so haven’t been able to do any tourist activities, eat out (other than a few delivery splurges) or travel this month.

April Expenses                                            

Rent – $389.00
Cellphone -$8.00
Groceries – $253.31
Alcohol and Cigarettes – $106.00
Toiletries – $22.00
Laundry – $21.36
Shortcut to Spanish Online Course – $116.00
Subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, Gym) – $29.98
Laptop Repayments – $91.00
Other – $305.00

Total expenses  – $1,341.65
Income – $2,683.00
Saved – $1,341.35

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