The most noticeable thing about Baja (besides, of course, the stark beauty of the desert, the vast blue seas on either side of the mountains, the friendly people, awesome tacos and colorful culture) is the different shades of gringo.
On the light end of the gringo spectrum, you’ve got your rosy-cheeked young families on vacation, your fresh-off-the-plane northern retirees, and your honeymooners hiding under wide-brimmed hats. The darker varieties include the snowbirds who live here half the year, the college spring-breakers dedicated to tanning (and beer), and the ex-pats and mountain-cum-surfer vagabonds who are now Mexicans at heart. The shades of gringo hair vary inversely to the color of the skin: bleached and sun-streaked locks differentiate the long-timers from the Mexican newbies, with their darker and well-tamed hairdos.
Along with the amount of time spent in the country, the shade of the gringo can also indicate that particular foreigner’s willingness to meld with the culture, sink into Mexico’s rhythms, and embrace a new way of life. Or maybe the darker shade simply indicates the gringo’s willingness to shun the traditional 9-to-5-plus-2-weeks-vacation lifestyle favored by their lighter counterparts to the north.
Rob and me? I like to think we’re at the darker end of the gringo spectrum. We tend to embrace new customs quickly. We happily quit our 9-to-5 lifestyle. We are officially vagabonds. Unfortunately, our literal skin shade doesn’t match up … yet. It’s straight up white. Pasty, creamy, pale, translucent. Ghostly. Almost see-through.
I keep forgetting how white we are until I look down at my feet next to Katie’s, or see Rob standing next to our friends, Aldo and Bequia. In my mind, we’ve already transitioned into beach people, and the type of gringos who mingle with locals while throwing out Mexican slang. But in reality, we are the same shade as the tourists who sit under cabanas in Cabo.
I’m trying to be patient while my true shade of gringo slowly emerges. Sure, I want the bleached hair and tan skin that clearly define my place in the gringo spectrum. But I also don’t want skin cancer, and won’t roast myself on the sand like a turkey on a spit. We have the luxury of time, so I know it won’t be long before our bodies reflect the true nature of our vagabond souls.