We’re staying in Puerto Vallarta from April 22 to May 20. We didn’t put a ton of planning into it – we mostly wanted to be somewhere hot and near the ocean. We found an Airbnb with some really great reviews that looked nice. So we went ahead and booked it.

On Friday, the day before we were leaving, Dixon (our Airbnb host) messaged to see if we wanted him to arrange to have a driver pick us up from the airport. That kind of thing is usually a little fancy-pants out of our travel budget but I had already noticed that when I plugged our official PV (Puerto Vallarta) Airbnb address in Google maps – spinning wheels. No results. I envisioned a challenging Spanglesh gong show of a confused communication trying to direct a taxi to a place that didn’t show up on GPS. So the idea of a driver who already knew where he was going – very appealing. 

So I asked Dixon the critical question – how much would it cost?

As part of getting organized for coming to Mexico – I had been through all my purses, pockets, jackets – all the stuff that had been in hibernation in our storage unit for many months. It was pretty rewarding. My little treasure hunt ended with  modest little piles of various currencies. Including 400 pesos (about $30 Canadian).

So when Dixon got back to me and told me that the price for the private driver would be 400 pesos – it felt like it was fated to be. Or in my problematic interpretation of finances, it felt like it was free. After all – I didn’t know I had 400 pesos until I happened to find it. It was bonus money that could just have easily been lost in a laundry incident or deeply buried in a bin in our storage unit. 

I got back to Dixon to tell him we were in. A big YES to the driver. 

Slightly problematic element – by this point Dixon and I had migrated to messaging on WhatsApp. I receive roughly 8000 messages a minutes from email, voicemail, texts, slack, various social media… In that churning cesspool, I didn’t see the message from Dixon about the cost until we were already at the airport on Saturday morning. 8 am for us – 6 am for Dixon – even though he had sent it the day before. 

So when I messaged my enthusiastic YES  to poor Dixon, at the crack of dawn, after leaving him hanging the day before – he would have been well within his rights to tell me too bad, you snooze, you lose. Or, more passive aggressively, just ignore me! Especially since I had to explain that I was about to get on the plane and would have to turn off my phone. Pretty much I was saying – I’m sorry I’m messaging you at six in the morning but can you get back to me right away!?

Less than a minute later, Dixon got back to me, no sign of any churlishness at all – I don’t know how he manages to convey such easy-going cheerfulness in short text messages – and said that Gus would be there waiting for us. 

He sent a photo of Gus. More accurately, a partial photo of Gus. It was a close-up, detailed photo of Gus’s forehead, eyes and part of his nose. It reminded me of Matt’s Calculus professor in the height of the pandemic who never did figure out Zoom and taught the whole course with his forehead. 

But more importantly, Dixon sent photos of Gus’s car, including the license plate, and instructions to meet in front of the OXXO (convenience store on every corner in Mexico) in the drop-off and pick-up area of the airport. The instructions felt very clear. He even sent a photo that showed the OXXO and the road in front of it. 

My only concern was  that once we landed in PV we wouldn’t have Internet right away and I wouldn’t be able to check messages. Rob manages how our cell phones work in different countries and it involves Jason Bourne style switching of chips and sighing, swearing and general hoopla on various websites to buy data. I’ve learned that my input is not helpful and my understanding of what is happening not necessary. In fact when I ask questions the sighing becomes more pronounced. I have learned to just be quietly grateful that I don’t have to be actively involved in figuring any of that out. 

It struck me as a bit risky to be meeting someone, who we could only identify from the nose up, without any way of exchanging messages. But the instructions seemed detailed enough and I took the whole 400 peso synchronicity as confirmation that it would all work out because (obviously) it was meant to be. 

I’ve flown into PV airport dozens of times. The customs hall is either an empty, echoing chamber or a total bedlam with stagnant knots of tourists hoping that, despite the evidence to the contrary, they are in some kind of line that will move forward in a predictable way. It can take hours or minutes. You never know. 

We lucked out and basically walked right through, hardly pausing to line up at all. Within minutes we were at the baggage carousal. And our bags come out right away.  The final hurdle was a baggage checkpoint. Before you can exit into the main airport and crack into margaritas and guac – you need to press a big button. Seriously, it’s like a stage prop. 

If the light flashes green – you just go on your merry way. If it flashes red, you get diverted to have your bags checked. It’s random and about 50% of passengers have to suffer the indignity of having their stuff searched. I don’t even know if I want to write this down because I don’t want to jinx it – but I have ALWAYS gotten a green light. Every single time. And the stars continued to be aligned last Saturday. Green light. We were through the entire airport experience in record time. 

As PV airport veterans, we walked through the gauntlet of aggressive timeshare sales people. The zealous shouting, personal space invasion and general shoving of things in your face is a little overwhelming but it is only about 20 meters of chaos. I get through  it by pretending I am a famous person pushing through a crowd of paparazzi. The trick is to walk with unrelenting purpose and avoid eye contact at all cost. 

Considering how empty the customs area was it was quite a shock to walk out through the main doors of the airport into a crowd of thousands of hot jostling tourists with piles of luggage and darting children. Everyone was waiting for a taxi. I’ve had to wait in that line up in the past and it can take hours. It’s a terrible feeling standing there, in your final layer of winter clothes, giving the death stare to anyone that looks like they are trying to bud in line. 

As we pushed our way through the teaming crowd, all I could think about was how grateful I was for Dixon and his wonderful friend-driver Gus. We found the OXXO right where Dixon said it would be – and then we bumped up against ambiguity. There was a parking lot in front of the OXXO. And the message had clearly said ‘in front of the OXXO’ but the parking lot only had tour buses and vans in it. There was a road off to the side of the OXXO – and this was the road that was in the photo Dixon sent me – that could be loosely interpreted as ‘in front of the OXXO’.

This is the ambiguous photo sent by Dixon- OXXO is the red roof in the background.

There was no Gus that we could see in either place. 


I had sent Dixon our flight info. But not only had our flight been early, we had also broken International travel speed records in getting through customs and getting our bags. It was entirely possible that Gus hadn’t arrived yet. 

Rob and I staked our argument territories. I wanted to wait right in front of the OXXO on the parking lot side. Rob wanted to wait on the sidewalk beside the road. Rob did have more logic on his side. The road option was a hotspot for car drop off’s and pickups – the parking lot wasn’t. And the road was in the photo. We knew the make of the car and the license plate and it clearly wasn’t in the parking lot. So we waited on the road.

Rob got into Mexico-mode straight away. He was super laid back and prepared to wait patiently and optimistically as though he was staring in a reggae video. The very essence of ‘don’t worry, be happy.’ I took the opposite approach. The longer we waited the more my anxiety climbed and the more (irrationally) I wanted to kick Rob and his zen-like composure. I paced around a few times to check the parking lot in front of the OXXO. No car that fit the description. Rob would  calmly shrug when I would come back and report no-Gus. 

‘What if Dixon sent a message that Gus isn’t coming after all?’ I kept asking (to Rob and the world at large). It was driving me crazy not being able to use my phone. ‘I’m just going to turn on roaming even though it will cost a bazillion dollars.’ I finally said. Rob gets very anxious about these unnecessary little expenses and I try to respect that but I was losing my mind. Rob said that we didn’t have roaming on our complicated phone plans. Further reinforcing my total lack of understanding of how our phones work outside of Canada. 

He did finally humor me by switching the chip in my phone and then doing something that ultimately didn’t work. ‘We’ll have to wait until we are at the Airbnb and have internet to set this up properly,’ he said.  Meanwhile I was practically lunging at every silvery sort of car that even remotely looked like the one in the photo that Dixon had sent. 

‘There must be wifi somewhere inside the airport,’ I finally said. Rob just shrugged – his eloquent way of saying – you do what you need to do, I’m grooving to my internal reggae here. 

I pushed my way back through the thousands of people fighting to the death for the sparse number of taxis. I wandered around inside until I found a bar with wifi. Eureka. It wasn’t a strong single but enough  to get ahold of Dixon – and it turns out that  he had been getting regular messages from Gus – who was waiting for us in front of the OXXO. At the parking lot. This boost of vindication calmed me right down. I glided back through the crowd on the wings of being right. 

So we hauled our stuff over to the proper meeting spot 🙂 But there was still no car there that matched the car in the photo. Not even close. There were a lot of people standing in front of the store. So we started scanning the crowd for likely looking foreheads. And there he was. Gus in person. 

He wasn’t angry or impatient or anything. Very lovely and friendly in fact. He told us that he was parked a little ways out and grabbed one of the big suitcases and started leading the way. It was a generous interpretation of ‘a little ways’ on his part. By the time we got to the spot where he had parked the car, I had easily achieved my steps for the day. The car itself was not even remotely the car in the photo. Gus just shrugged and said that one was in the shop.

Gus was nice and chatty and told us all sorts of interesting bits and bobs about PV. Including that we did not need to worry about danger from the cartel. According to Gus, they are heavily invested in development of real estate in this area – in building fancy hotels and condos. It would be very bad for business if it were dangerous for tourists. I have no idea how accurate this is but it was interesting. 

All told, even though it felt a lot longer when I was losing my nut, we were in the car and well on our way to our Airbnb within 30 minutes of leaving the airport. For that I am so grateful to Dixon – and for Gus. All these people standing in the chaotic taxi lines were guaranteed there way WAY longer than 30 minutes. So thank you thoughtful Dixon and patient Gus. 

Our roof-top pool. Pretty sweet!
Abandoned car parked across the street.
That yellow arrow is pointing to our Airbnb 🙂