LIVE and Give(away) Tijuana Trip Recap
LIVE A GREAT STORY teamed up with SOLO Eyewear and The Greatness Foundation for the Live and Give(away) contest where 1000+ people entered to win an all expenses paid trip to Tijuana with both of our companies.
1 person was selected and he got to bring one friend (hi Tommy and Henry!)
To say that it was awesome trip would be an understatement. The three-night Baja adventure was a whirlwind trip during which we racked up over 700 miles on the Sprinter (thanks Sprinter Rentals). Stops included orphanages, a house build, a medical clinic and a non-profit fundraiser in the middle of a vineyard.
We’re bummed you couldn’t be there but we will be doing more of these so definitely keep an eye out for the next announcement. In the meantime check out how the trip went down.
2pm Team Meetup
Our group met up in Little Italy, San Diego to pack the Sprinter and set off for the border. Tijuana is actually only about a 20 minute drive from Downtown San Diego (most people don’t realize that!)
We were 7 total and the van had more than enough room for all of our gear so it was nice and cozy. There’s so much room in a Sprinter van that you can actually STAND UP and this one had room in the back to fit a small bed.
Our first stop was an orphanage. One of our travel companions for the trip, Amar, volunteers most of his time to Corazon De Vida, which is an organization dedicated to working with Tijuana orphanages.
“You’d think that these places are filled with sadness, but these orphanages are different. These orphanages are homes, and they are filled with love.” Amar told us as the van pulled into the driveway.
We arrived at the same time as some of the school age children, so each of us was greeted with a hug upon exiting the Sprinter van. As we walked through we were accompanied by excited children with bright smiles. We explored the dorms, the playground, and the study rooms/classrooms upstairs where Amar teaches the kids how to use computers and code (seriously! There’s barely enough electricity but they’re learning computer programming!)
“Many of them will age out of the orphanage so our goal is to make sure they have the life skills needed to find work and take care of themselves so they don’t end up on the street.” He told us.
We spent some time chatting with the caretakers and the director of that specific home. Each person we met had a considerable amount of patience and compassion. The couple that runs this orphanage actually lives in San Bernardino (about 5 hours away) and they commute every Monday.
We checked into OneBunk which was a really cool and contemporary hotel / hostel right on the main street called Revolución Ave. With Tijuana’s growth, the culture of the city is really thriving. The food and drinks selection is great, there’s tons to do and just in general the city is growing as a tourist destination. It’s so easy to hop across the border and visit another country!
***Is it dangerous??***
Not once on the whole trip did we feel in any sort of danger. Tijuana has really cleaned up their act in the last couple years and the city is on the up and up. Most of the bad things you hear about TJ is just residual from the past. In fact, TJ is not even in the top 25 most dangerous cities in the world. You know what cities are? New Orleans, Detroit and Baltimore.
Did you know the original Caesar salad originated in Tijuana?!
Yep. By two Italian Chefs! The home of the Caesar Salad is of course called Caesar’s Restaurant. They make the salad right in front of you in big wooden bowls, and explain the ingredients, the process, and the whole back story while whipping up the salad.
It. Was. Amazing. Definitely the best Caesar salad we ever had.
We wanted to cruise around for a bit so we hit the streets and ended up grabbing some drinks at Cine Tonala. It’s a cool outside patio that overlooks Revolucion Ave. It was Thursday so there was lots happening but we called it early because the next morning we had to hit the road by 7!
We all piled in the Sprinter and took off South. From Tijuana the main highway runs down the coast through Baja along the water and it’s a really nice drive. The area is filled with gated communities that sit right on the water and there’s supposedly excellent surfing.
We were headed to visit a second orphanage near the Valle de Guadalupe which everyone calls “The Next Napa” . This certain area has played a prominent role in the rise of the entire Baja tourism growth.
On the way we pulled off the side of the road at a lean-to shack which is exactly what you’d expect. We are skeptical but the two Federales (Police Officers) sitting at a table validated Amar’s decision and dismissed our initial thoughts. If the police like it, it must be good.
Long story short, we had the most delicious cheese quesadillas and breakfast burritos ever. They didn’t agree with Annabelle’s stomach but she said they were “TOTALLY WORTH IT.”
**Just eat the food. Seriously just do it. At some point during your Mexico visit, no matter in Baja or the beaches or Mexico City you’ll probably face Montezuma’s Revenge but that’s just part of it… eat the delicious tacos.
We arrived at the orphanage and got the full tour.
The property was huge and had a bunch of small buildings scattered around a center playground/courtyard.
One building was teenage girls, another was the boys. Then separate buildings for toddler boys and girls.
When we approached the door of the toddler boys “house” they recognized Amars voice and suddenly we hear a chorus of about 20 little voices calling out “Amigo! Amigo! Amigo!” with their faces pressed up against the screen door.
“They don’t remember my name so they call me Amigo” (Amigo mean friend in Spanish)
Listening to them call out to Amar melted everyone’s heart, and as soon their care taker opened the door, about 10 tiny humans rushed out and gave each of us a hug.
We spent a while playing soccer, throwing balls, swinging and playing around with the kids before getting the rest of the tour.
This particular orphanage sits on a lot of land that they actually use for farming so Amar gave us a tour of some of the agricultural projects happening. They had recent solar projects installed which is a big help since up to 30% of the costs of running an orphanage is electricity and power.
They also have a section for cows and peppers!
We piled back in the car and hit the road to go meet up with The Greatness Foundation on one of their group builds. The Greatness Foundation is a really cool non-profit focused on providing resources and opportunities for people to “be more, do more and give more”.
They’ve partnered with Baja Bound over the last couple years and together, they have helped build 10 houses families in need.
The build was really cool and we had about 40-50 people out there helping with tasks ranging from painting to nailing to cutting lumber. It was really cool to see everyone working together to bring this family a home.
The family was right along side helping! The mother and children were right there with us rolling paint onto their future walls.
The children from the neighboring towns cam to hang out and play games too. It was a pretty fun day!
By the time the walls were up, we were ready for Tacos y Cervezas. We all piled in respective vehicles en route to a taco shop on the main drag.
They. were. Delicious. Especially after a (kind of) hot day of manual labor, they were so good. The cold cervezas were a definite bonus.
Baja Bound organizes a build every week so they have a house that they rent (it can sleep like 60 people!) and that’s where the Greatness Foundation crew usually spends their weekend. That night we all gathered at this house (after an epiccccc sunset) for a group session.
We sat in a big circle in the living room and listened to Carla speak. Carla and her family had been a recipient of a house, and she talked about how it changed her life. After the build and working Baja Bound, she received a scholarship through them and was able to go to school. Now she’s working to become a doctor!
We had to hit the road for still another 3 hour drive even further south so we could wake up early to work at the Flying Samaritans Clinic in San Quintin.
We arrived at the hotel a couple hours later only to realize that the hotel had given our rooms away! There was a miscommunication and sadly we didn’t have our rooms but it still ended up working out (it usually does). We had all of our camping gear so some of us had to sleep on the couch or on sleeping mats. All good!
We finally got to bed around 1am.
The Flying Samaritans are a group that host a medical clinic once a month in San Quintin. People come from across the area to get their vision tested, to see a nurse, to get dental surgery, to collect supplies, get vitamins and medicine and more.
SOLO donates eye care for all the glasses they sell so they’ve teamed up with this clinic to offer both glasses and sunglasses to those in need.
Our group helped in a variety of ways, ranging from performing eye tests to finding the right corrective lenses to being nurses aids and more.
It’s a devastating feeling to see a little girl try to take an eye test and not even be able to read the biggest line. Can you imagine what it’s like to see life so blurry? You wouldn’t be able to read, or go to school. You’d probably – Eye care is something that we take for granted here. Cause huge issues and help for them is rare.
Providing one of these people with pair of glasses can drastically improve their lives. Suddenly the world becomes clear – they can see the road ahead of them. (pun intended)
We spent all day at the clinic, providing eye tests, checking temperature, blood pressure, and weight and best of all, handing out glasses! We even got to tour some of the planes that the flying Samaritans use to fly down!
Off to the fundraiser! Corazon de Vida was hosting a fundraiser at the vineyard of the lady who runs the non-profit and it just happened to coincide with our last night so after working all day at the Clinic we headed straight back up towards the Valle.
If you don’t know about the Valle, it’s worth getting familiar. It’s an almost magical valley tucked into the mountains about an two hours from Tijuana and it. Is. gorgeous. They called it the “Next Napa” because the entire area is filled with vineyards.
We entered the fundraiser right at dusk. The atmosphere, the energy, the people.. It was all amazing and a great wrap for an eventful weekend. We ate and danced and drank good wine all night before crashing in our tents amongst the grapevines.
We slowly woke up with the sunrise and were graciously greeted by the owner of the vinyeard with hot coffee. The couple who run the vineyard and the nonprofit are amazing people who we really got to know this morning. We learned all about their story of coming to own the vineyard, their weekend commute down from San Diego, the issues with the neighbors and all of the intricacies of their operation. We eased into the day, drinking coffee and eating the most amazing torta breakfast whipped up by their chef from the night before.
Their chef was a young man who had been living at one of their orphanages and had just graduated from culinary school. His drive and enthusiasm for food definitely contributed to those egg, chorizo, mushroom tortas (my mouth is watering just writing this).
Back to SD. The drive to the border was about two hours through the mountains of Baja. We cut more inland instead of taking the coast and the scenery was stunning.
There happened to be some sort of bike race happening and we were just grateful to be in a big Sprinter climbing up and down those arid hills instead of on a road bike.
All in all it was quite the adventure with a perfect balance of hard work & fun.
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