2016-12-01 / ReBooted

Broken-Hearted in the Land of Romance

Jill Gleeson

Hopping a plane to Acapulco doesn’t sound terribly arduous, does it? All that sun, surf and sand. Acapulco, an exotic city on Mexico’s Pacific coast, is not a place where you go to be challenged. It’s a place where you go to leave challenges — and the real life that begets them — behind. Jet-setting types like John Wayne and Cary Grant knew that. Back in the ’50s and ’60s they made Acapulco their personal pleasure garden, hosting lavish parties that lasted for days on end and inventing whimsical tropical drinks, like original Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller’s famed coco loco.

But for me, Acapulco was a test. It was the first trip outside of the country I’d be taking since my longtime love left me, shattering my heart. Because he’s a travel writer like me, Wayne and I had spent our relationship wandering the world together. Travel had become inexorably tied to him, to memories I didn’t want to recall. As a result I was probably the first person on the planet to be uneasy about a trip to Acapulco. I actually had an anxiety attack on my Aeromexico flight into the city. Sweaty, shaking, I took a lot of deep breaths to beat it back. I hated how weak I’d become, how broken I felt.

Las Brisas, the resort where I was staying, was charming. Tucked away on 40 hillside acres, it’s so romantic Liz Taylor honeymooned there seven times. The accommodations are casitas — tiny, perfect cottages with their own little swimming pools. The whole place is more or less made for canoodling. And there I was, sad to my soul over the loss of the man with whom I planned to spend the rest of my life. Standing in the middle of that lovely casita, I started to cry. I didn’t want to be there and alone. I didn’t want to be anywhere and alone.

The next day I was whisked onto a boat and taken to see the legendary cliff divers of Acapulco, who’ve been leaping from bluffs 140 feet above the Pacific since 1934. They risked their lives with every plunge, I saw. The slightest error, the smallest miscalculation, and they would be dashed against the rocks. There’d be no surviving the impact. It was thrilling and terrifying in equal measure watching their bodies, arms outstretched until the last second, then pushed over their heads with hands brought together as if in prayer, the better to cleave the water.

They were artists as much as athletes, and there was remarkable beauty in their courage. I felt stronger just watching them. I thought about how I wanted to climb those mountains…how sometimes that goal seemed so far away. Impossible. But humans, I was reminded as I watched those men cheat death over and over again, are capable of amazing things.

I spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling the clear green waters surrounding Roqueta Island, where I couldn’t help but stretch my fingers out over and over in a futile attempt to touch the garishly colored tropical fish floating by me. I tried to paddle board, too. Tried. I’d done it successfully in Florida, but this time I couldn’t get much past standing up and I spent a lot more time in the water than on the board. Eventually, all that salt water and sun started to bring my freckles out and bleach away some of the melancholy I felt within. By the time I returned to my casita that night my anguish had quieted.

The next day we visited a market, where I splurged on a silver bracelet in the shape of a rose. Wayne had always chided me for being a spendthrift, so I didn’t buy much beyond essentials while we were together. This present to myself felt like a fresh beginning, much like my entire trip to Acapulco. I wasn’t a movie star, just an ordinary woman with a busted heart, but the place had worked a bit of its magic on me, too. •SCM

For more information, visit and

Jill Gleeson is getting set for the biggest adventure of her life. Follow her journey at

Return to top