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June 26, 2020, 5:40 p.m. EDT

Great Escapes: Carl Emberson of Punta Mita on His Favorite Ways to Escape Without Traveling

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Editor’s note: Every Friday Penta runs a travel feature called Great Escapes, a guide to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places around the world. As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, we’ve decided to focus on escapes closer to home—or, more accurately, in the home—asking notable people about the art, literature, habits, and more that are helping them through this difficult time.

The coronavirus pandemic has left its mark across the entire global tourism industry, though some areas in particular have borne the brunt of the economic devastation. This includes resort towns and communities where the bulk of residents are directly employed by that sector of the economy.

One such example is Punta Mita , a 1,500-acre resort and residential community north of Puerto Vallarta, along the Riviera Nayarit. Punta Mita is home to swanky properties such as the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, two Jack Nicklaus Signature Championship golf courses, 17 residential communities—and 1,100 families in the town of Punta de Mita itself, nearly all of whom have lost their income.

Punta de Mita consists of over 20 restaurants and bars, a number of clothing stores, a few grocery stores and pharmacies, tour operators, and more—with a population of over 3,500 people,” says Carl Emberson , Punta Mita’s director of operations. 

He says that 95% of the community is currently out of work, with the entire region’s business plan effectively shut down. “It is literally a ghost town.”

In what should be one of the busiest and most lucrative times of the year, parents are out of work and struggling to provide for their families. As has been the case in many regions, the matter was made worse with children out of school.

“As soon as rumor had it that schools would close, our concern was immediately feeding the children,” Emberson says. “We have always been proactive with the well-being of the community Punta de Mita, as it is literally a part of our community.”

He and his organization took prompt action in early March through several interconnecting agencies, including Fundacion PEACE Punta de Mita and the newly created Fundacion DINE Punta Mita.

So far, the organization has been able to distribute 8,000 weekly family food baskets (over 17 tons of food), serving some 800 families per week. The aim is to continue providing the food and groceries through the end of August, as even with Punta Mita scheduled to reopen July 1, it will be a slow build-up to normalcy and full operations.

“We stand ready to continue this initiative pending the community’s needs,” Emberson says.

Emberson, 57, spoke with Penta about his favorite ways to escape without traveling.

Cooking . “I cook dishes that remind me of people and places. From my childhood in Fiji, kokoda, a Fijian ceviche-type dish takes me back to those days. I made a Pavlova for Mother’s Day as Mum lives in Sydney, and this was a way for me to travel to see her, so to speak; and I grill a lot of ribeye with chimichurri, which takes me to my years in Argentina, pairing it with a bold Malbec. Food and cooking is my No. 1  mental escape.”

Running and reading . “I run a 5K everyday with Caddy, my goldendoodle, through Punta Mita and back to my home near one of the destination’s two 18-hole golf courses. If I have extra downtime, I have been reading a couple of books including: Untamed By Glennon Doyle & Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazi .”

Golf . “I practice golf a lot! One of the courses here at Punta Mita has been open for me to work on my swing and perfect my putting. Golf is my personal form of meditation and proffered method of grabbing some fresh Punta Mita air.”

Mood playlists . “I enjoy listening to music and setting up playlists for different moments. We set up various Spotify playlists at Punta Mita for every mood and activity—including golf, sunsets, romance, and more. This is a fun way for me to escape, and also to transport travelers to our destination when they can’t be with us at the moment.”

Live videos . “I have stayed busy conducting Instagram Lives. This is my way to escape personally, but also a way to provide fans, homeowners, and guests of Punta Mita a way to escape at home. I conduct IG Lives every two days called ‘Check-in.’ These 20 minutes allow me to escape by keeping me connected with Punta Mita fans and friends.”

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