Last September we celebrated Expats In Mexico’s second anniversary with our Mexico Moments Photo Contest. The third-place winner was Kristina Bakrevski, a thirty-two-year-old freelance photographer from Los Angeles who captured an ethereal image of life in Mexico City.
“I went to Baja a lot as a kid because I grew up in L.A. and our family would drive down to Rosarito Beach and Ensenada on vacation,” Bakrevski said. “Years later when I was living in San Francisco friends would tell me they had just come back from Mexico City and thought it was amazing. So, my mom and I did a little mother-daughter trip three years ago. I was so in love with the city that I didn’t want to come back.”
They spent 10 days exploring the many well-known archeological and art museums in Mexico City. Her favorite was the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House for its cobalt-blue walls, located in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán.
“It was like a lifelong dream come true for me,” she said. “I even got a sugar skull tattoo!”
Bakrevski grew up in Agoura Hills, California, just west of the San Fernando Valley. Her mother’s parents came to the U.S. from Mexico, but her dad arrived in 1969 from Yugoslavia while still in high school.
“Grandma is from Guadalajara and grandpa is from Juárez, so Mexico exerts a strong pull on me,” she said.
After high school, Bakrevski enrolled as a theater major at California State University, Northridge in the San Fernando Valley and graduated with a bachelor’s degree just as the Great Recession in the U.S. began.
“I really wanted a full-time job in the entertainment industry and spent about a year looking for entry-level positions, which was hard because of the recession,” she said. “I eventually found a job working for NBC Universal and E! Networks. I was a production assistant for several years and then moved to San Francisco for a while. That’s where I started my photography business.”
After several years in the Bay Area, Bakrevski returned to Los Angeles and set-up her freelance photography business in downtown L.A. She runs her business out of her home, which she shares with a friend who is a musician. She does a lot of portrait work, but photographing events are her bread and butter.
“I shoot all different types of parties, brand activations and festivals,” she said. “I used to do a lot more nightlife, but a big chunk of my portfolio now is travel work. The first time I went to Mexico on a professional assignment I shot a Dia de los Muertos festival in Mexico City for Fest300, now called Everfest, a website that shows the best festivals from around the world. I always wanted to go back to Mexico City after my trip with my mother and that was the perfect opportunity, and I got paid for it!”
Last year, Bakrevski spent New Year’s Day in Baja California Norte’s Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s version of California’s Napa Valley, and then returned in March for photo assignments in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Costa Careyes.
“Oaxaca really made an impression on me,” she said. “It’s where Mexican culture flourishes. The food, the color and the traditions are just so vibrant and rich. People from around the world were there because it was Dia de los Muertos, so it really felt like an international destination.”
She was on a photo assignment in Oaxaca for the mezcal producer Gem & Bolt photographing VIPs who were there to see how mezcal was made.
“I learned a lot about the agave plant and the process of making mezcal,” she said, “but I really loved the picnic we had in the agave fields. The food in Oaxaca is just insane!”
After her Oaxaca assignment, she flew to Puerto Vallarta, but stayed just long enough to rent a car for the three-hour drive south to Costa Careyes, the internationally-famous resort area about a two-hour drive north of Manzanillo.
“I was in Careyes for about a week,” Bakrevski said. “It was so gorgeous there. I photographed a festival that was held in different locations, but I stayed with a media team in a very large villa with a large swimming pool. It was so indescribably beautiful. I fell in love with the jungle on that trip.”
But one of her favorite spots in Mexico is close to home, the Valle de Guadalupe, which she visited many times during her childhood.
“I always say it’s like Napa, but 60 percent off,” she told us. “There are beautiful wineries, amazing restaurants, world-class chefs and wonderful boutique hotels. It’s situated in a very remote area about 45-minutes from Ensenada. It’s a place where I can really download.”
She wants to explore as much of Mexico as she can in the years ahead, hoping to make her home in the land of her grandparents’ birth.
“Living in Mexico is my goal,” she said. “I want to get a good feeling for the motherland and understand it much better. High on my list is a return to Oaxaca and trips to Guadalajara – where grandma lived – and Tulum.”
She may be heading to Tulum first, but is concerned with the ecology of the area.
“I really want to explore Tulum, but I am worried about adding to the ecological footprint there,” she said. “Tourism and development have hit that area pretty hard and I am concerned for the environment.”
She has gotten a good taste of Mexico through her photography assignments and wants more, much more.
“I literally fantasize about pulling an exit, an escape plan, and moving to Mexico City or living on a beach somewhere,” she said. “I’m looking for a simpler life. When I’m done with L.A., I don’t see myself anywhere else in the U.S. I always said, if there is a way I could move down there and make dollars instead of pesos, I would be set.”
Dreams come true in Mexico for adventurers like Kristina. Just ask the thousands of expats who live there, especially those who are living the Digital Nomad lifestyle she so desires.