Z: Zihuatanejo

April 30, 2015

If you’re going ‘Zih-WHAT?’, go watch The Shawshank Redemption. 

If you’re going ‘Zih-what-uh-ne-yo!!!’, you my friend, are either a very smart person who knows this is a beach town in Mexico, or you love the movie too. 

At the risk of giving away the plot of the classic 1994 movie that’s rated 9.4 on IMDB (I thought it would be an 8.2 or so!), Andy Dufresne is a convict, wrongfully sentenced to life for the murder of his wife. Zihuatanejo is a ‘warm place that has no memory’, where Andy Dufresne wishes to go to when he gets out of jail, and ‘finish out his life’. 

This post is not about the movie. It’s about the Zihuatanejo that most of us have built up in our heads. Most of us have a ‘want to do this‘ when we retire. Or when we quit our jobs. Or turn forty. 

I recently read a short story called ‘Retirement’ in by Gerard Durrell. It talks about the Captain of a ship who has been sailing since he was 16, on his last voyage before his retirement. The Captain talks with excitement about a small village where he has a house on the edge of a bay, where he can lie in bed and watch the gulls from his window and hear the sound of the sea. He plans to practise his calligraphy and paint and play the flute and make up to his patient wife for her years of loneliness. As it turns out, he suddenly drops dead on that very voyage. One of the closing lines in that story has stayed with me. 

‘I decided that retirement was something you should take a little bit of every day, like a tonic, for you never knew what awaited you around the corner.’  



Andy Dufresne made it to his Zihuatanejo. But who knows whether we’ll make it to the Zihuatanejos we’ve built in our heads? So many of us are living our lives as if we’re sentenced to it. We barely tolerate the jobs we’re in, the relationships we have, and are constantly unhappy about something. When I retire I’ll do this. When I finally quit my job and take a break, I’ll learn music. I want to make all my money by the time I’m forty and then retire. 

Sure, but what if your heart gave up first cos it was over-worked and stressed and couldn’t wait until retirement?

Instead, let’s really treat it like a tonic, and have a little bit of retirement every day. Or, like R puts it so well in this post, try and lead a ‘life that you don’t want to constantly escape’. 

Like Andy says, get busy living, or get busy dying. 



  1. Afraid to admit, Im one of those losers who hasnt seen the movie :S so I went Zih-whatthewhat?!
    But now, I want to watch it. And what I havent read Durrell in over a decade, this post makes me want to dig it out. So many simple everyday truths, stated so simply, matter of factly, no?

    • Go watch and tell me how you like it 🙂 Annnd I hadn’t read Durrell in over a decade either. In fact, this is only my second one. Happened to chance upon some at the library and picked up one. So good! (Note to myself: this is why libraries still rock)

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