Enter reverse-culture shock, as alive and well as ever. We are familiar, of course, having previously endured it. But it prevails. Even knowing what it will be like. Even having previous experience with this strange idea. Even feeling prepared. It’s here. The feeling of being in a foreign land even though we are “at home”. Thats right, we are back in the land of flushing toilet paper.
Today I sit in Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico. Exactly where I sat 1 year ago today. It is no new news that our compass appears not just broken but totally deranged, leading us back here and not south to Central America where we were sure you would find us about now. There have been a lot of memorable moments and lessons learned from these last 426 days on the road~ not the least of which is that life is uncertain.
It has been nearly 14 months since we crossed the border south into Mexico. Nearly 14 months of fascinating history, delicious food, gorgeous countryside, and friendly people. Nearly 14 months and thousands of miles covering all of Baja and the vast majority of the mainland. During our time there, we have been disheartened again and again with the negative media regarding this most beloved destination. The myths of Mexico as highlighted in the media are profound.
What a great life we lead! We slept in a bit this morning after the fun of the 2nd annual La Ventana hot dog crawl and a few too many cocktails. The sun was peeking its way over the horizon on the Sea of Cortez and it was just chilly enough to really enjoy our cup of brew as we meandered the beach watching Aspen chase her coconut. The wander home culminated in the wonderful surprise of seeing Kato & George from 2born2travel had nominated us for the Versatile Blogger Award!
In 2015 my word for the year ahead was transformation and wow, did we ever do it up right. We sold our house and the majority of our material goods, we moved into our camper and headed south to points unknown in search of a different lifestyle.
2016 found me choosing surprise as my word for the year and, once again, the universe provided. In fact, no one is more surprised than I to find myself not somewhere in southern Central America, but back in Mexico!
For 2017 I may have found the perfect word to truly describe not just the year ahead, but a more general thought on our life in general:
Overlanders depend on their gear. After all, most of us are homeless in the traditional sense. The road is our home, and the gear we travel with can make or break the trip. As very active campers even in our old life, we were quite certain what cooking gear was going to make the list for the PanAm. Although we quibbled over and considered a few items, one item never in doubt was our Lodge Dutch Oven.
This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 9
I know, I know.. I”m a day behind in my challenge quest. My adventure challenge turned into a two day jaunt between the mountains, and a surf camp on the Pacific!
Now I am back in the land of the internet and ready to continue my blog challenge! I expected Natalie’s 10 Day challenge to become more, well, challenging as it progressed. In my case, what to write about is getting easier because I am already living a nomadic, location independent life!
And here is what I’ve learned. It’s HARD. Life balance is a mystery to most folks, even if that life involves a 9-5, and relatively set schedule. Something always seems to take a back seat in the quest to make 24 hours last longer. Often that is exercise. Or seeing friends. Or spending time with your significant other.
Magnify these challenges with life on the road. Now, as Natalie states in her video for day 9, there are many ways to live a location independent life. Whereas at this time we are very, very nomadic, our end goal is actually to start making a good enough living to live anywhere we want in the world, at any time we wish.
However, for now I will just address my life as it exists today. These last two days is a mere snippet of what our daily life entails. Travel days are simply hard. We do our best; we have the camper nearly ready to go the night before. We get up early. We eat a quick breakfast. We start the day with a positive mindset. Often, it all goes well. Yesterday, it did not.
Two days ago, we spent over three hours attempting to send money to our house rental in Guatemala… unsuccessfully I might add. We are still trying to work it.
After a lovely evening at Hierve de Aqua, high in the hills of the Oaxaca Valley, we prepared to head towards the state of Chiapas, which requires heading to the Gulf of Mexico, or the Pacific. We chose the Pacific and spent seven hours driving a mere 180 miles, along endlessly scenic, but also endlessly winding roads. The views were stunning, but by hour 5.5, as the heat index rose, and the exhaustion of Mexico driving kicked in, crankiness ensued. By the time we reached camp the temperature on the dash read 102 degrees, and I think the temperature in the truck may have been even hotter as tempers flared.
We had been advised the camp had internet. I needed to check emails and write this post. It didn’t. Aspen was melting into a ball of black fur. Sweat ran like torrential downpour down my body as we got a quick camp set up. I was angry. Angry at the lack of internet. Angry at the 10 minute walk to the actual ocean. Angry at Jim, for no other reason than I couldn’t very well be pissed at Aspen right? Angry at the heat.
And then we took some deep breaths. We had a tequila shot. Then an ice cold beer. We found a place in the shade where the breeze hit and spent some time reading. I took Aspen into the shower to wet her down, and reduce her panting. We chatted with the surfers in residence, mostly about the heat. I started to focus on the joy of not “having” to do anything, at least for now.
Today, we were back on the road. After a warm night, we headed first to the beach so Aspen could fetch coconuts in the Pacific. We once again headed to the verdant green hills to Chiapas state. The feared roadblocks and protests failed to surface, and the road was smooth, and relatively straight. Tempers stayed in check, and the temperature at camp was manageable. Back in the land of Wi-Fi, the laptop once again reigns as I return emails, check work deadlines, and write this post while we catch up with the last couple of weeks of Master Chef.
The life nomadic requires the utmost in flexibility. It requires ordinary challenges made extraordinary with language barriers and cultural differences. It requires discipline and the ability to deal with slow, or nonexistent, internet. It requires patience and tolerance and a very, very strong desire to make it work.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. That dream of “location independent” is real. The ability to choose when and where I work is a treasure like no other. After decades of being forced to pretend to work until my shift was over, after having to go to work the day after Thanksgiving, even when nothing would be happening. Those days are over. Yes, I am now working at 8pm on a Monday night. But I am sitting in Chiapas, Mexico. I am cozy in my camper with my husband, watching Master Chef and dreaming of new dishes to create. Aspen is nestled in for the night, after finishing off a special chew bone reward after being extremely patient herself these last two days.
At some point, my version of location independence is bound to change. I envision a continuation of my globe trotting ways, but perhaps house rentals for several months at a time. Perhaps a set location, with multiple trips each year to exotic destinations. Where the road will lead, I am uncertain. What I AM certain of, is there is no going back!
We miss our people, our tribe. Especially now, during in what is low season in central Mexico (although why that is I am baffled), among empty campgrounds, we are missing those we love. With no new overlanders to connect with, our thoughts turn, even more, to friends back home.
Lesson learned. Do not, and I repeat, do not, rent an apartment prior to arriving in town. Our three months in Puerto Vallarta was wonderful.. until it wasn’t. So much of our time was great; We got a lot of work done, writing for me and the launch of Jim’s first amazon product. We had visitors in the form of Jim’s parents and friends Dave and Anne. We swam and practiced yoga nearly daily. We enjoyed an extended time in one of our favorite cities in the world.