We first started talking about visiting another country when Jasmine was in 6th grade and was determined to move to London when she got older. The conversation picked back up a few years later, but the location had changed to Paris. Some time after that, we got more serious but knew there were a number of hurdles in our way:
⦁ We didn’t think that their mom would want them to take such a long trip
⦁ There wasn’t enough residual income to keep us afloat while travelling
⦁ I didn’t have enough vacation time
⦁ I didn’t have enough savings
⦁ I had a car note, and was, in fact, behind on it
⦁ Our two cats would be difficult to manage and transport
⦁ It would be expensive to visit Europe (our first choice)
We continued to talk about our desire to experience a new culture over several years. There was talk of both moving and visiting many different places. We considered São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil for a while since we know someone who lives there (and had read how friendly the people are), but we decided against it.
Our second choice was Lisbon, Portugal. We looked at photos and marvelled at how beautiful the city looks online. Eventually, the absence of online employment coupled with the high cost of getting there ruled it out.
We looked at €1 houses in Italy and Ireland and contemplated moving to both, but they fell victim to the same limitations.
After a lot of research into which countries were both easily accessible to Americans and had friendly people, we landed on Mexico, a country we had previously overlooked due to the common misconception that the entire place is riddled with crime and murder. We learned that the border cities and states are pretty unsafe due to cartels and that certain tourist cities are higher in petty crime due to pickpockets and thieves, but we also learned that it’s like the U.S. in that the majority of the country is safe if you’re mindful.
Further research lead us to Mérida, Yucatán. It’s a beautiful city with friendly people, as well as the second safest city in North America. It would be cheap enough to fly there, but if a few ducks lined up in a row, we could also consider driving.
Over the next couple of years, several major events happened. My ex (their mother) fell ill with cancer and passed away, which increased their desire to travel, as not doing so was one of her biggest regrets. One of our cats lost his life to kidney failure. I got a promotion at work. Obviously, the first two were deeply emotional. The surprise comes from the third, which turned out to be as negative of an experience as it was positive.
At my previous position, I had a great deal of success, and until our company was bought out, I really enjoyed my work. After the buyout and a subsequent promotion, I fell hard into depression. It may have been my Imposter Syndrome thinking I shouldn’t be a manager, it may have been my ADHD not having a constantly changing workload to focus on, or it may have been my anxiety waiting on someone to think that my workload was too light. Most likely it was all of the above.
My activity level had reached near zero at work and home. The less I did, the less I wanted to do. I wasn’t sleeping. I was in the worst physical shape of my life, and suddenly, my emotional state was crashing too. Every time my age came up in thoughts or conversation, I was reminded of an unkept promise I made when my mother passed: to take some time for introspection and self-analysis and follow it up with whatever major life change I felt was needed. Needless to say, I was in a dark place.
Then, my father passed to Covid. My fear of dying young skyrocketed.
At this point, I took serious stock of my situation and decided that I needed change and I needed it soon. I paid off all of my bills and started looking at what type of trip we could take so that I might find the catharsis I desperately needed.
My oldest was out of school. My youngest had changed to online school. I would have to change her school from online public to online private, but that was doable. There was an increase in monthly recurring income followed by the promise of a large tax return. We could now afford to live in Mexico for a couple of years if we wanted, which was more than enough time for self-discovery and bonding with my children, but we would start with a few months and see how we feel about things.
As soon as I booked an AirBnB, out came the hurdles.
The IRS told me there was an error and I wouldn’t be receiving as much as expected. The van I bought needed both minor and major work. It took us longer to get packed than expected. All three hurdles combined took a large chunk out of our funds, and I had a decision to make… Do I cancel the trip or not? (There was one last unexpected $500 hurdle at the border.)
In my mind, it was too late. I’d have to fix the van no matter what. The lower income tax return just meant I’d have to start making money sooner than originally planned. None of the hurdles were trip ending, though it felt that way.
My anxiety was high, really high at times, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. The underlying fear that I’m 5-10 years from the end of my life was stronger than my anxiety, so I was unrelenting. This trip would happen if we had to hitchhike back. (We won’t!) We talked it over as a family and pushed forward.
I sold my PC. I sold two of our three cars. We packed our things into a generous friend’s attic, and off we went.