I would say my relationship with my family and friends started to change when I moved overseas for the first time about seventeen years ago. Making the decision to travel long-term changes our world view so dramatically it’s often difficult to return to the same relationships and even when we do they are not the same because we have changed so much.
My belief system changed when I was 19 and on my first overseas trip to Myanmar. I’m from a very small town in rural America and I had no world view. I was raised with a few thousand people that for the most part are exactly the same. There’s not much diversity for the fact that they don’t welcome it. I saw how close minded I was and how I had been taught (mostly silently) that people who are different from me are less than or bad. I realized that there was so much more to see and experience. I realized how different and how alike we all are. I also learned that we always fear what we do not understand and that would impact me until this day. I wouldn’t say I have overcome fear. I have got comfortable feeling fear and acting anyway. Every time I do something new I feel fear. Every single time.
I returned to the U.S. ten years ago after getting malaria in Kenya. I knew Colorado would be a tough transition for many reasons including the change in climate. I decided to move to Tucson, Arizona and a few months later I met my husband on a blind date. We traveled together for a year before having kids and now we are traveling with our two sons. I feel like my husband and I have a much better relationship when we are traveling. Life, in general, is lighter and more carefree. We have more time and more fun and that’s always good for our relationship.
In some ways, our life is very similar to how it was before we moved to Mexico. Toddlers are still toddlers. We still own our businesses. My husband and I started a business together in 2008 and it has evolved into my consulting business. He does a little web design but for the most part, he is fully in his art business. He paints on the iPad and sells limited edition metal art online. I facilitate masterminds for female entrepreneurs and I have recently written a book called Success Redefined Travel, Motherhood, & Being the Boss. We still work and play. I would say the thing that impacts us the most, however, is the change of environment. We are living in a country where I feel much more supported as a mother. It’s very family friendly in Mexico. They love kids. They expect kids to act like kids here. In the U.S. kids are expected to act like adults. Parents have many pressures on them and it feels nearly impossible to do “good enough” there. In Mexico, we take more time to do fun things. Meals are longer. We walk everywhere. We spend less time working. We go with the flow more.
Because of my travels, I have changed entirely. I’m not who I was raised to be. I’m not religious in the traditional sense. After I started traveling I began an inward journey. I sought out to find what spirituality meant to me. I am pretty liberal. I’m inclusive. I believe everyone should be able to love and live as they choose. I don’t believe that anyone on the planet is illegal. I see borders as absurd. I don’t buy into the philosophy of hard work or martyrdom. I believe in living well and deliberately choosing my life. I would like to believe I have become a more compassionate and tolerant human being. I also have to say I have become more protective of my time and energy. I am incredibly particular who I allow in my inner circle and that has been very good for me. I would say the most valuable skill I have learned here (and everywhere I’ve lived) is to ask for help, to ask questions and to receive help.
There have been challenges, though. When I first started traveling I went everywhere by myself. That in and of itself was a huge challenge. I lived a very sheltered life and so this shift to independence had lots of growing pains. Looking back it was the single best thing I did for myself, my husband and my children because I know who I am as a woman. I overcame getting the deadliest strain of malaria while living in Kenya. I had always been healthy and suddenly I was bedridden for almost a year. The contrast in life helped me see how valuable good health really is. Later when my husband and I traveled together we had to overcome our clients backlash about out decision to leave the U.S. for a year. After we returned to the U.S. I had two babies in twelve months and had severe complications after birth that were life threatening. We also almost lost both our boys as babies. As a mother, this is extremely painful and yet it’s also when I found my strength. I fought for my own life and the lives of my children.
I would say the biggest challenge I face as a full-time traveler is the amount of criticism I receive. People who never travel or don’t feel the have the means to travel are the first to say my life is not good for my kids or that I am out of touch with “reality”. Truthfully I am out of touch with a reality that blames others for circumstances. In my life and business, I am passionate about empowerment. Most people don’t realize the biggest challenge standing in their way of having an amazing life is that they are unwilling to take ownership of their decisions. Spanish has also been a challenge for me. However, I’m focused on classes this quarter and I am excited to learn this language.
Professionally, the accomplishment I am most proud of is creating reoccurring monthly income for nine years in a row. Most people who start businesses dream of steady cash flow and I have experienced it. Personally, my kids make me incredibly proud. They are complete miracles and bring me tons of joy.
I can’t say I miss anything about living in the U.S. but that took time. In the beginning, I did. I missed some foods and some systems and procedures. Now what I miss is how simply my life was when I first moved overseas. There was no social media and I rarely even used email. I appreciate how technology connects me to my clients around the world and yet it was very nice to live without it.
Stuff, in general, is no longer important to me. When I moved to Tucson after being out of the U.S. for most of my twenties I thought I had missed out on something. My friends had gone to college (I did not), they were married, they had bought houses and cars and I had a suitcase of dusty clothes. My husband and I bought a house our first year of marriage and the second we did, I knew I didn’t want it. I didn’t realize how travel had given me a taste for experiences and I lost so much of my desire for status symbols in my country.
The defining moment of my life since leaving the U.S. nine months ago was when a client wrote a nasty blog post about my choice to travel. I lost clients over it. I lost friends over it. At first, it was painful and confusing and then I found my fierce, take no prisoners self. I raised the bar in my life and that was the best thing I could have ever asked for. I have a good life and a good family. I don’t need the whole world to understand it, I simply enjoy it.
I spend my free time downtown and in our favorite plazas eating street tacos and churros. When the boys are napping I sometimes sneak away for yoga, a walk or nap myself. My boys just turned two and three and the move has been good for them. They are loved by so many and are very happy. I believe kids pick up on the energy of their parents, particularly their mother in the early years and so having me happy and light is a good thing for them. My life is meaningful because it’s deliberately simple. I love a good cup of tea or playing Legos with my boys or having a nice dinner with my husband. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. It has brought me to the beautiful place I am today.