This month’s blogging challenge from my online family travel group was to do a blog post that answers this question:

What was “The Moment” when you knew you wanted to travel or change your lifestyle?

After thinking about this project for a good three weeks, I’ve determined that perhaps there never was “THE moment”, rather an assortment of many moments that brought this realization to life.

For example, as a child I was never very attached to a single place. I was the kind of kid who literally begged my parents to move, simply because I wanted the adventure of a new home, new city, new school, etc. When I was thirteen I went to a theater camp for two weeks at a University two states away. My parents came to pick me up at the end of it, and I remember my Mom being very hurt that I didn’t really seem to care about returning home.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like my home or love my family (because both were exceptional), but I really had this strong desire to do something new, meet new people, and be challenged in a new way! Some psychiatrist out there will surely say I have issues of some sort…(right?!) but the truth is that I’ve always been drawn to something outside of the norm. I’ve never liked to conform. Can’t you tell?

My parents actually did quite a bit of traveling during some of my formative years (Canada, Mexico, etc), and I remember my dad returning from a trip to Russia, and sharing stories and photos that had me chomping at the bit. I was born to get out. In high school I found myself drawn to many of the exchange students. I felt that I had an ability to communicate well with foreigners, even when their English wasn’t developed and I certainly couldn’t speak their language. I guess you might say that I learned to speak simply, pantomime if necessary, and adjust my overall communication for foreigners without even thinking about it or trying hard (I am naturally a very high speed speaker that even my family has a difficult time understanding).

Next, when I was in college I determined that I would be open to the doors that opened in front of me. I was a theater major, and was often auditioning for shows. I wasn’t the type that went into an audition dead-set on making it in the show…as if my whole life depended on it (as some drama people tend to do!). I simply prayed that I would do my best, and that if it was the right opportunity I would be given the role.  Yes, this was a step of faith…but I do believe in God, and I do believe in faith, and I do believe that God directs us when we strive to do what is right.

It was one fateful day spring day in 2002 that my college roommate announced she was going to an audition, and she desperately wanted some support (in the form of an audition-companion). I had no interest…but in the end she won. Long story short…we went to the audition and I got the job (and she didn’t). I called my parents to announce that I was going to Alaska that summer to do a theater production as a Can Can dancer (yes, really). “What?! That’s great! We’ve always wanted to go to Alaska…we’ll have to come see you!”  My parents were always supportive like that (well, almost always)!

That summer Alaska changed me profoundly…it changed my desires and goals in life, and it helped me connect to an entirely different mentality. I learned there that material possessions are insignificant, and that relationships and my spirituality should be the focus in life. It was in Alaska that I met my husband, and we were married the following year.  Our goals and life outlooks aligned, and we were so grateful to find each other. We returned to Alaska for two more summers, and explored many of the the roads-less-traveled throughout Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

We did so much exploring and absolutely loved every inch! I ditched performance and turned my focus to business and business management. On summer 3 of being married, my husband and I had our first child and simultaneously opened our first retail store in Alaska.

Our explorations of Alaska stopped immediately. We were swamped with work, and spent ridiculous hours at the stores. We were challenged to the extreme, and learned first-hand about the world business. We met tourists from all over the world, and associated with “seasonal Alaskans” who lived in Alaska in the summers, and traveled the world during the winters. Meeting other travelers opened our eyes to the possibilities of an alternative life plan…one that included discovery, growth, and adventures! 

One day, a tourist walked into our store who was visiting from her home in Mexico. She was clearly an American retiree, so I insisted an explanation as to why she ended up in Mexico. She told us all about the area she lived, the beautiful weather, laid back lifestyle, and low cost of living. She signed our guestbook with her name and city, and encouraged us to look it up in the future. She walked away, and I immediately Googled the name of the city in Central Mexico that she had named: Ajijic.

We asked ourselves, “Why not go somewhere more fun in the winter?” Then we started dreaming big. We looked at Costa Rica, Belize, and some other far-off places. My husband and I had always spent our winters in cold climates…Kansas, Utah, and mostly Washington. We began to look at the cost of living expenses in the winter, and evaluated how miserable we were stuck inside while it snowed outside.  So we began looking more seriously at some exotic winter locations such as Costa Rica, we realized the expenses would be too much. UGH. We couldn’t afford it, after all! We ditched the plan, and started looking for an alternative.

We were living comfortably in a travel trailer in the summers in Alaska, living among full-time RV’ers (and workampers). So, naturally we began to consider the possibilities of RVing in the winter months! We even tried to reserve a campsite in a beach town in Texas (without success–they were booked!), and we had picked out the trailer of our dreams.

During the winter of 2008 (spent in Washington), we began to list almost everything we owned on Craigslist.  Some of the items were admittedly hard to let go of, but if it didn’t fit in our trailer we decided we didn’t need it. I said goodbye to my 70’s Kitchen Aid mixer, most of our decorative accessories, and some wedding presents. We took photos of some hard-to-lose items, as an alternative to keeping them forever! Item after item walked out our door, and with it, a feeling of freedom began to emerge. Without all of this “junk” tying us down…we were becoming free to pursue a lifestyle on our terms. We wouldn’t have to worry about where we would store all of those kitchen chairs, the king size mattress, the baby crib, etc.  Freedom!

We began to pack what was left our lives to return to Alaska for the summer. One of the last nights in our apartment, the thought struck me again…”What was the town in Mexico that the lady in our store told us about?”  I dug out the old guestbook, and we decided to take another look. Quick online searches led us to find affordable rental houses listed online, and we thankfully found a blog from another American couple who had been raising their young family in Ajijic. We contacted the couple, and found ourselves switching gears entirely. Why had we gotten so distracted by all the other destinations, that we had forgotten about close and easy Mexico?! It was decided…GAME CHANGE…we were going to Mexico!

That winter was the best of our lives, thus far. Our first week in town, we had more dinner invitations than we had received in 5 winters combined in US locales. For once we did not have seasonal depression, we enjoyed beautiful sunny skies every day, our daughter was happily attending school and learning Spanish, and we began many beautiful friendships that weren’t strained by the stresses of the American lifestyle (i.e. We didn’t hear excuses such as “Sorry we couldn’t get together…we’ve just been so busy with work, school, the kid’s activities, etc”). Instead, our new Mexican friends asked us why we hadn’t dropped by more often, and spent more time in their homes. “Umm…I guess as an American we tend to wait to be asked to visit a person’s home.” “REALLY?” they replied. They couldn’t believe this was true.

Sadly, the time came that we had to return to Alaska. We bid our friends goodbye, and assured them we would return. After all, we’d left behind some important things…such as one of the back seats of our van (it just wouldn’t fit with all of the Mexican products we bought to resell in our store in Alaska!). We were excited to return to Alaska, in reality, but disappointed to leave behind the ever-perfect weather on Lake Chapala. It was a rough summer in Alaska. We had opened a second store, and hired our first employee. Tourist numbers had decreased, and we determined we needed to evaluate our numbers and perhaps renegotiate our rent. We sat down one Sunday evening and ran the numbers…then asked ourselves, “Why are we in business? We work our rears off, but we can’t get ahead…and it isn’t going to get better.” One day we had plans to live this lifestyle forever (Alaska store in the summers, Mexico in the winters), and the next day we were telling our landlord we were done. Completely done. 

It was a very quick decision to change our life path forever…but we could feel that it is was the right decision for us, and we had to act immediately. There was no turning back…just moving forward in faith. We repeated the process of selling off everything we owned (this time in Alaska), the products, the price stickers, the baby gear, the extra towels, etc. It took another year of living with family, and working to sell off both of our travel trailers (long story…we had 2 by then), and even to get rid of all of our products we still owned.

It was hard to let so many things go…especially at below what they were worth. But in the end it was absolutely worth it. Selling off everything we owned lifted off the weights that held us down, not only physically, but financially and emotionally.

Sixteen months after closing our business doors in Alaska, we opened the doors to our new rental home in Ajijic, Mexico. We plugged ourselves back into the lifestyle that encourages family interaction and relationships with friends. It is a country where people do not carry iPhones on which they are constantly texting, where the children aren’t glued to video games and crap television, and the teenagers don’t walk around with ear buds in their ears 24/7. It is a country where living a healthy lifestyle and eating a healthy diet is not only possible, but extremely affordable!  It is a country where people are genuinely concerned for the welfare of others and constantly offer assistance wherever they see a need. It is a country where people work for their food, humbly accepting or creating a job so they will be able to provide for their families.  It is a country that is highly under-valued and under-appreciated. It is a country where my children will learn that not everyone needs to live in a picture-perfect home with a white picket fence, and an immaculately decorated interior. It is a country where my children will learn that just because people do things a different way does not make it any lesser than another way. Mexico is a country that I am happy to call my home-base.

While no single moment brought us to this point…it is at this moment that everything has aligned for us to enjoy the life we have always dreamed of.

The next adventure begins here!

_______________________________

To read other blog posts on this topic, visit these other fantastic blogs of families on the move!

Bohemian Mom – The First Moment We Decided to Change Our Lives

Worldschool Adventures – The Moment of Inspiration In Hoi An Vietnam

Livin On The Road – Whose Idea Was It?

Tripping Mom – The moment I decided to live abroad for one year, just me and my child

The Great Family Escape – Capturing The Moment

Family on Bikes – One moment in time: A lifetime of adventures

Family Trek – The moment we knew we were made for more

Raising Miro on the Road of Life – ‘The Moment’ is all there is

Carried on the Wind-  Moment

New Life on the Road – It Only Takes A Moment

16 Responses to “The Moments that added up…”

  1. What a story guys! Great! So motivating for a family like us who are still in the process of moving forward. And Mexico sounds like such a gem. I can’t wait to get down there. I just googled it – a 48 hour drive from Boston!

  2. Alisa, I think you were non-materialistic long before you went to Alaska. How many teen-aged girls want to buy their prom dress at Goodwill?

  3. My family moved a lot too, and I never really felt attached to places. Home is where your family is. Sounds like you are living a wonderful life. I can very much relate to your reasons for wanting to be where you are. We love Mexico, and Ajijic is incredible!

    • Home IS where your family is! I feel guilty leaving all of my family behind in the states when I blog about the importance of family relationships. But I am looking to start a new legacy of family…and that can only be done in a place where family is still a high priority!! We have to start somewhere…so I guess it will start within our home, first!

  4. Ah, I love your posts. I actually just had my moment. It was with the homeschooling thing. I’ve been researching like a madwoman and all of the things I’ve been reading have made me realize that we have something in common–the norm is quite over-rated. But I’ve been stuck in a rut that it’s what I have to do and thinking about what everyone else would think if I went against the grain and a huge combination of life events led me to realize the above realization.

    It’s so funny, I don’t know that we have ever actually met, but I mention you guys and your adventures to Russ often. Maybe we’ll have to come and join you down in Mexico someday. We are definitely loving the sunny California goodness, but I could go for some Mexican frugality, lol.

    • Trista…for sure we would be friends in person! We certainly do have a lot in common–and it does run back to the fact that “the norm is quite over-rated” (perfectly put, I might add…I’ll have to steal that)!! Check my recent Facebook video link on Sir Ken Robinson’s TED speech…I’m definitely starting to align with the whole homeschooling thing. Unfortunately, in my position we feel like we should keep the kids speaking Spanish for a few more years, but then everything will CHANGE….Heheheee!! At least take a vacation to Mexico!! Volaris.mx has some ridiculously cheap fares from CA to Guadalajara sometimes!!

  5. Hello Living Outside of the Box,

    WOW – I so can relate to what you are saying…we sold off everything to live in our Motorhome. Its feels so good to live with less stuff!! We never ever want to own a home again.

    I like how you realised that the life you were living was not what you wanted, and how you sold it all to live a life that was what you wanted.

    We have teenage boys – and they love their phones/earphones!! Would love to live where kids dont rely on them.

    Thanks for sharing the moments that added up to your life change.

    Cheers
    Lisa

    • Hey Lisa! Thanks for reading! My girls are only 6 1/2 and almost 4, and my mother-in-law has been begging to buy them ipod shuffles for about a year now. Seriously…I am not ready for that. And I don’t ever want to be….once they start, I will lose them…and I can’t take them back!!!
      We didn’t know the life we lived before was not what we wanted. We plugged away at it, making the best of it. But then the next door opened and we saw the silver lining…and the next steps fell into place!

  6. I’m so happy you made the decision! I can’t imagine how hard it would be to close the doors of business you had put so much time and energy into, but you managed! And now, you’re living the dream. That’s awesomesauce for sure!

    • It was a tough thing…not only to spend all of those sleepless nights and years working our tails off…but then to walk away from something we built from scratch. It was a beautiful store (the photo I posted was old…it was much nicer in the end!), and thankfully it gave us the education we needed to move on to the next stage of life! Not to mention it provided us the connection to learn about this beautiful place in Mexico! One step at a time…

  7. I loved reading this and feel like I have got to know you a whole lot more! I feel a lack of community here in Canada as well. I love your story about how people ask you why you don’t drop in more often……North Americans just don’t drop in!

    • It’s true. I was equally shocked when suddenly I had to feel guilty about not dropping in and inconveniencing someone else!! A Mexican business friend once explained to us that the phrase “Mi casa es su casa” is really almost mandatory. To not offer your home is an insult, as if you are suggesting that your house is only your house and you don’t want to share it! How different from Canadian and American culture!!

    • I LOVE reading your story! It has many similarities to ours. Lots of trial and errors, but we kept moving forward instead of staying stuck in fears of failing.

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