We are house-sitting in Tulum, Mexico, for an expat family from the United States.
Two years ago I would never have guessed that, in two years, we’d be caring for three dogs, seven cats, and two birds in Tulum, Mexico.
As I write, I sit at a desk listening to the noises of the neighborhood… sounds of Mexican family gatherings, street dogs barking, food vendors selling their fresh fruit…
One week ago we were on an island, getting our advanced certification in scuba diving.
Before that, we were enjoying the beautiful mountain towns of Mexico.
Our next stop is completely up to us, with only a carload of possessions and our dog to take into consideration when making our plan.
My husband and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary in June. During our life together we have traveled to 6 continents and more than 20 countries.
But, we finally came to realize, we weren’t really living.
|The Lagoon of Seven Colors, Bacalar, Mexico|
We both worked corporate jobs in the United States and took pride in our one- or two-week retreats to far-away places. The trips provided for fun conversations with coworkers about bathing elephants in Thailand or riding camels in Egypt.
But can you really experience a country and have an understanding of a culture based on one- and two-week vacations?
What if we truly traveled, at our own pace, instead of racing through short, hurried vacations, we wondered?
We’d toyed with the idea of moving to another country or of becoming permanent travelers in the past but regularly talked ourselves out of it. Wouldn’t we miss our family and friends?
And, after working to build our careers for almost 20 years, it seemed ridiculous on one hand to walk away from our accomplishments.
Plus, what about safety concerns in other countries?
Then one day it happened… the trigger that started a frenzy of financial analysis, a deep dive into our relationships, and a true testing of our will to experience life.
The trigger was something I would call trivial now. The house cleaners hadn’t done what had been expected of them to do, and, after a long day of work, I snapped under the stress of what was definitely a First World problem.
Living in a 3,000-square-foot house with three bedrooms and more than an acre of outside space may sound silly. We were just two people and two dogs. But this is the norm for two professionals in the Midwest.
Finally, thanks to that stressful day, we realized it was time to regroup on our priorities.
First we assessed our finances.
We had been investing for retirement and were on track with our savings accounts, preparing for financial emergencies. But what if we didn’t have a mortgage but a modest monthly rent instead? This was the first big insight.
We starting selling items on Craigslist and eBay and put our house on the market. After it sold, we rented a small downtown loft. This was the start of our move toward possession freedom.
Now I was able to walk to work so we no longer needed our second car. Selling the second car cleared another hurdle and freed up more money each month.
After these two major steps, the little decisions about what to get rid of and how to continue to downsize seemed easy.
Our friends and family were another concern. Being an only child, I was worried I was abandoning my parents. On the other hand, leaving the United States when they were healthy seemed like a better idea than waiting for someone to get sick.
Some friends were excited for us, some envious, and others distraught over our decision. Pushing research their way related to the safety of other countries and food- and mosquito-borne illnesses helped. Honestly, though, some family and friends who’d had lifetimes of limited information on life in other countries, mostly from U.S. headlines and mostly negative, were difficult to sway.
Taking time off work was the next step.
OK, let’s call it what it really is: Quitting our jobs. We couldn’t promise we would be back.
But were we really giving up our careers? After a lot of soul searching I realized my drive for continuous learning, volunteering, and helping others wouldn’t fade just because I wasn’t sitting at a desk. In fact, I would absorb more from my real-world experiences and have more time (and energy) to follow through. My resume would be more interesting when (if) I decided to return to the U.S. work force.
During our multi-step process we subscribed to online resources that would serve as research for our decision, including Live and Invest Overseas. The articles of real people traveling, uprooting their lives, and becoming expats intrigued us. The daily emails were just as interesting, helping to encourage us.
Finally, our decision was made. We downsized and downsized until everything we owned fit in our car. The basement of clutter and closets full of unworn clothes were a thing of the past.
We decided to begin with a drive through Mexico and Central America. And, boy, did we drive!
|Basílica Catedral de la Asunción de León, Nicaragua|
We’re now in our 14th month of travel and have made it through all of Central America. We taught English in Mexico and have both found other ways, too, to work part-time remotely, generating a small stream of income to help fund our ongoing adventure.
Two years might turn into five years as we are more driven than ever to continue.
One thing we know for sure is that the decision to travel, become experts in possession freedom, and “retire” from our old life was both the most difficult and the best we’ve made yet.