Today is one year since we moved to Oaxaca. A year since we got on a bus in Mexico City and arrived home 6 hours later – but to a home we had never seen, never visited, and actually knew very little about.
I remember driving down the highway that day, looking out the window, and thinking that it looked an awful lot like the view out of a similar window on a road trip through New Mexico.
It made me happy to realize that we were moving to a high desert. To see familiar vistas that weren’t familiar at all. To recognize that high altitude desert light in a place that was new. In four years of travel, I’ve pretty much never felt homesick for Albuquerque…for the people we love there, yes, but not for the place. But looking out the window that day, and realizing that we were moving to a place that was similar in its ecology, made me happy and sad and emotional all at once. I remember thinking, “We’ve come all this way to end up in a place that is similar to where we started? How ironic!” But those similarities made it instantly feel like home in a way that we weren’t at all expecting.
A year ago, we were still struggling to learn the rhythms and routines of this place. And the street names! I’m pretty sure I got lost daily back then. Google maps constantly screaming at me that I should have turned a block ago. In many ways, this colonial city was familiar. We’ve traveled in countless other colonial towns during our time in Latin America, and lived in three others. But it was also new and exciting and challenging.
We did all the things we always do when settling into a new spot. Searched out a bank, a place to buy food, favorite street food stalls, a place for laundry, and the closest market and bar. But this time it was different. We were settling into home and picking out a routine to keep for more than just a few months. Less than a week after arriving, we signed a yearlong lease on an apartment. And then promptly celebrated and freaked out, simultaneously. 12 months. We hadn’t even stayed put in one place for more than 3 months in the previous 3 years. It was exciting and intimidating all at once. We were excited to be here, but also worried that settling down would wear on us. That we’d feel trapped.
We started making friends and building a community and a social life. Our neighbors were invaluable to us during all of this. They’d arrived just a few months before us and were happy to share their favorite spots and invite us into their life.
And now here we are a year later. And the reality is that settling down has freed us up in many ways. We still have the freedom to pick and choose what we want to do and when. To reinvent our life, again, into a new iteration that makes us happy and gives us everything we need: A homebase. A community. Flexibility. Room for traditions, both old and new. Good food. Interesting cultures. And the perfect spot to explore it all from.
If you had asked us a year ago what our life would look like today, our answer would be utterly wrong. Many things we expected to happen, or to work out, simply didn’t. There has been quite a bit of rolling with the ups and downs this year. Jobs that didn’t pan out. Time apart. That sick feeling that maybe this was the wrong choice and, “WTF are we going to do now?” Plenty of reinventions and rehashing of plans. But each downturn has been followed by an amazing upturn. We’ve met amazing people. New prospects and projects have come into being. We’ve fallen in love with Oaxaca over and over. We’re building a great community for ourselves. Now the rhythms and routines of this place are OUR rhythms and routines. We’re stronger than ever and happy to be home, even if it is still a work in progress.
A year ago, we were afraid that stopping here would mean the beginning of the end of our explorations in this world. But it was just the beginning of a new phase. We’ve created a more stable life, but with plenty of time built in for travel (we’re already planning travels for next year – with Oaxaca as our homebase). We now have the flexibility to visit family and friends in the states more regularly – and we’re close enough to actually do it.
For the first time since 2011, this year we celebrated all the holidays in one place. We experienced a new way to look at death. Hosted birthday parties. Cooked Thanksgiving dinner for us and our friends. Tried a hundred new foods. Celebrated Christmas, both Watts-style and with all the fantastic Oaxacan traditions, from Posadas to Radish Festivals. Learned the importance of chia pets at Easter. Decorated an apartment. Purchased appliances. Became mezcal connoisseurs. Celebrated so many of the holidays and traditions of this region of Mexico. Worked hard to make Spanish our true second language. We’ve made so many new friends, and even know our neighbors. We’re often invited to friends’ homes for dinner or to celebrate family milestones or holidays. Plus, we can eat tacos whenever we want.
It’s been quite a year. And we’re about to sign a lease for year 2. We found home, and we couldn’t be more grateful or excited about that. Look out world, here we come – but with slightly less luggage.
Some of our fave photos that we’ve shared on the blog this past year. Disfruta!