2015 was the year we made some big changes. First, we decided to slow down our travels and spend the first 6 months of the year back in New Mexico, reconnecting with family and just being present. It was a flashback to our old life. Kyle went back to work full time. I was back in an office again. What it showed us was that we made the right decision back in 2012. Aside from all the wonderful people there, Albuquerque just doesn’t feel like home any longer and our old life felt like old clothing that didn’t quite fit right any longer.
When that was up, we headed to Guatemala. The plan was to hunker down in Antigua for three months and figure out what was next for us. We were pretty sure we knew what that elusive “next” would be – Launch a few projects we’d been working on for a while. Move back to Asia or Mexico. Finally go to India. Continue with the digital nomad work.
One thing we knew for certain was that we wanted to slow our travels way down. We love travel, but after three years it was starting to take its toll on us. We loved the travel and experiencing new places and meeting new people. But we started to miss community. It’s the deep dark secret about long term travel that nobody talks about. That you and your friends are always coming or going. That there is never a true sense of connection to people or to a place – because all of us are always on the move. Sure, we have tons of friends whom we’ve met on the road. But in the end, most of them just become facebook acquaintances. And even when you connect with someone on a deeper level, you know that very soon one of you will be heading on to the next destination.
When you’re a traveler (even if you’re in a place for three months), you just don’t have the time to become part of the local community. In fact, by the end of three months in many different places, we often felt like we were just starting to get our bearings, to have local friendships, just beginning to understand how the culture worked.
There is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” This is certainly true when you make the decision to travel long term. We gave up a lot and gained a ton. We cherish every moment we’ve been able to spend traveling around this big world. We’ve learned so much and met so many people who have quite literally changed our lives. But we were also starting to feel the sacrifice of not being part of a real community. Being together has made this easier – Kyle and I are very close – and that has given us our own sense of mini-community and mini-family as we’ve been out on the road. But we’ve watched as lots of long term traveling friends have returned home and picked up a regular routine and life. And, after three years, we were starting to talk about wanting to be part of a real community again.
Around that time, some crazy things happened quite unexpectedly. My company in the US announced the sunset of the product I was working on. It wasn’t unexpected, but the timetable was moved way up. My boss and mentor also announced she was leaving the company. On a Friday afternoon in August, we went from having sustainable location independent revenue, to not being sure if that gig would last until the end of the year. We spent two days discussing options. Should we move back to the US for 6 months, have Kyle work full time while I focused on launching our personal projects, and then spend the other 6 months traveling? Should we move someplace cheap for a while and see what happens? Our savings could sustain us for quite some time, but we didn’t really want to tap into it. 6 months back in the US wasn’t ideal, but it could mean we got to keep extended travel as part of our life. All day Friday and Saturday we strategized and brainstormed and drank beer.
On Sunday, I was on Facebook catching up with friends and family, when I came across a short post from one of my personal travel and writing heroines. A woman I had followed online for years. She was looking for advice on whether she should hire someone to come and work with her. But the skill set was impossible to find and she needed someone who would be willing to move to Oaxaca, Mexico. The skill set pretty much matched mine. Kyle and I had never been to Oaxaca, but had always wanted to go. We knew we loved living in Mexico. The perfect opportunity had just been dropped in my lap via social media.
My heart skipped a beat and I went numb all over. I was physically compelled to email her. Literally, physically compelled – as if I would be sick if I didn’t write her right away. I typed up an email. Right before I hit send, I called out to Kyle in the other room – telling him what had just happened and asking if he would consider moving to Oaxaca. He said, “absolutely.” I hit send. At that point, I had not even seen a job description, but I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing.
Hours later, Christine wrote back to say that she was very interested. Over the course of the next 4 days or so, she and I chatted and I ended up with a fantastic job and a start date of Nov 1. We were moving to Oaxaca. I was about to work with a woman who had inspired me for the past 5 years, doing creative projects that excited me. We were going to settle down. Friends and family were shocked and thrilled.
We came to Oaxaca right before Day of the Dead. I dove into my new job. Kyle found us a place to live. We signed a lease and bought appliances, joined the library, found a bank, located our favorite food stalls at the market (for produce, meat, cheese, coffee).
Meanwhile, Oaxaca celebrated all around us! It was Dia de Muertos! There were parades, costumes, food, & traditional ofrendas (altars). Our favorite things about Mexico are its tremendous sense of community and tradition and its passion for celebration. Mexico is a vibrant place and Oaxaca does not disappoint. She welcomed us in with open arms and wrapped us up in her colors and traditions. And I haven’t even mentioned the food yet. This is a foodie town – many call it the heart of Mexican cuisine. It’s the only place in all our travels where we’ve found chiles anywhere close to our beloved ones from New Mexico. And they’re damn close. In short, Kyle and I are in culinary heaven.
This is a happy heartspace for us. I’m working on projects that excite me over at We Create (come check us out!). Kyle is writing a novel. We’re settling back into domestic life. Picking out furnishings and art for our home. Making friends and building our own little community. We wander our town on a daily basis, strolling through the Zócalo and on up to the famous Santo Domingo church, exploring quiet side streets and others full of traffic. We ride the bus across town and back. And we regularly exclaim to each other, “I love our town.” You see, we stopped traveling for a bit in order to find a sense of community. We never predicted we’d find a home.
What are we planning for 2016? We’re planning to explore our home. To become a bigger part of the community. To let Oaxaca and this time inspire us. And to share it all with you. If you’re heading to Oaxaca, give us a shout.
Here are a few photos from the past two months.
Yay! It all sounds so exciting! I am so happy for you both!
Kat & Kyle says
Yay, it’s Kelly!
Happy New Year to you and Jean! We should Skype again sometime soon. Or you two should just come down and visit the next time you’re on hiatus between projects. Miss you two!
Kevin Donnigan says
I’m so excited you were able to find a fantastic job and place to live so quickly! Cheers guys 🙂
Kat & Kyle says
Thanks, Kevin! We were too! Miss you! You and J should come and visit!