As a child, I used to wake my mum up in the morning and ask her what was for dinner. We would get to the park and I would ask her what time we would be leaving. We would get to dinner and I would ask her what time we were getting up in the morning. Poor mum! Everything in my life needed boundaries, timelines and outcomes.
People who know me well can probably see how this need to know what the future holds and to have a plan, still runs strong in me. So when I found myself, mid 30s and without a plan, I decided it was time to start planning on how to plan out my plan.
Travel was the obvious answer as it was a known cure to this predicament – a self-prescribed remedy used many times in the past. A perfect heady mix of time, adventure and space – from the suffocating intensity of expectations and cookie cutter definitions of success in life. Over the last few weeks it has dawned on me that ironically, my escape to plan out the intricate next steps, isn’t about holding on tightly to a plan it is actually more about learning to let go of the plan. Letting go of the time keeping and comparisons and letting in more play and compassion for my differences and desires.
And whilst this epiphany was playing out on a long and challenging bus ride through the Mexican Chiapas, I realised that the universe had already sent me some wonderful lessons through the stories of the people I have met in Mexico so far.
Generally speaking, Mexicans are open and welcoming, patient with gringo Espanol and quick to give you a smile back as you cross paths on the sidewalks. The intoxicating mix of sun, culture and opportunity have enticed many expats (particularly Americans) to call Mexico home. They have left the Western world, the 9-5, the corporate desk jobs and started businesses, restored neglected and deserted homes and put their stamp on this country.
Being curious and a little snoopy, I started to ask these people questions about why they chose to move, how they find life in Mexico and what they have learned. Essentially I wanted to know (pre-ephinany) how they let go of commonly held expectations in the pursuit of what they really wanted from this life. Their stories are diverse but there were some interesting comparisons.
So my five lessons from my Mexican adventure to date are:
1) Work out your minimal viable life
– what do you actually need to be happy and how much of your wants are creating unhappiness? Life can be pretty simple and people can be very happy with this. So what is the minimal amount of stuff, money and status etc. that you need in your life to be happy? This will be different for everyone but knowing what it is for you is important.
2) Curation over creation – life is about curating a collection of memories, experiences, things and people that you love. The cycle of constant creation can breed a mindset of not being good enough, of comparison and of discontent. Creating more, assumes that what you have/ are isn’t enough. It may not be, but knowing where your end point in the cycle is is important. Otherwise there will always be a bigger house, a better job and a skinnier waistline.
3) Entrepreneurialism is about freedom – every person who I met and has made the decision to be different, had the confidence to back their decision due to years of being an entrepreneur/ business owner. None of them worked for the man (or lasted very long if they did!) or sold their soul for a pay check. They also saw more opportunity in the decision to do something different, than they saw risk. They opened businesses in Mexico, pursued their artistic passion and chose to make it work. They tried new concepts, experimented with different types of ventures that they wouldn’t be willing to try at home, as it costs more to take a risk and you usually need to ‘bet the farm’. In Mexico, you just need $2000, an idea and a bit of passion.
4) Lifestyle rewards the brave – the people I met have curated a wonderful life. They have been brave to make a change and they haven’t looked back. They don’t think longingly about what could have been, they are busy being in the right now. They have viable businesses, happy and healthy families and a life that makes them happy. I have also seen many friends bravely jump into a new lifestyle this last year and I admire them for following their hearts.
5) Engage don’t just enable – this was probably a lesson from observation, more so than one that was relayed to me. I did notice, sadly, that some of the expats (not all) that I spoke to employ local people to work for them ‘enabling better lives.’ But a lot of them are not truly and deeply engaged in the culture, history and stories of the place they have benefitted so much from. Nor are they engaging with the social issues that are deeply rooted in Mexico and could do with a little more support.
So much food for thought for my next long and arduous bus journey. I must make sure I schedule some time in and plan for that reflection. Just kidding!