As a child I dreamt of being an explorer. I wanted to go to exotic places, see exotic people and do exotic things. I wanted to travel down the Amazon on a raft, stopping at all the villages along the river banks, eating foods I had never heard of before in Canada.
I wanted to be an archeologist. I dreamt of going to undiscovered places and finding lost civilizations. As a child I lived in the country and went on daily adventures, spending hours in the abandoned barn next door, walking in the woods pretending I was in a jungle and made forts in deadfalls. Bugs and spiders never bothered me.
I watched Swiss Family Robinson on Saturday mornings and dreamed of living on a deserted island. My hero was Amelia Earhart. If only I could learn to fly an airplane I could go to all the places my imagination took me.
My parents had a summer house in a small town called Chance Harbour on the Bay of Fundy. I would spend hours on the rocky beach, looking for crabs and other sea life. I collected all the sea glass and pottery I could find. These items were my treasures.
In the winter my family would go to Florida for a month to escape the cold Canadian winters. Florida was as far away from my home as I had been. The warm waters allowed me to see creatures I had only read about – octopus, manatees, pufferfish, rays, sharks. I got to try new foods – cantaloupe and honeydew tasted delicious as was the fresh squeezed orange juice. (Orange juice didn’t come from a can?) The water was so much warmer than the Bay of Fundy – I could spend hours swimming in the clear water. Hours searching the beach for sea shells.
Looking back I had an incredibly wonderful childhood. I don’t think my parents realised how those Florida trips would shape me as an adult.
When I was 18 I asked my parents if we could go to Mexico instead of Florida. My parents told me if I could save up my portion of the airfare and hotel they would take me to Mexico. I was determined. I saved all of my paychecks until finally I was in Puerto Vallarta. The people, the architecture, the food, the sounds, the smells… everything was so foreign.
Nothing I read prepared me for the full reality of being in another country. No one can tell you what it is really going to be like for you in another country, you will have your own individual experience. I can honestly say that vacation changed me forever.
I never became an explorer or an archeologist. I never got my pilots licence. But, no longer did I feel I had to live in Canada just because that is where I was born. I wanted to go everywhere, see and do everything I had ever imagined. I realized the world was waiting for me and it was only an airplane ride away.
I travelled to other countries with my first husband. Even though we only went to resorts, it did allow me to satiate my wanderlust. I went horseback riding on a mountain ranch in Hawaii. I climbed to the top of Diamond Head and was in awe of the beauty I saw from the lookout. I went snorkeling and swam with dolphins. I went scuba diving for the first time in Aruba. Explored Bahamas Cays. I went to Riviera Maya and trekked to Tulum to see the ancient Mayan ruins. I even went back to my beloved Puerto Vallarta and I got a chance to see the city with new eyes – adult eyes.
Fast forward a few years…. I had three children, got divorced and eventually remarried. My new husband had never traveled other than to Boston and he had never been somewhere tropical. We honeymooned in the Riviera Maya. He fell in love with Mexico just like I did all those years ago. Or maybe he just liked the warm weather.
Over the next few years we’d vacation in Mexico twice a year, always staying at resorts. Then, by chance, I heard of VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). I convinced my husband staying at the resorts didn’t allow us to experience the “real” Mexico and I booked a week stay at a house in a small town called Todos Santos about an hour north of Los Cabos.
It was that trip that once again changed me. No longer was I satisfied at resorts full of drunken vacationers. I was tired of bringing day clothes and evening clothes and I was tired of the structure. I wanted to vacation like I lived there. For the next 4 years we rented the same house, staying longer and longer each trip. We bought groceries and cooked at home. I saw the expats and said to my husband “if they can live here, we can too.” He wasn’t ready then but I planted the seed.
I decided I had to get out of Canada. I hated the cold winters. I was tired of all the rules and regulations. I wanted to be free. I wanted out of the city and my need to be near the ocean grew. I wondered why, when all the world was theirs, my ancestors settled in Atlantic Canada. My paternal grandfather helped build the Panama Canal – why, I wondered, didn’t he stay there in the warmth instead of returning to foggy, cold Bay of Fundy.
I was quite determined to move somewhere tropical but since my husband had never been to any other foreign country I thought we should start renting homes in other tropical destinations. So we rented a penthouse on the beach in Barbados, a cottage with a pool high on the cliff on the Dutch island of Saba and stayed at a resort in Sint Maarten. All were lovely but they were not Mexico.
Finally, after 8 years my husband was ready, he too was tired of the cold winters and working outside in -40C. We were lucky in the stock market so he did the Freedom 55 thing and I quit my job. We packed our cats into the jeep and drove from Alberta, Canada to Todos Santos, BCS. Finally, after what seems like a lifetime of dreaming, I am living in Mexico, in the little town where we first rented a house.
Living in Mexico is all I imagined … warm climate, friendly people, and the sound of the waves. It’s not perfect here – the internet is slow, sometimes we run out of water and there are power outages. I don’t like fish and it seems almost every local restaurant specializes in The Catch of the Day. (I miss the Atlantic lobster) There are too many dogs here, they wander everywhere and bark at everything.
I have discovered something about myself: I can be happy anywhere – warm or cold, city or country – but I am most happy here… by the sea.
If I can do it, you can too.