I moved to Iowa in 1995 intending to stay about 6 months. Almost 20 years later, tired of the bitter winters and endless corn I’m soooo ready to go, but we’re still not quite ready to leave yet. I promised my oldest that she could finish high school here. So as I countdown her final year I am preparing to make a big move. My husband and I decided that instead of simply moving to the coast next summer we will be taking our children to the island of Cozumel, Mexico not for vacation but for a year of living another life.
This decision didn’t happen overnight-it took years to get my husband on board. He was sold on the standard timeline, meaning travel and adventure was something you do when your kids are grown and your finances are stable. I knew I didn’t have that kind of patience. Plus who wants to wait until you’re old and have to worry about your hip breaking while you hike up Machu Picchu? (More about that later!)
I have always loved water of any kind. I would settle for a lake if I had to, but my internal compass doesn’t point north, it points to water. I grew up in southern Missouri drinking out of natural springs that were filtered by the limestone, clear as glass and so cold it made your teeth hurt, so it distresses me that the water quality in Iowa is so bad. After a destination wedding took us to Costa Rica 6 years ago I realized that what I wanted most was to be near the ultimate water source; the ocean.
So why Mexico? A few years ago my husband and I signed on for a mission trip through a friend’s group, Friends of Cozumel. We did community service work, painting and resealing a roof, helping with English classes, and making improvements at a sponsored family’s home. Working with our friends there was part of my plan to suck him into my new travel addiction, and it worked. It was life changing to go into people’s homes and see how they lived, the simplicity of their lives and their eagerness to connect with us.
What I really noticed was the joy of their children as they played in dirt lots with sticks and flattened soccer balls. I thought of my own children constantly telling me “I want that!” and begging to watch cartoons, and I was sad. I wanted my children to understand the value of people and experiences instead of things, and I knew I needed to bring them here.
There are the logical arguments to reassure people: We’ve been there three times now, once with the kids and twice without them. We have friends who live there, both from the U.S. and locals. The cost of living is approximately one-third of what it is in the U.S. We can work online and still have enough income. The girls can go to school either locally or online and we’ll all become fluent in Spanish.
Cozumel is close enough that if someone wants to visit or we have to get back, it’s doable. It also has a huge interest in the cruises that stop in and a large expat community so it isn’t entirely foreign; many things are in English. It’s an easy transition as foreign countries go.
Then there are the things you have to experience to understand. It’s beautiful and exotic. The ocean is everywhere. The people are warm and friendly. The pace is slower and relationships are considered more important than work. Snorkeling for hours is great exercise. The houses are small and the outdoor space is one big communal neighborhood. Lime juice makes everything taste better.
Everything I do now I ask myself, is this going to help us make our dream of moving happen? Is this worth spending travel money on? Will I take this with me when we move? It doesn’t always work, but decision-making becomes easier when I look at things this way.
What about my kids? I really really do hope my oldest will come, but she’s old enough to make her own choices. The younger two can’t wait to get back to the beach. My five-year old draws me pictures all the time; last week it was 3 pages of blue with a strip of sandy beach at the top, this week two figures with circles drawn around the upper half of their faces. “It’s you and Daddy on the bottom of the ocean Mommy! See your mask?” It makes me smile every time I see it.
Where would you move if you decided to live your dream?