Austin, Texas is an amazing place. Between the creative, progressive vibe, the fantastic food, the live music scene and its proximity to spring-fed swimming holes, it’s a wonder we ever left. Coupled with our enormous and beautiful clan of friends and family? It makes me heartsick just thinking of it. So why did we leave?
My husband was laid off after a company downsize in March of 2010 and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit of a relief. A successful start-up gone corporate, the switch to everyday cubicle and computer-screen culture was slowly draining the life out of him. The man has entirely too much extravert, energy and wanderlust in him to be happy with partitions between himself and, well, anything. I was staying home with the kids and managing the inevitable insanity that comes with raising a toddler, a teenager and two in between, carting them to four different schools, keeping up with six different schedules and balancing the need to supplement our income with the endless housework. We were frantically busy, barely making ends meet and downright exhausted.
Consequently, I had a massage scheduled – the first in years – on the same day he was laid off. Lying on the table in a state of bliss obtainable only when a such a degree of need is met by the hands of a true artist (you’re the woman, Negeen), I experienced one of those unmistakable messages from wherever you believe it is that divine messages come. A wave of comfort, satisfaction and realization came over me: we were supposed to move south and everything was going to work out beautifully.
Mexico called me. What else can I say?
Now, I can count on one hand the times that I have heard a message that clearly. It was right up there with “You’re are going to be a mother now, it’s okay that you’re only 16,” followed by, “Here’s the man you are meant to marry” and again at my lowest point after baby #4, “You are the only person who is responsible for your happiness, Beth. Create the life of your dreams,” (which, by the way, marked the beginning of my personal revolution).
I called Hunter. “I don’t think you’re supposed to look for another job here. I think we’re supposed to move to Mexico.” (We’d talked of moving south with our kids since before we were married.) I don’t remember what he said, but he didn’t argue.
Thrilled by the thought of adventure, we immediately started selling stuff, looking for jobs, and researching Spanish-speaking countries. Were there safe places in Mexico or was it really as horrible as the media made it out to be? Who did we know with southern contacts? Could we really just up and leave the country with our kids?
Over and over, the same thing popped into my mind, “If not now, when? Don’t worry, just go.”
We announced our decision to the girls one evening over dinner at our backyard picnic table. Their reactions were as varied as their personalities. One pushed her plate off the table and stormed inside, another sat sulking and pretended to be more angry than curious (while asking questions for the better part of an hour), number three inquired eagerly, “Can we go there in a house car?!” and the littlest surprised us all with, “Should we say cheers?”
We fixed up the house, found renters and ran around at an impossible pace for three months tying up loose ends. (It was amazing how many loose ends demanded to be tied.) When the day came to leave (June 30, 2010), we still didn’t know where we were going, but Hunter had a friend in Playa del Carmen with a potential job and the beach sounded nice, so we said our sad farewells and hopped on a plane to Cancun.
Playa was a different place altogether than when we had visited 7 years prior. It is beautiful and the beaches some of the most pristine on the planet, but between the condos and cost-of-living, it felt more like Miami than Mexico. By the second day we had decided it wasn’t for us. Plan B? We had no plan B. We had heard that a friend of Hunter’s sister lived in Chiapas. We emailed her and she spoke highly of the place, so we bought tickets for the 19-hour overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas. We fell in love within minutes of exiting the bus. Everything has, indeed, worked out beautifully — more so than we could have imagined. Our commitment of a year has now turned into two. Beyond that? Who knows. I’m certainly open to another divine calling.
Here are a few favorite photos from those first few weeks…