Oh my! Where do I begin? My two boys and I recently started a full-time traveling lifestyle at the end of August 2018. Our first stop was Mexico City for 2.5 days. I’d been wanting to meet my friend Adriana who’s worked with me in the translation industry now for several years. At the time we began working together, she was living in Carolina, Puerto Rico and I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then she moved to Mexico City to be closer to her family and I later relocated to Utah in the US.
I’d been talking with Adriana and her husband about visiting them in Mexico for years, but this time it was happening. We booked our Airbnb rental just 3 blocks away from them in the safe but bustling neighborhood of San Alvaro. I’ll never forget our warm welcome as we experienced a rare, but very severe downpour of heavy rain mixed with hail, on our way from the international airport to our Airbnb apartment. It was so bad that we couldn’t see anything in front of us and who knows how we got there!
Anyway, we were kindly received by our Airbnb host’s mother who gave us the key and as soon as the rain subsided, Adriana and her daughter were at our place to give us an even warmer welcome. Upon meeting, she gave us a big bear hug and it was as if many years of yearning to meet had been fulfilled in that one embrace. Then she invited us to walk with them around their neighborhood. We ended up having dinner at a nice little mall and we had our first taste of authentic Mexican food. Believe you me, it’s not the same as the Tex-Mex we were used to in the states! Our palates weren’t quite used to them and we had no idea of what to order…
Adriana turned out to be an extremely gracious hostess and we got to meet her sister Aracely and her husband, having been treated to one of the most delicious homemade dinners with wonderful conversation in both English and Spanish. Turns out that her sister was also a translator and we learned much about the culture by spending quality time with all of them.
After just 2.5 days in Mexico City, we had to take a domestic flight to Bacalar, a small town with a beautiful lagoon of 7 colors, just 30 minutes north of the Mexican-Belize border. There we were committed to taking care of 5 dogs on a pet sit we booked through HouseSitMexico, for the month of September. Upon arrival in the Chetumal airport, we were greeted by Anne, a Canadian lady who’d just lost her husband to Alzheimer’s 5 months prior and who was going back home to her native Canada to visit family and friends for one month.
While visiting the town, we met the educated and cultured neighbor in front whose name was Ofelia. She was highly respected in the area and she was a teacher and anthropologist with several degrees, who spoke at least 3 languages that I knew of (Spanish, English & French), but perhaps more if I wasn’t mistaken. Whenever I would be privileged to receive a visit from Ofelia, she would always sit on the floor and caress those dogs with a love that only a natural healer with a spirit of light could do. After her visit, those energetic dogs would always fall asleep as if they’d been given a natural sedative. I loved to talk to her, as she’d tell me about her travels to Europe and the US with her French and American husbands, the Mayan culture, local tourism (she recommended the most wonderful boat tour in the Bacalar lagoon) and she owned a local hotel. I could listen to her for hours on end and not be the least bit bored…
After a month in Bacalar, we moved onto Playa del Carmen, a large touristic city about 3.5 hours by bus. The highlight of our 3 weeks in “Playa” was every Sunday when we’d attend a small Christian church that had been recommended to me by a Facebook friend who’d lived there and had known the local pastors who were originally from Bend, Oregon (Holly & Steve). They’ve made “Playa” their home for the last few years, and have built up a small, but very solid nondenominational congregation with the most beautiful sounding worship team that could rival any larger congregation. We were able to fellowship with them and also meet Joel, the awesome Spanish interpreter (the services were bilingual in English and Spanish), who had come from Santa Maria, California with his wife and baby boy. There we met several mixed culture families from the states and LouLou who lived south of “Playa” in a nice resort just north of Tulum. She was a healer of sorts, with a deep knowledge of massage therapy, as well as other medical techniques and was certified in many different areas related to healing. I hope to be in touch with all these beautiful people for years to come…
Moving onto our current city in Mexico, named Merida, it is a large city located at the top of the Yucatan Peninsula. I moved here after meeting another single mom through a traveling mom group that had a mentorship program. After meeting Barby online who was another single mom with 2 boys like I had, I just knew I had to connect with her in person. Something told me that she and I would become great friends. The few conversations we’d had online indicated to me that Merida just had to be our next stop.
After taking the bus from “Playa” to Merida, I was highly pleased, yet surprised to learn that Barby was in the area where our bus was stopping and she offered to come pick us up. We had a hard time figuring out where to meet, but once we did, we recognized each others’ faces when we saw each other. She parked her car and came running to me, embracing me until I saw her tears freely flowing down her face and it was like we’d known each other our whole lives. She didn’t want to let me go. But she’d parked in the taxi zone, so the local drivers were in a hurry to scurry us out of there and promptly piled our luggage into the trunk so we could make room for them to keep moving their vehicles quickly through.
She took us to our Airbnb house we’d reserved and helped us get settled, making sure that everything looked fine. The conversation was upbeat and I was so grateful to have someone waiting for us upon arrival. That truly made a difference for us. It’s one thing to travel to a foreign country, but it’s quite another to have people waiting for you with open arms on the other side! For us, it meant everything.
I’ve been in Merida for about 10 days now and Barby has fast become not just a dear friend, but more like a sister. But wait, there’s more! She also had a friend named Jenita, an Afroamerican friend with a contagious smile and hearty laugh. She’d brought her 3 boys that are close to my son Dylan’s age with her. They didn’t live too far from us and Barby, together with her sister and another friend, had planned this all awesome all-day Day of the Dead celebration at Jenita’s house, where they would cook “pib” a special dish that was made just once a year for this event. We arrived there just before noon and realized that these 3 women had been slaving away since 6 a.m. and the night before, to cook for a group of international women who were traveling with their kids. Wow!
And then there’s Ashley. I’d met her a few days earlier while participating in other Day of the Dead events in the city center. She was a beautiful young 20-something mom who was traveling with her toddler son Aiden, recently arrived from San Diego, California. She was wise beyond her years, offering deep knowledge and insight on health and spiritual practices. However, after spending a full day with her, I learned that she was much more than meets the eye and I could listen to her wisdom for hours. And we did get the chance to meet her roommate and friend Jason, another American veteran who was traveling with his eight-year-old daughter Selene. The conversations were pleasant, natural and very humorous, as we shared overly embarrassing stories of our lives at Jenita’s house.
While the boys played together on the computers and TV, we shared great food and endless conversation. Also present at that gathering was Tania, a Brit from England who currently lived in Rhode Island with her family who had immigrated from England and who was considering selling the family estate to move to Merida. I was her biggest proponent to encourage her to join us. After all, we were becoming a small tribe of similar kindred spirits, single moms traveling with their kids, in an effort to give them a better life than we could in our own countries.
Jenita, Barby and I have become fast besties in the short time we’ve spent together in Merida. I feel blessed to know them, would do anything for them, as they’ve enriched mine and my family’s lives by being present in it. We are creating memories that will last a lifetime, in Mexico and possibly other countries will be added to that list, as we add other new friends.
I must not forget Amoya, another single mom who I haven’t yet met face-to-face, but one who’s truly inspired me. She had just gone through a terribly painful divorce. Living in Austin, Texas at the time, she and her 3 daughters took a short trip to somewhere in the US and realized that if she played her cards right, she could life full-time as a traveler and give her girls a much higher quality of life outside the US. So she made the bold move and sold her house and all her possessions to become a full-time traveler. They started out in Puerto Rico, then moved to Playa del Carmen and Guanajuato, Mexico. Then they found a cheap flight from Rhode Island in the US to Ireland, then Italy and have ended up falling in love with Tirana, Albania where they’ve just signed a lease to stay there for a year. While there, they’ll travel as much as they can. She’s lucky to have a privileged passport where Americans can live up to one year in the beautiful country of Albania, without having to pay for an extra visa to do so and the cost of living is very low, especially considering that it’s still Europe. Win, win! Anyway, Amoya has been teaching a lot of us single moms how to do what she’s done for over 1.5 years now and how it’s really about mindset and overcoming fears. She taught me that traveling isn’t about money: it’s about cutting through fears and that’s what I’m trying to do. She’s one of my she-roes!
Last but not least, I have to talk about my friend Sheri back in the states. As the good grace of God and the universe shined upon us, I met her right before I was leaving the US to go to Mexico. We instantly hit it off after lunch at Chili’s and I felt like she’d be the ideal person to leave my house in charge of. After all, it was on sale, got put under contract shortly thereafter, but until the house sold, it was being used as an Airbnb rental. I needed someone I could trust to do the cleaning and yardwork. She was the perfect one to make the Victorian dollhouse in Logan, Utah look like a masterpiece! But we’ve also become more like sisters along the way, sharing intimate details of our lives that has made such a difference in having someone like her in my life. I’m thrilled to learn that she wants to come visit us in Merida next month. I couldn’t be happier and I’m starting to plan all the fun we’re going to have!
Finally, I know that as my list of friends grows in our travels, this article will need updating in the future. But this girl who’s just an average single mom from the states, has chosen to live not such a common or average life, and certainly the people who I’m surrounded by aren’t common. I’m a blessed soul to meet these special individuals and they will forever leave a sacred print on my life… I’m so grateful!