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The Benefits of Our Big Slow Down — a Year in Mexico

Photo of a snail crawling across a pencil. Photo by Pascal van de Vendel on Unsplash
Photo of a snail crawling across a pencil. Photo by Pascal van de Vendel on Unsplash

It was perfect. Our youngest had moved into a new stage of her life. She had just returned from a semester abroad after graduating high school and now she was off to start college away from home. Our eldest was already in her last year of college away from home and would be starting her career immediately with a job already secured.

We, like many parents, determined our living location on the school systems which meant we did not necessarily live where we wanted but where we thought was best for the kids. (More on the pros and cons of that decision another day.) We saw now as an opportunity to to take our time in deciding what we wanted to do next. We no longer were tied to our neighborhood or our city for that matter. It was a whole new set of rules we could establish for ourselves.

The Decision

We decided to take a step back from our commitments and our community. I would take fewer clients, my husband would leave his small firm and go back to consulting with a few remote clients. We would have a little freedom to take our time before deciding where our future would lie.

We started by consolidating our household into what we really wanted to keep and needed and donating the rest. This was a 2 month process. Looking back, I should have started earlier.

The “to keep” stuff all went into storage. We bought a Sprinter Van from a distress sale and we rented an apartment on the beach in Mexico just south of the U.S. border in Rosarito, Mexico.

Granted, the kids weren’t stoked on this decision because it meant they no longer had a San Diego crash pad to come see their friends whenever they wanted. If they came home for holidays, it was to spend time with the family. They were NOT thrilled.

We on the other hand, we were loving the freedom to decide on our activities on a whim. We could take a week to travel to Oregon through the redwoods, hang out in the desert, take 3 weeks to head to Philippines, or explore Tulum without the usual constraints. This empty-nest thing was not so bad.

We had a few items on our checklists that we needed to keep as standards for us to take this break but they weren’t unreasonable. We needed fast internet speeds, 2 bedrooms, beach front, and be within 45 minutes to the border. We landed on the beaches of Rosarito in a development that we really loved because the community was well-maintained, the people were friendly and it was conveniently located.

What Did We Learn After a Year in Mexico

  1. Having our SENTRI cards is a godsend. The international border at San Ysidro, CA and Tijuana, Mexico is the busiest land border crossing in the world. On average at 8AM to 9AM, I spend 3–15 minutes in the line compared to the HOURS of time the majority of commuters spend.
  2. All developments are NOT created equally. Our first apartment was furnished in La Jolla Real and was a great experience. We chose it for the 1st six months so we could find a place that was unfurnished in a neighborhood we would like. We moved into our 2nd apartment which we love but the management of this development is a nightmare. It’s really important to find people that can first hand tell you what it’s like to live in a community.
  3. FOMO goes away. Being separated from your community but still being connected via social media causes a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) at first. It’s a WONDERFUL break though, to be away. You begin to feel a sense of autonomy again. How you spend your time is based upon what you feel like doing rather than what everyone else is currently doing.
  4. You have more money in the bank. When you move a little further away from your community, you feel less obligated to attend every event you are invited to, most of which have a cost associated; ladies lunch, happy hour with friends, charity events, networking events, etcetera. Practical items that are cheaper; gas consumption, housing costs, food costs.
  5. Time becomes more valuable. Your time is no longer consumed with the regular constraints. I knew exactly how much time I needed to work on my clients and was not actively seeking additional work. This left me with a conundrum. WHAT would I do with all this time I never had before? The way I spend my time now is more meaningful, about me and therefore is now more valuable. Yes, I still binge-watch shows and that could be considered a waste but I definitely have read more, written more, listened to MANY more audio books, and dedicated more time to self-care.
  6. Stress levels decrease significantly. Without the daily obligations of money worries, corporate dynamics, keeping up with the Joneses, or social posturing, the stressors are much more manageable when they arrive.
  7. I remember who I am. When your kids leave, you sometimes find yourself needing to remember who you were before you had them. With all the normal daily obligations I had, it was difficult to allocate time to figure things out because “living in the moment” is all I had the energy to do. I’ve had a moment to listen to myself, remind myself of my value, take stock of those in my life, and let go of the things that have haunted me. This has been essential in both work and internally. I’ve let loose the clients who did not see the value I brought to my work. I’ve stopped investing time in those who do not instill positivity in my world. I’ve been reassured as to who my real friends are and those that are fair weather friends.
  8. I know what I want. I have a clearer sense of what I want for myself and my family for the next decade. That includes where I want to be, what I want to do, how I want to lend a hand and the vision of how I will work on my legacy.

All this in a year. It’s been invaluable. I’m sure I will find insight to many more lessons I’ve learned and much more that I’ve discovered about myself as I move forward.

I know not everyone has the option to take this kind of time off and I know that not everyone would choose to move to Mexico to do it. The exercise itself though, has been one that has instilled in me the solid foundation of knowing it will forever be important for me to FIND the time for re-calibration, no matter where I am or what occupies my days.

Marie Daniels, Where Life & Work Converge

Written by

Branding Strategist. Filipina-American. Food Explorer. Podcast + Real Estate Junkie. Wife. Mom.

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