They say you can tell a lot about a person by the way they finish this sentence: Life is a ________. For a lot of people, it might finish with the words a “grind” or a “battle” or a “race.” That’s often the everyday reality of living in the rat race. But I’ve always had the same ending to that sentence: Life is an adventure.
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel severals time a year to places like Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico. You might wonder how I became so lucky? Well, seven years ago, I came to Mexico to teach English as a second language. This allowed me to fulfill my dream of living abroad and immerse myself in another culture.
Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and wish you could change who you are, where you are, and what you do? I used to have those days too, until I realized I could make all of that happen by cashing in on a skill I already had. A skill that thousands and thousands of people, in nearly every country on the planet, are desperate to acquire, and will pay to learn.
I grew up in a really small town in the northern U.S., where cows probably outnumbered people 1,000 to 1 and I, alone, made up 20% of my graduating class. If it weren't for having our own postal code, we probably would not have even been considered a town at all—more like a rest stop, maybe.
I've been living in paradise for a few years now. I'm just five minutes' walk from a beautiful, picturesque beach lined with palm trees and seafood restaurants that serve the catch-of-the-day, fresh, every day. And, get this...I only pay $320 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, complete with a second-story terrace where I watch the sun set, as I'm caressed by the cool ocean breeze on most nights.
Three days a week, I take an early morning walk to a park near the beach, not far from my apartment. I sit in the cool morning air and listen to the birds rustle and sing in the trees above the park bench. I like to arrive a little early, before my first client of the day arrives to meet me. This is Latin America, so even though our appointment is at 7.00 a.m., she usually doesn't arrive until about 7.10 a.m. She is a single mother, working full time and studying for her undergraduate degree. I admire her resolve to make a better life for herself and her children. And, I get to be a part of that.
The thought of my hot shower every morning—as I cross the Spanish style courtyard on my way to the bathroom—is a delight. It has to be a quick one though, because my housemates need their hot water too. Then, I hear the church bells begin to ring in the tower of the old colonial church in front of our house...it's time to go. I grab my backpack and head for the door. I like to walk to work. The others share a taxi, which affords them an extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning.
The night I arrived in Mexico to start my first English-teaching job…the sky lit up with fireworks! I asked the taxi driver what holiday it was. He responded that it was not a holiday, but likely a birthday of someone in the neighborhood. Mexico likes to celebrate. I decided right then and there, I had come to the right country.
I don't have a degree in Education or English or even something like International Studies. What I studied was Forestry. Yep, that's right, I learned about trees!
Standing in front of my 6th grade English class in Orizaba, Mexico, I could feel my students' urge to break free for 12 days of fun and freedom. Few places have a palpable energy of excitement to compete with that of a classroom full of students getting ready to escape for spring break.