Gliding between the jagged peaks of the French Pyrenees in my chairlift seat, I took a deep breath and tried to relax. It wasn't the soaring height of the peaks that made me nervous, or the prospect of swishing down them on my skis. It wasn't the weather, either—blue skies stretched from peak to peak. Nope, everything on the slopes was perfect.
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.
"Can you meet me at Puro Cafe at noon?" asks my husband, Mark. The times and locations of our rendezvous may change, but my response is always the same—yes! Who can say no to meeting for coffee at one of the quaint sidewalk cafes in picturesque Cuenca, Ecuador with its cobblestone streets, majestic churches, and irresistible Old World charm?
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.
The sun is out and brilliant blue skies with white fluffy clouds—that you can almost touch—overlook my morning jog next to the Yanuncay River. The linear trails, three blocks from our condo, are immaculately groomed with colorful flowerbeds and towering Eucalyptus trees that give off a familiar scent reminiscent of my childhood in California. Along the way fellow joggers greet me with "Buenos Días."
"I came to Panama 10 years ago on vacation and never left," says Carl Conway. "I was drawn in by the sunshine and blue skies...the warm water and sandy beaches...the palm trees and bright flowers...it was a tropical paradise." Now age 43, Carl enjoys a rich and laidback life in the rural town of Santa Fe in Veraguas Province of central Panama.
After years of trying to find a way to travel and getting nowhere but frustrated, I was struck by inspiration. Maybe, just maybe, I could create a business that paid me to travel. The more I played with that idea (which seemed outrageous at the beginning), the more determined I became. Gradually, it started to happen. I wrote motivational articles and, after a while, invitations to speak at seminars began to come in. That, of course, meant traveling.
White-sand beaches...ancient wonderlands...and cities full of flamenco music and orange trees. Thanks to my ability to teach English, I have seen them all. And it doesn't matter what age you are when you start. I've had colleagues in their 70s. My path as an English teacher has taken me across four continents over the past 15 years. It has allowed me the opportunity to travel extensively—never being tied to one place for longer than the term of a teaching contract—unless I wanted to extend.
It was a day in mid-2012. I woke up to the annoying alarm clock, hastily got ready for my stressful sales job and sat from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the same back-breaking chair, in a dull office. High pay, San Diego sun, the American Dream, right? Wrong! Three years of this monotonous rat race was enough to push me over the edge. I craved a meaningful existence packed with travel and adventure.
Stomping my feet as hard as I could, I twirled around in a frenzy, flailing my arms and yelling before coming to a standstill next to the dark haired woman in front of me. "Bien." She clapped her hands once and then left the room. I smiled as the guitar player and other students picked up water bottles and wiped down their foreheads with small towels. I was in Seville, Spain, and having the time of my life learning to dance flamenco.