Mexican Dream

Mexican Dream

From the spring 2016 UVic Torch Alumni Magazine:

An alumni family finds out what it’s like to give it all up for the life you love.

By Mariette West, BEd ’95 | Photography by Nik West, BA ’95

The sounds of Mexico keep us entertained. Roosters crow while dogs bark, birds chirp and horses clip-clop past on the cobblestones. We can hear the happy voices of locals and tourists outside our open-air casa in the village of Sayulita, not far from Puerto Vallarta. It gets intense with loud trucks and motorcycles roaring by, and Spanish music blasts at all hours. But life feels incredibly vibrant.

On a prior visit to Mexico, after walking the beach one day, I found a coffee-surf shop owned by gringos. I had a flash of Nik and I doing the same thing. I imagined Nik’s surf photos on display in our own coffee shop-gallery and me meeting clients for a life-coaching session. Though it took a few years to materialize, and isn’t exactly what we foresaw, we’ve put our dreams into action.

We had moved between countries before, dropped everything and started again. Those adventures helped to clarify our life-long loves that include hot sun, beaches, surfing and an easy-going lifestyle. It also instilled in us the awareness that it was something we not only could do but really enjoyed. It’s the foundation that made our Mexican dream possible, and it grew in our thoughts until we couldn’t ignore it.

We let go of the life that we had created over the previous nine years. Our community in Shawnigan Lake, the house, our belongings, our work, our son and daughter’s school, and our friendships – all were let go. Some of these will continue in a new form but for the others the loss is permanent.

As with any big life change there was sadness, fear, and doubt before we left and those emotions still emerge when we face new situations.

As we were preparing to leave, people thought we were crazy and feared for our safety. Family members (especially our kids), friends, and even strangers questioned why we would give up what we had created and loved in beautiful British Columbia. Yet we never doubted our decision to live simply and embrace the growth that comes from challenge and change.

Letting go of consistent photography work with great clients was Nik’s biggest risk. It was also what was needed to allow him to realize his dream of being a surf photographer. Walking to the beach every day he quickly got to know the locals and visitors, who began to look forward to seeing his pictures.

Mail delivery is unreliable, and finding quality printing, figuring out cultural and language differences can be challenging, but he gets to be in and out of the water every day with his camera, doing what he loves.

Our two children, preteens who only remember living in one place, are missing their friends. Finding the courage to make new ones has been uncomfortable, but a surprise result is they have found they actually enjoy each other’s company.

We are probably most often asked about their education. We chose homeschooling to give them the opportunity to learn at their own pace, in their own style and from where they are at in their learning rather than where their age says they should be.

Homeschooling has its ups and downs just like school did when we were in Canada, but they are determined to be learners and they love that it can still happen in our home or in the community, in a few hours per day.

As a former teacher, I was excited to be a part of their learning in this way but life coaching is my passion so both earn my time and focus. Wanting to leave time for playing in the sun and sand, as well, the balance can get tricky.

After some resistance, they are embracing the new culture (outdoor living, celebrations, dogs and garbage), a new language (Duolingo and Gringo Espanol have been fun), new food (fish tacos, doughnuts on the beach, empanadas and popsicles are a hit) and new activities (body surfing, snorkeling, protecting turtles, shell collecting, stand-up paddle boarding).

Some days and some areas are harder than others but each day we see their courage and confidence growing and visits from family and friends have definitely helped.

For me, being hit with dengue fever, and balancing my life coaching career with homeschooling have been my main obstacles. Dengue fever comes with joint pain, reduces mobility and lasts anywhere from a month to up to a year. In a place where we walk everywhere and cobblestones cover the roads, this is a challenge that only can be overcome with local remedies, ibuprofen and lots of patience.

This journey has already allowed us to let go of what was no longer working, to keep the parts we love, and to go with what we were being pulled to do. It has provided us with opportunities to challenge, question and get clear on what creating a life we love looks like. We can’t imagine being anywhere else and see ourselves coming back for at least another nine months. “Creating a life we love” is our guide and we are willing to commit to it regardless of what gets in the way.