Mexico changed me for the better and I love her for it. The experiences will always bring smiles to my face and light to my heart.
I anticipated a tan and fun in the sun, beautiful Caribbean beaches and Pacific Ocean sunsets, culturally important cities and Mayan ruins. I didn’t expect to be internally changed forever.
Yes, Mexico has its issues – doesn’t every country? This isn’t a cultural contrast and I’m not declaring Mexico better than my homeland. I’m simply saying my experiences with Mexico changed me for the better, in many ways. Here are six of them.
1. My self-confidence increased
I’ve always been a fairly confident woman, but my self-confidence has been boosted living in a foreign country and interacting with its people. It takes courage to travel around in a foreign place and not know the language – especially when traveling like a local, using conveyances unheard of in America, such as combis or colectivos, which are shared taxi rides that are either passenger vans or pickup trucks. Taking a bus across a part of the country was, at first, a confidence tester.
Don’t listen to all the negative news. We had great experiences with travel in Mexico.
Deciding where to live for a month or more at a time takes much planning. My spouse Tedly and I are slow travelers, so we generally stay in a city or town a month. We research an area we want to visit, Tedly usually finds the Airbnb options and presents them to me and we review them together to make a selection. When we get to an area we’ve never been to before, we hope for the best. It always worked out in Mexico, and those housing successes built our confidence for further world travel on the other side of the planet.
Communication with everyone who doesn’t speak English can be a challenge, but I was encouraged by Mexicans to keep trying. That helped me become more confident in my ability to accomplish basic communication in a foreign language.
There are more confidence-building examples, but you’d be here all day reading them so let’s move on to the other ways Mexico changed me for the better.
2. Humility is more important to me
I learned this a long time ago, but I don’t know if I lived it as much as I did once Mexico showed me how. So many Mexicans helped me: with directions, with knowledge of neighborhoods, with understanding electricity bills – and on and on. I don’t proclaim to be an expert about Mexican culture, or an expert on living there as an expat.
But I do know this: I will always remain teachable so I can learn and grow. To remain stagnant and self-important with a giant ego is a sure way for me to get knocked down a peg or two (or three) by the Universe. That’s not the kind of person I am today. It helps no one. When I take the time to learn something from someone else, maybe I am boosting their self-confidence in some small way. I want to remain open to new experiences and learning new things all the time.
It seems I’ve developed a level of humble confidence I never had before. I’m more flexible and mutable, receptive and intuitive – and these qualities sweeten my life. It’s another beautiful example of how Mexico changed me for the better.
3. Today, I live (mostly) in the now
This is something I started practicing about many years ago – to be more present in the present. Sure, it’s good to have a plan for the future, but it’s not good to live in tomorrow. I first heard the following saying from an old friend in Cleveland (who is now deceased, rest her soul): ‘With one foot in yesterday, and one foot in tomorrow, you are pissing on today.’
Mexico taught me that’s all there really is – right now. Have some pesos in your pocket and find yourself hungry enough to use a snack? Grab a chair at a restaurant and refuel. Hot and tired in the noon day sun? Take a siesta to relax and rejuvenate. And there’s nothing like enjoying the cool night beach breezes after a long and stifling hot day.
Before early retirement, I used to have every minute of every day for a week – or longer – all planned out. It was predictable, rigid, constraining. But the concept of “living in the now” is fun, non-stressful and exciting.
When I sometimes start to slip back to my old way of living – the controlling, planning, hyper-organized old Ellen – I remind myself none of that matters, and I try to just be. It’s progress, not perfection.
4. Slow and low, that is my tempo (and sometimes, late!)
This goes along with living in the now. When I take things slowly, I’m more comfortable and relaxed and can better enjoy the ‘now.’ Part of the reason is because everything in Mexico seems to go slower than in the U.S., especially in the hotter climate areas. What’s the point of rushing from point A to point B if you’re going to be soaked with sweat? Why not take your time and maybe even enjoy a break in the cooler shade?
Siesta time in Mexico is simply awesome. In the heat of the day, a nap refreshes me for the rest of the afternoon and the evening.
Many businesses even shut down for siesta, so that can encourage everyone to slow down.
Also, meeting times with friends are flexible. If you tell a friend you’re going to meet around 4:00 p.m., that means 4:00 p.m. or later – not 3:50 p.m. or 3:55 p.m. like in my old life. I used to be early for everything. It’s just one of those cultural differences. If you show up after 4:00 p.m., it’s no big deal. Maybe the bus was late, maybe it’s too hot to walk to fast — whatever. You enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Of course, professional appointments are treated with a bit more rigidity. If your appointment with the dentist is 9:00 a.m., you are expected at that time, or shortly afterward.
Now, back in the day, I worked in TV news. You know how fast-paced that is. Deadlines all day every day, week in week out. Lounging around during the midday hours, or being late (!) for some casual meeting is a reversal. The slower life is much better for me. I’m happier not worrying about time all the time, and that helps my effort to live in the now.
5. I smile more 🙂
This one is pretty simple way Mexico has changed me for the better.
Since I smile more, strangers smile back. Imagine that!
This makes me more at ease, and hopefully puts others at ease. I like to think that I’m more approachable now, compared to when I had a colder, no-nonsense air as I lived and worked in the U.S. Gosh. That seems like such another life.
6. I am more grateful my soul was born as an American
I had career opportunities that are not as easily found in Mexico – especially for women. My soul’s path has afforded me the means to travel and explore places outside my home country with relative ease.
Winning the birth lottery was total luck, but I’m more aware of my good fortune thanks to my time in Mexico. It exposed me – for the first time in my life – to a diverse culture that had many more people struggling in day-to-day life than in my homeland.
I know I will return to Mexico in the future.
All of my interactions with Mexican people have been wonderful. They are kind and friendly and they want visitors to have a good time. Don’t believe all the crap you read or watch in media.
I’m grateful for all the ways Mexico changed me for the better.
Muchas gracias, Mexico!
(This post was updated October 2019.)
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