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Over the last three weeks, traveling solo through Mexico has given me some of the most memorable moments of my life.
It’s also given me some of my biggest challenges.
I’ve traveled overseas alone, a lot. But in the past, I’ve always had an end date, a more luxurious budget, an ability to go with the flow — because the pressure of getting real things done was low.
I would soak it up. Live in the moment. Then I would go home.
Now, I am attempting to start a business while learning living abroad. Either situation, alone, might have be enough to overwhelm me. Managing the two, together, has been almost breaking at times.
Last week, I called my mom while sitting at a cafe in a new place, where the WiFi wouldn’t work. My voice cracked in a way I rarely allow in public. I hoped my sunglasses would hide the tears rolling down my cheeks.
“When I traveled before, it was enough to get from one place to another, to research the place I’m in, to work on the language — and I thrived in that,” I tried to explain.
“But now, I’m trying to start a new business. I’m trying to get my laundry done. I’m trying to do errands. I’m trying to find a place to work.
“It’s too much.”
The struggles, which have been incredibly harder than I could imagine, are hard to describe.
Imagine walking into your office, wearing one of the 11 outfits you own, but on this day, the internet is no longer working. Maybe the walls have been removed and you’re forced to work outside, in 95 degree heat. Maybe the free coffee in the break room is no longer complimentary, and it’s out of your budget to purchase it. Perhaps someone invited a bunch of yelling kids, or barking dogs, or honking cars into your cubicle, or turned on a club-like soundtrack. When your coworkers come by to tell you something, your brain fried from writing, you sometimes don’t understand them. They’re literally speaking another language. And let’s not forget that you don’t actually know what you’re doing. This is a new job.
Still, you need to produce. You fear you won’t be able to eat or afford a place to sleep if you don’t. The pressure is enormous.
When you leave work, exhausted, you’re not going home to your kitchen, where you know where everything is in the cupboards and the fridge, to your TV and your couch, to your cozy bed.
Instead, your room, your house, changes constantly. Sometimes you have hot water, air conditioning or a fan, sometimes you don’t. You rarely have a place to make coffee. You never have a TV. Your favorite beer isn’t in the fridge. Your favorite food is no longer a phone call or a pan away. Eating dinner requires going out and finding it, mostly likely on a street cart you can afford. Oh, and whatever you’re craving: it’s probably not an option.
Sometimes, because it all feels so hard, like it will never get any easier, you cry yourself to sleep. You wonder if you did the right thing. And you curse yourself for struggling so much more than you ever expected.
But the next day, you wake up and you realize, anew, that you’re surrounded by culture and beauty — crumbling pyramids, quaint, colorful streets and vast, cliff-laden beaches. Most importantly, you’re surrounded by people who are living without much of what you cry about, and much, much more, too, every day.
Each morning, they rise, and they carry on. They’ve beaten the game: so many of them have had so much taken from them, and still they smile. They laugh. They live.
In my most frustrated moments, I let them inspire me. And with their help, I’ll learn to do the same.