Freedom Comes with Risks
and why we’re choosing to take some
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few weeks ago, while we were staying on a ranch in Mexico, I went out & collected the laundry off the line just before dark, piling it on the grass. I gathered up the pile & brought it in, spreading it on one of the beds in my girls’ shared room. As I began to fold it, I noticed that a brownish-red-coloured bug had decided to hitch a ride inside. It didn’t look scary, so I grabbed a tissue & attempted to grab him with it. But not before he let me know who was boss.
I don’t think I’ve EVER been in so much pain, possibly not even during childbirth! I couldn’t help but let out a loud shriek, then another, racing down the hall to the bathroom, to get some water on my poor finger. But it didn’t help. “Ice! I need ice!” I yelled as Tom came running over. Once I got some ice on it, I could breathe again. But, even after 15 minutes, as soon as I’d take the ice off, that horrible blood-curdling sting came rushing back, all over, & I could have screamed again.
Our hosts on “el rancho” were incredibly kind, & kept giving me ice & pain meds, but even still, the sting persisted. They said that it was a kind of scorpion, & it did have some similar body features, but not the typical tail, & it was pretty tiny & wiry. For now, I’ll just take their word for it.
Meanwhile, Tom went on a hunt in the girls’ bedroom, to find said “scorpion.” After about 15-20 minutes of looking through all the laundry, pulling apart the girls’ bedding, searching under the beds & dresser, he finally found the bug alive under one of the girls’ backpacks on the floor. Whapping it with his flip-flop ended the hunt. We were so relieved, as we’d been wondering where & how we could all sleep, knowing that the little villain was on the loose. I managed to help Tom get the girls to bed, after all that excitement...kissing & hugging them while clutching my bag of ice.
As I sat, wondering, “How will I ever sleep tonight?” still in extreme pain, after 11 pm, I messaged a good friend back home to tell her about my plight. She couldn’t believe I was still in so much pain after taking so many pain meds, & over three hours later. She mentioned Benadryl, which I hadn’t thought to take. But since it made sense that I could be reacting, I took one...& finally found some actual relief! Ahhh...sleep 😴
Being in Central America has shown us that we need to be willing to face various risks each day—including scorpions, tarantulas, & snakes—in order to have the freedoms we enjoy here. And we can honestly say, as far as people go, we’ve never felt at risk of harm here, in any of the many places we’ve been. Of course, we pray a lot, asking God for direction & wisdom, & we also avoid places that aren’t considered as safe.
While we were out on a boat in the Pacific Ocean several weeks ago, watching hundreds of dolphins do their jumps & spinning leaps above the water, I thought of the dolphins I’d seen at aquariums. They all seemed happy enough, & did their flips in the air & other tricks on command, to get a fish reward. But the ones we witnessed in the wild were beyond elated. Their joy was palpable, & their flips & spins mid-air were a voluntary expression of it.
Tom & I were in awe of them & pondered afterward just how much we could relate to those dolphins. Just a few months ago, we had felt like we were in captivity, living in Canada, where we just needed to “do what we’re told” in order to live life normally. We have many friends & family members who have not complied, & in doing so, have given up basic freedoms—like not being able to fly within or out of Canada. What kind of “free” nation does that to its people?!
Since arriving in Central America, we feel inspired to live life to the fullest, without the constant worry of being denied basic freedoms. Just like those wild dolphins we saw embracing life to the fullest, we want to do the same each day. But unlike the ones that live in aquariums, the dolphins in the wild face real dangers each day. There are dangers wherever a person lives, & “safety” can often be overrated. I’ve noticed that each individual has their own definition of said “safety” & many would consider what we’re doing to be quite unsafe.
Although initially we had to make sacrifices to get here, we have felt much more alive and free since we left Canada. We are treated the same as everyone in Central America—temperature checks & sanitizer were usually required when entering a mall or grocery store in Mexico. Never once have we been asked to show proof of anything to get into a business. We still have many of the same daily challenges as we did before—& even some added ones, like needing to learn Spanish better, & relying on taxis & buses to get around.
Back in September (as I mentioned in my “Daring to Jump” post), I felt like I was being suffocated. My mental health was really suffering, which was taking a toll on my body, my emotions, & my closest relationships. It wasn’t healthy for me to keep living that way, & I hated the feeling of always wondering what could be taken next.
Life isn’t meant to be lived in fear or captivity. We’re so happy we stepped out of the “cage” that it felt like we were living in—even though it means that we face other risks & potential dangers each day now.
We’ve heard several people say—even some tourists we’ve met here—“You’re so lucky you guys can do that! We could never do that!” And other comments like, “Well, your husband works online, so that’s different. My job wouldn’t allow me to do that.”
We faced a huge element of uncertainty & fear of the unknown that we had to overcome in order to do what we’re doing. When we first came to Mexico in October, Tom didn’t have a job, or even a job prospect, for over a month. Then his former company emailed him that they desperately needed his help, so he came back as an independent contractor. Of course, we both recognize that this is a huge blessing, & we are incredibly thankful that he was already in a more mobile kind of job before. It has made our search for income to fund our travels stress-free for now.
In her book World Schooling, Ashley Dymock DeTello says this:
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to live abroad. One of the biggest is that it is only for the wealthy, the diplomats, or the “lucky ones.” This is a limiting belief that keeps so many from ever even considering the amazing opportunities that are freely available to them.”
There are thousands of ex-pats in Mexico, & many in El Salvador, who are pursuing new things because they’re in search of freedom. We met a wonderful Canadian family who recently came to Mexico. He had been a firefighter for years. They left Canada when he lost his job due to mandates back in November. They pursued residency in Mexico, & he is looking at possibly becoming a realtor & at other job opportunities in a beautiful city where many ex-pats are living.
So many possibilities are out there for online businesses or even setting up a local business here in Central America—buying a property here & starting up something like a hostel, an air b&b, restaurant, gym, whole food store, tour business, etc. Of course it’s incredibly scary at first & it’s not for everyone, but it can be done.
Like Tim Ferriss says,
“Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”
There are many people who don’t take the initial risks needed to get themselves out of their present situation, even if they “hate” it. I used to work with a few of them. They would come to work & spend a lot of their shift complaining about their job, the management, etc. I’d wonder why they weren’t making any effort to find a different job, more suited to what they wanted, & instead were spreading their discontent to those around them.
We’ve had several friends, relatives, & even strangers reach out & ask us how they can get out of Canada. And what it’s like to do what we’re doing. So many experiences are hard to describe, because there are so many elements to them. Honestly, I’m sitting here typing while dripping in sweat, a combination of the humidity & heat. You start to get used to dunking yourself in the pool & taking multiple cold showers each day to stay sane😅
Doing a home stay last month made me that much more aware of how much my Spanish needs to improve to have more meaningful conversations. And it also made me thankful that Tom & I have a basic sense of how to communicate in Spanish, since the couple we stayed with didn’t know any English. Our girls have a harder time making friends with the local kids because of the language barrier. But they’re beginning to pick up lots of Spanish words & phrases, which is neat to see. They have also bonded much more closely with each other in the last six months. 💖
Now we’re in El Salvador, staying at an amazing place in the “jungle” with trees & plants galore. We have all kinds of colourful birds here, that we wake up to each day—their singing brings us so much joy! We also have a huge variety of creepy crawlies. We all like the cute little geckos, iguanas, frogs, agoutis (little rabbit-like rodents), & colourful butterflies. Being here we’re so one with nature. It’s a lot like camping.
Every evening, hundreds of ants come by to greet us, especially in the kitchen. Mopping them up seems to help quite a bit. There are also dozens of beetles, cicadas, flying ants, & lots of other little flying & crawling creatures. Some of them can be pretty annoying, especially the mosquitoes & biting ants. Our living room & dining room are “open air” which is nice in the daytime, but not so much later in the day. We’ve come up with a few strategies now, like keeping a light on where we are NOT, so some of them go there instead of with us. We’ve had a couple visits from tarantulas, & since we don’t know which ones are dangerous, we treat them like they all are. They’re huge—as big as my hand!
It’s pretty amazing to watch when the fireflies come out. They’re like little twinkling stars, flying around the yard. The girls sometimes even watch them lighting up their bedroom when the lights are out! Such fascinating little wonders of nature.✨
If we stayed in the city, we’d have less bugs, but we’d be missing out on all the incredible gifts that being in nature offers us…like watching an iguana hide in his “house” that’s a hole in the tree at the end of our deck (see the pic below). And watching the weaver birds go into their nest that is really a dangling basket, swinging from a tree branch.
When we get a full-on tropical rainstorm, the open-air part of our house gets an inch of water on the floor. That’s basically a flood in our living room & dining room—& we’ve started getting used to it, now that we’re into rainy season. Each place we stay has its many different quirks. And we’re learning so much about nature, life, freedom, & the risks that come with it along the way. 💛