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Carrie's Travel Series - Part 1 of 3
I did something terrifying this year - I left my fulltime job at the beginning of 2018 and took a three-month personal sabbatical to Central Mexico. I had a lot of reasons for going, but the big ones were to learn Spanish and to connect with a community that is often unfairly stigmatized.
In traveling to Mexico, I hoped to become a part of a community which can be challenging when traveling outside the confines of a job or visiting friends or family. On this trip, I considered myself more a traveler than a tourist. I wasn’t headed to visit the newest resorts or restaurants but to become part of a global community, something I’d experienced before and hoped to find again.
Yoko Ono once said “We are all aspects of one great being. No matter how far apart we are, the air links us.” I couldn’t agree more, and this idea is never more real for me than when I encounter someone in a foreign land who teaches me about myself through the discovery of shared values or interests.
I felt this so deeply during my time in Haiti as a foreign aid worker back in 2012. I think I’ve been hoping to find that deep connection to a new place and a new community of people but have kept it realistic that meaningful connections don’t always happen instantly. I wanted to see if spending time, real time, in a new place would result in meaningful relationships and new opportunities. So I gave myself time, three whole months.
Last year I kinda put it out there - into the universe, “I wanna go somewhere far away, and for a while, you figure out the rest. I’ll walk the path when it appears.” And sure enough. It appeared during a trip to Puerto Vallarta when I met a lovely couple who lived in San Miguel de Allende (SMA) who helped put critical pieces together to get the ball rolling and put the trip further into motion.
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful small city full of culture. I quickly learned this city was more than just a destination for couples to have their weddings, but a perfect place to both study Spanish at a small school and a place to build community. And on top of it, the universe also helped me figure out free lodging! I made a quick weekend trip to SMA 6 months before the big trip, and I was instantly sold.
Upon arriving in SMA this past January it was reaffirmed that this city was more than I could’ve dreamed up; a European looking town full of Spanish colonial charm and Mexican culture. The town is complete with a garden square or “Jardin” at the center, flanked on all sides by cafes and shops and the famed Parrocia overlooking it all. I felt like I was living in the Mexican version of Stars Hollow (if you haven’t watched the Gilmore Girls please do so now) or the animated Pixar film, Coco and it was perfection.
In the first month, I studied and spent as much time as I possibly could engaging in the community. Most days I stopped in the Jardin to eat a pan dulce or read or listen to mariachi. More often than not there were events in the evenings, a concert or a festival. I felt so connected, there was a literal town center, and everyone was welcoming and inclusive of me.
As my Spanish improved I ventured out of the safety of my Jardin routine and started to have small conversations in shops and in the markets which opened a whole new world for me. It dawned on me that I had done this before - getting to know artisans during my time in Haiti. I started to realize it was a large part of why I was abroad in the first place. Ethical Fashion and connectivity are synonymous for me, so it’s no surprise that I left Mexico with both new friends and a new small business.
Sometimes our experiences come full circle. I met a woman in Haiti back in 2012 who taught me so many of the lessons I carried with me to Mexico and because of those lessons I was able to be bold enough to take this risk of quitting my job, and traveling abroad for an extended period of time, and starting a new business.