This is the second in a series of articles by Denise Shannon about Living versus Resorting. To read the first article, start here.
After spending two months of winter in Mexico, I have now returned home. As I sit at my desk in my home office looking out at snow flurries, it is time to reflect upon the experience. It was hard to do this last week in Mexico, as I found myself wanting to desperately enjoy every last minute, yet at the same time, was feeling myself pulled home. I needed some time and distance to get a little perspective on this very different extended vacation.
Renting a house for an extended period of time and trying to live like a local (though I’ve learned that those words aren’t completely accurate…) is a great alternative to the typical resort stay. I have now done both, and both have their merits; however, I have learned a lot more and lived in a different way this time around. At the end of the stay, some important considerations and observations stand out.
As reported earlier, this is the most challenging part of the stay initially. Without having hotel staff to guide you around, finding one’s way and figuring out the little things that are part of daily life are essential, yet sometimes intimidating. However, it is also the most satisfying part of the process. After just a short time, we felt familiar with our surroundings, and began to feel truly “at home.” I confess that my goal of learning Spanish fell short, but I did increase my vocabulary and confidence a little bit!
By the end of our extended vacation, we felt like experts when meeting fellow tourists. We were able to recommend and guide them in ways that their vacation package tour guides fell short. At this point, we knew we had settled in well!
In spite of our comfort level and familiarity with our area, we did not fully live like a local. It would not be wholly accurate to say we did. We clearly were visitors, as evidenced by our language and physical appearance. We were treated very well by our neighbours and everyone we met. However, we lived very differently from the average person, and it was clear that we had privileges in terms of time, money and lifestyle that a typical resident would not have.
Whenever we are on vacation, we do revel in the pleasures and delights of all we experience. However, having an extended vacation to do so really makes one take in all the wonderful, but simple, aspects of everyday life. Having the time and space really increases the powers of observation, making one appreciate these pleasures all the more. Days stretch out with infinite possibilities. Coffee on the patio in the morning with no need to rush anywhere, having the pool to ourselves all week, making spontaneous decisions to have a moonlight swim after dinner, enjoying the array of colorful tropical birds – these are examples of delights that seemed clearer and fresher with time to observe and appreciate them! Even doing laundry is a satisfying experience when you can slow it down and hang clothes on the line in the sun. Somehow this chore does not have quite the same thrill at home…
Were there times when I missed my home? Absolutely! Sometimes the time seems long, the heat too intense, and the little things seem magnified. I think that is par for the course when you are in one place for too long. These aren’t deal-breakers and from the perspective of being home, they do seem almost laughable now. Being aware of these and learning to roll with those moments is important in being able to get past them and concentrate on what is important.
Near the end of our stay, we suddenly started making new discoveries! These were lovely last gifts that allowed us to delight in the new and really appreciate our final days. We attended Mass at a church around the corner, having enjoyed the music from it throughout our stay. We varied our usual walk and discovered a charming neighbourhood and a closer store for our daily shopping needs. The days got longer and we experienced more beautiful sunsets. We regained that fleeting sense of time passing by, and resolved to revel in these last days of our extended vacation and become “tourists” again!
So, we have now been home for four days. We are thrilled to be back in our own home, sleeping in our own bed, getting excited about opening drawers and cupboards and finding things we had forgotten we had! We are also enjoying reminiscing about experiences, sometimes in awe that we actually did this! Yesterday, as I walked around my downtown streets in the wind and wet snow, I felt oddly comfortable and at peace. I know I would not have been able to appreciate a miserable March day had I not had the opportunity to live elsewhere for most of the winter.
Would we do this again? Yes. It may not be for as long a period of time in one place; it may not be in the exact same environment. But, it has been a privilege and a learning experience, as well as a winter escape. I would recommend that anyone who does this be aware of some of the challenges, determine what your own needs are, and be willing to be flexible and open to the experience. It is definitely worth it and will change your outlook on living and traveling!