Traveling in your 20s vs traveling in your 30s: a reflection on the great big move to Mexico
We were not legally married because of some technicalities in his home country but 3 years ago, he changed my life, and I, his. After living together for one year in Tel Aviv, we got engaged — in the Maldives. I was 29 then and I believed in the fate of the stars that says our life resets every 27 years (hence, the club 27). They say at this age, our moon cycle restarts which drive us to a period of change, of growth, of doing something greater than what we are already doing. For many, maybe it’s just a beginning.
But that didn’t happen to me in the year I turned 27. I remember being 27 and getting out of the backpacking life, yearning for a “stable” life in a city I loved the most, with the man I would want to spend the rest of my life with. At least, that was my idea of how that time period should be. I thought it should be the next order of things as I’ve already seen the world for over 7 years. What more could I ask for after having completed such great journey? How many years would I want to add to those 7 years of “self-inquiry” and living on the road? I feel like I should say “thank you” every hour of the day just for the Universe to know I am so grateful for being able to have the kind of life I didn’t need an escape from. I will never forget the things I have seen and done from 20-27 years of age, where I spent every waking day being enthusiastic and eager for vitality.
After that fruitful and successful journey, I decided I want to grow up. I turned 27 and there was a strong desire to follow the norms of society. I wanted some dose of normal. I put an expiration date to being married, being a mom, having a house, buying a car, taking in a shelter dog. I did these all at once.
Doron and I found a huge apartment in the south of Tel Aviv but that didn’t work out for long. After just a few months filling that house with furniture and appliances on credit, we needed to leave Israel because I got kicked out. They did not say any concrete reason but I want to clarify that I never overstayed my visa in any country I went to. Imagine, if I do it in one, I will have a record of violating visa rules and then what? I will be banned to travel in many countries. Knowing my urge to gallop all around the globe, do you think I’d risk rebelling the visa laws for just one country when it means I can be banned in 100+ countries? I am really not the type.
We moved to the Philippines with our dog and got a bigger house, a car, dinners and picnics with our married friends, dog dates with neighbors, surf trips with mature people, buying furniture and enjoying our unlimited duty-free superstore purchases. We’ve accumulated all these beautiful couple experiences but when I turned 30, I suddenly felt like I don’t want to be Doron’s wife anymore.
“I don’t know how to be this man’s wife anymore.” I never thought I’d say this. He allows me to travel by myself. He doesn’t say shit when I want to say shit. He is patient. He is kind. He is loving. He is a good man. He comes from a very good and overwhelmingly kind family. I am very lucky to be non-Jewish and still be genuinely loved and accepted by his parents and siblings. Above all, he fights me. I have always been in a relationship where my partner wouldn’t even dare argue because after all, a woman with a personality like mine is always right. At least that’s what they programmed in their minds. I was never a heavy nagger nor a fighter (in fact, I barely do it) but Doron, when I am wrong, he can say it upfront. My relationship with him was the only time I was able to practice the two figures in a relationship: 2 decisions, 2 votes, 2 conflicting opinions. In my past relationships, I am the only one who gets to say something not because I set it as a rule but because my exes are too lazy and unenthusiastic to pitch in.
Doron is a wonderful man and the reason why I didn’t want to be his wife anymore is too sad, too religious and too political. You see, we’ve spent two years of our lives on pause because we want to go back to live in Tel Aviv. Fixing the papers to do so took a lot of time and energy (and money, of course). I have to be honest – I did it because I really really really really loved my life in Tel Aviv with him and with our dog, Motke. If I didn’t have to go, I would’ve stayed there for the rest of my life.
As the waiting game extended, I got overwhelmed with being his wife, being the housekeeper, being the cook, being the breadwinner, being the one who speaks Tagalog because my country gets shook by foreigners. I had to be the responsible one because I brought him to my home country and I hate living in the Philippines. I had to get out of there as soon as possible. I never felt it was a kind of life that resembled who I am. And in that process, I lost myself as a writer. I did not write for a whole year when I was living in the Philippines because I couldn’t find inspiration. It felt like everyone’s taking something from me and I am not receiving anything back.
I still have the many reasons why I want to be his wife but I will not discuss our indifferences here. Again, these reasons are too sad, too religious, and too political. I love Doron and I know, even if we end up marrying other people, I will genuinely love him for the rest of my life. Before being my husband, he was my friend and he will always be. Our relationship was built in a great wall of friendship blocks that nothing can ever destroy.
We’ve had plans of moving to Mexico in a while and I’d like to believe that’s something we wanted through the years we are waiting for my Israeli visa in the Philippines. I just never thought I’d do it by myself. On the day we decided to part ways, I booked a one-way flight to Mexico City. I am not sure why I always hear the high-pitch ring of an old phone saying “It’s Mexico. Answer the call.” That was 3 months ago and Mexico sounded right. It felt right. The phone has been ringing for the last two years. I did not want to put it on hold anymore. When I left, he never thought I’d go for that Mexican dream by myself. I, on the other hand, never thought he and Motke would make it so hard for me to leave.
Traveling in my 20s vs traveling in my 30s: different times, different game. When I first left to travel the world, I didn’t have any car to sell, a lease to take care of, and a dog to send back halfway around the world. I simply left as my life responsibilities were very minimal, maybe almost non-existent. I am 31 now and I feel old more than ever. What if I am too old for this? Why do I feel like when it comes to divorce or separation, it’s only the woman who panics? What if by moving to Mexico and traveling Latin America, I will come to realise that I want to be married to Doron again? What if I meet someone else who will end up following the same dreadful patterns of the cross-cultural relationship hardships (aka visa) that I always stumble upon? What if I am not willing? What if I am too old for hostels? What if the people in the hostel thinks I am too old?!?!
These were just some of the few questions that laid as I pack my bags to Mexico. Age never mattered to me but being 31 feels so life-changing. I feel more connected to myself but I don’t feel old in my body at all. It just bothered me a lot to be 31 and doing this all over again. I mean, my brain feels 31. Or maybe 3,000.
Before starting my new life in Mexico as a 31-year old woman, I laid some cards on the table. I knew that getting to this age means I should not invite another man to my bed in order to forget my old relationship. It used to work that way but now, it just doesn’t. This is not about moving to another foreign country to find another husband but to discover myself as a woman, to re-ignite the fire I have for seeing new places, and somewhere in between, to find the writer that I was which I lost when I was busy being married.
My friend asked me why I needed to work in a hostel for a month when I am financially capable of staying in a hotel and traveling at my own expense. I have done this in Guadalajara and in Mexico City but when I came to travel the whole of Nayarit for 2 months, I needed to feel the belongingness. Moreover, I needed to see if I will adapt to hostel living the same way I did when I was in my 20s. I worked in a hostel in Sayulita because I wanted to meet people and learn from them along the way.
The hostel was filled with 21 to 25-year-old backpackers. For a time, I felt the weirdness and the belongingness at the same time. During the first week that I interacted with these people, the growling sound of “you are 31” kept roaring in my head, especially when the topic of age comes in. We can never avoid that anywhere. These interactions made me feel like I had more experiences than these people so it was me who always had the stories to tell. I felt that I was the one being milked and I was not getting anything in return. Until I tried the technique of keeping it low and not talking about me for a time: I listened to all their backpacking stories without comparing it to mine. I listened to the list of countries these young people have been to without divulging my list. I listened, listened, and listened, until I came to a point of understanding that regardless of age and experience, I can learn from these people, too. I listened, listened, and listened. And man, I did it pretty well! I have mastered the art of listening and that, in greater sense, is something worth more than my experiences as a traveler. These people taught me to listen and do it genuinely.
You may find Mexico to be the oddest place to start over but I do very well identify myself as a Latina. For many years of my career, I have learned to set boundaries with people. Meaning, I haven’t been myself 100%, especially when I was in the Philippines. I am not saying I am very famous there but somehow, the attention to my work got out of control. I felt like everyone is always noticing me which wasn’t a bad thing. I just got tired of all the attention because along with it comes what is expected of me.
In Mexico, many would look at me here without a difference. The way I look and speak all resembles being a true Latin American. I’d hug and kiss everyone I just met. I’d greet everyone on the street. I’d pet all dogs I see and talk to them like they’re my friends. The warms of Latin American countries is not something you’d see anywhere in the world. We literally say hi to everyone and that made me felt physically alone but not alone. Mexico is a perfect place to re-learn who I really am with freedom and respect to what I really want to be.
I find Mexican men to be really intense (more than the Israelis, imagine!) so it really helps for me not to be interested in anything romantic at the moment. I just got really tired of it. Many of you have used my blog as a self-help book for breakups and breaking the norms but like what you see, my life (and ours) transform in different levels. You see, I thought I am already finished with level 22 (aka backpacking, level 23 (getting a house), level 24 (getting engaged), level 25 (buying a car), and so on. But here I am back to square one like your brother accidentally unplugged the Xbox and you weren’t able to save the game. It honestly feels like that.
If you are in the same situation of life in different cycles, I ask you not to admire what I do nor do what I did. I am very thankful for all the admiration and it is one of the key factors that pushes me to live the life I always imagined but I still get inquiries from people about the desire to be like me. Do not be like me. Go out there and do you.
It has taken me so many years to accept that it’s okay to live life in reverse order. In the culture I grew up in, the chronological order is an unspoken law that all of us had to follow: finish school, get a high-paying job, get married, adopt a dog, buy a house, have a baby, have more babies. That has been unconsciously ingrained in every young adult’s mind but when I tried to break the pattern, I have come to a conclusion my life would not be ‘messed up’ if I did it in different orders. The erratic change in my life every year made my friends and family lost and confused so whenever they ask me why I keep changing my decisions and the way I live, there’s only one thing I say:
“We don’t have unlimited chances to get what we want. Nothing is worse than missing an opportunity that could have changed your life. So whatever is in front of me, as long as it feels right, I take it.”
Many of you have been confused about my life updates and I am really happy I can share these things with you. Thank you for being part of this journey to adulthood, to love, and to living our best life. I want to remind you though: the Universe will not respect the timeline you made for yourself but it will always revolve around the decision you’ve made. It has no agenda whatsoever to make your life harder or miserable.
ALL IS UP TO YOU.