Oaxaca is calling us. Should we stay or go?

January 28, 2016

When we started out on this trip a little over three months ago we didn’t have much of a plan.  We bought a one way ticket to San Francisco, and then after a few days catching up with a friend we caught a bus down to Los Angeles and flew to Oaxaca.

the traveling anthropologist

We had a vague idea of spending a month in each country, maybe doing a workaway here or there or some volunteering, but otherwise just finding the best food and coffee in a city and taking some cool photographs.

About a month in we decided to move to Leon, Nicaragua around February so Guy could work for Quetzaltrekkers and I could get a job at a university teaching English.  We were enjoying traveling but also wanted to stop somewhere for a while to save some money and have a different experience. I wrote a post about how we were moving to Nicaragua,  all about how excited we were, scheduled it, deleted it, wrote it again and then deleted it again.  Something just didn’t feel right about it and after a couple of days here in Leon I realised why – I don’t want to move to Nicaragua after all.

I tried to like Leon, I really did. I focused really hard on all the things I like about this city – the pretty parque central, the street food, the secondhand stores at the market and the gluten free aisle in the supermarket(!). But, I just don’t. It lacks that special something that makes me want to stay. A certain charm, a variety of things to do, a character. I’m not entirely sure.  Guy feels the same way and so we’ve decided to leave. But where to now?

leon travel blog

We miss Mexico and we miss Oaxaca. We were really sad to leave and we’ve been talking about going back ever since.  We loved almost everything about the city and the people and of course the food. I would go back just to eat those tacos again.  No seriously I would.

But also, I’m feeling tired. I’m feeling tired of constantly being on the move and spending long hours on buses watching similar looking scenery rolling by.  I’m a little over staying in a dorm room (I mean it’s fun, but it’s also not).  I feel like we’re missing out by cooking all of our own meals to save money because tasting the local cuisine is one of my favourite things to do. But mostly, I feel like we’re only scratching the surface of the country. We’re not getting to know the locals, we’re hardly speaking their language and we’re not leaving the well worn tourist trail. I know that’s how many people travel, and I get it, I like that (sometimes) but right now it’s leaving me feeling empty. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me or maybe I’m just getting old. Whatever it is I (we) want more.  We’re not country counters (not that I have anything against those who are! I’m a girl who doesn’t like different foods on her plate touching…no judgement!), and we’re not interested in seeing all the ‘must-dos’ of a place.

the traveling anthropologist

So after much discussion (and a few arguments ha) we’ve decided to move back to Oaxaca and live there for six months.  We don’t know quite what we’ll do yet but I’ll pick up some teaching work, Guy will go back to training the rugby team and we’ll eat tacos every day.  We’ll also get involved with some volunteer work and just generally immerse ourselves as deeply as we can.

I’m not 100% on it, I think I’m around 85.  I still have doubts and worries that I can’t get rid of. This isn’t what I envisaged when we left New Zealand.  This isn’t the kind of trip I thought we would take.

Part of me, a small part, whispers in my ear ‘its crazy to miss out on South America, it’s an entire continent – you’re missing all those countries when your so close! You’re right here. And what about the rest of the world? Asia? Europe? Africa?‘  Part of me, a larger part, whispers back ‘there’s no right way to travel, so what if I miss out a few countries, you’re never going to see everything in a place anyway. do what makes you happy, now, today. I’d rather get to know one country intimately than visit one or two places in a hundred countries just so I can say I’ve been there

And then there’s another part of me that’s just like ‘fuck this let’s watch Netflix’.

the traveling anthropologist

I think the biggest struggle is reconciling the idea of our trip that’s still lingering in my mind with the reality of how we’re feeling now. I can’t shrug off these feelings of failure, and sadness. It’s strange when you realise the dream you have isn’t the dream you actually want. But I’m learning to be flexible, to find compromises wherever possible and to enjoy the twists and turns that life throws at me.

But at the same time I’m so excited and I feel more peaceful than I have in weeks knowing the direction we’re going in, and best of all knowing that we’re agreed on it. Last night I lay awake until past 2am thinking happy thoughts about throwing dinner parties in Oaxaca, using our home as an AirBnb and of course, eating tacos every day.

I guess it’s time for a new adventure! Wish me luck 🙂


  • Reply Aaron Dutil March 13, 2016 at 4:58 am

    I love your post. It really resonated with me. I’m finishing up a 2 month stint in Thailand and have to admit that this wasn’t what I thought it would be, especially after hearing everyone rave about it. I miss the Pacific coast of Mexico right now.

    I lived in Mexico for three months and it is a great country. I only spent a little time in Oaxaca (about a week) but it was enjoyable. I spent most of my time in and around Puerto Vallarta. I think you all would really like that beach city. It has something for everyone. I lived in an ex-pat community for one month, a traditional Mexican colonia for one month (but it was still only a four block walk to the beach) and one month in the surfing/yoga mecca of Sayulita, about 45 minutes north of PV. You all might want to try there, since PV has such a huge American and Canadian retiree/expat community, it might be easier to find work, as well as your wallet.

  • Reply Pippa Vague March 14, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks so much Aaron. We’ve heard so many things about Puerto Vallarta – it sounds wonderful! Though perhaps a little too touristy for our tastes to stay for very long. We’ve ended up spending the last few weeks in Mexico City which we’re loving and we’re heading home in a few weeks for a family illness. But we will return to Mexico, and maybe that trip we’ll get down to PV! Thanks for the tip and good luck with your remaining time in Thailand!

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