After living abroad for a year and a half now (in the Mexican Caribbean and the Marshall Islands) with my 7-year-old daughter, I have compiled a list of the many reasons this has ruined my daughter’s life forever.
I have ruined my daughter’s life because…
1. She gets confused as to which language to speak.
She thinks and operates in another language now, and has had to overcome the hurdle of not only knowing but learning the language, and figuring out how to rise above language barriers and find a humanitarian commonality from which to make friends.
This will for sure work to her disadvantage, as a child, when continuing to make diverse friends internationally, as a teenager when remembering that all humans are equal, and also later in life in graduate school or her professional job, which will most likely require bilingualism by then, if not trilingualism as a unique ability and necessary standard in the global workplace. She might even get paid more (eek!).
2. She doesn’t have a TV.
Instead of watching TV, she is snorkeling the open ocean, exploring turquoise cenotes, hiking ancient ruins, and trekking pacific islands. God, the nerve.
To be outside adventuring, exercising, discovering nature coming to life right before your very eyes, touching it, smelling it, hearing it. I mean, TV is so much better. I wish we had one.
3. None of her friends are American.
All of her friends are Mexican. Argentine. Italian. Spanish. Marshallese. What a bummer.
She has had to understand and accept what other cultures are like at such a young age. She has had to learn about global diversity and understanding and respect early or she wouldn’t have any friends. In our globalized world today, this will definitely work against her when she becomes the spokesperson for global compassion and equality because her roots of this conceptual understanding run so deep.
4. She doesn’t have a big house or new car anymore.
She has a room and a bike that she shares with her mom. I feel bad not providing her with this American dream anymore and replacing it with an international dream of experiences, rather than material items and luxurious comforts that make us comfortable but don’t challenge our soul.
I feel bad no longer having a big house and being tied down to life and pressures and responsibilities and stressors that affect my child as well.
I feel bad not having two living rooms and three bathrooms anymore so that half of the house goes to waste, yet takes up room on the block that homeless people could be living in, and ringing up utility bills that are more expensive than a plane ticket to another amazing paradise.
5. She doesn’t have a lot of plastic toys.
She doesn’t have that many toys here, because we need to fly, and because this is a society not as interested in hoarding plastic crap. She has a few Barbies, but not the Barbie convertible, salon, restaurant, dream house, jacuzzi tub and poodle club or whatever other Barbie accessories are available. We keep it simple.
Take the Barbie to the cenote, that’s her jacuzzi. Brush the Barbie’s hair, that’s the salon. Or better yet, play with sticks and shells and sand and palm leaves and coconuts and the ocean.
She has long forgotten about her entire playroom and bedroom and loft and den and living room and dining room full of dollies and horsies and blocks and brain teaser puzzles and purses and play kitchens and easels and play pianos and my little ponies and my little sparkles and whatever else I packed up in a million boxes and drove off to Goodwill last year.
She has never even mentioned any of it.
And now, when she is good, we go snorkeling. She now realizes that money doesn’t buy this happiness. She realizes that a new doll won’t bring her the same happiness that seeing her favorite rainbow fish will, and that comforts don’t either.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, which fosters detachment and repels greediness, cultivates simplicity, natural love, creativity, and outdoor adventure, all tragic things that will in no way ever work to her benefit, now or later down the road.
I hope she can someday forgive me for this.
6. She doesn’t know about stress.
Her mother has time for her. She is not running here and there and going to dinner parties and running in for dinner groceries and waiting for a Redbox and getting road rage in the rush hour traffic, and being on the cell phone the whole time during the madness.
Her mother has time for her, all day, all night, rarely stressed, no car, a basic phone for safety, together 24 hours a day adventuring and sharing and laughing and being unstressed and happy and free.
She knows flow and ease. I am not too busy for her anymore because I am making money to provide our big house that we don’t need and other things that bring conveniences and comforts of a different world, and provide external happiness and accomplishment to a culture that judges each other by the size and location of their houses instead of the character of their heart.
7. She is brave.
She is a strong, independent, intelligent adventurer who learns from mistakes and finds answers for herself. She busts into that new school of Mexicans not knowing a word of their language and makes 10 friends in two seconds. She free dives the Caribbean and remote Pacific, swims in big waves, hikes barefoot, eats foreign foods and is never ever scared or even blinks an eye. Talk about adaptation and zest for life! This will suck later when she travels alone, confidently goes off to college or scuba dives for the first time at age eight.
8. The world is her classroom, and nature is her playground.
She is learning the stars in the sky, the way ocean tides work, the different fish in the sea, that Mayans sleep in hammocks and palapas stay really dry, that tortillas are made over coals and the taxi ride from town to the beach is 50 pesos for locals.
She is learning how to make baskets out of coconut leaves and what fish are toxic to eat and what snakes are poisonous and when coconuts rot and the colors of the sky at sunset and when it’s about to rain and how to count to a million in sand granules and km and Celsius conversions and what lychees taste like.
She is so curious. She craves knowledge, adventure, happiness and more beautiful life.
9. She is thankful.
She is thankful for the little, free things in life. I mean big things, like sunshine and seahorses, like baby turtles and fresh drinking water, time with mommy, bare feet, health, understanding another language, colorful reef, universal friendships and rainbows.
Not stuff. She is not thankful for stuff. She is thankful for nature, and for things that we have that others do not, putting life in perspective. She is not thankful for a new boat we have that a classmate doesn’t, but for flip flops when our neighbors don’t have any, or thankful for a fan at night for sleeping or a shower with hot water instead of cold. She is thankful for free adventure and life exploration.
10. Humanity is her family.
There are no colors anymore. There are no languages. There are people. There are beautiful human beings waiting to share friendships and be loved, waiting to be understood and accepted. She realizes that we are all equal. No matter where in the world we live, what we do, or what we look like. Here, we are the different ones, and sometimes it takes a lesson like that to really understand.
11. And last, she is learning that dreams come true.
She is watching her mommy pave her way of happiness and bring amazing things to life. Things that were once ideas in the heart are now morning activities and life perspectives.
She is learning that anything we dream up and want in this life, we can make happen. Anything that we don’t like, we have the power to change. Anything that we believe in and love, we deserve to have. Anything that makes us happy, we can experience.
She is learning that nothing is impossible, beyond reach or silly to dream.
She is learning that we have one life, and we deserve to live that the way we believe.
And she is learning that dreams are not meant to be dreams, but inspiration and encouragement to live and achieve and believe, to hope and pray and lead and do.
Another way to do it differently:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Bonus: Go get lost and be humbled—tips for mindful travel.
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photos: Author’s Own
Mindful Travel Tips:
Waylon and his mother talk about growing up Buddhist: