Doomed From The Start

STEVE BIO PIC WEBDon’t base your dreams in fantasy.  Dreams should be deeply rooted in reality, not in Never-never Land, Pie-in-the-Sky delusion.  To do otherwise will only doom you from the start.  We just met an older couple (meaning about our age) here at the hotel.  They hail from Canada, and have decided they want to live in Latin America, at least part-time.

The problem is they don’t have a clue.  A lot of us come down here without a clue (that’s no sin), but their additional problem is they don’t have the mindset, skill set or fortitude to pull it off.  At least that’s my initial observation.  I could be wrong of course, but I’m a pretty keen observer of people, and I just don’t think they pack the gear.

Why do I say that?  Because they are (as a couple) rigid (inflexible), fussy and lack spontaneity.  They mouth the right cliched words, but their actions and candid words (spoken without thought) contradict the image they want to portray.  They came down here for two months to explore various living options, splitting their time between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  They lasted in Nicaragua for exactly four days.  Four days!  In that time they only left the safety of the hotel twice, and even then for only a short period of time.

They didn’t explore any living options, and complained about the beautiful island tour (on Lago Nicaragua) that I had recommended.  The wife’s exact quote to me:  “It was windy and choppy.”  Are you kidding me?  The entire trip, with the exception of about 10-minutes, is on the calm inland waters, and only the exceptional 10-minutes ventures out onto the lake proper (which has minimal wind and chop).  But she had set her mind to find the negative—an absolutely fatal flaw in traveling or living abroad.

So, within only four days (actually two days) they have decided that Nicaragua is not for them.  I mentioned to them that Nicaragua is not only the safest country in Central America, but it has the reputation of being what Costa Rica was thirty or forty years ago.  Again, a direct quote:  “We’re not ready for thirty or forty years ago; we want to be around more expats who speak English, more American/Canadian type restaurants, we want our neighbors to be English speaking and we want to be able to return to Canada at a moments notice for healthcare.”

Want is the operative word here.  They want things to be different from what they actually are.  That is the final stake in the heart—to want things to be different from what they are will immediately sow dissatisfaction into any experience(s) they have, whether in Latin America or even back home in Canada.  They left yesterday with an expat who lives in Costa Rica, just knowing that Costa Rica will be better—it won’t be, not for them.  I’ve traveled both countries, and both are beautiful, but both are very similar.  I give the edge to Nicaragua for safety, expense and maybe even beauty.  What they found frustrating in Nicaragua will only be repeated in Costa Rica.  I don’t think they’ll last the whole two months, in fact I think they will probably be back home in Canada in a matter of weeks if not days.

Can you live your dream?  ABSOLUTELY you can.  But you had better know yourself, your abilities and your mindset.  Be brutally honest with yourself, the expat life and world travel is not for everyone.  Are you fearful, are you controlling, do you need routine and structure, do you always have to have things your own way, are you intolerant, quick to anger or a bigot?  If any, or all, of these traits exist within your personality then you will have problems (I suspect these traits already bring problems to your life).  A change of location will not solve these problems, they will in fact exacerbate them.

Do you overcome your fears to pursue your goals, do you tend to go with the flow, can you handle an unscheduled change in plans, do you enjoy meeting new people and exposing yourself to different cultures, can you laugh at yourself (especially when trying communicate in another language), are you curious, adventuresome and racially openminded?  Do you have interior interests like writing, art, music or photography?  Are you a creative person and thinker?  If this describes you, then jump in with both feet and blossom.  My friend Tony in Cuba likes to say:  “When things don’t go as planned is when the adventure begins.”  It has proven to be so.

Can you live your dream?  ABSOLUTELY you can!  My lifelong dream was to be a professional photographer, writer and to travel the world recording my experiences in both pictures and words.  Relative to my photography, I turned professional in 2009 and created my company Indochine Photography International.  In that time I’ve sold many of my images worldwide, and even spent a year as the Staff Photographer for The Yucatan Times newspaper in Mexico.  I created this blog, Expat Journal, in 2011 and it now reaches over 300 subscribers in 125 countries.  As far as world travel goes, I’ve visited and lived in 14 foreign countries with many more to go.  I am 68-years old, and by God I’m just getting started.

What are some of your dreams?

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6 responses to “Doomed From The Start

  1. Great post Stephen, as I have said in the past I don’t have that wonder lust that you do. I am living my dream as a wildlife photographer, but I have a narrow view of what I like to photograph, North America that’s it, and I have been doing this for well over thirty years, and I never get tired of it.

    • Absolutely nothing wrong with that amigo. But you’re not deluding yourself like the couple I mention in the post. You know yourself, so you are happy and content with your life. They, on the other hand, [appear] to think they’re something they’re not. Big difference. To each his own, but “ . . . to thy own self be true.” You do what you love Tim, and for that I have always respected you. Plus you’re a nice guy. Adios amigo. 🙂

  2. Well Stephen, I have goosebumps reading your post, honestly. On a smaller scale I guess, but with the same inspirations that you have. I liked Tony’s comment that “When things don’t go as planned, that’s when the adventure begins”. That’s what I love about my travels to Vietnam and Laos like the 15 hours on the bus to Phong Sa Ly and when got there at 10 30 PM everything was closed. Great adventures that as a photographer, you can relive again and again every time you look at your photos and the next adventure, just around the corner. Great article my friend, keep it up, cheers, John and Ai…

  3. I have met “those” people. I recently met a couple in Merida who had been there for two months and yet they had no idea what was going on outside of our guest house. I tried to encourage them to explore a little and learn a bit about the culture, but they preferred hearing about my adventures (I’ve lived there before and now visit each year until I am able to move back). I like tell my students going abroad that they must “embrace ambiguity.” It’s a requirement if you wish to become a traveler or part of the community as opposed to being a tourist in cultures different from one’s own. Meanwhile, I live vicariously through your adventures and wise words.

    • Great comment Pamela. You validate my point with your observations. We’re all different of course, but to live in a world of delusion is unhealthy in my opinion. If a person doesn’t enjoy traveling, then by all means don’t travel. But to just sit for whatever reason (fear, laziness, prejudice) just seems like a big waste. Obviously, you and I think alike on this point. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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