As much as I’d love my life to be all travel all the time, I do have a home and somewhat of a normal expat life. However, the word normal is so relative that I’ve lost the true concept of it. So I’ll let you judge for yourselves.
I’ll start by bringing you up to date. About eight years ago I got fed up with the typical NYC single girl lifestyle of stupid dates, commercialism, and vanity. I packed up my backpack, said a tearful goodbye to my family and friends and boarded a bus at the Port Authority in Manhattan going south. I had no plans on returning and was eager to let the wind blow me wherever it wanted to.
Well, it slowly blew me across the southern US, through Cali and into Mexico. I partied through the majority of Mexico, while learning Spanish on long car rides that I hitched from different people, with some of my backpacking buddies. Obviously, this isn’t the best way to learn Spanish and I decided it was time to get me to some classes.
Once you get an idea on the road, unintentionally, you start gravitating towards it. Practically everyone I met kept telling me to head to Guatemala, home of the cheapest Spanish classes in the world. With plenty of time on my hands, I headed further south.
Guatemala has a strange reputation. It’s an amazing country full of culture, Mayan descents and crime. The day I crossed the border heading to Tikal, the famous Mayan ruin, three tourist buses were held up, some muggings occurred on the trails and a few foreign girls were assaulted. But that didn’t stop me! I had a mission to learn Spanish and to see the sun set and rise at a mystical ruin. Tikal is the only ruin on the Mayan route that opens before the sun rises and closes after the sun sets.
So any bright person will know that when you’re going to see a sunrise or sunset that at some point you will encounter darkness. For some reason that small detail never crossed my mind, because I arrived to the lonely campground in front of the park with no flashlight and no tent. Gratefully, they did rent little wooden boxes big enough to fit my backpack and body inside for the night. Right next door, a little shop sold me candles for the trek (like that was going to guide me through four kilometers of dense tropical jungle).
As I was explaining my situation to one of the workers of the park, in an exaggerated tone (because obviously when you don’t speak a language, yelling in broken sounds will make it all better), I saw a young guy come out of the only tent at the campsite. I didn’t pay much attention to him and headed boldly on the trail with my candle (and no matches), in hand. Out of nowhere he appeared and asked me a question in English. Yes, that in itself was a bit impressive, because besides him being the very first Guatemalan I’d ever spoken too, he was fluent in English. However, it was just a Latino guy trying to make a move on an American girl. By this stage of my trip I’d seen it all, and quite frankly I was over it!
But he persisted, and the more he spoke, the more intrigued I became. He was bright, funny and his energy kept me fixated on his every word. After seeing the sunset over the jungle and being escorted by him and his flashlight back to the tent, we spent the entire night talking. One thing he kept talking about was his dream to get his masters degree in Costa Rica, but he felt that it was just a pipe dream. The next day we said our farewells after watching the sunrise from atop a Mayan relic, before he headed back to work.
Long story short, he was a veterinarian student doing his practical in a nearby rescue center for endangered and trafficked animals. Before leaving, he invited me to go visit him there. Once I arrived there, I discovered that the center accepted volunteers. With nothing but time on my hands, I ended up staying for over a week at this magical place caring for sick parrots and playful monkeys. And with each passing day my feelings grew stronger and stronger until there was no way to escape falling in love with him. Two years later, I married this Guatemalan man and he brought me to Costa Rica where he was to get his masters degree in Wildlife Management.
One year after that my part-Guatemalan/part-New-York-Russian-Jew son was born! Besides being born with this crazy mixed-up bloodline, he is trilingual (Spanish, Russian and English) and is the best travel partner I’ve ever had.
We have been living in Costa Rica for five years when my husband finally graduated from the program. By this time, Costa Rica had become my home. So when he was offered a job at his Alma Mater in Guatemala, to be a professor, we had to make the tough decision to have a long distance relationship; only now it’s harder because there is a little boy involved.
As I said earlier, normal is all in the eye of the beholder. Our normal family life means traveling back and forth from Costa Rica to Guatemala, to the US to Costa Rica.