Remnants of colorful streamers litter the street beside magenta bougainvillea blossoms and a quiet surrounds me that I hadn’t yet felt in this city.
The altars donned with fluffy marigolds, candles, and sugar skulls have all come down. The parades have ceased.
The hipsters are no longer drinking their Mezcal and smoking their cigarettes on street corners.
Day of the Dead is done.
My friend has caught her flight back to Costa Rica, and here I am, alone for the first time in a long time, sitting on the steps of the Santa Domingo at sunset, thinking, “I want to fall in love again.”
I’m thinking about how I want to be overcome with passion and excitement. How I want to feel butterflies that flap their wings until my heart breaks open. How much I really just want to feel.
The last time I had this thought, was exactly two years ago, also on the anniversary of my blog. Back then I was one year in. Today I’m three.
That day, two years ago, sitting on the floor of my friend’s apartment in Ho Chi Minh City, I looked in at my guarded heart and I said, “I just want to fall in love again.” And woah, oh, I did. Sooner and faster than I ever anticipated.
I felt passion and excitement and more than anything I felt butterflies. I felt my heart crack open more than I knew it could. I finally let down my walls of protection and let myself love. Damn it hurt and damn it did me good.
But what I feel today, sitting on the steps of the Santa Domingo in Oaxaca, is different from that. Because this time, it’s not a man I’m looking to love.
Four years of travel, and three years of blogging, may sound like a honeymoon to some. Though for me it’s been a marriage I’ve nurtured, fucked up, and fought to save. I’ve had my moments where I’ve wanted to quit traveling. My moments where I’ve wanted to quit blogging.
And as someone who loves both in terms I can only compare to romantic love, I’ve been terrified at the thought of losing them. Aware ironically, that the survival of each rests in my hands, perhaps at the cost of my own salvation.
I spent most of 2015 trying to reclaim the wanderlust I lost as soon as I reluctantly kissed Southeast Asia goodbye. Though the more I moved the more it evaded me. And the more pressure I placed on my blog to “become something” the less I loved it. The less it became my canvas and the more it became my cubicle.
It was this past summer, when I was ready to quit blogging entirely, that mysteriously Mexico arrived in my quiet moments alone. I had plans to go back to Costa Rica to teach yoga, lead my first travel retreats, and oh ya relax, but again and again I heard the whisper, “Mexico.”
I didn’t understand why, but I trusted that voice. So me, the girl who never plans in advance, booked a flight to Oaxaca to celebrate the Day of the Dead. A dream of mine since I was 17, eating tamales in a Oaxacan restaurant in Seattle staring at photos of illuminated cemeteries cluttering the walls.
I returned to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica looking forward to the mystery of adventure in Mexico.
Though somewhere between floating in the Caribbean ocean, drinking out of coconuts, and slathering my body in chocolate on the beach, I forgot all about Mexico. I guess I forgot about traveling and blogging too.
Instead I let myself take a vacation and focused on loving myself. I loved my sweet silly little girl and I let her play. I loved my beautiful woman and I let her be loved. I loved myself recklessly, romantically, sexually, unapologetically, and through that journey I stopped looking anywhere else for love. I rediscovered what changed my life the first time I ever came to Costa Rica: that just being me was already enough.
I felt so utterly content, that had I not already booked the flight, made plans to meet my friend in Oaxaca, and organized a Christmas vacation in the Yucatan with my Mom, I doubt I would have left Puerto Viejo.
Yet days after my Travel Retreat, I heard the curious whisper: Mexico.
For the first time since I started blogging, I departed on a trip without anticipating what it would be “about”. Without a justification or a reason or a plan. Without an angle or an edge or a story. I departed with a completely open mind. I felt both peaceful and excited.
Though here I am, a week after landing, watching the sunset on the steps of the Santa Domingo, asking to fall in love with something that’s sitting right in front of me.
Because it’s never about falling in love the way that I imagine falling in love to be. It’s not about feeling what I felt when I was in Southeast Asia or anywhere else for that matter. It’s about this present moment unique perfect incomparable experience that’s happening right now.
I’d rather love with the way that the wind inflates piles of textiles like pillowy tortillas while women shout for me to buy… than pine for love. I’d rather love how it feels to speak in this beautiful language as I ask smiling men with machine guns for directions … than pine for love. I’d rather love the sound of church bells and street guitar… than pine for love. I’d rather just love… than pine for love.
As I write this, the light bulb turns on. I’m realizing that the same way I loved my own body, heart, and mind so fully that I’m no longer longing to love a man, I can love my life so fully that I’m no longer grasping for the passion I felt for my travels in the past.
Costa Rica taught me that just being alive and feeling good is more than I could ever need. So that means everything else gets to be extra. Everything else gets to be play. And when you’ve got everything you need, you’ve got nothing to pine for, and you’ve got everything to love.
So woah, oh, Mexico, I’m just here to love you. I’m just here to receive you. For whatever reason life has brought me here, I’m ready to love.