After a month of being in Mexico, I am tired of being in the sun, sand and palm trees.
I am ready to get back to work.
I am bored of this mini-retirement.
There, I said it.
And while I was sitting in my frustration for not being back home, the thought occured to me, how would I have felt had I waited for years, decades even? And it continued.
What had I felt had I deferred going to this country with my family, seeing my baby boy play in the ocean, enjoying wonderful food with my wife, and walking through the ruins of ancient civiliazations? What if I had waited until traditional retirement age to enjoy this country, its people and food…
I would have hated myself.
Because I would have gotten one month into retirement, which is exactly where I am at, and I would have been completely bored of it, which is exactly what I am feeling.
I would have found myself wanting nothing more but to return back to work, to be with my friends and family, to take full advantage of all my productive energy.
But to my horror, there is no work for me to do, my friends and family have long since passed or have grown too old for the sun, sand and surf, and I would have out-lived the energy to enjoy it myself.
It was at that very moment that I decided to write to you, my readers, and I needed to tell you about that grim truth.
So please, don’t wait, my friends, don’t defer enjoying the best this life has to offer. Because sooner than you know, it will be too late.
In preparing for travelling outside my home country I made the decision to not bring any jewelry with me. This seemed like a safer alternative to potentially leaving my jewelry in one of the places we were staying or potentially getting mugged. Now that it has almost been a month being away from home, I have never once found my self in the presence of someone who would mug me. Ain’t paranoia a funny thing?
Without any of my jewelry on hand for this trip I have been travelling without the use of a watch. Yes, I know that my smart phone has the time on it. But there is something very useful to having a watch, much in the same way that working from paper is very useful too. Your brain works differently with physical environments than with virtual ones.
So as I was going about Mexico’s many markets, of which most of them sell what I call “The Stuff” (I’ll cover this later), I had been looking for a vendor who sold watches (rolejeria). And when I asked people where to find watches for sale, I would look at their wrists to see if they wore a watch. Most, if not almost all, of the people that I came in contact with did not wear a watch on their wrist. To me, I thought this was interesting.
The thought here went something like this. In a place where the weather is nearly always the same, the waves come in and the waves roll out, the tourists fly in and the tourists fly out, and the shop doors have to be opened at some point and then closed later on too, what use is there in knowing what time it is?
I experienced this most when I was in Mexico City (CDMX), but the same kind of sentiment was seen all over Mexico. Not considering the corporate businesses (OXXO, Soriana, or Government buildings), it seemed like vendors would arrive at work when ever they felt like it, work for as long as they felt like, and would do business only with those that they liked by charging high prices to the unsavory and low prices to those they preferred. And still, nearly no one that I encountered wore a wrist watch. I imagine that this is true back home as well, but it had never been so apparant to me until travelling out of country.
But finally I found someone who sold watches and was open in Cancun. The rolejeria was in a market where every other vendor sold the same t-shirts, dresses, hari braiding, leatherware, novelties, tequilla, and tourist packages (“The Stuff”). Every single vendor in cancun seems to sell the same as the next one, with very little variety, and so when we found the rolejeria, I was taken aback.
He was a nice man who was working on repairing a watch and on the walls of his shop were framed, hand-drawn pictures of his grand-children. He seemed tired of the heat, tired of his work, and tired all the vendors around his shop hawking the customers of the market. So when I asked him for a watch to buy, he seemed disinterested in helping a customer who would probably think his wares were crap because they were “The Stuff”.
To my furthered surprise, he had a watch face that I didn’t mind and so I offered to buy it as long as he had a band to fit the face. He offered me plastic bands and leather ones for the stainless steel face, to which he was surprised that I would want a metal one. My guess is that he sees so many people wearing plastic or leather watches with HUGE watch faces that he didn’t expect that a customer would want a simple watch with a simple metal band.
The watch cost me 650 MXN, or 32.50 USD. I didn’t even try to haggle with the guy, even though he expected me to. And while it isn’t the most beautiful watch I own, or the most expensive, the vendor who helped me into the watch was joyous that he made a sale and helped me into a watch. I was pretty stoked too – I was glad to see that my purchase was so appreciated, albeit honored, and my search for a watch was over. But there was something special that I was going to tell you, my gentle readers, a lesson in this that I have been dying to tell you.
Never succomb to the temptation to sell “The Stuff” like everyone else. What’s more, strive to help your visitors into what they want and not “The Stuff”. They are trying to find you, they want what you have worked so diligently to labor over, they want you to make it custom for them, and they will pay whatever price you charge because they know you will charge fairly. Lastly, treat each sale with the gratitude that comes from receiving a fine gift from a friend or family member, and you will be be immortalized in the eyes of your customers.
The thing that I will miss most about living in Mexico is a 20 L Bottle of water and a bomba sifon (hand pump). I know that sounds silly, but there is something very restorative about looking into how much water you are drinking on a daily basis and seeing the financial cost of consuming water.
In America, we are spoiled for water. I can turn on the tap and drink freely to my heart’s content, it costs me next to nothing, and it has been that way my whole life. Even when I was living on a farm as a young man, I never had to worry about the contents of the water.
But here in Mexico, I have been told time and time again not to drink the water from the tap. Doesn’t matter what state you are in, don’t do it. Do I know, or have hard facts that the water is unsafe? No. But do I disregard what I have been told/read about the water? No. So I buy refills of a 20 L Bottle.
In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Oaxaca and in Cancun, I have been buying water for my family to drink clean, water. Some days I catch a water salesman shouting from the street, “AGUA!” Other days I am seduced by the soft voice coming from a loud speaker mounted to a truck, “La agua…” And days like today I have to carry my deposit bottle to either a convenience store or a grocery store, and carry 20 L of water home.
The cost of the water really isn’t all that much. In most places they sell a refill of 20 L for around 30 MXN (~1.50 USD). Strangely, in Oaxaca it was almost half that when purhcased from a salesman. And my household of two adults and an infant go through 20 L every three-four days. And so on this trip of nearly 33 days, we have gone through roughly 200 L of water, which will mean we spent a little under 300 MXN (~15 USD) just for water. In a year, that is 2.4 Kilo Liters, or 3600 MXN (~180 USD).
So why am doing all this math? Because I have never had to living in America. I have never visably watched my family go through water, I have never had to consider the economics of it, I have never had to be sold water by salesmen, or had to lug a huge bottle of water home. Now that I have, I understand what a beautiful and expensive gift it is to having clean water that comes straight from the tap.
This new found appreciation for water, and so many other gifts, would have never come my way had I just stayed home and continued working for work’s sake. Don’t make the mistake of working for work’s sake. The world, and all her gifts, are waiting for you.