For me and my husband,  our decision to leave behind friends, family, our house and everything we had known to live our dream life  in Cabo San Lucas was several years in the making. But before we could make the leap into our new life, we first had to deal with the stress of leaving our old one.

When friends and strangers learned of our upcoming move to Mexico,they would light up with enthusiasm and ask if we were excited to be moving. My husband Dan and I would stare blankly at them. Once we committed to the move, we couldn’t focus on the future bliss.  There was so much to do in a short amount of time.

As a stress reduction coach by profession, I pride myself on maintaining an even keel and positive outlook through life’s challenges. And yet the months before our move were a challenge for me and my usual aplomb; making this transition was one of the most trying times of my life and marriage. Dan and I have been through a lot together — the loss of our fathers, career shifts, home remodels, being mugged in Barcelona –but nothing compared to the chaos, fear, overwhelm and emotional toil of our last three months in the States.

But what I truly now know—by experience rather than mere truism—is that in order to make room for something new and beautiful in your life, you have to allow yourself to let go of things.

For us, that meant saying goodbye to our life in Chicago.

The first stressor was the life-changing decision in his late 40s for my husband to leave his job as an electrical engineer, giving up the stable but unsatisfying life we knew. And while we had some ideas about how to generate income, it was all freelance, unreliable and unconfirmed. Not exactly enough to put our minds at ease. My husband and I are very practical and responsible. Walking away from security is not our modus operandi.

Here’s how we moved forward on finances: We looked to our savings and knew we could live one year without an income. We committed to making the move, both knowing we would do everything in our power to not have to dip into savings, but not really knowing how.

Next we had to deal with our home. Unfortunately all of the time, money and sweat we invested into our house did not translate into its current market value. We could not justify selling our house at a loss for our one- year adventure, so we started looking into renting our home.

We found a property manager to help with the rental process but results were sporadic: The first few weeks, we had a ton of interest, but were unable to secure a tenant, then weeks went by without an inquiry. As anxiety began to mount, we heard from a well-qualified man who wanted to rent our home. The only downfall was he wanted to move in days before the already tight move-in date we had set. We started panicking.

In order to rent, we had a list of projects to complete from major room remodels to fixing appliances. Fortunately, I have an exceedingly handy husband. Unfortunately, my perfectionistic hubby was still working 60 hours a week for a company that did not know he was leaving. From February until the end of July, our life was a blur as our home and his work projects both escalated. We called in friends and contractors to help in the hopes that Dan would not implode under the strain. But we kept going, knowing that the hope of paradise awaited us. If only we could get there.

I focused my effort on selling our possessions. Our first sale happened by chance. In telling a friend of our move I mentioned we would be selling my grandmother’s vintage ladies head planters. This friend happened to collect them. The next weekend she and her husband came for the planters—and then they walked around house like they were in a retail store. We had been prepared to let the planters go, but at the time we had not fully realized what it would feel like to release all of our possessions. My husband and I talked through our different obstacles with letting things go – sentiment and value – and coached each other through our feelings of loss, committing to embracing these changes. We were downsizing our life in order to welcome a new, more free chapter. Going through this pain was part of the process.

Eventually, it all  took a toll on us.  My Type-A behaviors resurfaced in trying to meet deadlines, and I lost my hard-won calm. We both woke up regularly at three in the morning, thinking of everything to be done and worrying if we were making a mistake. Reaching our final tipping point we finally learned to laugh about our predicament: How could this liberating choice—a new, simpler life in Mexico—cause so much unease? We took it as proof that we really needed to go. Most importantly, we learned to laugh about it.

The blessing of this stressful time was that we knew it would be short-lived. Remaining aware of that provided the courage needed to overcome the daily challenges we experienced. When we moved out of our home and into my mother-in-law’s house for a few weeks, we thought we had finished the race. What we slowly realized was that this was a marathon of transition, not a sprint. For the next three weeks we would take the long way to Mexico, visiting friends and historical sites, as we prepared ourselves for a new way of living.

Next we hit the road like many pioneers before us as we crossed the Great Plains headed for the promise of a better life. We hoped it would be there waiting for us.

Melissa Heisler and her husband Dan recently relocated to Mexico from Chicago, and they will be documenting their transition for Inspired Life.

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