After my husband quit his job, we sold almost everything that did not fit into our 4×6 trailer, said goodbye to friends and family, and hit the road for our new life in Mexico.

The drive from our home in Chicagoland to our new home in Cabo San Lucas was three thousand miles.  Add to that twenty-four hundred miles and another full week of driving to travel down the West Coast to see friends along the way.

We were pioneers, striking out where others dared not tread. We were looking for a better, more meaningful life with the hope we could make a living in a new country. We were taking a risk without any assurance as to what this would mean for us in the short or long term. We had to let go of our stability and most of our possessions. We were free and unfettered. It was just my husband and me and the open road.

Our first week on the road was filled with changed plans, detours, construction, forest fires, north-south instead of west travel, missed turns, and challenging hills. This first leg of our journey taught us to let go. Let go of what we had planned. Let go of the “sensible” way. Let go of expectations. Let go of control.

After eight days on the road, we reached the West Coast leg of our journey. Our first stop was to see our friends, Blair and Samantha, who fled Illinois a year earlier. Their dream led them to Washington State where they hoped for a more simple existence, living off the land. They’re practically off the grid now, on a five acre lot with a good sized garden and a dozen or so egg hens. They grow their own food, can vegetables, reuse materials and heating, barter, and as close as they can, live without owing anyone anything.

Having a job costs money, they declared.  I had to laugh. They were right. To have a job, one needs clothing appropriate for that position, transportation there, and daycare if there are children. Having a job also means less time to take care of food, shelter, and clothing necessitating money to pay others to take care of those things.

After our Washington visits we moved down to Portland to be inspired by another friend who took a risk to fulfill his dream. Brooks, a friend from college, had been making mead in his home for his own consumption for twenty years. Over a little too much of the nectar one night he finally realized it may be time to take his brew to the world. Investing his own money, Stung Fermented was born. Lawyer by day and fermenter by night, Brooks is living his dream by providing mead to local bars.

I don’t mean to say that my friends were enjoying instant success and happiness. Like our difficulties before our move, they all had ups and downs on the road to their dreams. Samantha shared how the stress of uprooting her family including three children led to painful shingles in her nose and mouth. In opening his business, Brooks said it was the most difficult thing he had done, and he had gone to law school and raced motorcycles.  But the struggle and difficulties they each experienced meant nothing once they realized how much happier they were after they took the risk. Dan and I prayed that we would be as happy as our friends were once we reached our new life.

During this leg of the trip we were constantly tested.  Our little car barely survived the climbs pulling our trailer. It was touch-and-go in some spots and although picturesque, harrowing to drive. We realized during the next phase of our drive that it had all been good preparation for the long mountainous descent to the Baja Peninsula.

This second week of our journey was exactly what we needed. The stress of the move had subsided and long hours in the car gave us the space to realize what we had actually done –and to question whether it was brilliant and courageous, or if we just made the biggest mistake of our lives.  But at least after reconnecting with others who took a risk and survived, we no longer felt alone.

Next we’ll share our adventure as we cross the border into Mexico, and our new lives.

Melissa Heisler, 46, and her husband Dan, 48, recently relocated to Mexico from Chicago and are documenting their transition for Inspired Life.

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