Lately, I’ve been contemplating this: “When your Dream Life comes true, then what?
When I was a little kid, our family spent a month every summer in Carmel By The Sea, California. Carmel was, at that time, a quaint little village with many things to love about it. There was a wonderful bakery on Ocean Avenue, with a bread shaped like a large alligator in the window and delicious sugar cookies with a dollop of chocolate in the middle.
The “Cottage Of Sweets was, of course, a favorite haunt for my brothers and I. The Cottage Of Sweets looked like something you might find tucked away in a Hobbit Village and there was every sweet candy stick, chocolate creation and salt water taffy flavor imaginable in beautiful artistic arrangements in there, almost too beautiful to eat.
There was the place at the top of the main street I went every morning to pick up a paper for my Mom and Dad before they even woke up. This corner store had creaky floors and food and papers. I always bought some red licorice to munch on as I walked down the hill to the house we always rented, every year.
Lest you think all I did was eat sweets, all day and every day, I can say that every morning I walked that perfect beach and breathed deeply the wonderful smells of the kelp in the air. That scent of beach kelp has always felt like “home” to me. I always delighted in waling the beautiful, white sand beach of Carmel By The Sea from one end to the other, smiling and saying “Hello!” to all the passers by, petting their dogs and exploring tide pools at each end of the beach.
Every night we would all sit, as a family, and scream out what the sun going down looked like to each of us: “It’s a tea cup!” “No! It’s a pumpkin!” No! No look now! It’s a saucer!” This relaxed beach life and it’s familiar routines was heaven on earth for me.
I swore early in my life that one day I would live my life on a beach
I swore early in my life that when I was a “Grown Up,” officially in charge and I could live anywhere I wanted, one day I would live my life on a beach. I would create a beautiful life in a beach town just like that place of my childhood.
At 56, I now have lived my life for a year in the beach town of Crucita, Ecuador. While every day I walk the beach and at night I still sit on the porch and imagine what the shape of the setting sun looks like to me, I cannot say the reality of living here matches “The Dream Beach Life” I imagined it would be like that I had as a child.
A “World Citizen” constantly adjusts their expectations and experiences to reality
I recognize that no matter where you live or travel in the world, there will always be things you don’t like or you compare to somewhere else you may have liked better. As a “World Citizen,” one is constantly adjusting one’s expectations and experiences to the reality of where you are at any given moment. I find what’s going on in my mind is always projected outward on to my experience, moment to moment, and this can be both positive and negative.
For example, there is no smell of the kelp in the air on this beach where I live now and I miss that, what I know for me is “the traditional beach scent.” There are no tide pools to explore but there are large expanses of beach with no houses, hotels or people which is very nice. There are no bakeries with alligators in the window, or cottages of sweets or coffee shops here. So I bake and my husband has perfected the latte with delicious Ecuadorian coffee. There are no newspapers in English to go pick up in the morning so I go out on the internet to read the news now. These are the daily, manageable compromises I make living here.
The beach here in Ecuador is more of a crushed shell beach and not the soft, white sand of my childhood memory. My mind does not ever fully relax walking the beach here as there are rocks everywhere except at a really low tide and those rocks hurt my feet as I navigate around them. But I can’t really complain because at least I am walking every day on a sunny tranquil beach and not cycling on a busy, rainy, smoggy city street where I could get hit by a car. Other beach walkers greet you in Spanish, “Buenas dias” in the morning and “Buenas tardes!” in the afternoon, not the “Hello! How are you today?” of my childhood walks, yet the people are all just as warm and welcoming.
The people of Ecuador are warm and welcoming
It’s not forever. It’s for now.
While living here at this beach is not exactly the fantasy I imagined it would be when I was a child, I have managed to make it work for me, for now. That’s what I tell myself every day: “This is just for now. It’s not forever. It’s for now.” I also remind myself that I’m doing exactly what my doctor asked me to do for the next year and a half: reducing my stress levels, giving my body and mind a rest, taking some time off, experimenting with what it is like to live in another country and learning to relax.”
Easier said than done, I will admit.
In my own mind and life experience, I have always measured my life by setting goals and how close I come to accomplishing them. So here’s, as Oprah would say, “What I know for sure” so far:
“What I know for sure”
1. I have used the time to write. I started this blog as a way to keep track of my living experience here. In less than 9 months, it is being read in over 80 countries around the world and has been viewed at this point well over 6,300 times. That is quite satisfying. Thank you for that! I’ve started a book based on my public speaking work around the world called, “Speak! Ten Speeches Everyone Has To Give” and have been collecting stories for the second book in my “Words To Thrive By” Book Series.
I am officially no longer “loose in the cage”
2. On the physical front, I have lost 14 pounds and counting. This is weight loss plus gaining muscle and toning up my body through the relentless P90X program. I am happy to report that I am officially no longer “loose in the cage” as they say due to this new exercise regimen, good healthy organic food, clean air, lots of walking and the inability to get ice cream into the house since the grocery store is 45 minutes away. With my doctors close supervision, I’ve been able to reduce and then eliminate all the drugs I was on for cancer and other issues. I feel much better physically as a result.
3. I have read so many wonderful and interesting and thought provoking books, I’ve lost count now. This has opened my mind to new worlds and been stimulating in many ways.
4. I have spent countless hours thinking. This is not always a good thing as I personally tend toward, “What am I doing with my life?” and “Why am I here?” kinds of questions that are always evolving in their answers. These types of “Big Questions” also never really have definitive answers, much as we would love them to! So I try to focus more on things I can actually accomplish rather than worrying about the things I can’t fully control, explain or answer at this moment, right now.
I have learned to cook new things
5. I have learned to cook new things I didn’t know anything about before. For example, I’ve learned a lot about the delicious Ecuadorian cuisine from my friends and their cooks. I have realized a culinary dream and can now make a delicious traditional Colombian flan, one of my favorite things.
I have taught myself how to bake delicious old world artisan Italian bread. While I may not have mastered the shape of an alligator yet, my bread does spend it’s three days of rising in the window in my bedroom, next to the Buddha on my bookshelf! Lol.
6. I have rearranged this 900 square foot condo about as many times as humanely possible to make it as efficient and workable for my husband and I so that we do not kill each other. Thats a very good thing!
7. I have returned to playing piano and singing, something I never had time for for most of my adult life.
8. One of my biggest challenges living in Ecuador has been lack of intellectual stimulation from things I used to do like coffee shop conversations with friends, movies at a cushy movie theatre, the Seattle Arts and Lecture series or Washington Womens Foundation social events. Instead I call friends now and have “virtual coffee visits” via Skype and we stay in touch that way. I also spend hours on the Internet learning what is going on in the world around me, beyond the borders of Ecuador.
9. I have learned to manage my own sense of daily freedom. Well, mostly I’ve learned to manage it. Every day I get up, there is no “set schedule” like I have had the majority of my life. I do honestly feel a tad bit intimidated by the fact that my life is totally now in my own control, my every day can be created as I wish it to be and no one tells me what to do or how to do it. Thus, if I’m “bored” it is up to me to change that by noticing it, then getting off my butt and doing something about it.
10. I’m learning to go toward “better feeling thoughts.” This is a big one. When I spiral into a sink hole of “What the hell are you doing?!” or “I’m so lonely.” or “This isn’t real life. I wanna go home. But where the hell is that now?” or “I want to go visit my kids or my good friends right now and I can’t!,” I make myself choose a better feeling thought such as, “I am so grateful that I am completely out of debt, living a healthy life and I can choose to change my life or circumstances or location any time I wish to.” or “I am free to choose my life and what I want to do every day. How wonderful is that?” or “What great movie would I like to watch or what delicious recipe would I like to cook or what interesting book would I like to read right now?”
There is no perfect place or country or life.
I recognize now that there is no perfect place or country or life. I thought moving to Ecuador would solve many things in my life but now I see it a bit differently moving into my second year of living here. I realize now that I have brought the things I wanted to work on in myself with me here, and the life I have chosen and created here has given me a chance to work on them. For now.
Wherever you go, there you are
Wherever I choose to move or go in the future, this will always be true: Wherever you go, there you are.
What is my Dream Life?
So I’m here in Ecuador. For now. Being here is but a stepping stone on the journey enroute to my Dream Life. What is my Dream Life? I’m figuring that out as I live and write. Stay tuned.
PS: Would you like more ACCURATE, AUTHENTIC and UP TO DATE INFORMATION about ECUADOR?
WORDS TO THRIVE BY FOR WORLD TRAVELERS: FOOTPRINTS IN ECUADOR by Mary Anne Dorward