As I write this I’m on the tail end of a 5-week long RV trip through Baja California Sur. Every single person who I talked to before my trip who had not been to Baja said the same thing “Is it safe?”
No! Whatever your do, don’t go there. Mexico is as dangerous, ugly and unfriendly towards gringos as I’m sure you’ve heard. Thankfully we have a wall going up.
Or, in truth Baja Mexico is not any of those things. At least it wasn’t for me.
The the local people were genuinely kind, sweet, grateful, helpful and engaging. Locals willingly talk to you and laugh easily. Even at bad jokes delivered across a language barrier. Which makes them worse…maybe better.
The food, culture, locals, vistas, whales, mountains, mountain biking, surfing and quaint towns all surpassed my expectations. The local towns are still a mix of historic Mexico with an increasing expat influence and the gems of the towns are recognized as “Pueblo Magico” in recognition of their cultural and historical values. A well earned honorary.
The trip has been full of glorious surprises at every turn and I’ve been really enjoying the trip and experienced the full spectrum of “happiness” from glee, delight, guffaws, wonder, accomplishment and stress. Stress? Yep, I’ll tangent back to stress. Pinky swear.
Aquachiles, a ceviche style dish, is possibly my favorite new Mexican culinary delight in a close race with old favorites posole verde, chilaquiles, enchiladas and fish tacos. Those have been washed down with limonada or Jamaica water with mezcal. And the latter? Que fantastico! I’ve had one or two or ten.
Tangent: In Baja food is inexpensive. Electric and water too. Diesel for the RV? Not so much. Of course, the local wages are low and a fat tip is always appreciated in the tourist towns and I hand out 20 peso bills like Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber” handed out $100 bills. Research by Dr. Mike “Mihalyi” Csikszentmihalyi shows that happiness and increasing income don’t always correlate above certain thresholds and the threshold is lower than you think. An over-emphasis on money (which I love, don’t get me wrong) doesn’t necessarily relate to lasting happiness and this jives with my latest read “The How of Happiness” by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky. Her clinical research in psychology has shown “circumstances” like a raise, new job, new town or new spouse provide only temporary bumps in happiness and account for 10% of our total happiness. After a while our brains get used to the new circumstance through a process called “hedonic habituation.” Basically, we get used to the recent “new and good thing” and get back to looking forward towards the next thing, threat or opportunity. These silly brains, they just aren’t programmed to be content.
Dr. L’s (there’s now way I’m typing that last name correct more than once) research indicates we control 40% of our happiness with the other 50% being genetic. Whoa. Thanks Mom and Dad for that contribution.
So what things provide lasting happiness? Dr. L shares many ideas and one is going “deep” with your work. [ACP1] Finding “flow” moments where you lost track of time and are “happy and focused” and deeply engaged. Life is full of distractions so this is easier said than done.
On this trip I’ve had time to step away from my normal patterns of entrepreneurship (i.e. wearing 10 hats per hour) and into the deeper and generative work of creating content (like an article, ahem) This winter’s bigger, deeper project is a self-paced workbook and the fulfillment of getting lost for an hour or two or ten has been just that: fulfilling. Going deep in our work feels good. Find time to do so in your own work or hobbies. Turn off the electronic things. Find a cabin in the woods. Going camping where the cell service rivals a third-world country or take an RV trip to Mexico and don’t buy a local SIM card for your phone.
Tangent Back: During the RV trip stressful moments have presented themselves aplenty but largely in the form of manageable and positive “challenge stress” where failure wasn’t going to be fatal and the discomfort provided and opportunity for growth. Challenge stress is actually a good stress and gives you a chance to grow your abilities to meet a new challenge.
Some examples of challenge stress from the trip:
1. A “Tire Angel” in Arizona seeing something abnormal in my one of my dual-tires. Abnormal meaning no valve stem and thus no pressure in the tire. Crises pre-empted before the border crossing. His story is worthy of a full write-up on its own.
2. Surfing again after a 3-4 year hiatus. Head-high waves at my favorite break used to be my jam (do people still say jam?). So I was a little rusty and head-high waves in Mexico at Secret Beach #24 provided a series of near death experience. Good thing epoxy boards are durable.
3. Spitalianglish is mostly what I spoke mixing Spanish, Italian and English into something comprehensible by only me. The intention to speak the local language goes a long way in getting some grace for poor word selection and even worse verb conjugation and doubly worse tense selection.
4. RV driving in Mexico warrants vigilance. I swear there is no Spanish word for “shoulder on the road” and while the roads were generally good they were surprisingly narrow on stretches deemed “highways” with the margin for error feeling like an inch or two or whatever that is in kilometers or centigrade.
Full-Circle: These opportunities for challenge stress have been aided and supported by others. And in a win-win the support comes in the form of lasting happiness: relationships.
There were moments of discomfort and worry leading up to the trip and friends and acquaintances stepped in to ease my worries with their experiences. First and foremost a huge “Muchos Mahalos!” to Matt for the 2-hour pre-trip chat to route the trip, know what to avoid and what to expect. My meeting with Matt was followed by a deep-exhale of relaxation and a growing excitedness.
Two good buddies Kevin and Keith were surprisingly both available for the drive south to Baja Sur before flying out of Cabo and lead to so many positive adventures and laughs. To Kevin, gratitude for his guidance in yoga and breathwork and near fluency in Spanish which eased my transition during early conversations with locals from English to Spitalianglish to mostly Spanish. Mostly. And to Keith for his “mechanically inclined” background. I am mostly “inclined-to-hire-mechanics” and having his wisdom help immensely and his willingness to drive long stretches allowed me to catch up on doing absolutely nothing.
I leaned into relationships, showed vulnerability and embraced some manageable stress. Can you see the importance of these same aspects in your workplace? We all need people who we can trust, to encourage us, to challenge us, serve as shortcuts and those who can help us step across the edge of discomfort.