When letting go is what is kind.

Six months ago I was packing up my house in Playa and moving in with my partner at the time because of Covid and the lockdown that was happening in Mexico. It seemed like the right move (optimism despite a rough year), but 2 weeks in we called it quits and I flew back to the States a month later. It wasn’t a bad breakup but it was a relationship we spent the last year fighting for and couldn’t come to any new conclusions… the more we tried the less it made sense… we couldn’t fit ourselves into a relationship we had outgrown any longer. So, we made the tough choice to walk away & even though it was painful, we did it with kindness in the end… as much as we could stiffen in the difficult moments anyways. We had moved back in together but the uncertainty of the world and our individual needs pulled us apart. Holding on felt too hard when we couldn’t even be there for each other anymore. The kindest thing we did for ourselves and each other was to let go, but it wasn’t easy.

I loved and learned more in those 4 years but also got shown my worst side… so I could heal, so I could get sober, and he was a part of all of that. He opened the door to my darkness and he is where the real shadow work began so saying bye to him felt like letting go of someone that knew my past and had played an active role in watching me heal, and it felt like a loss that still feels hard to describe… because 6 months later the love still exists. Love doesn’t just go away, it isn’t conditional— and I learned that sometimes… the most loving thing we can do, is let another go, no matter how much we love them. You can love someone so much and still know that person isn’t good for you. I learned this year that love isn’t enough; and for someone that believes in love in all moments, it felt heartbreaking. But moving in this new understanding now, allows me to start asking myself what I want for my future (and what that looks like for me). I’m still learning what that is… and how it feels in this new world… but the lessons keep coming and I’m thankful to be seeing so much clearer now than I was.

After leaving V (my ex) in Mexico and returning to the States, I had no idea what life was going to look like for me in the US and I felt a lot of uncertainty returning given current world affairs. Honestly I felt safer overseas! But the smart choice in that moment was to move back and my incentive for doing so was the freedom I’d have to live in my van, work on and build my online business and start to focus on the passion projects I’ve been wanting the time to birth. It seemed like I was being pulled back across the border & it felt like the universe was going to help me sort it out, plus… tourism in Mexico meant my future as a dive instructor was a bit unstable. The waves of change brought me back and 3 days after arriving my home state of Minnesota witnessed the violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD and well… I think we all know what’s happened since then…

The protests and political division in my home country also brought about an incredible amount of tension within my own family and my personal life. This heartbreak felt suffocating and hasn’t since been reconciled. I grew up with an incredibly privileged lifestyle and a family who was supportive of my lifestyle and dreams, despite the fact that our paths and beliefs became more and more different as I got older. Somewhere along the line, our family curse of sweeping things under the rug came to a head and we haven’t found a way to open the line of communication since. The world is full of division right now, especially amongst families. I’ve always thought we could find common ground on other things, but I’m having a hard time disagreeing over human rights or the rights of women and other marginalized peoples. Losing my partner and adventure buddy of 4 years on top of my family shortly after felt like the rug being ripped out from under me. At the same time I was mourning the loss of my lover I was grieving with my nation and my Black brothers and sisters and then my family… it felt like bricks… It isn’t that we believe differently, I’m not 5 years old! Unfortunately, things were said and done that will take time to heal and will forever change our relationship. My sobriety and my healing has led me on a path of radical honesty and acceptance within my own life and I ask the same of the people I love. I don’t think this is unreasonable. Right now a lot is being asked of us that we’ve never experienced before and if you’re struggling with those you love, stand in love and stand in what you value. As long as you do those two things, you will never regret being true to yourself.

I know none of this is easy & I have it easy easier than most. I recognize my privilege in this world and the more I’ve moved about it and traveled the last 8 years, the more I’ve realized that all humans deserve access to food, water, education and healthcare. This realization shocked me because I never saw human rights as something someone should have to “realize”, and I was ashamed at the things my privilege (and the narrative I was taught) simply hadn’t allowed me to see. When I discuss my privilege I’m not just talking about class privilege but also white privilege, the privilege to be able bodied, to have a University degree, + to be heterosexual (passing). Understand, I’m a girl from a small Minnesota town and a well to do Republican family— speaking out against the narrative that has allowed me so much privilege is hurting the people that have given me everything in this world. To them it feels like an attack on a lifestyle I wouldn’t have had the option of living if it wasn’t for the privilege I was raised in… and the opportunities it gave me over others. Speaking out and voting against a system that disproportionately benefits me seems like a smack in the face to the people who gave it to me… it feels unappreciative and entitled. But dismantling the system that works in my favor is exactly the work that needs to be done because I believe and have seen that there are better ways. I don’t have the answers and I don’t claim to, but I believe in communities and people as a whole to do better, and be better. I believe that by lifting others, we all rise. I believe that how a first world country treats it’s poorest citizens says a lot about that country and it’s morality. I believe in having the difficult conversations and confronting the ways in which our activism may fall short on extending to all peoples. I am so thankful for the education I was given that has allowed me to confront my own privilege and the access I have ((my autonomy and ability to move about the world)).

I think if we don’t use our privilege to open up space to others with less than we aren’t actively engaging in the world; and I intend to use mine to make the world a better place. Having these conversations for the last 14 years since my degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology and traveling extensively has given me a lens vastly different than the one I grew up with. Despite my relationship with my family now, they raised a strong, independent and educated woman who happens to believe fundamentally and morally different things than them… and no matter what, I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I have the balls to do what I do, if it wasn’t for them and the safety net my privilege has provided. I am still uncovering more layers of healing that need to be done but I can only take responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life, I’m standing in opposition to my family and although it doesn’t seem like much can be done right now, I have faith in the future. I think we can always find common ground as humans, even if that means creating new boundaries so there can be a relationship. I think this sentiment goes for everyone… letting go and boundaries have been my two biggest lessons this year and I acknowledge that my healing here isn’t linear.

I’m not going to lie, the last 6 months have been really hard on my heart. They have tested my values, my voice, my convictions, and my integrity. I have been challenged more than ever before and I am so thankful to have sobriety, self development, and a level head through it all. Because of this, I feel fortunate… fortunate that the universe has given me these tough times when I have the tools to move through them. I feel fortunate to have invested in my own health and sobriety and to have a strong community of supportive friends and coworkers behind me. I feel fortunate to have the space and privilege in this world to stop and reflect on my place and impact within it. I feel fortunate. Period. Even though there are days the grief creeps up on me, I remind myself that I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I remind myself that I am blessed to live the life I do and I pick myself back up, even if it takes me awhile.

In these moments of turbulence that has been 2020 I am being faced with the opportunity to stay small and comfortable for fear of being difficult, or to use my voice and my platform in a positive way. I choose the latter. We are all being pushed into uncomfortable situations and instead of fighting them why don’t we ask ourselves where the resistance comes from and start looking inside. I keep asking myself over and over, “what is the most loving thing I can do here”, and then I do that… and “loving” doesn’t always mean easy… it means what is kind, what is in alignment, what is in our best interest. & sometimes the most loving thing we can do is let go…

On Love Abroad

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t had a long term relationship in over 5 years. Of course I’ve dated and had a few flings that lasted more than a month, but I’ve spent the last 4.5 years traveling the world solo. I’ve always been against long distance relationships because I had a strong belief that it probably wouldn’t work out, would end in heartbreak, and wasn’t worth my time. It definitely takes a special kind of person to travel the world with and I would guess that most couples wouldn’t come home together if asked to embark on a round-the-world trip. I read an article once that said, if you were engaged to some one, instead of spending the money on the ceremony and a blowout wedding, use it towards a trip around the world together, and if you arrive home, months later, together, at the same airport, then you know you’ll be able to get through anything together. I’m all in favor of that idea.

Flash forward to present day and I am 6 months in to the happiest relationship of my life. I have finally found someone I can travel with, that values and respects my independence, constantly encouraging me to do whatever I want and follow through on my pre-him travel plans. But as luck would have it, I met him towards the end of my 7 months in Mexico. When I went to work in the Caribbean for 2 months, we stayed in constant contact and I returned to Mexico for 3 weeks to visit him afterwards. I then surprised him another 2 months later for 5 days in Playa del Carmen and will return to Mexico to work another season in mid November. This time we have decided to live together and are trying to save money to head to Indonesia or Australia this spring. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this amazing human by my side in the future, and I can’t tell you it’s been easy because it hasn’t. We had to learn to deal with the distance and build our relationship despite it. Neither of us compromises well normally, but as our love grew so did a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s necessary freedom. So, I may not know a lot and I’m definitely still learning. But when it comes to long distance relationships, this is what I can tell you.

You will fight, but don’t hang up the phone angry. We both voiced early in the relationship how hard it was to be upset with each other when our only means of communication is a telephone. It’s bound to happen that things will get heated, but make a pact to refuse to hang up the phone angry, even if that means saying, “I’m a little upset right now and don’t think it’s a good time to talk about this, can we please discuss it later?” If you are on the receiving end of this, even if you are a lets-fix-this-in-the-moment person like me, you’ll have to learn to respect your partner’s need for thought and take a step back. We have hung up angry before but one of us has always called back within 5 minutes, in a much calmer tone.

Text every day. You might not be able to realistically pick up the phone every day and have a conversation, but make the small things count. Make a point to message a good morning and good night text, it’ll go a long way. My partner and I don’t talk but twice a week probably, sometimes less, but we aren’t the type of people that need constant contact. But with me traveling around, I sometimes wouldn’t call when I said I would and would go over a week without picking up the phone which made tensions run high and ensured that our first conversation in an extended period of time was a fight. Things happen, we are all human, but showing your partner you care throughout the day, and messaging if you can’t follow through on that call isn’t too hard. After all, we know how frustrating it is when we can’t get ahold of friends for days, imagine your significant other across the world. This also goes along with snapchats, inside jokes, or whatever makes the two of you, “you”.

Include your partner in your decisions. This may be harder for some than others. For example, I’ve gotten so used to being alone and making decisions without taking another into consideration that I still do this sometimes. Even though they may seem small and insignificant to your “separate” lives while you’re away, those little or big decisions still affect your future. I know things can get busy, but take the time to update and check in with your partner. After all, they do know you better than anyone, so make a priority for them to be at your side emotionally even if they aren’t physically.

Respect each other’s freedom. Freedom is the very reason we are most often single. And freedom from the mundane is why most of us travel. So finding a relationship with a freedom lover can be a bit tricky. I can tell you from experience that if I’ve felt smothered in the past, I would just end it because I wasn’t willing to compromise. One of the first things Victor told me is that you should love someone so that the person you love feels free. It was then that I knew I could build a future with this person. He encouraged me to fulfill my travel plans that I had before I met him, but made me promise that the next plan I made would include the two of us. Because he respected my freedom, I felt free in our relationship. I’m also notoriously bad at staying in touch, being a kinda “out of sight, out of mind” type of person. Although it took a few months and we’re both still learning, we don’t need to talk constantly or tell each other ever detail of our daily lives, but we do need to respect that we’re both still individuals living separate lives for the time being. The most beautiful relationships I’ve seen are people who push their partner’s to be the best version of themselves. Because we both want each other to succeed, we push one another to work towards our goals instead of smothering them.

Don’t play the insecurity card. We all get a little insecure sometimes, we’re human. And being in a long distance relationship usually plays towards those insecurities because we aren’t around to constantly reassure our partner, which can make us start questioning the other person’s integrity. Let me stop you there, don’t. Just don’t. Jealousy is a weak emotion. If you are feeling jealous that your partner isn’t able to talk to you as much as possible, or unsure about his new friend who happens to be a girl, then these things are on you. If you chose to be in a long distance relationship with someone, then you must trust this person. If you don’t, then that is something you have to deal with. You are not your partner’s life coach, nor should you waste your time constantly reassuring someone that you love that they are important to you and have a place in your life. I will do this from time to time because it happens, but I definitely wouldn’t deal with it regularly and you shouldn’t either. Don’t be one of those people.

Respect each other’s cultures. More than likely, if you met abroad, your partner is from another country and probably speaks another language as a first language, which means dating looks a lot different in other countries then it does in America. When you get in your first fight it’ll probably be due to a language barrier or cultural misunderstanding. Trust me, I know. And it can be really frustrating trying to understand someone else’s upbringing, culture and language. But talk calmly to each other and don’t take things too personally. We tend to think of these fights as an attack on our country or language when really it’s just due to ignorance that the other doesn’t understand. Be patient with each other when these things happen and take your time explaining instead of getting frustrated. You may quickly realize that the two of you just think completely different on something, that’s okay, respect the other’s opinion and move on. This won’t be the last time that happens when you love someone from another country, so learn to move past it.

I know there’s a lot of skepticism about long term relationships and I can’t guarantee you they will work out. My partner and I just dealt with his visa getting denied to visit me in the US, so I am now making my way back to Mexico. We are trying to head towards Australia next year where Americans can get working holiday visas and Mexican nationals cannot, another hurdle we’ll have to overcome together. But the world is a big place and there are lots of places we can fit in it, together. I can’t tell you if your relationship is right or wrong, or if mine will work out either. But if you feel strongly enough about another person, with the right amount of luck and a lot of respect it could go farther than you think. Good luck!