Changing of the Seasons

Moving overseas to a third world country…mastering a second language as a necessity…starting a business in foreign land…building a new life from the ground up…was I ready for all of this? How about going back to work in the States for nine months after foreseeing my future in Ecuador?

Since we had overstayed our welcome, Ecuador wasn’t letting us back in for 9 months so I was stuck in the States anyways. As for the rest of my anxious thoughts, we already bought land so I was pretty well committed at this point. I could feel the change in the weather; the seasons were turning.

How prepared can one be for such great change in life? Do we ever feel ready?

It had been over four years since Captain and I have been in one place for so long. Yes, 9 months is a long time for gypsies like us. The longest we had ever stayed on a travel assignment was 6 months; and those long stays were reserved only for super rad places like the Pacific Northwest. But I was going to make the most of the nine months, wherever Captain and I ended up. Typically my goal was exploration and adventure but our next destination would be different. This was the time to save money and prepare for our final return to Ecuador. I had been mentally preparing myself for this change since the moment Captain and I had this crazy dream…but the reality of the move was sinking in.

After returning to the States, we spent some time with family and awaited word from my workplace. I was thrilled to hear there was a position open in my department. My excitement was smothered when I was told the location. “No way are we going there!” All I could think about was how miserable the weather must be. Having just left paradise, any destination in the United States was up for some hard competition but this place…

I sat on the offer for two weeks and had no other job leads. At my breaking point I wondered, was this where the Universe was directing me? After talking with my bestie who reminded me of the strong native culture in this region, I made up my mind. When my family heard my decision they exclaimed, “why are you going there?!?” We had just left summer on the equator and were heading to one of the coldest places in the United States…Fargo, North Dakota.

When I thought of Fargo, all I could imagine was the cover of the infamous Cohen brother’s film: a dead body face down in several feet of snow and a woman wrapped in a parka over the frozen body. Precisely how I envisioned me and Captain at the end of our 9 month stay in Fargo!

Okay. Fargo is not on the edge of the world…but you can see it from there!

The Universe better have something good waiting for me if I was going to Fargo…

My family always got a kick out of watching the weather and letting me know that Fargo made the national weather yet again…”and record temperatures again today in Fargo at negative 17 degrees.” How did we survive Fargo’s brutal winter? You just don’t go outside!

With the extreme weather, it would be an easy choice to stay inside and get ready for the big move.

The first trip to the grocery store gave me the much needed reassurance that we’d made the right call. We were stocking up on groceries after hearing that we were to get over 27 inches of snow overnight. The first thing that went into the cart were a bunch of bananas. Much to my surprise, they were harvested from a familiar place. The positive affirmations added sunshine to my day when the world outside was in a white out…

Food for Thought

So what did I do with my time when the weather outside was too intense to go out? I did what most Midwest women are so good at and I went shopping!!!

Captain and I had started making our “Bring to Ecuador” List after our first visit to the country. Most everything you wish to have can be found in Ecuador. The bigger cities are modern like the States. I am not saying that items will be easy to find. Nor am I saying it will be your favorite brand or the quality you wish. Many items I have seen are Made in China and have inflated prices for whatever reason. But I boycotted Walmart years ago when I became a conscious consumer and prefer to buy “Made in USA”. I shop for cruelty-free, locally crafted and organic items. Having been to Ecuador twice now, I knew being a conscious consumer would be more challenging.

My plan? Buy as much as I could in the United States and bring it along!

As my lifestyle and philosophy has changed over the years, I have gotten rid of lots of belongings and live lightly. Travel nurses pack up, move on and move in at a moments notice; living in corporate housing a traveler doesn’t need to bring much as the basics are provided. Since I don’t have a home base, I travel with all of my stuff so my load is heavier than most other travelers; which is still not much compared to most Americans. When you move all of your belongings every 3 months, you realize how heavy your load is so getting rid of the excess is relatively easy. And excess baggage is what most of us have anyways…

Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff. Captain calls me high maintenance, whatever that means…

My shopping spree lasted six months. I bought everything that was on our list…and then some. At some point, I realized I was spending all my free time shopping. I wasn’t meditating. I wasn’t going outdoors. I wasn’t writing. All I was doing was shopping online. I went to the mall more times in 4 weeks than I had in four years! I was buying everything I could imagine I may need in Ecuador. It wasn’t really how much I was buying or what I was bringing along. It was the anxiety rooted in the shopping…what was this overwhelming need to prepare? I had to stop.

Okay, I actually did a lot more than just shop in Fargo and had a great time. My colleagues were awesome and I had the chance to advance professionally; neither of which are a guarantee on assignment. I met a soul sister at a holistic health and psychic fair who mentored me greatly on my journey. Steps away from my door was a gazebo where I taught Saturday yoga classes. I even learned how to open my intuitive channels and communicate with animals. Opportunities to explore native culture came to me as well. I attended a local sweat lodge, danced to the drum of a tribe and went on a shamanic journey.

As a country girl from the Midwest, I am used to experiencing all four seasons. Traveling keeps me from this so I really appreciated being in Fargo to experience the seasonal changes, despite the extreme temperatures. If in tune with Mother Nature, we are guided in our daily lives; the birth of new projects in the spring, expansion and growth in the summer, reaping the reward in the fall, then resting and reflecting in winter…

As synchronistic as our time was in Fargo, we were getting cabin fever. At month seven, I felt like I couldn’t make it another week. Captain and I reminded one another daily that we were moving to paradise in two months! It is a tradition of mine to start a countdown to my last day on assignment. Sometimes I start a little early and the days come that much slower. Despite the long days, I reminded myself this is a time to be present. Now on my sixth travel assignment, I know that in these last weeks when I am most excited for my next adventure, it is easy to overlook the magic happening before my eyes. Like yearning deeply for spring only to miss the ray of sunshine peaking out from the clouds making the icicles on the bare trees glisten.

Suncicles

And it never fails, these last moments on assignment I meet the most wonderful friend or have an experience that shifts my perspective on it All.

Seven weeks, 6 weeks, 5 weeks…once my countdown begin, I realized our departure day was approaching very quickly. I was in that limbo phase where it was too early to pack but felt like I needed to do something to get ready. “Stay present.” That is what I am supposed to be doing…

Captain came home one day and told me about a crazy lady he had crossed paths with at the store. He was buying electronics for the move and a woman shopping nearby mentioned buying a computer for her indigenous family. She was moving to Ecuador. Even Captain could not ignore the synchronicity of this moment.

When her and I met, it was as if I were seeing an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years. When she told me about living with Chilean shamans and leading empowerment retreats for women, I knew I had finally met my last minute friend.

The new season had arrived…

Having moved 13 times in the last 7 years, I have got pretty efficient packing for a move. We bought four lightweight duffel bags by Samsonite so each could be packed with 49 pounds of goods. There is no sturdiness to these bags so I had been collecting smaller cardboard boxes to protect my goods during the move. We each would also be wearing a large back pack on our back and a pack on the front, both we claim as our carry-on bags.

When Captain noticed the “2 Weeks To Go” on the calender he said, “I better get packed!” Not two hours later, Captain walked out of his room dragging his back packs and his two duffel bags; the second duffel only half full. “All ready!” I was astonished. I had been packing for weeks!

While packing, most of my stuff I kept hidden from Captain because I didn’t want to hear, “You are bringing that???” My rationale for my over packing was I really don’t have that much stuff so I might as well bring it all! At some point, I started packing odds and ends that I could have easily got in Ecuador. At the time, the little things didn’t seem like much but it all adds up…

Checking bags can get expensive but we had decided against the alternative which can end up being much more expensive choice. Many Americans ship their belongings via 20 or 40 foot containers from the major U.S. ports. We’d heard horror stories about expats’ containers being stopped and held hostage in customs. On top of the 5K+ they paid for the shipping container, they had to pay another few thousand dollars to get their own stuff back! Most people then end up getting rid of their stuff when they get accustomed to Ecuador living and realize so much of it was excess anyways.

Bringing our stuff as checked baggage made the most sense for what little we were really bringing to Ecuador. So what did I bring?

I brought along my whole summer wardrobe, lots of flip flops and a couple pairs of summer sandals. A pair of shoes and a few long sleeves and pants were brought for cooler nights and our time spent in Quito. My beauty routine is quite simple but I appreciate quality products so I packed all my eco-friendly goods; hair and nail care products, sunscreens, shaving cream, organic feminine products and a gigantic tub of all purpose coconut oil.

I have yet to see reasonably priced houseware linens so along came bath towels, washcloths and a set of sheets. Nice pillows aren’t easy to find either so I invested in two natural pillows for us both. My yoga mats came along as well and offered padding to protect more delicate goods.

Because of the poor quality of basic kitchen necessities (flimsy utensils and aluminum cookware), I packed a whole kitchen. Stainless steel pots, a cast iron skillet, bamboo cooking utensils, Pyrex and Preserve saver containers, and lots of other kitchen gadgets like our soup wand. Despite the bulkiness, our Vitamix blender and Breville juicer would not be left behind. I also invested in a Berkey water filtration system for our future home. Kitchen hand towels and wash cloths were brought as well.

In Ecuador, baking soda is sold at the pharmacy as if it is a controlled substance. Its quite expensive at three dollars for 4 ounces. So I brought a few 12 ounce boxes as baking soda is a versatile cleaning product. I also brought along a large container of a himalayan sea salt for cooking.

Overpriced power tools with off name brands are typically what you find at the hardware stores. Building from the ground up we knew we would eventually need such things but for now settled on a tool box with the basics.

I expect to have lots of free time in Ecuador so I had to bring along all my hobbies. From crystal and stone beads for jewelry making to all my stamps and multi-colored ink pads, I made room for all my favorite artistic media.

I love to learn and read so I have lots of books. I dream of a beautiful library with books that inspire and enlighten. Captain boasts about Kindle and how it travels so conveniently. Obviously…but I love my books so I brought along at least fifty pounds worth. I know, I know; fifty pounds is a whole checked bag but all are books I refer to often and can reread time and time again.

It will surely be a year before I start my wellness business but I brought along my office; a color printer, file folders, pens, scissors, and all the little things a businesswoman has on her desk like sticky notes, paperclips, tape and a hole punch.
My seven pound desk reference for essential oils and repertoire of medicinal-grade essentials oils were top priority; a basic first aide with versatile oils was put together to be a bit more prepared if we were to face any emergencies in the jungle. My diffuser was padded in bubble wrap and tucked safely away in a sturdy box.

And perhaps the single most important (and exciting) element to my health in Ecuador? Kombucha! This is an ancient pro-biotic drink that is excellent for digestive health and the immune system. I started out doing single batch brews and loved it so much I wanted to start a continuous brew in Ecuador. For this I would need a brewer. My choices were delicate ceramic or solid oak. I opted for the 5 gallon oak barrel and when it arrived I questioned my choice. It weighed 14 pounds and took up half of a duffel…

When it was all said and done, we ended up with nine duffel bags all packed to fifty pounds. Exactly. Some of my small but heavy items ended up in my back pack as weight was as much of a commodity as space. I suggested to Captain we just fill another duffel and make it an even ten. “You are kidding me right?” I laughed as if I was. Maybe I could find some extra space in Captain’s bags for my stuff…

High Maintenance

Where does this overwhelming urge to prepare come from? An inherited fear of not having enough? A personality type to be prepared for any worst-case scenario? Fear of failure? Perhaps when everything is changing around me, my stuff comforts me; grounds me when I am amidst a whirlwind of changes.

Like chopping wood for the winter fire. The more wood I have, the less I worry about going cold…

Change. The only constant…yet so many of us resist what will persist. Change, forcing us out of our comfort zones. I imagine this is why most people get stuck, because change is uncomfortable. Though I have come to appreciate the changing of the times, projecting myself into new and unusual situations, I still experience discomfort and anxiety. But the seasons change whether we are ready or not…

Changing of the Seasons

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