Should we stay or should we go?

The news came as a shock. The look on Brian’s face was pure disbelief after he hung up the phone with the principal of the school where he had worked for the past 13 years, and where he planned to return to in the fall.

Earlier that day, I was offered my old job back in the USA. With Brian headed back to the classroom, that meant we both would have jobs to come home to after our year away. Our former lives in Colorado were just sitting there waiting for us. How easily we could slip back into “normal” life.

We were in for a loop.

“You won’t believe this,” Brian said to me without blinking. “She said that she’d approve a request to extend my sabbatical another year if I wanted. And I’d still get my old job back when I returned.”

My heart thumped in my chest, “What? Are you serious? Another year?”

We were both dumbstruck.

We never planned on staying in Mexico for more than one year. That’s how long Brian was allowed by his school district to take unpaid leave and get his same teaching job back. When we first learned about this incredible benefit years ago, we instantly knew we were going to take advantage of it and starting saving money. Four years later, we had saved enough for both of us to take a year off from work and live and travel in Mexico.

Fast forward to that fated phone call, and there we were 9 months into our year away, faced with the unanticipated, complicated and emotional decision of whether to go back home or stay another year. We had just one week to decide. That’s when Brian’s request for leave was due to the district office, and when I needed to accept or decline my former employer’s offer.

The timing was purely coincidental. We had merely contacted our former employers on the same day to get the conversation started about re-entry into our old jobs. We never expected that I’d be offered a job on the same day that Brian would find out he could take another year off.

We were bewildered, excited and frightened out of our wits. What should we do?

The possibility of staying in Mexico another year sent us into a tailspin. With our year away coming to a close, we had already begun to mentally move back to Colorado and were excited, albeit nervous, about coming home.

We promised each other things would be different when we got back home, that we’d take the lessons we learned from Mexico with us. We’d make more time for ourselves, each other, Maya and for our friends and family; we’d work less; and we’d continue our Spanish language learning. Personally, I was ready to be rid of some of the minor annoyances of living in rural Mexico – not being able to drink the tap water, having to put dirty toilet paper in the trash can rather than the toilet; battling armies of ants in the kitchen; slathering Maya in bug spray and sunscreen every day; and random power outages. I missed my house, friends, family and community, and, quite frankly, the easy access to all the goods and services I was used to in suburban Colorado.

Staying another year also presented big challenges logistically and financially. We had only saved enough money for one year without work, not two. Turning down the job offer from my former employer meant I’d likely have to start a whole new job search when I got home, which could take months. Our house, which we had been renting out while we were away, was currently vacant and undergoing a major kitchen reconstruction because of a water leak that hadn’t been properly fixed. Much of our stuff would have to stay in storage and in various friend’s and family’s basements and guest rooms for another year.

Yet the more we thought it over, the more financial and logistical sense it made to stay. Our cost of living in Chacala is about half of what it is in Colorado. That means if I could find freelance work with U.S.-based companies, I could cover our expenses by only working half time (as long as our house was rented). With just one of us working half time, we’d still have plenty of time to spend together as a family, as a couple, with our friends here, and exploring all that Chacala and Mexico have to offer. Our house was already vacant. Why not rent it out again?

And when we really listened to our hearts, we knew we had to stay. Living in Mexico, and in particular Chacala, has been an immensely enriching experience for our family, especially for our four-year-old daughter, Maya.

P1030181We have watched Maya blossom into a resilient and adventurous little girl here. Every day, we are impressed with how much she is learning and doing. She now speaks basic Spanish with her friends and teachers. She has learned how to make new friends quickly, despite the difference in language and culture. She can now swim short distances (before we arrived, she was afraid to get her face wet). She loves boats – the faster the better. She likes to ride on paddleboards and kayaks, and loves to bob beside us while we snorkel. She has swum with whale sharks and sea lions. She has been stung by jellyfish twice and still loves the ocean. She can spend hours upon hours of unstructured playtime on the beach.

Some people have told us that because she is so little, Maya won’t remember her time in Mexico. Maybe they are right, but we are certain this experience is building her soul.

When we boiled down our reasons for staying, it came down to these simple truths:

  • Our daughter will only be little once. This time is precious with Maya. She is silly and sweet and adventurous and willing to try just about anything. One day we will wake up and she won’t want to hang out with us anymore. We want to squeeze every last drop of time we have with our only kid.
  • We are still young and healthy. We are in our 40s and lucky to still be healthy and active. But who knows what ills or accidents may befall us in the future? We have had several young friends and family members face serious illnesses this year. If we don’t do this now, we might not be able to later.
  • We won’t regret staying; but we will regret leaving. We have found this to be true with every travel or life experience we have ever had. We only regret NOT DOING the things that open ourselves to new experiences and adventures, we never regret DOING them, even if during the doing we are scared, anxious or miss home.
  • Bilingualism is one of the greatest gifts we can give Maya. Maya is already understanding and speaking basic Spanish and she sounds like a local. Given another year here, she is likely to become fully bilingual. Having the ability to speak more than one language is a gift that opens countless doors to new experiences, opportunities, friendships and understanding. We believe it is one of the greatest gifts we can give Maya.

After a week of soul-searching, Brian submitted his paperwork and I declined the job offer. That same afternoon, we took ourselves out to lunch at one of our favorite beachside restaurants. One of the ever-present Mariachi bands was making its rounds among the tables. Brian summoned the band to our table. We had never actually hired a Mariachi band yet during our stay here. We asked them to play something happy. They started playing “Mi Linda Nayarit”, which talks about all the places we love in this state and how great they are. I started bawling. I took the song selection as a sign that we had made the right decision to stay another year. I hope with all my heart we made the right call.

We look forward to continuing to share our adventures with you on this blog site. We’d love to hear your feedback. Feel free to submit a comment below! Thank you.



  1. I’m really excited for the Slobe family! What a great opportunity, things like this are rare and from the sounds of it, the timing is right. Enjoy year 2 in Mexico and we look forward to your return next Summer.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. The experience of another year I think is well worth doing. The experience of living and relating to another culture will stay with you for the rest of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You will be amazed at how much your young daughter learns. We took our family on a 40 day trip to Australia when our daughter was just 3. Two years later on a field trip, back in Canada, she recalled information about various animals that we had no idea she had learned. Living in another country, especially when you embrace the culture, is priceless! I admire your decision to stay in Chacala. We live just North of there for 5 months of the year and love the people, climate and food.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We met you and your wonderful dog briefly in Chacala. It sounds like it was meant to be! Do it while you can. We will see you again next year I am sure!
    Aimee and Syd
    Sayulita and Carbondale co.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You guys are so true and on point. Your experience in Mexico and your cultural experiences are so genuine and real and meaningful. I only wish I had the opportunity to do that with my own children.
    We are actually in Mexico right now. Its only been 6 days, and my son is speaking Spanish. Is impressive and we are thrilled. But it is nothing compared to what Maya is doing. Which ultimately goes to prove that immersion and living in the experience is much more meaningful than just a vacation.hugs and good wishes to you all!! The Krams family

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, great choice! You guys are lucky and opportunities like this come once in a life time. You will not regret this. Traveling is a life lesson that can not be taught in a classroom. ENJOY!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so exciting! I agree about the gift of bilingualism you are giving her. Maybe you can enroll her in a Spanish/English Dual Immersion School when you return. Then she can be truly bi-literate. Enjoy this year together, since once she starts school, you know it won’t be quite as easy to take another year in Mexico. I admire your adventurous spirit!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations guys! You hit on so many things in this article that we’ve found to be true ourselves. Now we need to find a way to come and visit you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Slobes, embrace you life in Mexico, which you have. Your daughter will remember more than you think especially if periodically you go back and you find ways for her to continue to use her Spanish. As far as the conveniences of the US and the things that bug you in Mexico it will take you 2 days after you return to realize that you no have the US conveniences but you miss what bugged you in Mexico. Enjoy! By the way that is a really well written letter. Rich Glaab, I would love to talk with you about your experiences and compare to Saudi.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your messages from Mexico have been marvelous. Staying another year, in Mexico, with Maya and Brian will be good for Maya. Good luck to all of you and stay well. Please Keep in touch. I enjoy reading your blog. You are a wonderful writer. Love, Grandma

    Liked by 1 person

    • Posted April 2019: My beloved grandmother Dorothy Fellner passed away in November 2017. This April, she would have been 96. Reading her comment here now after she’s gone is so bittersweet. My grandmother has always been so supportive of me and my family, and of my writing. Grandma – I am channeling you now as I launch deeper into my writing goals and adventure in Mexico. I love you.


  10. What a unique experience you guys are living. I’m actually from El Capomo; probably you know where that small town is located. It’s half way to La Peñita on the left side. I reside in Central Oregon very lovely place for everyone. With your history you have know idea what a great lesson have given me. I’m Mexican, English is my second language and I’m trying to decide if whether or not going to school and get education; which I’m nervous though. I feel my heart that I really want to do it!

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