To travel the world is to experience and write you own book of history. Otherwise you are just reading history written at the hands of the victors. But to truly understand oneself and the world also one must depart the pseudo harbor of safety and explore the intrepid open seas. It is only through others that we truly learn about ourselves; it is only through travel that we sincerely learn of the untold people and cultures of other countries. Opening my mind to the possibilities of travel allowed me to find my heart.
This chapter of my life started in Amsterdam, Holland and ended up spitting me out in Yucatan, Mexico. In the interim, it brought me on a head spinning whistle-stop trek from New York City to Maine to Miami to Nicaragua, back to Miami again, then finally off to Colombia. After being unable to find a suitable apartment for my needs in two different cities in Colombia, with funds dwindling, on the verge of giving up, along with some close friends and business partners, it was determined I would relocate to Mexico.
All the while, my journey was eclipsed by the Covid-19 international pandemic and crisis. At every turn there was a new challenge or hurdle to overcome – they were incessant, always lurking in the shadows. Seventeen of the last twenty-four months have been spent living out of hotels. Whilst almost becoming broke and homeless in a wheelchair twice, having my whole life packed into three suitcases only added insult to injury, pre-pending undue stress and anxiety to an already precarious globetrotting expedition.
Do not be mistaken, this has been a wander of the heart since the start. The impetus behind the mad adventure, the magic of the trail, quest of the soul, always surrounded finding the proper foreign filming location for my TV pilot – an adventure travel show with a twist of spirituality, aptly named: Wheels Up! Once leaving Europe to move home temporarily to Philadelphia, whilst giving my car and all my home items away to the inner-city homeless, before being denied re-entry to Europe twice, it has been a slog.
Once I finally had made it to Cartagena, I thought that was my final destination. After attempting to move there twice before in life, my third attempt I planned to live there two to five years. But after six months of innumerable obstacles, breaking my wallet and almost leaving me no bed to sleep in, our team gave up on the possibility of filming in Colombia. It was at this juncture that I went online in order to find a new city to relocate to in the Yucatan, Mexico. Through an ad on Craigslist I met Julio Cesar Chavez.
Cesar, as he liked to be addressed, was a very congenial person upon first introduction. Without wasting anyone’s time, immediately I informed him on my wheelchair and the necessary living requirements. Within a day he replied via text with a video, a video that showed a few areas of concern, that ended with him proposing where to build ramps for me. After umpteen apartment failures in Colombia, Cesar was an angel in disguise. And after losing all my money a week before my move, I knew it was a match.
At this point, it became evident that I was meant to be in Playa del Carmen – there are no mistakes in life. Since my time living in the Middle East I have always had a connection to the energy of the earth. It is much more fine-tuned in my current stage of life. Once I arrived in “Playa” the energy where I was living was immediately felt. As the same ethereally ‘at home’ comfortable feeling while living in Israel, Holland, Indonesia, Ireland and Colombia, Mexico was no different, genuinely l felt restfully at home.
Cesar owns an eight room apartment rental complex in an off-the-beaten-path quaint neighborhood, Nicte-Ha. It is a working class neighborhood most representative of how average Mexicans live day-to-day. There is one thing for certain when living in such a regional locale, without the chaotic mess of the ‘el Centro’ zone, you do not see many “gringos” AKA foreigners in the streets. It certainly makes for an authentic experience, one most representational of the bona fide ways in which actual Mexicans live.
In my first week while staying in the warm and cozy barrio of Nicte-Ha, I could feel her warm embrace. The people here are incredibly polite and always willing to lend a hand. A local neighborhood replete with rooster crows all hours of the day, where residents often sit in front of their homes or in the street late into the night, where it is not uncommon to hear music played loud – no matter the hour – it is a district whose streets are alive with constant action all day and evening. The energy is alive, palpable.
Nicte-Ha is a neighborhood where the old-school trade traditions of yesteryear still exist. No matter if you need your shoe, electronic or car repaired, it is as safe a bet as finding a corner street food stand. The delectable choices of local recipes sold by individuals on foot or bicycle trying to support their families are boundless: tacos (14 + different types); tamales; pizza; cakes and pies; ice cream; ice treats; fresh coconut water and pulp; fruits and fresh squeezed juices, and a multitude of other delicious treats.
On any given day you might see a pandemonium of tropical parrots or Chachalacas flying overhead, leaving yourself asking yourself Que Paso. There is a gorgeous beach, Esmeralda, within a ten minute walk. And, if you are up for the trek, ‘el Centro’ is a forty-five minute walk. When back home you can expect to be flooded with different shouts from the street by local sellers vending their wares, whether procured and resold, fresh mixed, prepared on cart, baked at home or random impulsive tasty foodstuff.
These hawkers depend on local sales to survive. Many live in homes nearby where the majority do not have doors, windows or flushing toilets. They each have their own distinct method to get your attention. The pizza-by-the-slice purveyor on a bike uses a car battery connected to a boom-box to blare out disco music, with voiceover as the menu. Another man goes through the streets, every other residence, in a very raspy hoarse voice, screaming of sweet bread for purchase. Each day over ten vendors would pass.
The complex was filled with affable guests from all over the world. Over time, I befriended one of my neighbors, Valentin, a burly hirsute Viking looking computer programmer from Montreal. He would later become the investor in my TV show. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail all eight units were booked. Many a night was spent outside sitting on the patio under the bright stars celebrating the wonder of life through profound conversation with new friends. One of the greatest benefits of travel is the people you meet.
Of the daily group there are always a few characters. George and Michele from Czech Republic were a daily source of meaningful conversation – as they travel the world trying to rid the oceans of endless plastic. Rocky, his preferred moniker, a seventy-two year old, extremely outgoing and energetic, filled with Midwest love and compassion, always at the ready for a witty remark or a good time, was a pisser. He was right out of a movie; as were many whose paths I crossed during my time in celebrated Nicte-Ha.
While living in close quarters with others over a long period of time it is without fail that some close relationships will result. Valentin was the first foreigner I met when I moved to Mexico. Eventually a friendship ensued. We would spend nights having local street-stand tacos and beers while talking about everything under the sun. At one point, my show became the topic of interest and, by the time the night had come to a close, Valentin decided he wanted to become the sole investor to produce my TV pilot.
As with any major life decision, I interjected that he should first take the proper amount of time in order find resolve with his decision. It was also recommended that he read a copy of my book, Unbreakable Mind, in order to better fully comprehend the totality of my story. Two weeks later he came to me one afternoon and told me he was 100% committed to the project. Unfortunately, without being forthright, he still had doubts deep in the back of his head. And though he tried to hide them, they were obvious.
Although his words said otherwise, and his questions were flashing red-flags of neon, he insisted he was ready to move forward. Within two weeks, in an infantile tantrum, he decided to pull the plug. The show was off. Not a few days passed before he realized his rash mistake and wanted back in on the deal. We reluctantly agreed to accept him a second time, with the fear that he would later find some other quack reason to kill the deal. We also worried that he might decide to have another shit fit once filming began.
Well, as anticipated, and as you might expect, in due time, Valentin withdrew from the project a second time. But by this time he had already made commitments to people for their time and service. Others ended up being affected, collateral damage so to speak, as a result of another unprocessed impulsive decision. After relentlessly chasing a dream all over the globe for almost two years, attempting to bring to fruition through all means, it was time to walk away. The universe’s message could not be clearer.
A wise elder friend and mentor once told me, “Steven, never tie a bow around it.” In life we have our agenda, but life has its own, as well. And guess whose wins? Never yours! We have no control over our lives; the power of fate conquers all. Life has a way of beating you down until you are on your raw knees begging for mercy from above. As part of your karmic balance, each has their own lessons to overcome in this life. If you do not yield and realize these lessons, the universe returns them with multiplied force.
Obviously I had not learnt the intended lesson: giving up control – living in the now – learning to be patient, waiting for the ‘grand illusion’ to reveal itself. In the interim, we are to continue learning about love and forgiveness, increasing our vibration. Earth is a spiritual school where only the bravest of souls decide to live as a human. What is our purpose here? Why are we here? Every day we each have the opportunity to grow from our experience on earth – every day our reaction and attitude are our choice.
Losing the deal was a gift in disguise. Truth be told, I have no real interest in being on TV, nor all that accompanies that lifestyle. Part of the lesson on giving up control was accepting that for one [unknown] reason or another, the universe had other plans for me than a TV show – at least at this period. What was the reason? That is part of the mystery of life: recognizing the infinite synchronicity and inextricable interconnectedness of the universe at play in every moment of our daily lives. It forever surrounds us.
But I am fine with waiting for the universe to reveal its plan. If we continue on and do not acknowledge the lesson, continuing to carry on without being aware of our true purpose, in which the universe is trying to make us aware, life can be a real drag, not worth living. Life is about facing the unknown, head-on. Travel by its very nature has a never-ending plethora of unknowns. And no different than living, travel causes you to have to face and overcome your fears, befalling tremendous growth for future use.
Travel closely parallels life, as it is an experiential process: one that must be kicked off or fully lived, respectively. No different than trying to figure out how to get to a difficult location in a wheelchair, the universe does not provide a net until action is taken. It is only when venturing out into the void of the great mystery, questing through the fathomless far reaches of the heart, voyaging into the unrevealed dimensions of uncharted territory – the collective unconscious – that you find your conscious not-self.
This journey has revealed its purpose: to accept life as it comes by living ‘in the now’ – and to maintain immense gratitude for the limitless love and support surrounding us always, without fail neither of duty nor of time. Life is a big mirror, a mere self-reflection; what we see in others we are ourselves. Travel, forcing you to shed your superficial titles and security blankets, the story horse of vulnerability that we all ride, opens the way to the road less traveled – the road to your heart, to your inner-being, to God.
Everything happens for a reason. I am where I am supposed to be at this moment of my life – Mexico.
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