It Just Feels Right
I wake up before Emma, so I decide that I’ll head upstairs to the rooftop patio for breakfast and let her sleep. The quiet hours of the morning have become my favorite time of the day despite once thinking that I’d always be a night owl.
The rest of the guests are crammed in the three red booths in the lobby that are more reminiscent of the tacky, uncomfortable seats you’d find at a Pizza Hut in the 80s than a hotel in Oaxaca. I climb the two flights of stairs and find that I have the patio to myself.
The early morning air is crisp, cool even. I run back downstairs to grab my cardigan out of my room before settling on a table in the middle of the patio with views of the surrounding mountains in every direction.
Instinctively, I pull out my journal and a black pen, but I can’t will myself to open it. I just sit there, pen in hand, staring off into the distance.
Oaxaca is the fourth stop on this year’s long summer trip, but this trip feels different. It is different.
Emma just graduated high school and is getting ready to go off on a gap year before heading to college, and Oliver has grown increasingly distant in ways that only teenage boys can. My life is in transition, one that I’m not fighting, just acknowledging.
I’ve always known that I wouldn’t stay in St. Louis after the kids left the house. Everyone has know this; it’s long been a joke in my family. It’s not that I don’t like living in St. Louis; I just have always known I that I needed something more. Had I not had Emma in graduate school, I would have moved to New York City after I graduated. Instead, I moved to St. Louis to be close to family. To me, St. Louis is Emma and Oliver. It’s the three of us. So just as they are preparing to shape their futures in ways that make sense to them, I know that I, too, must do the same.
So when I started planning this trip back in August of last year, “Where might I want to live in Mexico?” was the question that guided the itinerary. I was already charmed by Mexico City, but I kept hearing great things about places like Guanajuato, Merida, and Oaxaca from people on Facebook feeds that I follow about living in Mexico. I wanted to see for myself, to make an informed decision.
“Jen, you just look like you belong here.”
The voice startles me, but I know that it is Mike, one of the hotel workers. We had a long conversation the previous morning about him falling in love with a woman from Oaxaca and moving here from San Diego nearly 11 years ago.
“I feel like I could live here,” I tell him.
There’s a creative energy in Oaxaca that really can’t be explained. It’s just there, woven into the fabric of the city. It just feels right. I try to explain this to Mike, who just stands there nodding. I don’t have to tell him about the magic of his adopted city. He already knows.
“There’s definitely magic,” he says. “Do you know about the mushrooms?”
Mike proceeds to tell me about the mushrooms and the tourists who travel to Oaxaca solely for them. “I think I’ll stick to mezcal,” I tell him.
He laughs as he walks away with my breakfast order.
On only my second day in Oaxaca, I’m grateful that we left Guadalajara early and have an extra three nights here.
Just as Mexico City and Oaxaca feel right, Guadalajara did not. After only an afternoon of walking around, I was ready to leave. We both were, and so we booked flights to leave less than 12 hours after we arrived.
Perhaps I give more weight to how things feel than I should, but normally my intuition on people and places doesn’t steer me wrong. Some people just feel right, just as some places do. Sometimes there’s no logic to it; it’s just how I feel when I’m in a place or with a person.
Cuba didn’t feel right.
Luang Prabang did. (So much so that I rearranged my itinerary to spend more time there.)
Mexico City feels right and so does Oaxaca.
As I sit here in a cafe on my last day of this five-week trip, I know that Mexico feels right. So much so that I’m not ready to leave, a first when it comes to my long summer trips. I’m always ready to go back home, but I feel at home here. It feels very comfortable here in a way that I haven’t really experienced before.
And so I head home tomorrow with more resolve–to learn Spanish, to whittle down my belongings (more than they already are), and to move all of my work online.
And to visit as much as possible, all in preparation for my eventual move down here.