It’s hard to believe but in just 10 days we will have lived straight through a whole year in Puerto Rico. We haven’t left the island at all (besides going to Desecheo Island which is part of Puerto Rico). We wanted to spend a whole year here in order to really know what it feels like to live through all the holidays, seasons and flows of people. I am very glad we did this as we have definitely learned a lot of lessons throughout this year. Here are a few highlights of the lessons we’ve learned on our first year of living out our dream life in Puerto Rico.
1) Balance is a constant balancing act. Some days you will feel more motivated than other days. Sometimes what you thought was too much will be too little and vice versa. Re-centering is an important part of life and of knowing when you’ve gone too far or not far enough. Sometimes if we’ve spent too many days working/playing out in the yard we like to go out and socialize or go to the beach. Sometimes we may feel burned out on a project and that means we should do something else for a while. We have to be much more in tune with our bodies, and each other, in this way as well.
2) What works for one person, doesn’t always work for others. Many people ask for our advice on various topics, but what we have learned is that we can only give our opinions based on our experiences. Everyone will do it a little differently. And this works the other way around as well; we try to learn from the advice people give us while understanding the worldview or frame from which the advice is coming.
3) People may come and go, but it is still important to make those connections. Unlike in our life in Colorado, it seems many people don’t settle down and stick around for long here. It makes it a little more difficult to build long-term relationships, but it has still been worth it to meet so many interesting and incredible people. Even if we never see them again. I suppose that is the truth of life itself. None of us will stick around forever, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love those who come into our lives. Nothing lasts forever and you never really know how long we get with anyone, or anything, anyway.
4) There will always be seasons. Just because the weather is always beautiful and a similar temperature in the tropics, doesn’t mean that there are not seasons. There are seasons of fruit (mangos, avocados, starfruit, passionfruit). There are seasons of rain and less rain (and hurricanes). There are seasons of holidays and elections. There are seasons of waves. There are seasons of people. There are seasons in our lives. All of these different seasons bring rewards and challenges.
5) Busy is relative. For us, we’ve learned that if we can accomplish one major goal per day (and that may just mean going to a government office for instance), we feel like we’ve achieved something. We try not to make life any harder than we truly want it to be (a little challenge can be good). But we have shed the cult of busy with which most modern Americans have been indoctrinated. Life has become much more laid back even if we still feel that some days are a little full.
6) We must be careful of expectations. In a new environment, lifestyle, and culture where everything is different, expectations can cause you to feel disappointment if they are not met. If on the other hand you leave expectations at the door, then it will feel more like an adventure. And we’ve had lots of adventures.
A part of a car got caught in an electric line!
7) You can adapt to almost anything, but there will always be something surprising. When we first arrived, everything was so crazy and wild and different. But now, we are becoming pretty used to most things. Though, we are still surprised every now and then and we try to remember that so we can see things through newcomers’ eyes. Trying new things and pushing our comfort levels keep things fresh as well. And through series of strange twists and turns life can bring us the most unexpected and awesome circumstances (like our best friends moving here from Colorado!). Somehow our brains can manage to make nearly anything seem normal, and so we try not forget how magical it truly is to be alive.
8) It’s different than the dream. In our dream life everything is perfect. There are no hiccups and the beautiful life is just there waiting for us to frolic in it. When you achieve a dream, like we did moving to Puerto Rico, you find that the dream becomes real. And through all five of our senses, plus our feelings and moods, the dream takes on a much more realistic clarity. In life there will always be challenges that you didn’t expect. When you think about buying a new “dream” car, you don’t fully picture the registration or car payments or the scratch in the paint or even filling up with gas. You imagine driving along on an otherwise carless, beautiful road (or something like that). In the same way, our “dream” life of living in Puerto Rico has its own ups and down. It has both the splendidly beautiful moments and the minor (or major) inconveniences. But that’s what makes it real and not just a fantasy anymore.
9) Some goals are much harder than others to achieve. Especially if you are going against the grain. For instance, self sufficiency and food security. I would love to say that we are able to eat meals from the yard 90% of the time, but that just isn’t happening yet. We have all the eggs we can handle, but we are still struggling on the annual garden side of things. Fruit trees take a long time to fruit, and killing and eating animals that you raised and got to know personally, is much, much harder than we thought it would be.
10) It can be challenging to be the minority. Even though Rincón has its own sort of enclave of “gringos” or people who come from the states, it is not even close to a majority. Living in Puerto Rico has taught us a lot about what it is like to be a minority and the importance of building bridges (language is HUGE) and finding common ground with people. This comes back to adaptation. Rather than assuming the ways we always had done things were “right”, it may mean stepping back and trying to understand something new and initially “strange” or different. Living here full time with the intention of truly staying “for good” I think has helped us to better integrate. It also gives me a renewed sense of empathy for anyone living abroad in a new land.
There are probably many more lessons, but I think these are some major themes. We are proud to have (nearly) made it a whole year in our new life here and are looking forward to all the new adventures that are to come down the road.