Lessons from Abroad

We just returned from a 8 day trip to Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.  Its a peaceful haven where life moves at a much appreciated slower pace.  The weather was warm and the drinks were cold, and as a family we were so happy.

The trip was blissfully peaceful and relaxed.  I couldn’t help but wonder how I can transfer some of the vacation lifestyle back to our Chicago life.  Here are a few changes I hope to make:

1. Go to bed early. And wake up early.

The kids were up before 6 am almost every day in Mexico.  And, why not?  The sun was shining, birds were chirping, waves were crashing, breezes blowing.

With the early rise and a day full of outdoor activities, we were all exhausted by bed time.  The kids were usually down by 8:30 (late compared to their normal 7:30 bedtime!) and Chris and I were asleep just an hour later (early compared to our normal midnight bedtime!). Now that we’re home, I think keeping myself to a similar schedule might help me be more productive and alert during the day.

2. Spend more (uninterrupted) time together as a family.

In our normal life, Chris and I do make an effort to spend plenty of quality family time together, especially on the weekends. We take full advantage of the museums and parks and beaches here in Chicago, and when its too cold to go outside we keep busy indoors baking in the kitchen or working on a craft project.  But, oftentimes that time together is sprinkled with distractions, mostly from our phones or computers.

While on vacation our phones didn’t work, so we never had them with us. And we never turned on the TV.  Without the bells and whistles of all-too familiar electronics we all relaxed.  It was nice. And there’s no reason we can’t do it much more often now that we’re home again.

3. Expose the kids to more unique foods.

Here at home, its easy to get stuck in food ruts, especially with somewhat picky eaters. Before the trip I told the kids that some of their favorite foods like PBJs, pizza, oatmeal and pasta wouldn’t be available, so they would have to try new things.  Surprisingly, they were pretty open to this idea.

Much to my surprise, they tried (and liked!) fresh fish caught from a local fisherman.

And they were happy to eat authentic tacos and quesadillas from the local mercado municipal.

And roasted peanuts on the beach with a touch of salt and a spritz of fresh lime juice was everyone’s favorite snack (second only to the homemade popsicles we bought every afternoon from a man pulling a cart).

Fortunately, Chicago is home to a wide array of ethnic neighborhoods and thousands of unique restaurants.  Plus, I love cooking and trying new recipes.  Encouraging adventurous eating will be easy!

4. Slow down.

Living in a big city, its easy to get caught up in the need to do everything as fast as possible.  In Mexico, we never had to be anywhere in a hurry, and I found myself enjoying the journey as much as the destination. One morning the kids woke up especially early, so I took them for a long walk while Chris slept in a little.  Along the walk we spotted a cockroach – a cucaracha – and for 15 minutes the kids followed it and asked adorable questions about it “What does it want for breakfast?” “Where is its mom?” “Does it like little boys?“.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many Chicago cockroaches we’ve raced by in a hurry to the grocery store or library.  I will slow down.

5. Drink during the day.

I say this with a wink, but sheesh! there is something so relaxing about a cold Mexican beer at 2 in the afternoon.  If its a Saturday afternoon in July and we’re in Chicago I see nothing wrong with breaking out the booze. Ha!

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