The Struggle of San Cristobal

I struggled with writing all this week, feeling like I didn't have anything to share that all of you wanted to read. Then, today, I remembered my rules for writing here on Ink and Feet:

  1. No pretty-life fakery. Be vulnerable. When it hurts and is sad or sucks, write then too. Especially then.
  2. When is a piece done? When I want to hit "I love this". If I don't honestly want to hit that button, it doesn't get published.

I like those rules. So, if I'm going to write authentically, free of pretty-life fakery, I've got to tell you that that San Cristobal has been a struggle. Every day has been tough.

It's like one of those relationships with a great person that doesn't work because the rest of your life is a wreck. I feel like there's something great here in the city, but we just aren't clicking. And in full-on authentic mode, here are the struggles:

It turns out, health matters.

When you talk to old people, they often say things like, "at least you've got your health." Young people never say that - because health is one of those tricky things - like youth - that you never realize you have until it's gone.

Here in San Cristóbal, I spent the first three weeks with terrible traveler's sickness, and the week that followed with what appears to be the start of an ulcer. This combination means that I'm not able to eat the foods that really nourish me, and worse - I've had to almost entirely cut out coffee.

The result is that instead of my normal magical 120% Steven, I'm running at closer to 40%. When I've finished up my day job and a bit of Ink and Feet stuff, I'm just ready to collapse into bed and sleep with the hopes that tomorrow is better. In that window, great as it may be, San Cristóbal doesn't even get a chance.

Culture transitions are hard.

My real cultural transition here is from Thailand to Mexico, and it's been rough.

Architecture says a lot about a culture. Here in San Cristóbal, the streets are a constant wall, with closed doors spaced out along the way. The streets are quiet.

But behind every door, there's a large plaza, full of life, people, food, drink and joy - but you have to get in the door.

I've felt the same with the people I've been able to spend some time with, here. They're lovely, kind, and warm. But there's a natural distance there - here in Mexico, I remain other, and I haven't figured out a way to get past that.

Habits matter

For many years, every day, I used software called The Steven Manual. It was a kind of robotic best friend that kept an eye on all sorts of important things - if I was getting out of the house, how much I drank, and if I was burnt out. The Steven Manual didn't sleep and it always kept watch - and in Thailand, I stopped using it.

I was so connected there, so in line with my ideal life and my best me that the manual was just an extra layer between where I was and where I wanted to be.

But here, I miss it. The regular things that keep me thriving - eating salad for breakfast, running, maintaining a healthy work/life balance - haven't happened.

It's a bit, I suspect, like being on antidepressants. When they work, you don't think you need them. When you hop off, you realize later, that yeah, they did do something.

There's the land and the place itself.

I also won't put my struggles here past my innate connection with a place. While Thailand felt like it was on the ascent, hopeful and growing, it definitely doesn't feel that way here.

Life in downtown San Cristóbal looks nice enough, but you don't have to go very far to see that veneer fall away - and deep, heart-wrecking poverty is generally always within a mile of where you are. It's a reality that seeps into every moment here, every day.


My home isn't working.

I know what really works for me, in a home.

  • Lots of light
  • At least one story off the ground
  • Warm
  • Easy access to somewhere I can run safely
  • Easy access to fresh vegetables
  • A separate space to work and to relax.

Here in San Cristóbal, as lovely as my apartment is, it's missing most of that list. I'm on the ground floor in a shaded corner. It's cold, rainy, and damp. There's nowhere I can really safely run.

Yeah. When I say it out loud, it's obvious that's not going to work - and it hasn't.

What I'm going to do about it.

Thinking through all of this finally prompted me to canonize and put down my steps for getting out of a bad situation.

And then, to take my own advice, and start taking those steps.

For San Cristóbal, it broadly comes down to two things. First, I'm moving to Zicatela, a little beach town in Southern Mexico. I'll have an upstairs apartment there with lots of light, lots of sun, and be few blocks from the beach.

Second, in the time I have left here, I'm giving myself a break. Lowering my expectations. Allowing for less. Allowing for some healing and some recovery.

I've got no fancy zinger of an ending for this one. This is what permanently traveling and living all over the world looks like - just like your life, it comes with tough spells. Thanks for reading, following along, and journeying with me.

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