Some of us rise in our careers, and others drop out. We can think of something to recommend either course. New BoomerCafé contributor Mark Saunders, author of Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, has gone both ways. His recipe for success? Land where you never expected to. He did. And loves every minute of it.
When I was a lad, I never aspired to be an astronaut. Or serve as President of the United States.
However, I did dream of other vocations. My grandparents on my mother’s side owned a ranch in Northern California and I thought, simple child that I was, how wonderful it must be to wake up every day before the crack of dawn to feed cows and chickens. But thankfully that earthy dream disappeared after an uncle took me to a planetarium; then I wanted to become an astronomer. Another short-lived dream, because a year later, a relative who was a fireman in Oakland’s Jack London Square, on San Francisco Bay, let me ride in the department’s fire-boat and I knew I was destined to be a fireman.
Of course, that didn’t last either.
I mention these passing, unfulfilled careers because as I grew older and wondered how to spend my post-working years, I was equally convinced I knew what to do. My first choice was to retire in a cabin along a trout stream; cue the singing birds. Plan B was to end up in a coastal community. But you can only catch so much trout or pace beaches so many times. Cue the tedium.
Truth be told, I was the next to the last person in the world I ever expected to relocate to Mexico, the first being my wife. But we did. And today we’re almost smack dab in the middle of the country, hours from any of Mexico’s gorgeous beaches and, I suspect, just as far from any trout stream.
We were both in our late 50s and working successfully in the high-tech industry at two different companies in Portland, Oregon, when we discovered our jobs were going away. We were products of a well-rounded education during the rock-and-roll sixties, and suddenly the needle of our lives seemed stuck between the refrains of “What’s it all about, Alfie?” and “Is that all there is?”
About that time we visited a friend in Mexico and immediately fell in love—hook, line, and guacamole—with the colonial central highlands. It took several months to accomplish, but we dropped out, sold almost everything, packed upwhat was left, and moved to Mexico, where we didn’t know a soul and could barely speak the language.
Henry James said, “It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” But I believe I’m doing him one better: I’m living the life I could not have imagined.