For Expats, Looking Within is a Different Kind of Journey

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The Yucatán serves as more than a backdrop. The initial allure of the region’s physical beauty is just the surface. 

In this cradle of civilization, our physical journey mirrors an inward pilgrimage, a quest not just of miles but of the soul. It whispers a more profound invitation — to unfold into our inner landscapes’ hidden valleys and peaks. Away from the familiar embrace of our native land, we embark on a rare opportunity. 

The real odyssey within begins — a passage of self-discovery: to confront our inner shadows, to conquer our fears, to challenge our long-held beliefs, and to grow and blossom in unexpected ways. Every external journey mirrors an internal one. 

Each hurdle in this foreign land is a reflection of an inner barrier. Learning a new language goes beyond vocabulary; it’s about reshaping our voice in the world. Forging new relationships is not merely about the primordial need for companionship; it’s about weaving a new web of community that enriches our sense of belonging. Every challenge in adapting to this new life becomes a doorway to deeper self-awareness, revealing inner strengths and untapped potential. It’s a journey that demands courage to face the paradox of finding oneself. Being lost is part of finding your way.

No return

In my own journey, I’ve encountered days of triumph and unavoidable moments of despair in which I confirmed my resilience. I learned to embrace the winds of change, find comfort in the unknown, and view the world and myself through a fresh lens. I recall when the cultural chasms seemed too vast, and yet I have been spared from even the slightest tangible ache of feeling homesick. I can’t even imagine returning to The Un-united States of America. 

In the Yucatán, where the stars seem to burn a little brighter, we’re reminded of the words of the ancient Maya: In lak’ech ala k’in — “I am another you.” This profound recognition of our interconnectedness is perhaps the greatest destination we could hope to reach. 

In recognition of our shared humanity, it’s here that we find the true essence of the home that lies within. The Yucatán doesn’t change us; it unveils us. It reveals that within each of us lies a hidden explorer, a fierce warrior, a trailblazer. We begin to realize that our true destination was never a geographic location but a newfound state of being. The joy and fulfillment we seek are not in external accolades but in the internal recognition of our capabilities and value. 

We find our true selves in the quiet moments of reflection, in the laughter shared under the starlit sky, and in the silent conversations with the past. It’s a journey into the heart of what it means to be authentically, unapologetically ourselves. And it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s peppered with questions that don’t always have answers and reflections that don’t always flatter. But, as we peel back the layers of our conditioned selves, like the skin of a ripe mango, we uncover our true nature’s sweet, juicy essence. And in this journey of self-discovery, we realize that the most profound destination we can ever reach is the one that resides within us.

Like a river

Imagine this experience as charting a course along a river that flows within us. With its currents and undercurrents, this river symbolizes our life as an expat. 

At times, it’s a tranquil flow, where the waters of our experiences gently lead us toward deeper understanding. In other moments, it becomes a turbulent torrent, presenting rapids of cultural shocks and personal revelations. As we navigate this course, we master the art of balance — the delicate act of holding on and letting go, vacillating between the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Piloting this river requires a vessel built of resilience and an oar crafted from open-mindedness. With each stroke, we creep further from our past selves, venturing into waters brimming with the promise of transformation. This river is not solely about reaching a destination. It’s about the lessons learned, the insights gained, and the person we expand into as we make our way along its trajectory.

As we continue on this path, let us savor each moment — the serenity and the tumult. In these moments, we are truly alive, fully immersed in the act of becoming. 

Let’s embrace the profound truth: “If you don’t go within, you go without.” 

For in the depths of our inner river lies the treasure of our most authentic self, awaiting discovery, embrace, and celebration.

Brian D. Mahan, SEP
Brian D. Mahan, SEP
Brian D. Mahan is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner who lives in Mérida. Brian is a teacher, lecturer, and the author of I Cried All the Way To Happy Hour —What To Do When Self-Help Or Talk Therapy Haven’t Really Helped. He specializes in breaking patterns and changing limiting beliefs by healing shock trauma, developmental trauma, and toxic shame.
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