Very nearly exactly fourteen years ago Wiley and I walked away from careers that we had spent more than ten years building to travel around the world. Reactions to news of our plans varied widely, from astonishment to envy to worry for our safety. I remember very clearly that when I told my mother we were going to spend the year 2000 traveling around the world, she said, “No, you’re not.”
We arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on February 7, 2000, and returned to the U.S. on March 17, 2001, several months ahead of the events of September 11th that year. Like most people I well remember what I was doing when I heard the news that a commercial airliner had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. The demarcation created by that day is preceded by a naivete regarding our safety, both at home and abroad. Since then, travel has required that we not only remove our shoes and submit to full body scans, but that we pause and consider the safety of our chosen destination.
For as long as I can remember since our return we have both said that we would do another Long’s Strange Trip at some point in our lives. Becoming parents did nothing to dissuade us from this plan, but did give us pause to consider what type of journey would be best to have our son safely accompany us. This led to considerations regarding his academics and his social life, and how we could teach him about what’s outside the boundaries of the United States while disrupting his normal development as little as possible. Honestly admitting that none of us had the patience for home schooling left us with the realization that we needed to stay in one place, where Little Wiley could go to school.
Armed with this realization, we started looking for our destination. Places that were more than three hours either side of our time zone were out, since we knew Wiley would need to continue to run his business while we were gone. Canada was out, since we barely live through the winters in Colorado, so that left Central and South America. We talked about Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, and Panama. We visited Panama last year, and although it’s beautiful we were underwhelmed, and more than a little concerned about the school system and the lack of infrastructure anywhere other than Panama City.
I read about San Miguel de Allende originally in the magazine International Living. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was “officially” founded by the Spanish in 1541 as San Miguel, but “de Allende” was added to the name in the 19th century to honor Ignacio de Allende, one of the heroes of the Mexican Revolution, who was born there. The region has a history of silver mining, and San Miguel became a prosperous town because of it. After the Mexican War for Independence the city’s fortunes suffered, but discovery by foreign writers and artists in the 20th century resulted in the city’s prominence as a cultural and artistic mecca. Much of the city’s amazing architecture is intact and well-preserved, and it hosts festivals of every kind and size multiple times per year. With elevation of 6000 feet, a dry climate, and temperatures ranging from lows in the forties to highs of no more than 85 degrees the weather is fine most any day of the year.
We visited there in March of 2013, and at the end of the first day the three of us shared a growing sense of excitement, the feeling that this was the place. We soon discovered the existence of a relatively new school that is run by an American and is seeking certification in the International Baccalaureate, or IB, curriculum, just like the middle school Wiley is slated to attend in Fort Collins. On a second trip there over last Thanksgiving weekend we found a beautiful three bedroom house overlooking the center of town, and signed a lease starting July 1. The only thing standing between us and this amazing dream at this point is an interminable things to do list that includes such trivial entries as rent our house, sell our cars, and find someone to take care of our cats (one of the owners of the house in San Miguel is deathly allergic, so while the dogs are welcome, the felines are not). Feelings of anticipation and excitement routinely clash with dizzying waves of claustrophobia and despair that we will never get it all done. So consider yourself warned – if you’re up for being pulled along on what promises to be an interesting and life-changing, yet occasionally uncomfortable ride, climb aboard.