Facing Adversity When You’re Going Against The Grain

In life we all face adversity.

It's part and parcel of living on this earth.

Sometimes that adversity comes from within ourselves, other times from government structures, and other times from other people.

When we set out on this "different" lifestyle two years ago I had no idea the kinds of adversity we'd face.

Sure I expected some border crossing issues, and visa issues. I even expected some financial adversity (things sometimes cost more than expected).

And we faced a little bit of adversity last year flying around the world, it wasn't much but it was there.

However, I never expected the adversity we're facing right now.

We've been dealing with this for an entire month now, last week I broke down because of the immense power of words people were using against us. (Read on for examples). I got to the point where I said to Becky, "Perhaps we shouldn't do this trip, perhaps we are insane." My dear wife is amazing at dealing with my weaknesses, and eloquently asked, "Why?, What has changed?" We discussed it and we're moving forward with our plans as they are. I'm now writing this post for anyone who comes behind us, who is interested in a different lifestyle and who faces adversity. Hopefully you'll find encouragement by seeing how ridiculous people are being to us.

Not Judging Your Lifestyle

If you love your lifestyle, Awesome! I've never said everyone has to live my way. That would be stupid. I have however co-founded a support network for location independent families because we've faced so much adversity that I/we needed the support of others making this lifestyle choice.

But just because I choose not to live in a midwestern suburban setting with a 30 year fixed, and two cars doesn't mean I'm judging you for choosing that lifestyle. And I'm not suggesting that you have to make a change. I'm assuming you love your lifestyle. If you don't... well then it's up to you to change it. That's exactly what happened with Becky and I. We loved our lifestyle, until we didn't. So we changed it. And I doubt I could go back.

There are positives and negatives about each lifestyle choice. We have lots of negatives about living full time in an RV, but we also have a significant number of positives, so many that they outweigh the negatives, and so we enjoy our lifestyle. Despite the thousands of things that break down on the RV, and despite me breaking down and questioning our lifestyle, there are amazing things we've been able to do and see as a family. We've had some incredible conversations with our kids which would have never happened had we been stationary.

Please Don't Judge My Lifestyle

So here's the deal. We're not living a scripted out lifestyle.

There are a couple of normal plot lines for the culture Becky and I grew up in, like a movie script these are well defined but allow for ad-libing.

  • The one where you get married, have kids, live in one house for 10+ years, keep your kids in the same (good) school system, work steady jobs and do the soccer mom/dad thing.
  • The one where you have family troubles, get divorced, remarried, his hers and their kids, and you do shared time with some or all of the kids. Working jobs to pay child support and take care of the kids, cannot move outside of x number of miles unless the court approves it.
  • The one where you're in debt on your cars, boats, RVs and house.
  • The one where you get in trouble with the law and no one talks to you anymore, can't get a job can't seem to keep a job.
  • The one where you are barely scraping by, hoping to save money, hoping to get ahead and constantly get kicked down by old cars that break down, jobs that get downsized, and kids that get sick and need hospital visits.

The plot line we're following is not normal for those. It involves some core points which are really counter cultural to that.

  • Sell as much of your stuff as possible.
  • Fly, drive, or sail. (or hitchhike, bike, or walk)
  • Rent, pitch a tent, couchsurf, or sleep in an RV
  • Experience life in person, see cool new things every couple of days, get to know a new culture, have some travel stress.

Is it safe?

I'll borrow a quote from Narnia: “Safe?... Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”  and paraphrase it to be: 'Safe? Who said anything about safe, Of course this lifestyle isn't safe, but it's good.'   However, this lifestyle is no more dangerous than anyone else's lifestyle choice.  There's danger everywhere!

If you listen to or watch the media you'd believe that Mexico is the pit of hell right now. Guess what, that's what gets you to watch the media.

In reality, there are parts of Mexico we're going to avoid. And there's one part of Mexico where we cannot logistically avoid. But we've been in touch with the U.S.Consulate in Mexico and will be heeding their advice. Oh, and by the way, their advice was NOT "avoid going to Mexico, turn around and go home." (Just in case you were wondering).

But to say all of Mexico is a warzone and we will be shot at is like saying Detroit is a warzone and you shouldn't ever go there.  Yes, there's a lot of poverty in the D, and yes, some people have moved out. But I've been to Detroit over a dozen times in the last 4 years. Never once was I shot at, or in a dangerous situation. And yes I was in a bad part of town, and yes I did go walking after dark. Nope not one bullet. Not one mugging.

But the media would have you believe otherwise.

The same is true for Mexico.

Shoot, just yesterday Becky and I had to challenge our own perspectives on Columbia. We remember the old Columbia, where it really was dangerous to be there. In our current plans we were trying to avoid it. However unless we have a huge windfall between now and arriving in Panama we have to ship Gracie to Columbia. So we challenged our thinking and realized that Columbia is just as dangerous as Mexico... or in other words Columbia is just as safe as Mexico. (We have a large network of single friends living in Columbia giving us on-the-ground experience there).

Let's not even start to talk about South Africa, where there is always some unrest going on and where car-jacking, kidnapping etc is a daily occurance. Yet for some reason people in the US think South Africa is awesome and wonderful (it is! we love it there!) But they think Mexico is the pit of hell. Except of course for the touristy areas... those are of course, safe. (In reality the most crime to foreigners happens in or near the touristy areas, the crime between locals happens elsewhere.)

I just want to yell at the world, YOU'RE NOT SAFE. NOT ANYWHERE!  You could die young of a heart attack, you could get killed in a car accident going to walmart, you could get shot watching a movie in the movie theatres, you could disappear with an entire plane full of people or your kids could get abducted on their way home from school. PEOPLE, get a rubber room, and stop eating, cause you could die from e coli, salmonella or some other bacteria in our massive food system. You could slip of the road in icy weather and get killed by the next driver who slams into your car.

LIFE.

Life is dangerous.

Some lifestyles are more dangerous than others. Can we say basejumping? Or shark diving? Or Surfing, or snake handling, or being a police officer. But just because a lifestyle, job, or career is dangerous doesn't mean we need to tell people "hey, don't do that" or better yet "I wouldn't do that if I were you" -- really? You're not me, and I don't want to be you, so I'm glad I'm doing something you wouldn't do, that makes me, *gasp* different!

There's a meme on the internet about eating popcorn. It means people are watching because they believe a good, funny, crazy, etc scene is going to happen. Like they believe a movie is unfolding in front of them. It means "this is going to do down in flames and I'm gonna watch!".

colbert eating popcorn

I envision that happening with a lot of these people making these comments.

They're just waiting for us to fail, to collapse.

Feels really supportive! (dripping with sarcasm)

Are they going to say "I told you so"?  Do they believe we're going to change our mind after researching this lifestyle and hearing one person's fears?  Do they think we will say, "You're right we weren't considering the safety of our kids, this was a stupid lifestyle choice, and wow I'm so glad you told us."?

I'm not looking for your support, approval or anything like that, I'm simply sharing my life with those who are inspired by it. And yes it's not all roses.

The Comments We Face

So, yeah, I was upset at the amount of negative comments we have been getting but I have decided to look at it a different way.  I am confident in our choices and can now see these comments in a comical light.

So here are some samples of comments we're facing about Mexico and our lifestyle. . these are shared here so you'll laugh with us, and see just how bad the adversity can be. Some of these are from friends, some from strangers. All of these are copied and pasted. (the verbal comments are not included in here, mostly because we don't get as many of those).

Better to have your problems in the states. Once you get into Mexico a ways it will be much more stress when you break down.

A lot of people think and say that. But I disagree. There is always stress when broken down, and somehow I'm getting used to it. It's really a state of mind. Am I going to be uptight or be a hippie? The rest of our lifestyle resembles the hippie lifestyle so when we break down I just have to choose that mindset, no matter where we are.

We had to wait 4 weeks for a new Tranny in Atlanta... sure that wasn't awesome, but seriously, 4 weeks? In the US? Sure you can say well it'll be worse in Mexico... where'd you get that Idea? Our RV is made in Mexico. I suspect we'll be facing waiting times, but do you really have knowledge of this or are you getting a "feeling" from movies, and the media?

A point another friend makes:  "I'm pretty sure Mexico is filled with excellent mechanics and good people. Heck, it would be much easier to get a part or mechanic in most parts of Mexico than in many rural areas of Michigan, Wyoming, Nevada ... The list goes on!" -- Thank you, friend....Couldn't have said it better myself!

I would give it up and find something else to do.... My message has been pretty consistent: I don't want this adventure to end badly for you and your family. That's the only message I want to share.

Like I said, you're not me! And what are you going to do, say, "I told you so?"

I hope you ask [for forgiveness] for taking your family down there man [you] must be losing your mind I know two people that were murdered and Central America believe me it won't be the last

What? two people were murdered somewhere in an entire 7 country region?? What were they doing? Drinking, Drugs, ??? How were they murdered? What If I knew a dozen people that were murdered in the US... man you must be losing your mind for living there!

Don't travel into Mexico, especially with a family, the police are not to be trusted . Lots of kidnapping for $$$. You look like a rich american family! Take a plane and fly south as a family.. Good luck, hope we don't see your family in the news..

Mexican police are not to be trusted?? Yes some are not, but some US police are not to be trusted either (Fergusson anyone?) Yes we look like a rich American family, and how will flying help get rid of that? I actually hope you DO see our family in the news, like here and here and here.

How can I even act on this "advice"?

Those 6 months could be the rest of your life.

Wow, you're right! I could die of a heart attack, or a rip in my esophagus, or in a car crash within 6 months. I better get out there and snorkel, or give my kids a great adventure and introduce them to a new way of thinking before I die... Thanks for the great advice!

Yeah, I doubt that was his intention!

I would think twice about Mexico.

Believe you me, I have, I think about Mexico everyday, multiple times a day. But I bet we're thinking different things, more of a longing then a fear.

Prayers for your safety, they don't like us pass the boarder, stay safe.

Correction: "They don't like people like me" -- seriously people!! so much fear, so much hate. Don't you see the irony in your own statement here... you don't like Mexicans in the US... It's fears and the culture like this that has driven us from this country. We do NOT think US of A is the best country ever. There is rampant corruption in our government, there is a ton of hate and prejudice. This is NOT where we want our kids to grow up.

Don't go Mexico is unsafe and drug trafficking is so bad they will put your family in danger

Yup, and the sex trade in Thailand.... we better not set foot in that country either. oh wait we already did. Twice.

I've heard of people attaching drugs under other peoples vehicles. When you get stopped at the border,YOU go to jail for it! They will hold you for months if not longer for being a drug mule... PLEASE rethink taking your precious family into South America,. Very corrupt over there and to "them" you will look like your family has lots of money- kidnapping fodder. You're kids are beautiful, child slave trafficking is not unheard of. IF you still take your trip-find a trusted group to travel with that has security. ..God speed

Yes there are a ton of places to hide drugs on Gracie... we know that. We'll do our best to avoid it. (like not being in sketchy places, not crossing the borders at night etc.

Thanks for the compliment about our kids, we think they're beautiful too, and we're concerned about their safety.  That's why we have taught them about the best safety practices.  Correct, human trafficking is not un-heard of, in fact it's a HUGE problem... oh and a lot of it exists right in the states... right under your nose.

Travel in a group, so that you can be more obvious? So that your fears are shown everywhere? No one loves it when a tour group shows up in town, but when a small beautiful family comes and says, "I'm not afraid, I'm here to be friends" -- that's when the magic begins! We're not tourists we may be on tourist visas, but we're trying our best to live like locals, to make friends, to find out the reality for us of living in these places.

Thanks for the "God-speed", I think.

The God we worship removes fear, and says this life is nothing compared to what heaven is like. He also says live a full abundant life, and people don't know what they're talking about. I could go on and on, but we know that this is right, for us, for now.

And then we get some support, some people out there who say things like:

For what it's worth; the past few years, I have traveled into Mexico once or twice a year. I felt much more safe south of the border than I did in some parts of Los Angeles, CA. I don’t hang around the border towns and I do not run with the drug or bar crowd. I have met some of the nicest people, I love the food and the shopping bargains that are so accessible and I look forward to my next trip south. Yes, I have heard the naysayers, but for what it's worth, most of my trips are to support specific needy organizations. One of my trips I had filled the back of my pickup truck with "goodies and food" for an orphanage, ended up needing to leave the truck and goodies in a motel parking lot overnight, only to wake up and find everything in its place the next morning. Anyway, safe travels and enjoy the experience.

And then there's:

Seeing as their are thousands of motorcyclist that do the south american tour yearly, not to mention many of various auto sporting folk.... nor to touch on the traveling, well insured, corporate contractors ( YOU KNOW THE ONES WHOM ARE ACTUALLY WORTH MONEY TO KIDNAP)... keep your mouth shut, do not be a condescending typical know it all American and you'll be just fine. This is from a man that has done work in a few of those terrible cartel controlled places mention previously. If you have any questions please do feel free to contact me

My faith tradition often says things like "Live life in a way that if God doesn't show up you'll look like an idiot."

Well, here's to being an idiot in the world's eyes. I chose this lifestyle, with all it's negatives, and I choose to blog about the positives and negatives, so that you will be able to keep in touch with us, know where we are and what we're doing.

And if you don't support us in our crazy lifestyle, that's fine. Just grab a bowl of popcorn and watch. Perhaps some of your fears will be educated away.

If, however, you do support us, thanks! We know we're the ugly duckling, or the black sheep, or the runt of the litter. And so for everyone who says "what you're doing is awesome" or "I couldn't do it, but I'm jealous" -- Thanks! We know it's not easy supporting a family doing this crazy lifestyle.

We love you and we hope you can be brave enough to love us without any more negativity.

I don't say all of this to say that we don't welcome first hand warnings or information from credible sources passed along...in fact we appreciate that greatly.   Thanks to everyone who follows along with us in a encouraging and supportive way.

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Paul Kortman

Dad of 4, husband, blogger, digital marketer, follower of Jesus. I podcast at nomadtogether.com and own connexdigitalmarketing.com We're on this crazy journey to travel the world as a lifestyle. Looking for help in how to live as a digital nomad family? Join this Facebook Group!

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19 Comments

  1. Cyril Mayne

    While I could not live your lifestyle, I do give you my blessing to do so. I recently went for 2 weeks to visit our daughter who has lived for 5 years in Taiwan. Different lifestyles are different for each. I could not live your lifestyle but even in my travels to Mozambique God revealed much to me through the journey and I was blessed and prayed over by the poorest of the poor! Their faith is much greater than mine. When I am gone too long from the comforts of my hobbit hole I get nervous. Bless you for the joy you find in the journey. God is good all the time, all the time God is good.

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks Cyril! As they say different strokes for different folks!

      Reply
  2. Teri

    Have a great road trip, safe travels.

    Reply
  3. Jeremy

    It’s my honor to be one of the positive quotes you posted above.

    It’s easy for people to sit on their couches, go through the ‘normal’ motions, feel threatened by your willingness to do something different and be real-life proof that ‘normal’ is neither the only nor the best option, and then lob lots of rain on your parade to make themselves feel better about their own choices.

    It’s also easy for people to swim in the pool of xenophobia and assume that everything beyond the magical border of their yard/city/state/region/country is scary and bad. There are beautiful, kind hearts and smiles all over the globe, even if some look different, speak different languages, eat different foods, and live in places with strange names and landscapes.

    Good on you for showing your children the world. They’ll be better for it.

    But, in some ways more significantly, good on you for using this blog to show the frightened people floating on their couches in the deep end of the pool that the world isn’t as scary as they think it is.

    “I knew two people who were murdered in Central America!” Yeah? I know a lot more people who were murdered right here in the U.S.

    Drive on, my man. Drive on!

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks Jeremy,

      Your words need to be immortalized on this blog. Oh and drive on I shall!

      Reply
  4. Tim

    Are you going to get to the Yucatan, to Merida? Absolutely beautiful area. I have a good friend who has tonnes of contacts there and regularly travels there to do Timothy Leadership Trainings. If you are interested, I can pass on his info to you. Chetumal is a great place to visit too.

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Sure thing we’ll take their contact info, it’s how we connect up with many people all over the world, through friends of friends! — We’re planning on being in the Yucatan for a month or so including both Merida and Chetumal :)

      Reply
  5. Kris

    Well – I guess I’m glad you said something, because it’s always good to be reminded how judgmental people really are. But really? Just delete the negative comments and move on. Live the way God has called you to live and enjoy every last minute no matter what happens. Life’s too short to have people who can’t comprehend leaving the “comfort and safety” of the ‘burbs judging you because you did. Ever hear the quote “a person all wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package”. Another quote I love is “I can’t come up with any new ideas if all I do is exist in my own life”. So – live a “big life” and keep soaking up all of the world outside of the one you’re used to…you’ll be a better person for it…because of the fun stuff, because of the hard stuff…No matter what happens.

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks Kris! I love that line: “a person all wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package” — so true!

      And even with all the naysayers, we’re driving on! (because we believe this is right for us and for our kids)

      Reply
  6. Terese LaPree

    Praying for your family. Your life, your decisions, your choice. With out a doubt there are no other parents that love their children more or children that love their parents more. As long as you and your family is happy that is all that matters.
    Like you stated about break downs or minor problems that have happened along the way, what your followers, or anyone that comments really doesnt matter. All a state of mind.

    I am sorry that comments have caused hurt or made you doubt yourself, the plan, the future.
    To be really honest with you. Your are LOVED. So many people love your family, your kids, your ideals. Some of us want to be there right with you. We care, we worry, we can not help it.
    For me movies and TV news shows do not rule my thinking. Talking with a couple of Mexico travelers have influenced my thinking more than anything. When you get down to it, it is waiting for parts. and living in the moment.
    I have a page from a pretty neat website I found that I think is relevant. if you have found it already great. If the advice is not wanted that is fine too. Just hit that old delete button. You wont hurt my feelings.
    The items that I really liked on the particular page I shared is #1 purchasing the repair manuals for your RV and its operating systems. This will help you trouble shoot and become a better DIYer. ( is that a word?) Plus if you have a problem that you can not do yourself it is a big help to the mechanic you find in Mexico or Central America.
    #2 is about having a RV center in the states that you can contact for parts if you need them. I thought that was genius advice and made so much sense.
    One thing that you stated in your post was that your RV was made in Mexico. While most of the parts may have been made in Mexico, the manufacturing plant is in Indiana. For most of the RV companies.
    I apologize ahead of time for any errant K’s that may be through out my post. The K button has become possessed and takes off kkkkkkkkkkkkkkk like that often, or slips a k into words. I really try to delete them, but on occasion they are missed.
    Much Love from the Mitten state,
    Terese LaPree

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks Terese! We do feel the love, but sometimes the other voices, the naysayers are louder and I needed to get this out there for all to read. I laughed a bunch when writing this and Becky actually laughed out loud twice when reviewing it. — That’s when I know I’ve hit the mark :)

      We do have the repair manual, however it’s very limited, turns out youtube can help just as much if you know what engine you have (I do now!)

      We have multiple RV places in the states we can call now, mostly because we’ve dealt with a bunch, there are some I’ll never call again, but there’s B&B RV in Redding, Southland RV in Buford, and Veurinks’ RV in Grand Rapids, not to mention Fleetwood’s main parts center (I’ve got them on speed dial!)

      Our RV was actually manufactured in Mexico, it never made it to Indiana as far as I can tell, it was bought/sold here in California. So while the majority of the manufacturers are in Indiana, not all RVs are made there, especially the larger ones destined for the West coast.

      Funny on the K… I didn’t notice any, but what a frustrating keyboard!

      Thanks again for your kind words, your support and your love. People like you rooting us on from ‘home’ makes this even more fun!

      Reply
  7. Beatrice

    I’m sorry that you’ve had many negative comments from people and that you broke down. In all this though, I’m pleased and encouraged to see how God hasn’t left nor forsaken you. There are different ways to live on this earth, often we look at what the majority is doing and what society does. It doesn’t mean it’a the right or wrong way. I myself am selling about 90% of my personal belongings and about to set off on a slow-travel journey and travel in a way that works for me and suits my personality and what I can bear. It’s blogs like yours that encourage me to carry on. It helps to know you are facing adversity as it shows me the real side of living the lifestyle you’ve chosen. Carry on being an inspiration! I suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, so living that lifestyle will make me rely more on God and take me on the other side of fear.

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      It helps to know you are facing adversity as it shows me the real side of living the lifestyle you’ve chosen

      – And there you have it. The EXACT reason I wrote this. This post was written to acknowledge truth, to inspire, and to be real. I’m so very blessed that it did just that for you Beatrice!

      Oh and depression and anxiety while they can be made worse when you remove the cultural safety net, they can also dramatically improve. From me, a person who is a life-long struggler with depression know that there is no magical cure, however being free to choose which stresses and which cultural inputs you receive is huge! I used to be very stressed about how our house appeared, and what the neighbors thought of us (one of those neighbors is commenting on this thread!) but now while we’re not in the shiny new motorhome, while we have dings and dents on both vehicles, mentally I’m much more okay with it, because I have this lifestyle. Hopefully you’ll be able to shed some of the depression/anxiety causing stressors and be more free!

      Reply
  8. Amy T

    Location independent is not for me. I was restless to get out of the Midwest for a long time, but I LOVE the Pacific Northwest and can’t imagine living anywhere else…at least for the time being. However, anytime you do any sort of major publicity like blogs, podcasts, writing articles, multiple Facebook posts and what you are doing goes further outside of the norm–you will get naysayers. You will get judgement statements. You will get irrational arguments. I’ve seen this happen to others. While it may hurt at times, ultimately if you are doing what God called you to do–then just keep pushing forward in His grip. No need to respond to every judgement–spend your time instead doing what you love.

    Reply
  9. Susan Hoekema

    Dear Paul and family, It is fun to follow your travels and remember Paul as a middle-school kid.
    We ran into lots of nay-sayers 35 years ago, when we proposed taking our 7 month old and 28 month-old to Thailand for a semester. Our pediatrician suggested it was bordering on child abuse and that we were risking giving our children debilitating diseases that would cripple them for life. This reaction, as you can imagine, increased our anxiety whenever our kids got sick in our 4 months of travel, but we found excellent medical care and never regretted taking the trip.

    Re mechanical matters, our experience in Ghana maintaining a car, while not wholly positive, introduced us to many skilled and creative mechanics, some of which operated with little but the basic tools. Hope you are as lucky.

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks Susan, it’s crazy how people are so afraid that they feel the need to make others afraid. Boggles my mind. I’d much prefer to hear “Wow I couldn’t do that, I’m too concerned for my kids’ health” than “You’re kids will die there.” It’s a much different conversation!

      Oh and thanks for bringing up the image of me in Middle School…. oh man those were crazy days!

      Reply

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