That GOB Bluth Moment

Fans of Arrested Development know the moment I’m talking about, but even if you’ve (wrongly) never watched the show, I’m betting you’re still familiar with what I mean. It’s that moment that comes after you’ve made a big decision or change, that moment when you feel like everything you’ve been working towards is crumbling and...

Fans of Arrested Development know the moment I’m talking about, but even if you’ve (wrongly) never watched the show, I’m betting you’re still familiar with what I mean. It’s that moment that comes after you’ve made a big decision or change, that moment when you feel like everything you’ve been working towards is crumbling and life just seems impossibly hard. It’s the time when you feel like you’re teetering on the edge of catastrophe and the only thing left to say is those infamous words: I’ve made a huge mistake.

Since leaving Minnesota, we’ve experienced more than a few of these “oh shit” moments that cause us to doubt whether we’re totally crazy and wouldn’t just be better off packing it in and heading home. Our first day on the road, we rolled into a town in Nowheresville, Nebraska where we were planning to spend the night, only to find that the guide I’d been using to find pet-friendly lodging was years out of date and all of the places in town that would accept dogs were double what we were expecting to pay and, what’s more, would only allow our pooches to stay with additional hefty pet fees. So we kept driving until we saw the glowing lights of the bastion to all budget travelers with pets in the States: The Motel 6. It wound up being the most expensive place we stayed during our travels (apparently western Nebraska is kind of a wasteland of affordable lodging…) and by far one of the dodgiest places we have ever stayed. As we walked the dogs through a parking lot where broken liquor bottles and cigarette butts littered the ground like fallen soldiers on a battlefield, I hoped that things would look better and brighter in the morning, that we would look back and see that night as the ignoble beginning to an otherwise incredible adventure. Nevertheless, I went to bed feeling unsettled, anxious that this might very well be a harbinger of more bad things to come.

Of course, things were—as they always are—better in the morning, and we hit the road with renewed enthusiasm and optimism. But that didn’t mean we were out of the woods and that it would smooth roads ahead for the rest of our journey. Both literally and metaphorically, our adventure really was only just beginning.


I expected, upon arriving in Mexico, to be thrown for something of a loop due not only to its foreignness, but its utter unfamiliarity to us as travelers. Despite its proximity and accessibility to the U.S. and Canada, this would be both of our first times visiting, meaning—apart from glowing stories and gorgeous photos from other travel bloggers—we really had no idea what to expect from the country and how we’d take to it.

That said, although this stage of our travels is full of firsts and novelties, it’s not like this is our first time at the travel rodeo. Even before arriving at the skeeviest motel in the hinterlands of Nebraska, I knew setting off to travel again wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows. I remembered acutely just how hard it was when we left for our first set of travels back in 2012, how we were exhausted and overwhelmed as we raced through Japan (sniping at and resenting one another) and then Hong Kong and then hit the big bad beast that is China. I remember thinking that this wasn’t how our trip was meant to be, that long-term travel really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be… namely because it was sometimes fun, but sometimes really not fun. I worried that maybe this thing we had planned and saved for and looked forward to for years was a dud and a poor choice on our parts, that we would head home after just a month or two of exploring, not because we hadn’t saved or planned enough, but just because we didn’t like it and couldn’t hack it.

Taco truck, San Blas, Mexico

Obviously, that didn’t happen. We adapted and learned a new way to be, but it took time. We had about two months of “GOB Bluth” moments during our first set of travels, so I suppose I’m not really surprised that we’ve been in Mexico for two weeks and—lo and behold!—we’re having them here.

Mango vendor near San Blas, Mexico

Now, don’t get scared that we’re thinking of throwing in the towel. We’re not! But that’s not to say that we don’t have moments of doubt or that we haven’t been having our share of rough patches since arriving. We spent our first week in Mexico in San Blas, a sleepy surf/fishing town that, if it is known for anything, it’s known for its voracious bugs. There isn’t tons to do there apart from taking gentle strolls around town or heading to the beach to frolic in the waves or read books, getting one’s abysmal Spanish up to speed impressively quickly, and eating true blue Mexican food (all the better to provide a feast later on to the local No See Ums). If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could go visit the ruins of an old Spanish fort, or head out on a mangrove tour, but… we weren’t feeling ambitious and we specifically chose to spend our first week in San Blas because we figured it was the kind of place that wouldn’t overwhelm us. The most we managed to do was head about 15 minutes out of town one day for lunch at a nearby-but-supposedly-more-beautiful-though-no-less-bug-infested beach where we ate cheap seafood, drank a huge beer (Fun Fact: Big beers in Mexico are called ballenas a.k.a. “whales), and splashed about in the ocean.

Our hypothesis that San Blas would be a good place to ease ourselves into Mexican life and gently begin to learn the ropes to traveling and living here was a sound one. Initially we weren’t overly impressed with the place—it is small and pokey and while not offensive to the eye, not immediately quaintly photogenic—but with each passing day, we came to like it more and unearthed more of its charms. The locals are friendly, life feels easy, lodging was cheap and the food was good. By the end of our stay, we had well-established favorite places to eat and could easily understand how some people get sucked into the San Blas vortex never to leave. If it weren’t for the bugs (which really are as bad as we had been led to believe), we could have easily stuck around for a little longer.

But the bugs came not just for us (I am a mosquito—and, apparently, a No See Um—magnet, so this was not a surprise), but they went after the dogs too, and it became very clear that remaining would result in two very itchy pups. We decided to push further south and continue our trend of being beach adjacent and found a pet-friendly casita in the Riviera Nayarit town of La Peñita. Located about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, we figured it would be a good, affordable place to base ourselves for a month, giving the dogs a stable base, allowing ourselves to catch up on work, and also providing us with plenty of interesting and popular places we could visit on day trips (plenty of expat-friendly beach towns like Sayulita and San Pancho are within a thirty minute drive). It seemed like the perfect place to encourage both work and play.

The dogs have transitioned okay, we guess.
The dogs have transitioned okay, we guess.

We moved in a week ago, and it hasn’t been the easiest transition. We adore our casita, but we’re in a very local neighborhood, and we’re quickly coming to understand what that really means here in Mexico. It means pitted, potholed roads that make walking the dogs a nightmare and just driving to the end of the road is enough to get you nauseous. It means roosters crowing at all hours of the night, punctuated only by the yowling yips and snarls of dog fights (the presence of which, makes walking our dogs an even more stressful proposition). It means noise at such a volume at such a frequency that we have yet to sleep more than a few hours in a row and so wander around feeling constantly sleep-deprived (don’t mistake that for mellowness!). It means no “proper” supermarkets, such that I’ve exhausted all possible combinations of cooking: eggs, rice, beans, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, avocados and tortillas/tostadas. It means waiting for the water truck so we can brush our teeth because we are giving our guts enough of a work out with all the street food as it is. It means looking up a translation for “Another dog attacked and bit my dog,” before heading to the vet (sadly, something we had to do today).

Rory, La Piñita, Mexico
The upshot is that we can say he got attacked by David Bowie and that’s why he has his little silver robot spot. We call him our Robo-buddy.

It also means delicious Mexican food at ridiculously low prices. It means a comfortable place to call home at an affordable price. It means beautiful west coast sunsets. It means friendly locals who tell us our dogs are beautiful and that Rory looks like a bunny (¡conejito!). It means perpetual sunshine and shorts and skirts and sandals while friends and family continue to shiver away in Minnesota and Toronto. It means cool nights in the central square, listening to electric xylophones and snare drum bands get their groove on while nibbling on fresh flan.

All to say that life in Mexico continues to challenge us, but it’s not all bad. We’re still squarely in GOB Bluth territory, feeling like we’re in over our heads and often overwhelmed, but that’s part of the journey. We are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable once again, and even if we’ve made some choices we wouldn’t repeat again if given the chance, I take comfort in knowing every decision we have made thus far was the right one given the information we had at the time. The longer we are here, the more experiences we’ll gain, and those will allow us to make better, more-informed, decisions in the future. We’ll figure out how to make this lifestyle and Mexico work for us. Though I don’t know that life will ever be easy, I am confident that it won’t always feel quite so hard.

Dogs in the closet
Rory’s going to wait this one out in his safe room (a.k.a. the closet) until the dust settles.

So that this post doesn’t come across like one big old whine fest, let me close with this: We often like to believe that deciding to make a big change is the hardest part of the process. This may be true, but that doesn’t mean that things won’t still be hard… it’s just a matter of degree. This is 100% true for long-term travel. Though few people rarely talk about it, nearly every person we have met who has done something similar to us mentioned how they had their own “GOB Bluth” moments shortly after starting their travels. You think the hard work happens before you get on the plane, but the truth is, that’s just the preface. Get ready to be thrown for a loop, to feel un-moored and out of your depth, to have second thoughts and to doubt yourself. Know that those feelings are normal; long-term travel can be exquisitely un-fun at times, especially when you’re still figuring out how to take the trip you really want. Just give yourself time to adapt to you new reality and find your new rhythm. With a little time and patience, your huge mistake may just turn into something great.

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34 comments Leave a comment

  1. Fantastic post! All this and I am still homesick for Mexico. And that La Peñita sunset! These experiences will fill the pages of your memoirs some day… Guaranteed. Hope things are starting to look up xxx

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 2:59 pm
    1. Sarah Somewhere author

      Every day, things look better and better, especially as we get to know La Peñita more. Initially we felt a bit overwhelmed by our neighborhood and the town (probably because we had a different concept of what it would look and feel like in our minds…), but as we adjust and learn the ropes, we find new things every day that make our affection for it grow. Mostly it’s food stuff, but not only! Our landlord arrived back yesterday, so she took us to a more remote area in the country this morning where she always walks here dogs and it was SO PEACEFUL. Only a five-minute drive, but it feels a world away. It’s so nice to be able to walk our dogs somewhere without fear (or needing a big stick!).

      Can’t wait for you to get back to Mexico. I wonder if any of it will feel/seem different to you now that you’ve been away for 6 months?

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 9:40 am
  2. Trisha

    Nooooo, not the bug!! But he does look dashing with his robo-spot! I love that people tell you he looks like a bunny.

    Being uncomfortable isn’t fun, but at the risk of sounding cheesy, it is certainly character-building. And it usually results in some good stories.

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 3:09 pm
    1. Trisha author

      Don’t worry! Bug is doing really well and the attack/injury don’t seem to have phased him at all! He continues to keep on going, much like the Energizer bunny…

      You’re right that being uncomfortable often results in the most personal growth and good stories in the end too. Often you’ve got to push through some bad stuff to get to the good stuff… I know we’ll get there with Mexico—we become more comfortable with each passing day—it will just take a little time!

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 9:54 am
  3. I’ve been here 3 years and still have GOB Bluth moments all the time 🙂 I felt the same way at home though – I think it’s just the way our brains are wired… fear of missing out, even if we don’t know exactly what we’re missing out on 🙂 Love the added adventure of the pups on this trip! And so sorry to hear about the sandflies… trust me…I know where you’re coming from on that one! Took me almost 14 months here to develop immunity!

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 4:12 pm
    1. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown author

      I’m not sure if San Blas only has a sandfly issue, because we would get bit even when we were nowhere near the beach! And even Tony, who bugs normally take no interest in, got quite a few bites. If it were just the two of us, we probably could have sucked it up and dealt with it longer (though 14 months? I don’t know about that!), but our poor pups were SO ITCHY. One of them has fairly intense skin/seasonal allergies to boot, so we had to say hasta luego to San Blas!

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 9:56 am
  4. omg… we have SO had those moments.. and anticipate there are more to come. So sorry about the dog attack.. is Rory ok? guess he’ll have quite a story to tell when I finally remember to send you the black dog interview questionnaire! Good luck continuing to adjust to life back on the road… hope you appreciated the conveniences of the Canada and the USA when you had them 🙂 I know you’ll hit your stride again and even learn to sleep with barking dogs and crowing chickens.

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 5:03 pm
    1. Rhonda author

      We did appreciate the conveniences of home while we were there, so I’m glad we didn’t squander that! It just makes it hard to be somewhere where everything is no longer so easy… but we will adapt and adjust and with time, hopefully the things that feel super inconvenient right now will just become a part of daily life.

      And Rory is doing really well! He’s a tough little guy and seems to be totally unfazed by the attack (and far as we can tell, his wound hasn’t become infected and he’s showing no physical ramifications—apart from his little shaved silver spot—of the altercation). We’re taking a lot of precautions to make sure nothing like that happens again, but he has pulled through remarkably well.

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 10:21 am
  5. Yep we definitely had them ourselves for the first couple of months of our 13 month trip and then the occasional one throughout it. Our first night was in New York in the dingiest hostel I have ever stayed in (worse than any we stayed in through Central and South America) trying to sleep with police sirens wailing outside. Thank God we only had one night there and things definitely looked up from there!

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 6:15 pm
    1. Katie author

      Having a clean place to stay where you feel safe and secure is so important when traveling! I find that even if we don’t love a place much (or perhaps, especially then!), as long as we have a nice place to retreat to, things don’t feel quite so bad. Thankfully, all the other places we stayed on our U.S. roadtrip (including other Motel 6s) were all really nice and comfortable!

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 10:24 am
  6. Oh no, poor pup! I hope the bite heals fast — at least the vet fee wasn’t atrocious? (we took our kitten for a quick check up after he got roughed up doing his daily neighborhood round here in Wash DC, and walked out pretty unhappy with a $200 bill for us and a ridiculous cone for him). You guys have definitely mastered the art of finding positive moments judging by this post though 🙂 I am super confident that each day will get better and better as all four of you get used to the open road.

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 6:36 pm
    1. Jenia author

      Rory is doing well and, yes, if there must be an upside to vet visits, then the fact that they are SO MUCH CHEAPER here certainly helps. The vet shaved the area to better inspect the wound, irrigated it with a saline solution, covered it in a topical silver spray, and gave us a week’s worth of antibiotics and pain meds for the grand total of $25US. When Rory got very sick while we were back in Toronto, I can assure you that his treatment there cost WAY more than that (and, sadly, way more than $200!).

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 10:26 am
  7. I LOVE that first pic of your dog sprawled out on the bed!!
    Ah, I see the mangroves didn’t entice you. I had a great time playing tourist in San Blas as I was only there for the weekend, but I can understand why you just wanted to lay low. We also ended up at a beach that looks very similar to the ones you photographed! I don’t remember the bugs in the air but I remember some really weird looking wormy things in the sand (and that’s why I didn’t go in the water, because it was kind of shallow. And worms). I remember eating tasty shrimp on the beach and drinking coconut water and then hitchhiking back to town with my 5 friends. We danced the night away and just had a ball.
    This didn’t read like a whine fest at all to me, just honesty. I appreciate that, and no one does this as eloquently as you. Please keep at it. This is just the beginning, and I know you will find your groove soon! x

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 8:52 pm
    1. Colleen Brynn author

      Yes, our Emmy Lou is such a graceful lady, isn’t she?

      Thank you so much for recommending the mangrove tour to us! Many locals suggested we do it too, so the fact that we didn’t says more about us than it does about the quality of your suggestion. We have done a few mangrove tours before, which may have had something to do with our not enthusiastically and immediately taking the opportunity to do so this time, but also, we just really needed a place to just DO NOTHING (well, other than catch up on work… because we had to do that!). We did head down to the local beach to walk the dogs, but if you needed to hitch into town, then you probably did go to the beach we featured in this post (Las Islas), which has a bunch of seafood restaurants pretty much right on the sand. Why Tony did not include a photo of the amazing shrimp ceviche we had there, I do not know, but rest assured, it was fab!

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 10:30 am
  8. I totally feel you on the “oh shit” moments. I feel like Aaron and I had them quite a bit during the first four months of our 12-month trip. And, just to make you feel better, I feel like I have them on a weekly basis here in Jakarta. I think if there’s one thing we can take comfort in it’s knowing that things tend to have a way of working out and getting better, that all the lows are worth it for the highs. But, oh man, when I read about the mosquitoes and roosters in Mexico I kind of want to cry for you. Why, why do those two creatures exist?! I’m so glad my neighbors don’t have roosters in Jakarta, but as fellow mosquito magnet, I HATE the mosquitoes here! Hang in there. Things are bound to look up. And when you’re bummed just cuddle with your pups. You’re so lucky to have them with you. BTW, is Rory OK? He looks like he’s being a trooper in that photo!

    Mar. 31 2015 @ 11:15 pm
    1. Justine author

      Oh, the “oh shit” moments definitely never stop for good… we continued to have them throughout our trip too, though they became more of “damn, this sucks” and less of “Ahhhh! This is a catastrophe and taking this trip was a ginormous mistake and we probably should just go home right now!”

      You’re absolutely right, though, that things really do have a way of working out, and even the lows can result in some pretty great highs. To be perfectly honest, ever since Rory got attacked, he’s actually been doing better than ever. Maybe he was fighting off some other kind of illness that the antibiotics the vet gave us for the bite wound are helping combat, but the attack hasn’t seemed to have done him any kind of serious/lasting harm. For that I’m incredibly grateful!

      Also, you’ll be happy to hear that the bug situation has vastly improved since leaving San Blas. Apparently the mosquitos are supposed to be kind of problematic here in La Peñita, but we haven’t had any issues on that front since arriving. I guess that must be why the roosters and dogs are overcompensating… 😛

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 10:34 am
  9. You’re absolutely right – there’s just no avoiding this transition time. If it was always easy and fun and carefree, everyone would travel long term, but these times are what make it worthwhile and a challenge. Not that I need to tell you that. At least you knew it was coming. That helps, right? :\

    Just make sure not to do your chicken dance in front of the locals.

    Apr. 1 2015 @ 11:00 am
    1. Carmel author

      Ha ha ha! You’re so right about that! I totally forgot about what happens when you do a chicken dance in Mexico… thanks for reminding me!

      (And yes, even though knowing they were coming didn’t prevent them from happening, knowing to expect these feelings of frustration and doubt definitely has made them easier to deal with!)

      Apr. 1 2015 @ 11:17 am
  10. I totally get what you’re saying. As you know, we had similar moments in the first few months of our trip and again when we moved to Vietnam in August. The first couple of months here in Hanoi were incredibly tough but we adjusted and came to really like our life here, I’m sure the same will happen for you in Mexico. It must be such a change for you, travelling with your pups in a new and unfamiliar corner of the world, I’m looking forward to hearing more about how your adventure unfolds.

    Apr. 1 2015 @ 9:59 pm
    1. Amy author

      Oh, I forgot that you guys experienced some culture shock when you returned to Vietnam following your summer in London… I think that’s pretty much exactly what we’re going through now, though maybe a bit worse because Mexico is completely new to us (though it does remind us of some places we’ve already been… all ones we loved, thankfully!), and because we spent about 8 months being “home” before setting out. And yes, having the pups with us does add for extra stress and complication at times, but they are doing really well and for the most part, all is well. It will just take us some time to adjust, but I’m sure that shift is just around the corner!

      Apr. 2 2015 @ 9:15 am
  11. Loved this post! So excited to check in on your travels south of the border and see how everything goes with the dogs 🙂 I’m also now seriously drooling over those pics of Mexican food – yum!! Never made it to La Penita, but definitely interested to know what you think about San Pancho and Sayulita on your day trips! Hope your settling in nicely now!

    Apr. 2 2015 @ 9:45 am
    1. Casey @ A Cruising Couple author

      Because of the craziness of Semana Santa, we’ve been sticking pretty close to home, though we did do one Costco run to PV to pick up more dog food for the pups, so we have driven past both Sayulita & San Pancho. I have told Tony that since we seem to be settling in nicely now (thankfully the dogs have finally acclimated and are both doing well again), we clearly need to shake things up and visit one of them in the next few days!

      Apr. 3 2015 @ 11:07 am
  12. Ahhh, the highs and lows of travel. Welcome back on the road, and a whole new region/adventure! Can’t wait to keep reading 😀

    Apr. 2 2015 @ 9:15 pm
    1. Tim UrbanDuniya author

      Thanks, Tim! Despite the inevitable lows, we are happy to be back out here exploring once more. This trip already feels much different from our last one, but that’s what makes it an adventure! Every day life in Mexico gets a little bit sweeter and easier, and I’m happy to be able to share all of it with you.

      Apr. 3 2015 @ 11:09 am
  13. Ha! I love it. That “moment” that can last weeks is what Tom and I call “drowning in the shallows until we find our footing.” We think it’s like that moment at the beach where all of a sudden you are sure you are drowning and you start flailing your arms and legs and desperately trying to take heaving breaths of air while you are gulping in huge mouthfuls of seawater, and then you all of a sudden find your footing and stand up to discover that you are actually in about 3 feet of water. Your total mortification wars with the relief that comes with the realization you are not drowning and you go on to enjoy your day at the beach.

    Apr. 3 2015 @ 9:37 am
    1. Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out author

      That’s a very apt analogy and definitely a good way of putting it! Sometimes I feel over my head, but you’re right that eventually we’ll get our feet back under us and stop being flustered by every wave… Now that you mention it, we could use a good day at the beach. That would probably do wonders for our spirits! 🙂

      Apr. 3 2015 @ 11:13 am
  14. I absolutely adore the painful honesty in your posts.

    Apr. 6 2015 @ 9:03 am
    1. Talon author

      Thanks Talon! We always strive to tell the truth here, no matter how painful. Glad to hear this one resonated with you (I know you have experienced this moment more than a few times yourself!).

      Apr. 6 2015 @ 9:43 am
  15. Sorry to hear you are having hard time, but I’m positive that things will look better soon. I know exactly what you mean and yes, we had this kind of moments too, I’m glad though we kept going no matter how hard it was. I like your honesty and also the fact that no matter what you are still trying to stay positive and make it work, I’m sure it will at the end 😉

    Apr. 6 2015 @ 10:33 am
    1. Franca author

      Things are already looking up! These kind of big changes just require time as we adjust to our new reality and surroundings… and hey, nothing worth having every comes easy, so we are ok with pushing through the hard times in order to get to the good stuff. Sometimes we have bad days on the road, but we have a lot fewer of them than when we are stuck at home, so on the whole, I’d say the tough days are worth it!

      Apr. 6 2015 @ 8:49 pm
  16. Poor Rory! Have you by chance seen the Purina commercial featuring a rapping corgi? (If not, here’s the youtube link: I think Rory needs a new bowl that says “Boss.” 🙂

    Apr. 7 2015 @ 10:16 am
    1. Heather @ Ferreting Out the Fun author

      We had not seen that commercial, so thank you for sharing! I agree that Rory needs a bowl that says Boss on it, since he clearly thinks he’s the one in charge around these parts!

      Apr. 10 2015 @ 11:17 am
  17. Your writing is beautiful. And I love the Arrested Development reference.

    When Andy and I set out on our long fall/winter trip, we really thought we had tested the waters of working and traveling at the same time, and that we knew what we were getting into. How wrong we were! The trip didn’t work out for us for lots of reasons, and like you said, I kept having these moments of “OMG what are we doing?”

    But it does sound like you guys are handling the stresses pretty well. It helps to have the flexibility that you do, so if you feel like you need to slow down, you can. I hope things continue to improve and get easier for you, and I really hope you enjoy Mexico!

    Apr. 10 2015 @ 3:01 pm
    1. Ali author

      I think one of the nicest things this kind of lifestyle affords us is flexibility, which means that we can try things and then try other things when the first things don’t work out as we had hoped! Of course, I do think it is important to give ourselves time to adjust and adapt to big changes and new surroundings… after about 8 months at “home”, we’re rusty at being travelers again. It will take us time to get back into our groove, but every day gets us a little bit closer, I think!

      Apr. 13 2015 @ 10:53 am

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