Phillip Smith

Mexico: Week eight. All your base are belong to us.

From Oaxaca, Mexico, 2012

Typically, there comes a point for me when the place I’m living becomes “home base.” And by home base, I mean the place where I want to leave my things, and the place where I want to return to after a long trip. I’m on the edge of that now with Oaxaca.

I’ve been here a bit more than eight weeks, I own a bike, a couch, and various other things that are kinda’ hard to pack into a carry-on bag. I have a cute little one-bedroom apartment in a quiet part of the city, just north of the “Centro” and across the street from an organic market. I take my breakfast outside on the front porch (where I’m writing this) while a cool summer breeze sways the big leaves on the palm tree in the courtyard. It’s pretty hard to beat.

I know that it’s one of the driest winters in history for Toronto – a fact that many of my friends there have been only too happy to over-share with me – but, as warm as the Toronto winter gets, I’m quite sure it’s still winter.

All that said, Oaxaca feels like a place where people are always going to, coming from, or getting lost in for a while. My visit here has been dotted with “despididas” – ostensibly, a going away party, but they tend to happen for several days in a row – which makes it feel like someone is always leaving. In fact, my first night in Oaxaca was memorable because we went to a despidida for Roberto, where I met many of the people that I know now.

It makes me wonder if I’ve actually met people anywhere other than a going away party? Anyway, there’s something about the coming and going that seems to shape many of the interactions that people have here: I get the sense that when I meet new people they’re evaluating how long I’ll be sticking around.

“Are you a tourist?”

“Are you an ex-pat just here for the winter?”

“Are you working at a local NGO?”

“How long have you been here; how long will you be here?”

… and so it goes.

It’s only two-and-a-half months until I’ll be flying back to Vancouver to deliver a workshop, and then to Toronto to speak at a conference. It’s hard to imagine being back in Canada just ten weeks from now.

Then there is the pressing question: what’s next?

I’m going to take the next couple of weeks to ponder that question. I feel quite certain that moving back to Toronto is not in the cards right now: I love that city, but I’ve got the rest of my life to live in Toronto. Right now, it just feels like everywhere but Toronto is the most inspiring, exciting – fuck, exhilarating – option.

The biggest challenge? Missing the awesome individuals I know in Toronto. I’m putting a wish out there to the universe that they’ll come and visit me wherever I am, because I’ll always have a couch on offer and – most likely – weather that is warmer than the warmest winter Toronto will ever have. :)

Here’s to not getting lost.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.