I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
Before I sold all my things to travel, I think I had these idealistic notions about “other cultures”—how they would be so much more authentic, so much wiser, so much more welcoming to my oddball self than Western culture had been.
It’s been a shock.
In Costa Rica, there is a town called Tamarindo, which some have dubbed “Scam-a-Gringo.” It is more than a tourist town. It’s been taken over. All the business owners are American. Everyone speaks English. Everything is overpriced.
Then, there was Puerto Viejo, also in Costa Rica. Here, it wasn’t just the Americans that were being American, it was the locals too. If you’ve been here, you’ll understand. So many of the locals are trying to emulate all those parts of Western culture that I was running away from—the junk food, the soda pop, the celebrity emulation, the attitude, the individualism, the music, the lack of consideration for the environment, the lack of compassion for others.
In Costa Rica, I turned a blind eye to it, mostly because everything else was just so amazing—the jungle in the East and the sunsets in the West, the tropical climate, the marvelous power and beauty of nature, and the few people we met whose kindness I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
Now that I’ve been in Mexico for a week and a half, we’ve also found beautiful sunsets and beautiful architecture. We’ve found some incredibly kind, open-hearted neighbors. We’ve found a favourite local restaurant.
Yet, here too, the incessant pressure of the developed world is hiding around every corner.
From what I’ve seen of Puerto Vallarta, it has no business being called a third-world city. Everything from the packed Walmart parking lot to the billboards along the well-paved roads is all too familiar.
There’s a highway running through Bucerías, where we’re living. Above it, where our place is, are locals with their restaurants, shops, and houses. Below the highway is, basically, Miami Beach.
Yesterday, we visited a town about 30 minutes away called Sayulita. It may as well be Tamarindo. Everyone speaks English. Everything is overpriced. Every restaurant is blasting American music.
I have no interest in hating anything, American culture included, but I will tell you—it’s not my thing.
I’m not into hopping from expensive bars to chic restaurants, chatting about the decor. I’m not into paying for beach chairs cramped between groups of loud tourists, pushing my feet into sand full of cigarette butts.
I just can’t do it. But it seems that most people who visit these towns are having the time of their lives.
This is how I felt in Canada—in every mall, in every crowd, in every movie theatre, in every bar—I just felt like the weirdo, the outcast, the girl who would rather find a random nature path and walk along it for hours than watch the latest TV show or talk about the new Android update.
Luckily, in Sayulita, we did find a random nature path! It was like the bells of salvation were ringing over my head. Finally, we’d found something beautiful.
Getting back into the downtown center, I felt sort of guilty. So the nature path was beautiful, but being around these people wasn’t? Was I just making myself into an outcast? Was I being judgmental? Was I refusing these people their inner beauty?
As I watched a group of tourists drinking and laughing loudly together, I could see them as a part of me and myself as a part of them. I didn’t hate them. I felt love for them. I wanted them to be happy, to do what they wanted to do, to be free.
What was it then? Why did I feel so out of place?
The answer came to me today when I visited the 30 Day Self-Love Challenge group on Facebook. Reading through the posts, my heart instantly opened up. I was home here. This little community understood me, and I understood them. Then, I went to my author page, reading through the comments I’d received while I was away. My heart grew to seven times its size.
So what was the difference? If I believe all people are equal at the core, why do some people make me feel so good, while others make me feel like jumping on the first bus out of town?
I’ve realized that what really enthralls me is authenticity, raw naked beauty, honesty, truth.
And, to me, dressing a certain way and acting a certain way in order to emulate cultural norms and celebrities—that isn’t authentic. That’s conformity. It’s something most people were doing back home, and it’s something that so many people are doing over here, and in Costa Rica, and in the rest of the world. It’s spreading.
In a way, it’s scary, but in another way, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because the balance of conformity to truth-seeking has been this way for a long time (maybe forever?) and, for the first time in history, we don’t have to live apart. Among that imitation and hiding, there are people who stand out as truth-seekers, as authenticity-warriors, as people who want to know what’s real more than they want to fit in. And, now, we can find each other.
What really sets me on fire about the people in the Facebook group is how they are building this space together, how they are on the forefront of a more authentic society. These people are radically honest, radically caring, and radically expressive of the entire range of human emotion and experience. Maybe I started that group, maybe I made the program, but I didn’t put that fire into their hearts. They had it all along.
Just like you. If you weren’t like this, you wouldn’t be reading this post. You wouldn’t care about my blog. You wouldn’t care about me.
The thing about truth-seekers is—we recognize one another immediately (and unwittingly repel everyone else).
I’m embarrassed to say that I thought “other cultures” in the world would be full of truth-seekers too. They’re not. All over the world, there are truth-seekers. And all over the world, they’re a rare breed. All over the world, there are people whom I’ll resonate with and people whom I’d best wish well and leave alone.
And that’s okay. It’s not my responsibility to like everyone or to make everyone like me. It’s my responsibility to love everyone unconditionally while seeking to spend my time with the people I genuinely get along with. After all, that is the most loving thing to do—seek out your tribe and let everyone else live in peace.
And I’m just crazy about people who are crazy about honesty, about authenticity, about truth.
In the end, being authentic has nothing to do with the colour of your skin or the place you were born. It has nothing to do with gender, age, language, culture, or profession. It’s all about how close you are to your spirit, how unwilling you are to just keep calm and carry on, how desperately you want to experience the beauty, the horror, the tragedy, everything, instead of just experiencing what you’re supposed to.
And that’s a beautiful thing, you know.
It’s beautiful but, if you’re like this, you know—it brings you a lot of pain before it gives you pleasure. You’re a “freak” before you find a friend, before you find a tribe. For a long time, the battle between the inner desire for authenticity and the inner desire to fit in rages and storms.
And yet, no matter how difficult it is and no matter how lost we get, the truth-seekers always find a way.
So thank you. Thank you for being you—because if you’re reading this and resonating with this, then it’s you. You’re the person I’m talking about. You’re the person I go crazy about.
And you know, the sad thing is that everyone in the world has the capacity to be self-aware, to be authentic, to be honest, to be radically expressive, but they don’t use it. I don’t know why. I can tell you why I think it’s learned, not inherent, and how I think it’s learned. I can speculate, but I can’t pretend to know.
All I know is this: I am grateful for you.
I am grateful that you exist. I’m grateful that you know I exist. I’m grateful for people like us.
I’m grateful for that beautiful Facebook group, and I’m grateful for everyone who finds some power in my words. I’m grateful for Jamie, whose weirdness and inner spark makes me shine brighter. I’m so grateful for my clients, past and present, who are warriors of honesty, inside and outside, regardless of the pain that comes with it.
I’m grateful for everyone who continues to heal, no matter how difficult, and to search for truth, no matter how much it hurts. You give me a reason to hope that the world can be, will be, a better place—a more authentic place, a more human place.
And I hope that, if you’re without friend or tribe, you come join us or join some other group of like-minded, like-hearted people. You don’t have to feel alone. We don’t have to feel alone.
And, of course, spiritually speaking, we’re never alone. But there’s more to life than spiritual awareness. Sometimes, you just need a few people around who really, truly understand.