Nomad Stories: How the hell did I get here?

I met Patrick Lappin at the start of his digital nomad journey in Oaxaca in 2020. It’s always exciting to meet other writers and talk shop, especially when they’re makling big changes in their lives and business. Everyone falls into the nomad lifestyle in different ways – so I was super happy that Patrick agreed to share his story about how he came to end up in Mexico from the UK. Read on!

I’m from the UK, specifically England.  It’s a strange place. A place where poor people vote against their own interests and where (when an alternative is offered to them) something that would actually serve their interests, they get angry.

It’s a mad place. It barely functions, despite its riches and its famous institutions.

When Covid arrived I, like most of my fellow subjects (they use the word ‘citizenship’ there, but we’re not citizens, we’re subjects, due to our beloved Queen) was placed on a thing called furlough – the state paid my salary while the country locked down. I was grateful. When the furlough scheme was due to expire eight months later, I was let go.

My partner had carried on working as a teacher remotely in an underfunded education system (that’s another feature of the British state). She hated it.

One Saturday morning in October 2020, drizzle whispering itself onto the window pane, we were in bed, and contemplating our situation. My partner, who had spent a couple of years in Mexico a decade previously, said to me, “shall we just f*ck off to Mexico?”

patrick lappin freelance writer
Oaxacan street art

I had never been to Mexico. I had never been anywhere beyond Western Europe or New York City.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes. And let’s book the f*cking tickets right now so that we can’t change our minds.” 

That’s what we did. We had a little money in savings, so we booked it then and there, for 1st December. 

We were nine months into a two year contract on our apartment in London. I had to have a difficult conversation with our letting agent. I said that we couldn’t afford to stay there and pay the rent. They said that we were liable for the rent and so, if we left, we would owe them another year-and-three-month’s rent.

I said that wasn’t going to happen, and that, if they wanted to continue profiteering from this small apartment, that they would be wise to keep our deposit and rent the place to someone else. The alternative would be that they would have to take legal action against us, which would take months, and they would still not see any rent from us until we were evicted. They agreed with me after some back-and-forth. I feel no guilt about this. Check out London rent prices and you’ll see why.

We arrived in Oaxaca City, Mexico (another mad country, but in a much happier way, despite, well, everything), on 2nd December 2020, fresh from locked-down London. In the taxi from the airport to our new apartment I remember thinking, “everything is so Mexican!” Despite having no idea what Mexico was supposed to be like.

patrick lappin freelance writer
Jalatlaco, Oaxaca

The heat, the light, the colour. It felt like the right place to start my freelance career.

It didn’t quite work out like that though. As somebody whose only travelling experiences had been to European holiday resorts or quick breaks in Paris or New York – I was on f*cking vacation!

There were people to drink with, and I learned, relatively quickly, how to buy all sorts of contraband in Spanish. I occasionally had to rise at 4am for a meeting with a London client, but that was just an excuse to have a mezcal to get back to sleep. It was glorious.

Until those savings that I mentioned earlier began to dwindle.

So I was going to have to do…work. The kind of work I hadn’t done for nearly a year, and in UK time.

That’s what I did. It wasn’t easy – and what is, apart from spending money?!

I realised, though, that it can be done, and done well. I told my UK people that I wouldn’t be engaging in the mornings, and that they shouldn’t expect to hear from me until 2pm (their time), after all, they weren’t paying me a salary so the times I worked were dictated by me, not them.

patrick lappin, freelance writer
Frida Kahlo street art, Oaxaca

I settled into a rhythm. That rhythm was punctuated by the sounds of Mexico – every street vendor here has a theme tune. The man who delivers the gas canisters has the best one. And then there’s the Dog Chorus, a vocal exchange between the dogs on the roofs of buildings and the dogs on the street that goes on all night long. There’s a kind of savage beauty that accompanies the desire to buy a gun when you can’t sleep at 4am.

I’m writing this on a Sunday evening in the reassuring Mexican early-darkness. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Mainly because I’ve just seen a man on a scooter having a washing machine strapped to his back. That’s how to be a mad country.

You can follow Patrick’s adventures (or hire him to write for you!) on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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