Living the Dream Merida

Experience Happy

“You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá, than someone who also happens to have bought a big screen TV”. So writes Jay Cassano in his article for FastCompany called ‘The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things‘. “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences. We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”

Needless to say at this point in my life, I was very intrigued by Jay’s article and started to think more deeply about what brings me happiness, what brings my partner happiness, and how I plan to spend my humble resources and precious time in the years ahead.

Leaving the rat race behind

For health reasons, I stepped out of the rat race fairly early, making my break for ‘freedom’ at 55. Freedom from running a company and its inherent stresses. Freedom from a mild case of keeping up with the Joneses. Freedom from perceived expectations by others. I had to clear out my life of ‘stuff’ and make a break to Mexico to do it, but once the stuff was gone, I really didn’t miss it.

To be honest, I purged my wordly goods but I did not do a Cat Stevens and give up everything. I kept some of my art and books—the ones that speak to me and bring me joy every time I look at them. I kept a handful of loyal clients who fed me work, allowing me to maintain a gravitas for a time, while I sorted out my life. I kept my apartment in case this ‘running off to join the circus’ thing didn’t pan out. I kept my rose coloured glasses.

Living the dream

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

From the moment I started talking about my desire to radically change my life and go live in another country where I had no friends, didn’t speak the language, and zero clue what I was going to do, people starting saying, “Wow, you are living THE DREAM.” As if THE DREAM existed in some altruistic place and I was off to live it. They didn’t say, “Wow, you are living YOUR dream”. A subtle, yet powerful difference in my mind.

As I am a ‘leap first, navel gaze later’ kind of person, I became intrigued by this collective concept of THE DREAM. To quell my curiosity, I approached people whom I thought would respond, and asked them these three questions:

  1. What does ‘living the dream’ mean to you?
  2. Are you ‘living the dream’?
  3. If not, what is holding you back?

Some people responded with, “Wow, let me get back to you on that”, and quietly unfriended me. Some went into full on avoidance (who knew I was carrying such a loaded gun?), but many sent me very thoughtful responses on one or all three questions.

For the next few weeks I am going to share, anonymously, some answers to this question of living the dream, and hope that you are as inspired as I am, to formulate your own answer. Here’s the first one:

To me, living the dream is not at all about where I live, how much money I have, my lifestyle or anything like that. For me, it would be all about my internal life. A few of the things living the dream means to me are:

• Living in the moment. Being fully present to the present.
• Being immune to fear of the future.
• Being impossible to offend. When I am in my true self you can’t offend me because I know my truth and your opinion about me is your opinion and external to my experience.
• Living joyfully. Laughing lots, mostly at myself.
• Living gratefully. Giving back what I can.
• Learning to love without the expectation of being loved in return or even being liked in return. I think this is perhaps the hardest thing a person can learn. I hope to get there more consistently.
• Being loved.
• Using my talents productively. Realizing I have talents.
• Recognizing their limits. Loving myself.

If I can get to a place where those things describe me, I’ll definitely be living the dream. When I have moments of being there, I am living the dream now.
What’s holding me back? Well my copious imperfections for the most part.  But I’m actually sort of pleased with some of the progress I’ve made in the past few years. And other than that, you know … blah blah blah.
Oh you mean that living the dream. Well then, I’d say a castle in southern France.

What does ‘living the dream’ mean to you? I’d love to hear from you. Send me a confidential email to and unless you say otherwise, I’ll add your voice to the conversation – anonymously of course. 



In October 2012, I drove 6,800 kms with my artist husband, Ric Kokotovich (, and my dog Iggy, to spend 6 months in our adopted city of Merida. Leaving the fast paced world of Calgary behind, I packed my books, art and entrepreneurial spirit, and set off to explore what lay beyond the borders that had become my life. In October 2013 we hit the road south again, hoping to find out what ‘living the dream’ really means. This is my adventure.

4 comments on “Experience Happy

  1. Living The Dream to me means what would my choices and actions would be if: a) I wasn’t worried about money and b) I wasn’t worried about my quote-unquote Future. Like you, I DID take that leap into the dark murky unknown to forgoe a life of big-city-dollars & perceived security to one of living in a small community off of my savings, scrutinizing my lifestyle & living expenses unromantically and seeing if I have what it takes to really develop as a skilled artist. Note to risk-phobes: It wasn’t easy, going against the grain of ones’ cultural norms WILL make you question yourself and your decisions. There ARE some sleepless nights thinking about finances and budgets et al.
    I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s worth it if one allows themselves to transform, adapt and dare to look behind the curtain of your own life. Freedom is worth it.

    • Thank you for the eloquent and thoughtful response Climber Girl…the theme of ‘freedom’ of sorts seems to be a common one, even if that freedom is simply a self actualized definition of living on ones own terms. Thanks for responding!

  2. Wow! I love this article and I think the person whose “living the dream” you quoted is really wise. Hope I can incorporate some of his/her philosophy in my life (something tells me it was a woman).
    Big kisses to you Alison!

  3. Pingback: Postscript | YomimiYo

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