I Moved to Mexico: On Following Dreams & Reinvention

Moving to Oaxaca, Mexico has been a a dream of mine since I first discovered this magical place back in 2000.

I’ve managed to visit and live here for brief periods since then, always with a desire to be here more. No matter where I’ve traveled all around this beautiful world, and Oaxaca always pulls me back.

I returned to Oaxaca to live in 2010, but only stayed for four out of the eight months I planned, when a bunch of chronic health issues forced me into a literal and figurative fetal position.

I soldiered through a month of really scary symptoms (turns out I had Dengue Fever on top of my “usual” issues) and finally had to admit to myself that being alone and deathly ill in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language very well was just not working out.

So I reluctantly came home.


When I left Oaxaca back in 2010, I had to cancel a bunch of other travel plans, kick my long-term tenants out my house (one of the hardest emails I ever wrote), put my business on “float”, and spend my time, energy and money on getting better.

For a couple long years, I felt as if I were both inside a cocoon and that there was a foggy cocoon of cotton where my brain and energy used to be.

Though all of this, I did keep painting and writing (even though I pulled the plug on most publishing for awhile).

Doing my creative work gave me energy. I plugged into a creative current and that kept my spirit aloft while by body recovered.

Part of the bare-bones strategy I crafted while emerging from the cocoon was to rent out my live/work space near San Francisco and experiment with making Oaxaca my base for awhile…maybe forever. Who knows?

All I knew was that I had to follow up on a big dream that kept pulling at me.

Where is the dream taking me, exactly?

I don’t know.

Which is why I love using travel metaphors when teaching creativity.

Whether you’re facing the blank page, or moving through foreign lands, it’s the same experience: Being willing to tolerate the discomfort of the unknown long enough to trust that it’s taking you where you’ve always wanted to go.

Right now, I’m in the process of reinvention.

I’m reinventing what my business and work and travel life looks like.

I’m reinventing how I manage my health and energy.

I’m reinventing how I make and spend money.

I’m reinventing my life by moving to a foreign country, alone, at age 46.

It’s all at once daunting, exciting, confounding, freeing, and full of all the “normal” ups and downs of life, just different ones.

From the cocoon were gifts and tangible products that came to me from engaging deeply in my creative process, which I’ll just quickly point you in the direction of:

1. Creating online versions of my workshops, which share my entire process and strategy for starting and sustaining creative work (even when you feel like crap!)

Sketchbooks, by Lisa Sonora - Chapter 13

Chapter 13 opener of Sketchbooks with images from my visual journals

2. A new book: Sketchbooks, where I open up my own personal sketchbooks that document the process of art-making and life navigating and business-building.

In particular, it’s been the students in my workshops and the folks reading Sketchbooks (which was first published as monthly installments before it became a book) that have helped me so much over the last six months in helping me see the value in surrendering to the cocoon and reinvention, and then taking action of what has been given.

I feel immense gratitude for their participation in this process and confidence in my work.

I can’t wait to share more about life in Mexico. I’ve learned, over the last month in my new apartment in Oaxaca, that I can even live and work without my very own wifi. I just did it all slower.

I’ve been on Mexican time, ready or not. And this is what the blank page of my life looks like today.

How about you? 

What is reinvention looking like for you, these days? How are encountering the blank page of your life?

22 Responses to I Moved to Mexico: On Following Dreams & Reinvention

  1. suzana April 21, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Thanks for ‘listening’, Lisa!

  2. suzana April 21, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    What resonates for me most strongly: “Right now, I’m in the process of reinvention.”

    I can relate. It’s exciting. It’s also challenging.

    We’ve been planning our overseas move for some years, but we still have no idea where exactly this dream is going to take us. As exciting and liberating as it is, it takes a lot of trust.

    Apart from that, for various reasons, I’ve gone from being someone whose had 3 major careers and over 30 different jobs – most with substantial responsibilities and/ or teaching/ training roles – to being, at 45, ‘The Invisible Woman’…

    When I add letting go of everything – including my art supplies & books – my cocoon feels like it’s wrapped very tight!

    I am excited to see what my reinvention will look like, but we won’t be overseas for several more months, and there is so much more ‘work’ – including bureaucratic paperwork – to do before ‘the good stuff’ (sitting in a cafe in the Mediterranean) comes…

    I realise that I should be grateful for the opportunity to delve deep into my own creative process, but my ‘invisible, support’ roles (which are appreciated) often feel so time & energy consuming & brain-draining that it can be difficult to even decide ‘what to do today’ in my creative practice…

    I have my little creative space set up, my sketchbook waits open… and I sit in my little frustrated fog, wondering what marks to make on the page?

  3. Ali May 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    Great story! I read it and started wondering where I could move to – then I remembered that I already did it. I moved from New Zealand to New Orleans, the place of my dreamy dreams, at age 47, alone, with no job, very little money and knowing nobody. I survived and thrived!
    I might be ready for more adventure – though nobody could accuse life in NOLA of being dull – but there’s nothing like closing the suitcase and heading to the airport for opening up the neural pathways…
    Wishing you all the luck and love in the world!

    • Lisa Sonora May 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

      @Ali – thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m inspired! I want to know more…! Do you have a blog or website?

    • Sandra May 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      Yes, like Lisa, I’d love to hear more, looking for inspiration, am more than a little bit older than you even though I’ve done this before, when I was too young to know better!!

  4. Sandra May 2, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    Here’s the link about another move to Mexico, which may, or may not, be helpful!!


  5. Sandra May 2, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    This was a good and timely story, especially for one who’s been longing to move to a far away place and hasn’t pulled it off yet. It would help If I could just know where, as you did for quite a while. So, I say hats off, thanks for sharing, looking forward to hearing more. There’s another story of a woman who moved to Mexico, which is heartening, will share if I can find her blog.

  6. Tanya May 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for such a courageous post. I have been reflecting on it the last couple of days. You have reminded me that honesty, authenticity, and acceptance are critical for reinvention, and I am giving myself the space in the next two days to begin to examine these areas in my life. Thank you again.

  7. stanley April 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    It rare to have people bare out the real issues going on in their lives over the internet especially when you play a role that requires people to follow.You broke that boundary n you still strive to live life as living should really be defined.

    I pray your health gets better so u can continue to inspire and give hope to those you have dedicated your time to.
    Best of luck and cheers

  8. Tamara Holland April 30, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    As the person fortunate enough to have rented your studio space when you were brave enough to make this leap . . . I say, “MORE POWER TO YOU, WOMAN!” Keep up your rocking along. Keep on keeping us posted about your journeying . . . out in the world, and inward.

  9. andrew taylor April 29, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    lisa, you are brave 🙂 and positive…..and you hope and believe…..a lot of things are said about entrepreneurs and taking risks….but i think you rise up to meet your fears and live thru them….it’s part of your recreation and what makes you special and worth remembering.

    i think you are catching up with yourself somewhere back in time in mexico……

    good luck!


  10. Teresa capaldo April 29, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Love this post Lisa, and thank you for sharing and speaking your truth so beautifully. I am a big fan of people who don’t paint the perfect picture, and are able to weave the truth into something meaningful, that we can all relate to, and may have experienced similarly. I am most inspired at your history of traveling alone as a women and the courage you have naturually for doing that. I have barely gotten my feet wet with that, and you have been doing it for years. It’s wonderful that Oaxaca is working out so well. I am happy for you. Keep writing, stay healthy, and enjoy the journey.
    Looking forward to reading more about your latest adventure.


  11. Heather April 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    I sure hope you are feeling better these days. I personally would love to hear all about different aspects of your journey I find blogs like that really inspiring, I think that so much of the way we eat, create, struggle and what works for us really is connected! I hope to hear more from you!

  12. Christine Martell April 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Nice to hear you are feeling better. I totally agree that our health is the most important to the success of our business!

    I’ve lived with health issues for a long time, which I manage pretty well most of the time. I have struggled with where and how to talk about it also. I know I would love to hear more about what is working for you, so it’s got me thinking maybe I need to share with others also.

    Hard when you straddle the creative and corporate worlds. Or maybe not?

  13. M April 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I loved this post. As soon as I saw the headline, I thought: “I hope she’s moving to Oaxaca!” I am 47, and have longed to do something like what you are doing! I too am reinventing, but things are still too nebulous to articulate. It’s helpful to me to see someone figuring it out and going for it! I will look forward to your future blogposts. Glad you are feeling better!;)

  14. Liza April 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Good for you! I just turned 48, and although I have two young children, I’ve been playing with the idea of moving to Chile for a year or two. Why not? I commend you for your brave move- I love Mexico- I haven’t been to Oaxaca- but baja calls me too!!

  15. Jill Marie April 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Lisa thank you so much for sharing from your heart. I look forward to you sharing all the gold nuggets that you have gathered along your journey to health, wealth, happiness and creative self-expression.

    The Creative + practice online class I took from you has been so amazing in my life 🙂

    Lots of love and good health to you!

  16. Cindy Eve April 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Lovely post Lisa. What a shame that you had so much illness to contend with. I hope that you continue to find your way to good health. I too took a major leap at the age of 47. I left South Africa for Ireland on holiday, I loved it so much I stayed and eventually only went back to get my visa for the UK and have lived in London ever since. I have never looked back and absolutely love it here.
    I believe we are soul-linked to a place and when we find it….that’s the best place to be; where we can grow.
    Good luck and I wish you all the very best with your new adventure in Mexico, I shall look our for your posts with delight. I am a closet traveller and love travel blogs….but I sense that yours will be more than a just a regular travel blog, but certainly a journey.

  17. Traci Bunkers April 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Wow Lisa Sonora! How exciting that you have moved back to Mexico. You always have such courage with big life changes like this. I wish you the very best!

  18. Ann Murphy April 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    I wish you happiness and hope you love living in your new world. I too have been managing my health and realize so much of my current life energy is depleted by struggling to maintain an old pattern of living. Good for you that you are pursuing your dreams!!

    Vaya con espíritu!


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