Puerto Life Lessons: You Can Do Hard Things

As our year in Puerto Escondido comes to a close, our family is filled with emotion.  This tropical paradise and these beautiful people have taught us lessons that will stay with us for life. Most of all, the ever-constant reminder that from discomfort, comes growth. You can do hard things.

What began as a tumultuous emotional experience, ended in an increase in self-awareness and self-confidence for every member of our family. We are affirmed that we can, indeed, do hard things…especially when we stay the course and go through them together. There are many beautiful lessons waiting on the other side of discomfort.


The Tough Start

When we chose to move to Puerto Escondido for the year, we thought the transition would be simple. After all, our family had lived in Puerto for four months the winter before, so we had already gone through the tough stuff, right? Wrong.

The first two months in Puerto was an emotional marathon for our family. The girls fought daily about going to school. The new language, new place, and new people was a lot to digest all at once. Arjan and I had carefully considered this school and it was the main reason that we had moved to Puerto. But, those early days had us questioning our choice. The instinct to leave and to return to our comfortable, familiar life was strong.

The Instinct to Rescue

When well-intended family and friends from home encouraged us to change to an English school, these whispers pushed doubt into our minds. Weren’t we here, so that our kids could learn Spanish and be immersed in a new culture? Wasn’t that the whole point? As humans, we’re tribal creatures who crave the support and acceptance of our community. As soon as you do things differently, (like move to Mexico, for example), it’s more challenging to find that support and acceptance.  Our automatic response when we see others struggling, is to “fix” the situation. It’s so unbearable for us to witness emotional struggles, that we want to make them go away. The intention is to help. But, just like the caterpillar who needs time to build its cocoon, change to a butterfly, then push its way out into the world...there is purpose in the discomfort. We need to feel the uncomfortable feelings, to grow, to learn, to evolve.


Aligned As A Couple

As parents, our desire to protect the girls from this daily emotional rollercoaster was strong. It was painfully heartbreaking. However, Arjan had moved from Holland to Canada at the tender age of 5, and he remembers overcoming the challenge of a new language and new country. Drawing on his experience helped us to stay the course. Our strength and alignment as a couple, was the driving force that allowed us to stay true to what we knew was best for our kids (even though it was really hard in the moment!).

Embrace the Feelings

I look back on that time and remember vividly how consumed I was with wanting to rescue our kids and “save them” from the daily struggle that they were enduring. I realize that this sounds dramatic, but as a mother, when your kids are suffering, everything is amplified! The school and teachers were loving and supportive, every step of the way, but those instincts to keep my children comfortable were ever-present. My experience as a therapist, reminded me that feeling the feelings was important and healthy. Our daily mantra was: “We can do hard things.”

The Other Side of Discomfort

The only way out is through...and so, with love and patience, we supported the girls (and each other) through the discomfort. Now, after completing an entire year at school, the girls are speaking Spanish, have a deep bond with their teachers, and the entire family has a beautiful community of lifelong friends.



When we expose ourselves to new experiences, it can bring up a multitude of uncomfortable feelings for the whole family. Resist the urge to sink back into familiarity and comfort. Embrace the lessons as they come, and talk through them together.  On the other side of those challenges is a better understanding of self, increased confidence (we can do hard things!), and most of all connection. When you go through these life-changes experiences together, you’re deepening your emotional connection and creating life-long memories.

Teah, our 5-year old, is shy and sensitive. Of everyone in our family, it took her the most time to adjust to our life in Puerto. As we played in the waves, on our last day with our friends, she said “I don’t want to leave, mama. I want to stay here forever.” Her words hit my heart with such force. You can do hard things, my love. On the other side of your challenges, you found a part of yourself that you don’t want to leave behind. May you carry her with you, always. 


Tell me - have you gone through something that reminded you that the tough-stuff was worth it? That on the other side of the emotional discomfort, was a beautiful lesson?

Photography: Luis Villanueva