078 Journey Around the World, Interview with Monique Alvarez
When she was still a child, Monique Alvarez’s grandmother gave her a lifetime subscription to National Geographic. This opened her eyes to a world beyond her small town. She took her first overseas trip at 19. Monique describes her challenges with infertility and her adventure opening a yoga studio. Now she and her husband are dedicated to raising their boys outside the United States.
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Gillian Rose: Go ahead.
Monique Alvarez: Hi. I'm Monique Alvarez and I am a world adventurer, and you are listening to Just Stay Curious.
Gillian Rose: Okay, dreamers, it's time to get curious. Today we are talking to a world explorer, Monique Alvarez. She is so inspiring and she's going to share her journey with us today. Monique, as I said, is a world explorer, and she is on a mission to share her love of the world with the world. Currently she is enjoying slow travel across Mexico with her husband and two baby boys, which is a perfect time to tell all of you listening one of the fantastic things about Just Stay Curious is that we get to hear the stories of women around the world. Monique, why don't you tell us where you are joining us from today?
Monique Alvarez: Today I am joining you from the beautiful city of Guanajuato, Mexico. It's right in the heart of the country. I'm actually at this beautiful French café and there's a fire going right in front of me. As I explained to you, this is going to be an ideal place for us to talk because at home my one- and two-year-old little boys, they're raising a ruckus. We'll have a much quieter conversation here, although there may be some bus horns in the background.
Gillian Rose: City living, for sure. It's very cool to get to talk to you today, Monique. You've really piqued my curiosity here. A world explorer on a mission to share your love of the world with the world. Why don't you take a couple of minutes and tell us how this all came about, because it's really fascinating.
Monique Alvarez: 02:10 Absolutely. Truly I think it started when I was five years old and my grandma got me a lifetime subscription to National Geographic and I began to see the world through the pages of that magazine. Although I was raised in a tiny town of 8,000 people in the middle of nowhere, Colorado, I always knew I would see the world. At 19 I went on my first overseas trip, and that was it. I knew that this was the life for me. I traveled all of my 20s. Then I got married and my husband and I traveled a little together, started a business together. Then after we had our two babies we left the United States on May 1st of this year and we are traveling Mexico now.
Gillian Rose: Wow. I have done some traveling myself and I know that it can be ... The ups and downs are insane, and so self-love and self-care have got to be super important to that. Why is self-love important in your personal life?
Monique Alvarez: 03:12 What I learned early on, or what I observed probably more accurately, is that it's impossible for us as human beings, especially as women, to love anyone more than we love ourselves, and so I saw that really my ability to love myself and to take care of myself was the root, the beginning, the foundation of every other relationship I wanted to have in life.
Gillian Rose: Definitely, definitely. We can't love anyone more than we love ourselves. Monique, at Just Stay Curious we are travelers of other people's stories.
Monique Alvarez: I love it.
Gillian Rose: I do always like to start off with a bit of your story, a particular snapshot of your journey, a low point or an obstacle. If you can share with us that time, what was going on? How were you feeling? Just take us through it.
Monique Alvarez: 04:19 Sure. The time that comes up for me is in 2012. It was the wintertime. It was probably about this time of year. My husband and I had just returned from a year traveling Albania and Greece and Montenegro, and we actually went with the intention of getting pregnant. We wanted to start a family. We had a great time traveling, but I never got pregnant. We returned to my hometown and I was just completely discouraged and devastated. I was feeling the winter season inside as well as outside.
Taking care of myself has always been really important because my mom has owned a health food store my whole life so I've seen her live it and I was raised in it, but it was a time when I felt really bad and I felt like a failure. I felt like as a woman I'm designed to get pregnant and have children, to bear children, and it wasn't happening. It was a time that I wasn't happy with myself. I was trying to figure out what was wrong. Of course, that just took me on this downward spiral.
Gillian Rose: You were trying to get pregnant while you were traveling?
Monique Alvarez: Yes. For me, the United States has always been a really hard environment for me to relax in and honestly to keep up in. Our plan was we had a business that we could operate from anywhere, and so travel just made the most sense for us. It allows a slow pace of life. It allows me to really take good care of myself and get out of the hustle-bustle. It just seemed like such a surefire plan to me, and so when it didn't happen I was really lost.
Gillian Rose: You were 100% just expecting to get pregnant.
Monique Alvarez: Yes. Exactly. I never thought that I wouldn't or couldn't. That had never entered my mind. I actually recently wrote about this. I think, to go along with that, I've always been a person, I just make up my mind, I decide what I want, and, boom, I make it happen. Motherhood was definitely not that way for me.
Gillian Rose: When did you first realize that it wasn't happening as you planned?
Monique Alvarez: I would say it was about six months into our travel. It was like, "This is interesting. I'm traveling. I'm doing the thing I love most." I absolutely love Albania. It's the first country I ever lived in. I've got so many sweet memories and I feel very comfortable there. I would say about six months I started going, "Okay. Hmm." Then, of course, I think the self-doubt and the thought that something might be wrong, that of course surely did not help from that point forward.
Gillian Rose: 07:27 How did this mindset, which was out of left field, it wasn't expected, how did this mindset affect your self-care practice?
Monique Alvarez: It really just put me on a tailspin in that I lost focus. I'm a person who's incredibly focused, and because of my focus I have a lot of discipline, I have a lot of rituals, I have a lot of routines. It just threw me for a loop. I felt like I lost all of that. Some of the biggest ways I lose that is when I'm not happy and I'm not feeling good, I don't want to eat. I'm not a person who emotional eats. I'm a person who doesn't eat when she's unhappy. I would skip a meal. Then of course I'd feel worse. Then I was just all over the place with my walking and my yoga.
Mentally I think is what it impacted the most. I'm usually a very positive, happy, optimistic person, and it was just like, "My God, this is the end of the world," and, "What have I done wrong?" and, "Nothing else matters," and, "If I can't have this thing than what does the rest mean?" It was a time when I lost my rhythm and my routine, which is incredibly important for me. It's how I stay on track.
Gillian Rose: I have two questions for you. The first is, what is the biggest lesson you learned from going through this? The second is, what was the first step that you implemented to get back into your self-care routine?
Monique Alvarez: 09:14 The biggest lesson I learned is that I could trust my body, that there was nothing wrong with my body just because the timing wasn't the timing I had in my mind. I learned that I could release control and trust my body and trust the universe. Ultimately, when I did get pregnant and had my kids I realized these little human beings, even though they're little, they have their own will and their own desires, and that is something I wasn't aware of. I didn't take into account when I wanted to get pregnant the desires of my future children and when and how they wanted to enter this world.
09:55 The real pivot for me was when I came back to the US after my first three years living overseas. I experienced tremendous reverse culture shock. A friend told me about a yoga class. That was the first time I had went to yoga. It really did so much for me, just calming me and resetting me and centering me and focusing me. This one night I think my husband was doing all he could to comfort me and try to lift my spirits, and he mentioned something about yoga. This idea went through my mind that I needed to do yoga everyday. Then the next thought was, "Why don't I start a yoga studio?" There was no yoga studio in the small town where I was living and where I'm from. That pivoted and changed everything. I opened a yoga studio within five weeks of that moment.
Gillian Rose: Wow.
Monique Alvarez: That really lifted me out of a dark place, because I had to open those doors up and I had to teach class and I had to interact with others. I think having other people to be accountable to and to do yoga with really helped me.
Gillian Rose: I'm not a mother yet, but I feel like motherhood is about creation, and you were able to create a yoga studio. It's obviously not the same, but maybe the spirit of it helped you out there too.
Monique Alvarez: Yes. I agree. I think it helped me tap into that creation, and it also was what I call a divine download. I started out just doing it because I thought, "Well, at least it gives me a reason to get out of bed," and I really began to enjoy it. I began to make new friends there and I got excited about new classes. I planned a wonderful grand opening. My husband and my dad helped me remodel the whole yoga studio. Guess what? As soon as I had that grand opening celebration I found out I was pregnant, because I think the moment I forgot about it and let it go and just found joy in something, boom, it happened.
Gillian Rose: Amazing. That's so cool. I got goosebumps up my legs. I was like, "Ooh." That's so cool. Monique, now I want to talk about another time in your life, like an aha moment, an epiphany, whatever you like to call it, but something that made you realize what path you needed to be on.
Monique Alvarez: 12:40 It was two related moments. The second I found out I was pregnant I knew that my path was to raise my kids outside the US and to be a traveling family. That was really the only circumstances under which I wanted to be a mother, because I felt like it was actually possible to be the kind of mother I desired and what I had observed through my travels. Then along with that was I was listening to an Abraham-Hicks video just after I got pregnant. I remember hearing Esther Hicks say,13:16 "The greatest gift you can give your children is the gift of a happy mother." So much clicked in that moment, because what I found is when I got pregnant my mind was racing. Everything I wanted to embody and model and everything I wanted to teach my kids. You begin to feel the huge task that is upon you to raise another human being.
That moment just clarified it for me and simplified it. It was like, "Okay, I can do that. I can let everything come out of the place of me deciding and choosing and being a happy mother," because I realized that that really was a beautiful gift. What if I gave them all of these other things but they didn't have a happy mom? I realized what a loss that would be. That was a real aha moment for me. It clarified my path. It clarified the kind of work I wanted to do. Absolutely everything flowed out of that.
Gillian Rose: I think that is amazing and so true, but I also feel like it's also the opposite of what culturally happens, of that mothers never think of their own happiness first. I'm curious if that clicked immediately with you or if it was something that you had to work through.
Monique Alvarez: That's a good question. You're absolutely right, it flies completely in the face of American culture and what I saw modeled growing up from my grandmas and aunts. I think that my mom, I would say she had a lot more of it, because she owned her own business from the time I was three and so I saw my mom model much more thinking about herself as well as her children. Really what helped me embrace it immediately and why I didn't have resistance to it was because I had spent so many years traveling and seeing how families and mothers do in 17 other countries other than my own. It actually made sense on an international, more universal level.
15:24 It's also why I need to raise my kids outside the US, because I find that my value system and my way of doing motherhood, it's 180 degrees from what is really promoted. I see that moms are just always encouraged to put themselves last and think about their children and think about their church and think about their job and their boss and their everything under the sun, their spouse, before themselves. Honestly, I see what that produces. There's a lot of women, especially after 20, 30 years of this, they're incredibly empty. They're bitter. They're that martyr that really doesn't serve anyone. That is why it's incredibly important for me, and also because I feel like every day that I live it out I allow myself to be maybe someone another woman could go, "Wait, maybe there is another way. Maybe it isn't so bad to think of myself or to put myself first, actually." I know that travel helped me embrace that.
Gillian Rose: If you can imagine for me, I like to ask people to imagine things, but there are women listening who are mothers and either don't want to travel or cannot travel, so if you can imagine that traveling wasn't an option for you, how would you involve this belief into a life where travel wasn't an option?
Monique Alvarez: 17:07 That's a good question. Really what I would say is this. Any time that I am presented with the opportunity to change a belief or throw something out that maybe I was raised with that was complete norm is I just try to look at it in the most no-nonsense, practical, just straightforward way, losing the emotion in it, and just go, "Yeah, that makes sense. It makes sense that when a woman is in a place where she's allowed to think of herself and what makes her happy and what fills her cup and what gives her a break and gives her joy and allows her to have a life that is not coming from all service to everyone else all of the time, it just makes sense that she's going to be happier."
18:06 What I've noticed is if mom is happy, husband's happy, and if mom is happy, kids are happy. That was one of the biggest things I observed with my kids, is children pick up on their mother's energy first and foremost. Before they pick up on their father's energy, before they pick up on their grandparents', aunts', uncles', anyone else in the world, they pick up on their mother's energy, because that bond, that connection, that growth inside of our bodies is there. All you have to do is observe your children. When you're relaxed, your children are going to mirror that. When you're stressed out, they're going to mirror that. When you're frazzled and at your wit's end, they know it and they're going to mirror that back in some way.
It was interesting, because we were recently on a trip in Mexico City. It was our last full day and I really had this whole day of shopping planned out. Someone called and they wanted to have a meeting right in the middle of the day. I was trying to figure out how to reschedule it and how to resolve this internal conflict I had. When I was in the process of resolving it inside myself, my one-and-a-half-year-old is just throwing a fit and I can't figure out why. Then I went, "Oh, he's actually displaying what I'm feeling on the inside. He's externalizing it." I would just invite women and mothers to observe and to test it out. Just test it out. Try it on. Do it for a week or two, a day, an hour, and see how others respond.
Gillian Rose: One final question, mostly because I'm so curious about it. How does your husband support this?
Monique Alvarez: I'm sure it'll come as a shock that I couldn't really be with anyone who didn't fully support this.19:58 He fully supports it, from the time before we were pregnant, but over and over. To be fair to men and husbands and fathers, I think a lot of women don't ask for what they need. They're not straightforward enough and they're not direct enough. That was one thing that Derek and I had from the beginning. I remember my first son, he was like three months old, and when they're little it's a 24-hour, round-the-clock job. This one day I really needed a break. I was so sleep-deprived. I said, "I need you to take Sam for three hours and I'm going to go do yoga and I'm going to just fall asleep back seat of the car and whenever I wake up I'm coming home." He was just like, "Okay."
I didn't try to over ... "Make sure you feed him this way and make sure ... " I just let him do it his own way. Because of that he has an incredible bond with both boys, and also he can do absolutely anything. He can bathe them, feed them, nap them, change them. There's nothing he can't do with them. It also allowed me to get the rest I needed and I continue to need, because being a mother's no joke. I would say that I'm lucky to have it, but also I made sure. I made sure going in, and I ask for it ongoing. I feel like that's a key thing for as as women to do. Don't assume and don't get mad when it doesn't happen. You've got to ask for it.
Gillian Rose: Yeah. That goes with all relationships. Definitely.
Monique Alvarez: Yes.
Gillian Rose: 22:34 All right, Monique, it's time for our daily insights, the Q&A part of the show. Sound good?
Monique Alvarez: Sounds good.
Gillian Rose: What was the one thing holding you back from accepting self-love?
Monique Alvarez: I would say the one thing that was holding me back was thinking something was wrong with me. When things don't go a certain way in life and we begin to think that something's wrong, I think that that's going to hold love away from us. That was the biggest thing for me, is realize nothing's wrong. Even when things aren't going the way I want them to go, nothing's wrong. It's just a season.
Gillian Rose: Who is one person who has changed your life for the better?
Monique Alvarez: I would say ... It's a tough one, one person, but I would have to give that one person to my husband, because he's an incredibly secure, confident, and grounded man who lets me be my own person. We have this little saying. He's like, "You're the boss of you." That has been a huge gift to me over the last 10 years.
Gillian Rose: What is the best advice you've ever received?
Monique Alvarez: The best advice I've ever received was from my mom right after I had my son. She said, "You make sure you take care of mama, and then a mama who's taken care of can take care of kids. Don't take care of kids first. Take care of yourself first." She would also encourage me like that when other people would come over. "Don't let people just hold the baby. Make them cook you a meal and take out the trash." You know what I mean? "Remember, mama has to first, because if mama goes down, the baby goes down." That was really good for me to hear fresh into motherhood.
Gillian Rose: What is a self-care habit that you practice regularly?
Monique Alvarez: I nap almost every single day. That might seem crazy with a one- and two-year-old, but they nap every day and I nap every day. If I don't nap, the one thing that happens for sure is an early bedtime. Sleep is the thing that I have found is the number one thing that nurtures me and keeps me on track or can completely ... I just derail. Lack of sleep is really hard on me. Naps are key.
Gillian Rose: Do you have a favorite quote?
Monique Alvarez: I do. Esther Hicks says, "If you aren't selfish enough to feel good, then you can never truly connect to source." That was such a nugget for me because it helped me see that being selfish is absolutely necessary to feeling good in life, to getting what you want and connecting to who we really are.
Gillian Rose: Can you share with us an app or a resource or a tool of some kind that we can use in our own self-care practice?
Monique Alvarez: There's an app called Calm, C-A-L-M, and it's perfect because it helps create your happy place, whether your happy place is the ocean or the mountains or whatever. There's different images on there. There's sounds. You can listen to the ocean. There's guided meditation. If you just need a three-minute timeout, you can go on there and listen to the ocean waves sooth you, do some deep breathing, and get yourself on track. I find that that is sometimes all I need. If I find myself, something goes sideways, if I can take three to five minutes and listen to something soothing, breathe, then I can get back on track. The whole day doesn't have to be lost.
Gillian Rose: I love that you say that, because a lot of people say, "I don't have time," but sometimes all you need is three minutes.
Monique Alvarez: It's true. Like recently a friend of mine said, "How do you do yoga with the boys and everything else you have going on?" I go, "You know, sometimes doing yoga means 15 minutes of child's pose and down dog." I think when we get to the place where we're like, "Well, if I don't get an hour-and-a-half yoga class in, I can't get it in," sometimes you've got to slice it up and get whatever you need to feel good again.
Gillian Rose: Yes, and let go of that "all or nothing."
Monique Alvarez: Yes, absolutely.
Gillian Rose: What book are you reading right now?
Monique Alvarez: I currently have on my Kindle The Science of Getting Rich. It's a book that I've read before, and actually after I finish this I'm reading Think and Grow Rich again. Really I love reading books about wealth and abundance, because what I've found out, what I've discovered is really my self-care and how I feel about money and all of these things, they're so completely connected, because it really comes back to my connection to source and what I believe about myself. I always keep these types of books going in my Kindle.
Gillian Rose: My last question for you: What is the one thing you are most passionate about?
Monique Alvarez: I'm most passionate about travel, because travel is what opened new worlds up for me. It's what allowed me to from an upbringing that was deeply rooted in isolation and sexism, racism, all of the -isms, and really a fear of people who were different, it opened me up to realize, "Oh, the world is a wonderful place." It's wonderful because I get to learn from and interact with and engage with people who are very different from me, and yet there's that universal thread that goes through us all. We all want to be loved. We all want to be heard. We all want the best for our babies. It allows me to really connect in with that, and that's what I'm most passionate about, that we realize that, yes, we are different, and, yes, we are the same.
Gillian Rose: Very cool. All right, all you dreamers out there. You can find links to these resources and everything else we've been chatting about in today's episode by going to JustStayCurious.com/moniquealvarez. Monique, I've enjoyed listening to your journey. Thank you for sharing your lessons with us. Can you give us a last parting message? Share the best way we can find you, and then we'll say goodbye.
Monique Alvarez: Absolutely. Thank you. I can be found at MoniqueAlvarezEnterprises.com. That's my website. I facilitate mastermind groups for women who run businesses and who want more in their life. They're unconventional entrepreneurs. I also have my blog there where I share about travel and business and just life lessons.
Gillian Rose: Awesome, Monique. Our listeners can find links to everything of value we mentioned in today's episode by going to JustStayCurious.com, clicking the "podcast" tab, and finding you in the archives, or just enter "Monique Alvarez" in the search bar and the show notes will pop right up. Monique, thank you for being so generous with your time and your story. As always, just stay curious.
Monique Alvarez: Thank you.
What was the number one thing that was holding you back from accepting self love?
Thinking something was wrong with me.
Who is one person who has changed your life for the better?
I would have to say my husband. He is an incredibly secure, confident and grounded man.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My mom told me, “Don’t take care of the kids first. Make sure you take care of you first.Momma has to go first. If you go down, the baby goes down.”
What is a self care habit that you practice regularly?
I nap almost every day. Sleep is the number one thing that nurtures me and keeps me on track.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“If you aren’t selfish enough to feel good, then you can never truly connect to source.” Esther Hicks.
Can you share with us a resource or an app that we can use to help our own self care practice grow?
There’s an app called Calm. It’s perfect because it sort of helps create your happy place.
What book are you reading right now?
What is the one thing that you are most passionate about?
Travel. It has opened up new worlds to me.
About This Guest:
Monique Alvarez is a world explorer and is on a mission to share her love of the world with the world. Currently enjoying slow travel across Mexico with her husband and two baby boys.
Connect with this guest:
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