• Courtney Ustrzycki

My Biggest Year of Change

Although I've talked about WHY I moved to Mexico many times over the last few months, I never put together a complete story about this enough year of change. So, here it is.


My (now ex) boyfriend and I had an awesome life in Ontario, Canada. We had a gym built in our backyard where we trained 1:1 clients. I was building my online nutrition and training brand, and he was going back to school for his Masters. Unfortunately, when two focused entrepreneurs live together, a personal relationship can greatly suffer. And that’s exactly what happened. After months of back-and-forth talking about it and weighing our options, I decided that an extended time apart would be good for us to see how we would manage without the other. After much research, I booked a trip that would forever change my life.​


​December 21, 2017: I woke up in a secluded city called Samaná in the Dominican Republic. I rented a stunning AirBnB condo in a gated community, overlooking Samaná Bay. It was stunning, yet incredibly secluded. Except a few workers, no one spoke English. I had to take a 20 minute taxi ($40USD) to get into the city to buy food. It took me a 15 minute walk just to buy eggs and tomatoes. This was when I learned how to clean and prepare a fresh chicken carcass and tried cooking/eating chicken feet for the first time (maybe you remember my Instagram videos about this?!)


Because I was so isolated, it allowed me to focus on two areas: my personal growth, and my business growth. In the time that I was in the DR, my client roster literally doubled! Mind you I was working about 10 hours a day, but I didn’t have much else to do, but I was very happy with how my business was thriving. My days there consisted of morning reading and meditation, building my brand (creating content and connecting with new athletes), creative dumbbell workouts and solar-charging (aka sun tanning.)


About 10 days in I started looking at my next destination. A month before going to the Dominican Republic, I was talking with my parents about taking a small vacation with them and Mexico was mentioned. So I looked there. I did research on safety, cost of living and traveller reviews. Two of my Canadian friends lived in Playa Del Carmen for about a year and I inquired about their experiences. I found a place via AirBnB and booked it my 7-week trip to Mexico on Christmas Day!


​What did I learn during those 38 days in the Dominican?


I learned the importance of seasons. I learned that sometimes in order to grow, we need to let go of the things that keep us rooted in one place. I need to become uncomfortable and scared as hell in order to make the biggest changes in my live. I’ve learned that it’s ok to not know, to not have a 5-year plan. I’ve learned that being alone doesn’t equate to being lonely, and I’ve learned to enjoy my own company.

Looking back, I would never want to stay there again, but at that crucial turning-point in my life, it was exactly where I needed to be. Alone, just me and my thoughts. It was literally a season of self-discovery.


I was back in Canada for about 10 days between destinations, where I saw friends and family, and spent as much time with my ex-boyfriend as possible. After these short days, I hopped on my next flight and arrived in Playa Del Carmen. The culture difference between Samaná and PDC is like comparing apples to oranges, but it was an awesome change in pace for me. There were grocery stores, I could walk to a gym, people spoke English! I almost felt at home. And within a week, I made friends and decided I wanted to stay here longer. Before the end of the 7 weeks, I booked my ‘last’ one-way ticket back to Mexico in May, which was made my new home and has been ever since.


The 7 weeks in PDC taught me a new balance between work and play; that I didn’t want to work 10 hours a day and not enjoy the world. As I continued to build my business, I shifted my energy balance between work and play. I had friends and we went out for food and fun. I learned to salsa dance. I travelled to other cities nearby and experienced the Mexican culture. I found my love for tacos! I was close to the stunning white beach. I could walk (safely) to grocery stores and I had a squat rack! It was everything I knew from Canada but with the sunshine and warmth that made my soul feel so fresh and alive.


Sure, I miss people and the life I had back in Canada, but I LOVE where I am now. Literally purging my entire life, selling everything I owned and moving down here with only 2 suitcases and so many unknowns, I regret nothing. I am still fully Canadian and run my business through Canada. I protect my energy, continue to grow my business, save for health care (just in case!), and I stay smart here. It’s not a dangerous country to live in when you stay aware of your surroundings. In fact, I’ve never felt more safe in any city than I do here.

I have 2 YouTube vlog series that show a little more insight on both of these living experiences:

1) Life Update, Paradise Edition (5 episodes in Dominican Republic)

2) Living in MX (10 episodes in Mexico)


This has by far been my biggest year of change in my life, and I cannot wait for another year of amazingness!

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© 2019 by Courtney Ustrzycki. Photos credit of Georges Schemagin (video) & Workout Magazine Mexico. All rights reserved.