My (Joy’s) husband had always dreamed of retiring internationally. This is the man I married 40 years ago! A dreamer, an out of the box thinker, someone who didn’t care if his opinions were not popular or main-stream.We had a subscription to “International Living” magazine when no one had heard of it, its readers, hippy-dippy types who chose to live in Ecuador or Panama long before these places were considered cool.
Me, the girl from the Upper West side of New York City who lived in the same apt for 23 years until the day she got married. I guess this was my alter ego saying, try something you have never experienced before. So we poured through these monthly issues voraciously thinking of cool places to retire. We were never going to be the people who moved to South Florida, as my parents did or Arizona or Nevada, the Carolinas, typical choices of Northeast folks when it came time to leave the workforce and the cold winters of this part of the country. As a twenty something year old reading this stuff, it seemed a lifetime away.
About 12 years earlier, for my 50th birthday to be exact, we planned a trip to Belize, a country getting a lot of attention at that time for being atypical Caribbean and non touristy. I hated traditional resorts and all inclusives, being a sophisticated traveler. Belize sounded cool and I only knew a few people who had been there. I picked a beach resort and figured we’d check it out at the same time for possible digs in that next chapter of life. Our whole family went including our then 15 and 18 year old daughters. We traveled to Grenada, a beautiful colonial city that some people had mentioned as a potential candidate for retirement. Beautiful architecture, a city feel, but also armed guards with serious looking weapons at the local bank, and a true third world feel.
Adventurous, I am, but stupid I am not. This just didn’t feel like a place I’d call home!
From there we took a small plane (the kind you have your knees up against your chest in and pray until you land on terra firma safely) to our lovely beach resort. We had a wonderful vacation and I will always remember Belize as the place I spent my 50th birthday with my family, but its less than smooth non white beaches were underwhelming and not even on the list of possibles when we returned home.
Next, several years later, as that 60 something decade was getting closer, we tried Panama and Nicaragua. Both lovely destinations for a vacation but they didn’t make the cut. Panama City reminded me of Miami Beach, — not a fan and the humidity was oppressive. In addition, the currency used is the U.S.dollar, so no benefit in terms of buying power.
Nicaragua, while beautiful on the coast, many likening it to Southern California of 50 years ago. But we must not forget that a wacko by the name of Noriega ran this country not that long ago. When discussing the idea of buying property in Nicaragua with one of my friends, who is actually from there, she advised me not to touch real estate in her own beloved country.
With 3 down, all giving us very enjoyable vacations, the attention was brought back to Mexico, our neighbor to the South. International Living had recommended Mexico for years: it had a stable government, the peso advantage (now 18 to 1, but as high as 21 to 1 last year when we arrived) and people who are welcoming and friendly. They actually like Americans, or they did until we had this crazy person in the White House, but I digress…
My husband being the researcher in the family, me being the shoot from the hip, ask questions later kind of girl, came up with this place called Ajijic, a long time destination of expats, artists, and hippy types for over 30 years. Such famous people as Meryl Streep, Marilyn Monroe going way back, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and the little brother (Todd Karns) in the eternally famous movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Who knew?
It’s not as well known as it’s more expensive and much larger sister San Miguel Allende, known as SMA, but it offers incredible weather, temperate for about 9 months out of the year, and a rainy season for 3 months that makes the mountains turn into broccoli, so I hear. It’s considered to have the second best climate in the world after Nairobi. We being snowbirds, can only tell from photos and friends.
This is our second winter here and so far so good. We have returned to friends, a vibrant social life, far more than we ever had in Southern Westchester for 25 years, and a quality of life that is pretty good. La Vida es facil and an average dinner costs about $30 U.S dollars complete with wine, appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee.
I’d rather be on this side of the Wall any day! We’re only snowbirds, so I see my children when I get back and we can roll our eyes at the Tweets El Presidente issues from afar!
Viva La Mexico!
. Be open minded. Would I ever have thought I’d live in Mexico as an expat? If not for my EPH’s out of the box thinking, I wouldn’t have experienced Mexico and the benefits of living abroad.
. Stretch that comfort zone. If not now, when?!
Enjoy the ride
Xox Barclay and Joy