For seven years now, my husband Fred and I have lived in Mexico. We are transplants from Colorado, and prior to that, we lived our lives in Chicago. My husband retired in 1995 and we moved to Pueblo, Colorado, to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life and have a relaxing time in the southern Colorado mountain foothills. We loved life in Colorado and made lots of great friends within the eight years we lived there.
On a fluke, we decided to move to Mexico one dark cold night in October of 2002, after having a discussion about our daughter’s plans to move to Mexico and spend time after college perhaps teaching, but mainly traveling. We had been waiting for 3 years for her to make her move after graduation, telling her our future vacation plans depended on where in Mexico she was going to go! Well, rather than wait for her to do it, we did it ourselves. We were on a highway, and got off at the Barnes and Noble bookstore near the highway and found the travel section. There was a book sitting on the shelf that seemed to have our names on it: “How to Retire to Mexico” boldly shouted to us from the shelf. I glanced through it, thought it covered lots of topics I had no idea about, and we found a couple other travel books to help us learn about where we were going. When I got home, I discovered that the book was already six years old, and sure hoped the information wasn’t too outdated! So my next move was to start searching the internet…something I had never done before. It was so much easier than I thought to start gathering information…and the more I found and shared with my husband, the more excited we became.
Over the next few months we bought probably 4 Spanish courses for the computer, 15 books on Mexico living and Spanish, and I filled a 3 ring binder full of information, categorized by several different topics. There was a lot to learn, and I sorted the information into these categories: Home, Finances, Medical (our medical records from home and copies of prescriptions and vaccinations), Travel (Cities in Mexico to visit), Immigration Visa Information, Records (Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificates) and good internet sites. The book was indispensible and I referred to it all the time.
Less than eight months later, we had sold our property, had 3 garage sales, packed the rest of our things we couldn’t bear to part with in storage, and drove to Texas to catch a bus to take us to the central Gulf of Mexico state of Veracruz, our first destination in Mexico. We carried 7 bags for the two of us, filled with clothes in space bags with all traces of air sucked out to make them more compact. We didn’t know what to bring, so we tried to bring everything! Only in hindsight did we realize that we should have packed lighter…but when you don’t know you just don’t know! We took the luxury line ADO bus for our 14 hour trip…then 2 more from Veracruz to our new little home in Xalapa.
We planned to stay there for 6 months and get acclimated. We knew it wasn’t a ‘touristy’ destination, so we thought we would really experience a ‘Mexico feel’ for our first six months. It is a hilly city, lush with vegetation and flowers, so beautiful and cultural. It is the capital of the state of Veracruz, about 2 hours west of the Gulf of Mexico. June through September had great weather, and when the fall seeped in, with a light rain most days (called a chipi-chipi) we were feeling like we were back in the mountains of Colorado! The weather is a little nippy from October through February, but many people enjoy that change in seasons.
Midway during our stay, we needed to plan for our next destination…the Yucatan. In September we had taken a long bus ride over to Merida (MARE e da), Yucatan, (the capital) to explore the ocean towns of Progreso and Chicxulub(Chick shoo loob) nearby. I had read about the area, and looked for a beach house to rent, based on the recommendation of friends in Xalapa who had family there. They told us this was an area not spoiled by tourism, and it was very tranquil. It’s funny…tranquil is the most-often-used word to describe the area by the Mexican people who live there!
We said goodbye to our friends on New Year’s Eve and headed over to Merida in a rented van with 3 guys and all our stuff that we had accumulated over those 6 months…There were 3 guys because the driver brought 2 friends with him to share the driving there and back to Xalapa. It was a 14 hour van ride and we enjoyed their company, even though we didn’t speak much Spanish yet, and they spoke very little English! When we arrived at our destination home on the beach, they unpacked our things, said ‘adios’ and were on their way. We were soon lulled to sleep by the rolling surf outside our front door. It was a great beginning to a new year for us and the life by the sea began.
Coming Out of Our Shells
We have been here 7 years now, and have been experiencing life as if we are small children learning how to do everything. Of course we have had to learn how to talk (Spanish), and that has been a challenge that was much harder than we anticipated. Spanish is not a difficult language to speak, but it can be real difficult to understand what other people are saying in response to what we say to them! Listening is hard in a foreign language, so practicing with people is important.
We have had to learn to get around, ask directions (now that’s a chore!) order food, shop in the grocery store, talk to the gas company, electric company, and phone company. We took local buses for the first year and a half, and explored through the windows of buses and taxis, drinking in all the scenery and road signs, keeping my fingers poised on my electronic translator at all times to help me understand what I was seeing on the road and in the shops. Talking on the phone has been a very difficult thing to master, because without seeing someone’s body language it has been hard to understand phrases that are so common here and totally foreign to outsiders! But we keep chugging along because the people here are so lovely and willing to help us.
Even thought we have a home library chock-full of Spanish instruction books, cds and computer learning systems (well, actually it’s a bookshelf…) I have found that the most important thing for me has been to be with people who speak Spanish and try to remember how they phrase things (not always how it’s written in the textbooks!). I also read the subtitles on our television whenever I can. Yes, it can be intimidating but you have to get our of your comfort zone to move forward, yes?
We Started A Business…
After 5 years in Mexico, we decided to help ourselves and others by creating an English Language Business Directory. We named it The Gold Book, because that was close to “The Yellow Pages” in our minds… and now, we are getting ready to print our 3rd edition. So, coming from a place where we didn’t know the language to meeting with business people every day to familiarize them with our directory has been a giant leap for us! But anything is possible if you believe………….
When we first moved here, we lived on the beach. We had our first house, then a second down the street. When you rent a beach house in this area, you understand and agree that you cannot rent during July and August, as this is the time when the owners have their summer vacation by the sea. We were faced with a dilemma of what to do with our things during those months, and the first house offered a storage area where we could leave them while we went back to the U.S. for a visit. We decided the second year to get a rental house in Merida, so we would have a year-round place to keep our slowly growing accumulation of stuff…we just couldn’t keep it simple! We got another beach house the following season, and spent lots of wonderful quiet time there, with no television, no internet connection, or other distractions. How lucky we felt to have this option!
I mentioned earlier that we didn’t have a car here in Mexico. Well, that was the first year. When we took our first trip back to the U.S. we decided to bring down our car with us, and had a wonderful journey driving the Gulf coast road all the way to the Yucatan. Three years later we went back up and bought a second car, since our first car was a sports car and too small to fit our guests when they visited. We were tired of renting cars when we had company, so we bought a larger car and drove it down too. Now we are a 2-car family, with a 3-bedroom home, furniture and appliances. Hmmm…makes us wonder if this plan for an adventure hasn’t turned into something more permanent!!
Links to useful resources about Mexico
Medical Tourism In Mexico
Vacation Rentals In Mexico