Ask me what it’s like to live in Alaska. I did over 20 years there and I could certainly tell you. The Philippines? A couple of years there too. Ecuador? Two more years there…on top of a whole bunch of years in various regions of the U.S. I can tell you what’s it was like to live in all those places. I’ve also traveled to a number of other International destinations but haven’t lived there. Now it’s Mexico where we have chosen to live and where we have spent a bit over 3 weeks. We are feeling more settled by the hour but that certainly doesn’t qualify me to tell you what it’s like to LIVE in Mexico; not yet.
Building a life anywhere takes time. We are building a new life here, day by day… and we like it!! Having been through this before, I know it will take some time to figure things out; to learn what we need to know to live efficiently. I crave efficiency so the inefficiency of finding my way around town, making wrong turns, discovering that I’m suddenly driving the wrong way on a one way street, paying too much at the wrong stores until we find the right ones and figuring out how to pay local bills are all part of building a new life; and all of this accomplished in a language that is still foreign to us (pun intended). It’s inefficient but it is part of the normal learning curve that one would expect. That doesn’t mean I have to like it…but I kinda’ do!
You know what else is part of building a new life in a foreign land? Being an explorer; being brave enough to move forward without complete knowledge of the destination or the challenges ahead. When we arrived in Ecuador, we had one married couple that shepherded us for a couple of months and they were invaluable for that time period. Coming to Mexico, we arrived without a shepherd. We don’t know a soul here…or at least we didn’t when we landed. (As I’m typing this, Diane is gabbing with a couple of women outside our condo door, near the elevator…in Spanish. Lots of laughing) We were completely on our own and we did and are doing just fine. Now, we’ve met a few folks, both Gringos and locals. We will eventually meet more people and make a few friends and we will eventually learn the “inside track” for things we don’t even know we need yet. We aren’t in any hurry. It will happen naturally as we talk to people everywhere we go.
We met a wonderful woman in the park the other day. She had her dog and we had ours. Even our dogs got along. Her name was Alejandra and she lives a few blocks from us in a home shared by at least three generations which is customary. Family cares for family in Latin America and we like that! She spoke some English and with us speaking some Spanish, we managed just fine even laughing and joking. We will see her again. We met another nice couple in the grocery store. We don’t hesitate to strike up conversations wherever we go.
We still have the two “temporary” places we rented through Craig’s List before we left Ecuador. Call it dumb luck but we really like both places. In fact, we just decided last night to extend our contract on our Merida place for another 3 months. We already gave a 6 month commitment on our second place in Cancun.
Cancun and Merida are about 4 hours apart when driving but are virtually worlds apart in lifestyles. They both share modern conveniences but Cancun is a world-class vacation destination with an international feel as opposed to a truly “Mexican” city like Merida. Cancun is a great place for us to have a small condo with direct access to the sugar-sand beaches and crystal clear water of the Caribbean steps away but doesn’t fit the profile of somewhere we’d want to live permanently. Merida on the other hand is a wonderful, rich and vibrant medium sized Mexican city with first world infrastructure and access to the complete range of consumer goods that were so scarce in the part of Ecuador where we lived. And of course, medical care is also “first world” in both Merida and Cancun.
A flight to Florida is half the cost and takes one third the time it did from Ecuador. Now, before the Ecuador defenders gather round and begin to throw stones, there are many Ecuadors and we truly loved Ecuador. The small town on Ecuador’s coast where we chose to live for a couple of years provided a rich and unforgettable experience for us but it did not provide excellent health care or access to a range of consumer goods. It was a wonderful experience! Call me spoiled but life is easier here than it was in San Vicente with ready access to excellent emergency medical care. (Hope we don’t need it)
Our home in Merida is a 3 bdrm/2.5 bath two story in a middle class neighborhood on Merida’s north end. It has been renovated by it’s U.S. owner and is quite nice; completely furnished and outfitted with everything it takes to live quite comfortably. Our condo in Cancun is one bedroom with a small sitting area and kitchen. It’s great for a get-a-way but hardly suitable for living full-time, at least not for us and yet, we are hoping to be able to hang on to it. It is truly a beach-lover’s fantasy with the crystal clear azure waters of Caribbean Sea steps away from our front door and with access to all the entertainment options one could want for a grownup playground. Yeah, Cancun is Way Cool!
Diane and I have discussed our options. It comes down to priorities as life always does. What exactly does it take for us to be happy with our choice(s) of a living situation and what fits our budget? If you are reading this and are approaching retirement, you certainly have done some research. I suspect you’ve looked at all the hot expat retirement spots including Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and perhaps others. Each of those places and others have received great press coverage over the years and deservedly so. Each are great places to live and generally cost less to live than retiring in the U.S. but how do you know which is the “BEST” place? That answer certainly isn’t the same for all. Once you determine the “affordability” of a place, there are many other considerations and what suits one, may not suit another.
For Diane and I, we learned we couldn’t live in high altitudes. That works for us as Diane is definitely a beach person. And I love kayaking and fishing so a coastal environment wins over all other choices. And as I’ve already mentioned, access to top quality and emergency medical care is at the top of our list right alongside affordability. We all must live within our budgets and it’s always fun to find a place that permits a greatly improved lifestyle over what one would receive for the same dollars back home. It can be done in many locations and without much difficulty.
I spent this afternoon visiting car dealerships. Gotta’ buy a car. Somehow, I managed to convey my wants and needs and discussed my budget maximum with four different salesmen today. It wasn’t perfect but it did get the job done. Even shared a few laughs with a couple of them. Haven’t made a “buy” decision yet but we are closing in on some options. We will eventually make a decision and buy a used car…in Mexico, where Spanish is the language we will need to complete any purchase transaction. Scary? Only a little. I’ve done much scarier things.
Finally, don’t let fear be the thief that steals the life you could have. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is among the safest places on the planet. http://howsafeismexico.com/
If you aren’t feeling brave, pretend you are brave. The outcome will be the same.