Sunday, April 1, 2007

Why Mexico?

We never intended to retire in Mexico. Our plans to retire were centered around living going somewhere warm in the winter and spending the rest of the year in Maine. We were initially considering such places as the Carolinas and Arkansas, or even the Southeast as possible winter destinations. I had been working at the same job for 31 years, and was considering trying something new. Pixie had been enjoying her new role teaching at the college level, but was increasingly uncomfortable, especially in the winter months. We were discovering that many of the retirement locations in the southern US were expensive, especially for seasonal living only. In January 2006, a friend of ours who used to attend our Auburn, Maine UU church asked me at the gym one day if I had ever considered Latin America as a retirement destination. I have to confess, Pixie had suggested Mexico a number of years ago, but I had rejected the idea as preposterous. Everyone "knew" Mexico was a dangerous place, after all. Jim shared with us that he had spent a winter in Ajijic, in the central state of Jalisco, and found it very pleasant, although he warned me that many American and Canadian expatriates lived there. We checked it out on line, and it sounded very pleasant. We decided to plan a three week trip there in June 2006 to check it out for ourselves.

Soon after we arrived in the Lake Chapala area, which many residents refer to as "Lakeside," we were enchanted with Mexico. The weather was a bit hot but dry (it was the end of the dry season, the least comfortable season at Lake Chapala, with midday temps in the high 80's but dry and sometimes dusty). The pace of life was slow, the food was good, and we instantly felt relaxed and excited to be in a new culture. We both love to travel and experience new cultures. Well, to make a long story short, we became more and more captivated with this town, with the Mexican people, and the interesting American and Canadian expats. The food was good and not expensive. And, after three days, Pixie felt well enough to navigate the cobblestones. She felt better than she had in years. We began to seriously consider moving there. It had become very obvious to us that living there part time, while maintaining a home in Maine, was not really financially feasible. One of our friends in the Lake Chapala UU Fellowship, Steve Barr, suggested we should "do the math" and determine if we could afford to retire and move to Lakeside. We did, and we determined that we could!

Of course, moving to Mexico had its challenges in addition to its very obvious benefits. First of all, we'd have to leave our family and friends! This would not be easy to do. After all we had a good life in Maine; we both had good careers, a beautiful house, and many people we cared about. Living in Mexico would be difficult: mail service was slow and unreliable, our medical coverage would not work in Mexico, living in a foreign culture would be difficult (especially since neither of us spoke Spanish), and we'd have to get rid of all our "stuff," not an easy task.

Well, needless to say, we took the plunge: we sold our house, gave away/sold our possessions, picked up a vehicle (a Toyota Rav 4) large enough to fit all our remaining possessions. We have a unique opportunity to feel healthy, reinvent our lived at an age young enough to establish ourselves in a new culture, and live, as Thoueau suggested, "intentionally." We went back for ten days in January. Returning confirmed our affinity to the area and to the people. Again, Pixie had her discomfort disappear after just three days. We have found a new spiritual home in the Lake Chapala UU Fellowship. We already have a number of friends in Ajijic. We decided to rent a two BR, two bath house in the west end of the village, on the shore of the lake, about a 25 minute walk from the plaza in a mixed Mexican Gringo neighborhood. We are leaving in about six weeks to make the drive down.

In sum, we find the climate beautiful and therapeutic, the Mexican people caring and family-oriented, the Gringo expats interesting (even though some are a bit crazy), the food healthy, and the expenses easily affordable on our expected income, allowing regular visits back to the US to visit everyone! We are looking forward to hosting our children and their partners next Christmas, and regularly thereafter.

Once we leave on May 15, we will update this blog periodically with photos and news.