One reason I compiled my book, “Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats”, was that I realized we all have the same questions about moving to Mexico.
I’ve learned that there’s no one way to make your expat dream a reality; with more than 1.5 million American expats living in Mexico, everybody did it differently, with their own style, timetable and priorities.
In 2008, Dianne moved to Mexico with husband Greg and their fifth-grade son. While the “where” was easy (they already owned a vacation condo in Mazatlán) leaving the U.S. for good wasn’t.
“After heartfelt discussions and lots of soul searching, we made the decision to move,” she said. “It was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make and involved us listening deeply to one another’s hopes and fears, clarifying our values individually and as a family and exploring various strategies for achieving our goal.”
It took Cat and her partner 15 months to donate or sell a combined century’s worth of acquisitions and retire to San Miguel de Allende.
“We learned all we could about emigrating to Mexico, read expat blogs and researched where we wanted to land,” she recalled. “We became excited about learning Spanish, immersing ourselves into a new culture, living on less and having more time to enjoy each other’s company, create art and travel.”
Norma put together a “transition plan” for when she retired so her move to a small village outside of Oaxaca, where she’d visited for years and had close friends in the local community, was as easy as possible.
“Did I anticipate the pitfalls? No. Would I have done anything differently if I had? Still no,” she laughed.
All. That. Stuff.
It’s shocking how much “stuff” we accumulate; chances are your closets, cupboards and drawers are full of all sorts of things you haven’t used in ages. Downsizing is a must.
As they prepared to move from South Carolina to the Yucatán, Wendy and Heath realized taking everything to Mexico wasn’t possible.
“Look around your home; what’s precious to you? It was time to re-think what ‘precious’ meant,” she said. “The taking-it-to-Mexico list began to get very short.”
They put a few things in storage (“Just in case!”) and packed their vehicle around the space needed for their two dogs. Wendy numbered clear plastic totes and made lists—in English and Spanish—of all the items they’d packed along with their value in dollars and pesos.
When they arrived at the Laredo border crossing, the checkpoint guard checked their passports and asked them to open the back of their truck.
“He looked in and said, ‘That’s a lot of stuff!’ Then he read through the list, glanced around the bed of the truck and sent us on our merry way,” said Wendy.
Virginia describes “the deep dive” into their possessions—“an emotional and time-consuming proposition”— that she and her wife did before they moved to Puerto Vallarta.
“We classified everything one of three ways,” she explained. “Things we were definitely moving with us, things we were on the fence about, and things we were getting rid of.”
As time passed, they became more disciplined (or more panicked). “Thoughtful consideration gave way to snap judgments about what to keep and what to toss.”
Virginia’s advice? “Ask all your friends over and give them first dibs on your stuff. If you feel OK about giving it away, do. If you want something for it, make them a fair offer.”
Do your best to keep an open mind about how things might be done differently than you’re used to, even if you can’t understand why. Those who’ve done it—myself included—say that no matter how much you prepare, there will still be surprises, even years down the road.
Gayla chose Lake Chapala because it seemed like a good place to “get her feet wet.”
“It has a great base of expats which would make it a good place to begin my new life and become familiar with the language and lifestyle,” she said.
In the last two decades, Nancy has seen lots of changes that make life more comfortable and convenient, including easy video calling on many platforms and Amazon Mexico. And she’s found handling monetary concerns with a U.S. bank while living in Mexico to be “a piece of cake.”
“We expats have to learn the system and go with the flow, from dealing with the immigration system to signing up for utilities,” said Glenn, a 20-year resident with home in Mazatlán and San Miguel de Allende. “Living in Mexico has been a wonderful journey that still delights me and keeps me on my toes.”
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