Living Abroad in Mexico
True Expatriate Stories
© Ken Luboff, from Living Abroad in Mexico, 1st Edition.
Used by permission of Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.
"Few bordering countries in the world are as different from each other as Mexico and the United States. Mexicans think differently and view the world through a completely different set of lenses than Americans."
In preparing this new edition of Living Abroad in Mexico, Barbara and I have once again had the pleasure of traveling extensively throughout the country we have called home for the past 11 years. For six of those years, we lived in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico's central plateau. Another two were spent on the shores of Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. We now live in a spectacularly beautiful spot, a remote area on the coast of Nayarit.
What a fine decision it was for us to move to Mexico! Yet, it has not always been easy. In this book, I hope to convey our enthusiasm for the life we live in Mexico, while giving a realistic portrait of the difficulties you may encounter living in this complex, often contradictory country. But first, the story of our move to Mexico a lifetime ago:
An ancient proverb says that the cup must be empty before it can begin to refill. Living in a different culture will help empty your cup. Time and openness will refill it with a new richness.
I was like most other people I knew—working hard in a stressed-out world while wistfully dreaming about the day I could stop and retire to some fantasy tropical beach or desert island. In recent years, so many friends had become ill or died that I began having visions of a coworker entering my office to find me with my feet pointed straight up in the air behind my desk, the rest of me dead on the floor.
Finally, at the ripe young age of 52, the opportunity arose to sell the company stock I owned. The moment had arrived! With great excitement and trepidation, my wife, Barbara, and I contemplated the reality of changing the life we had been leading. Would we have enough money? How would we keep from being bored? Where would we live? Would we drive each other crazy?
We decided to give ourselves a month or two away from home as a period of transition into our new life. A friend, Eve Muir, kindly offered us her house in San Miguel de Allende. We accepted and moved to Mexico. Our two-month stay became four months, four became six, and so on. Years later, we find ourselves still living in Mexico, in our own home, and loving every moment of it.
Few bordering countries in the world are as different from each other as Mexico and the United States. Mexicans think differently and view the world through a completely different set of lenses than Americans. You can see this contrast clearly as soon as you cross the border. Mexico's food, music, and architecture are unlike our own. Even the way the people look is strikingly different. These contrasts in themselves are an attraction—in Mexico, we are explorers discovering a new terrain as well as new ideas and points of view. A friend, Chris Smith, sent us a story that helps explain one of the differences in the two cultures beautifully:
An American businessman stood at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico, when a small boat carrying a lone Mexican fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”
The American then asked, “If it took only a little while to catch these fine fish, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The fisherman explained that this catch was enough to support his family's immediate needs.
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then L.A., and eventually New York City, where you would run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”
The American replied, “Fifteen to twenty years.”
“But what then, señor?” inquired the Mexican. The American laughed and said, “That's the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”
“Millions, señor? Then what?” asked the Mexican.
The American said, “Why, then you would retire, of course—move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village in the evenings, where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
In this book, you will find detailed information about health care, money, housing, and working in Mexico, so that you will have a clear understanding of what it takes to make the move. Chapters on history and people will give you insight into the Mexican character and worldview.
In the Prime Living Locations page, I describe four distinct regions in Mexico, with profiled towns and cities where most newcomers to Mexico will wind up living—towns that new arrivals can ease into relatively effortlessly. Each location has a large and well-established expatriate community. Most have English-language newspapers, libraries, volunteer organizations, and clubs, and all have high-quality health and recreational facilities. Each has a unique character and a different mix of foreign residents. Also profiled in each region are several other very beautiful and remote towns and cities with small—sometimes very small—foreign populations. These descriptions may whet the appetites of the more adventurous among you.
But non-Mexicans live in every corner of the country. The towns and cities described here are only the tip of the iceberg. You might arrive at the most remote mountain villages only to run into residents from Europe, Canada, the States, and other parts of the world. A good friend, an American woman about 45 years old, lives happily on a 20-acre farm in the state of Michoacán with her French boyfriend. Another old friend and his wife are building a house on a remote beach in the state of Jalisco. Other artist friends live in the heart of Mexico City.
If you and your family are looking for an unparalleled cultural experience, or you want to escape the winter blues, Mexico is a superb choice.
In 1994 Ken Luboff left a job he had worked for almost 25 years. He and his wife, Barbara, decided to give themselves a month or two away from home as a period of transition into a new life. A friend kindly offered her house in San Miguel de Allende; they accepted and moved to Mexico. Their two-month stay became four months, four became six, and so on. They lived in Mexico for more than ten years and loved every moment of it.
In their early years of living in Mexico, it was natural for Ken to write regular updates of their adventures to friends and family. It soon became obvious that most people couldn't understand their attraction to living in “such a dirty and dangerous country.” As a response to these erroneous opinions, Ken decided to write the definitive book about relocating, retiring, and living well in Mexico, thus Live Well in Mexico was born in 1999, laying the groundwork for Living Abroad in Mexico.
Although Ken and Barbara knew Mexico well from nearly 30 years of travel in all parts of the country, writing the book gave them a perfect excuse to spend six months on the road exploring all of the country's nooks and crannies, meeting wonderful people, and taking extensive notes along the way. Over the years they lived in San Miguel de Allende, Ajijic, and on the Pacific Coast in the state of Nayarit. They never regretted for one moment their decision to live abroad in Mexico. Ken passed away in 2005, shortly after completing this book. Barbara continues to live in their home in Mexico.