Category Archives: Moving to Mexico

The Importance of Being Earnest

Lady Bracknell: “My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality.”

Jack: “On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”

If you haven’t seen this Oscar Wilde play-turned-movie, rent it for your next movie night at home and be prepared for some laughs! This comedy is set in 1890s London. Two friends use the same pseudonym (“Ernest”) for their on-the-sly activities, which result in confusion and the possibility of losing the women they worked so hard to win over. Ultimately, they both understand the need for earnestness (honesty).

New Beginnings

Another beautiful sailing day in San Carlos

A few days ago, I was thinking of the earnestness these protagonists came to value while thinking about our life here in Mexico. We originally came in 2010 with the intention of rebuilding our lives together after both having gone through divorces. We wanted to have a new beginning and start our own family. We also wanted to escape the “rat race” living of the U.S. and be able to travel.

Before we met in 2009, my husband, M., had the desire to buy a sailboat and live a cruisers life. He hoped to eventually travel down the west coast of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Mexico, enjoy the Caribbean, then perhaps even sail to Europe.  Most importantly, he wanted to do it all with a woman that loves adventure and also wanted a family.

After much research, he found that there were many benefits to moving to San Carlos, such as a lower cost of living and a huge sailing community of North Americans. Since M. works by phone and internet, he can virtually work anywhere. So, San Carlos was the next stop for him. The first time we met, he talked about his idea. As you know, I jumped on board and after over a year of dating, we made the move to Mexico and got married.

Now, after two years, we have a fantastic marriage, a little tyke of one year, and another baby on the way (due March 2013)! We have a 39′ sailboat, a 37′ motorhome, and many wonderful traveling experiences. We’ve enjoyed building friendships with people from all over the world.

Family Time vs. Travel Time

We’ve had relatives and friends visit us in Mexico, and have spent many hours driving/bussing/flying to visit them in the U.S. Here’s a typical vacation:

  • Drive seven hours to Tucson (or an additional two hours to Phoenix), AZ
  • Spend the night at a hotel
  • Fly to Spokane, WA or Dallas, TX or southern CA
  • Enjoy several days with family or friends
  • Fly back to Tucson (or Phoenix)
  • Spend the night at a hotel
  • Drive around like maniacs and spend A LOT of money shopping for everything we can’t get in Mexico, from clothes to household items to food
  • Spend another night at a hotel
  • Drive seven (or nine) hours back to San Carlos
  • Fall into bed exhausted
  • Wake up to a house full of purchases that need a home in our home

Essentially, every vacation turns into four travel days, one shopping day, and however many more days M. can afford to not work in order to actually be with the people we are traveling to see. Most of M.’s family lives in Spokane, WA and my parents live in Dallas, TX. The rest of our family and friends are in southern CA and Colorado Springs.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take a trip up to Spokane this summer as originally planned, so M.’s Mom will not see her grandson until Christmas, which will be an entire year from last time. Thankfully, my family has been able to travel to see us several times in the last couple years, both in Mexico and the U.S. this summer (July 2012), but we likely won’t see them for another year until next summer.

Camping with my family in Flagstaff, AZ

We’ve been feeling an aching in our hearts that’s been growing stronger since the birth of our son. And we’ve had to be honest with ourselves about who and what is really important in our lives. We want our kids to grow up knowing their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. We want them to experience family gatherings, especially during the holidays. We want them to have other kids to play with regularly. We want them to have opportunities in the future for education that are not available here.

So, we’ve been rethinking our lives in Mexico and we’ve decided to make a move. Literally. We are moving back to the U.S. next summer and once again redreaming our lives!

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Filed under Life Journal, Living in Mexico, Moving to Mexico, Travel

Stuff … easy come, easy go

Our friends just rented a beautifully furnished home with an amazing view of the Sea of Cortez for the last few weeks they are here in San Carlos. (They had to move out of their previous rental due to a sewer blockage). I saw it for the first time tonight when we went for dinner.

The owner has created a ‘cross wall’ in the dining room – one wall covered in a fantastic collage of various shapes and sizes of crosses. Beautiful and comfortable furniture invited me to relax while the tall, chunky candles on the coffee table cast a warm glow around the living room.

I absolutely loved the decor and would so love to live in a house like that. But at the same time, I absolutely do not want to own a home right now, or spend the money and time needed to decorate it. I am surprised at how content I’ve been to rent a furnished home for the last ten months. I have not purchased a single item of decor, furniture, or household goods the entire time we’ve been here (unless you count light bulbs).  Wait … I did purchase one inside and three outside plants, since there were empty pots available to use, as well as material to sew thin curtains for M.’s office to cut the glare.

In less than two months we’ll be moving to another furnished rental home and preparing for our first child. I do plan on buying some baby furniture and a small desk, but nothing else is needed. After so many years of wanting my own home and being envious of others, I’m now so relieved I haven’t ever owned a home.

When M. and I moved from Colorado to Mexico last June, we  sold, gave away, or threw away about 80% of our belongings. Furniture, plants, clothes, dishes and other kitchen items, tools, knick knacks, rugs, beds, TV’s and stereos … stuff. I spent about three or four months posting things on Craigslist, giving things to friends and making Goodwill runs, and filling up the trash bins. I do wonder how much money I spent on all the stuff that I no longer have – or even remember I had! (Actually, I do have several boxes stored in a friend’s garage that we will be getting this summer. That means going through the process one more time!)

I admit, I’ve never been great at decorating, so my heart certainly wasn’t broken to see everything disappear slowly while waiting for the countdown. Anticipating my future adventurous new life made the stuff I had seem less important and less necessary.

Our goal was to bring only what could fit in, or on, our cars. M. did pull his motorcycle on a trailer and we packed a few bins full of stuff and strapped it to the top of his truck (see this post for photos). So, with a mini-SUV, an old Bronco pulling a new motorcycle, our stuff, and our dog, we headed down to Mexico.

Many people asked both M. and I if we were going to put our stuff in storage – because we certainly needed to have it, right?! (I really don’t think people thought I had the most amazing home decor that they couldn’t imagine me living without it. Were they assuming we wouldn’t like Mexico?)

Let’s just say that M. and I had decided to keep our stuff. We could have packed up everything and trucked it over to a climate controlled, inside storage unit of 150 sq. ft. for $138/month. That means … for a mere $1,656/year we could hang on to our furniture,  clothes, dishes and other kitchen items, tools, knick knacks, rugs, beds, TV’s, and other stuff. During that time we would live in Mexico, have fun adventures together, buy a sailboat and learn how to sail, and travel for part of the year.

At some point, we would need to go back to Colorado, unpack the storage unit and decide what to keep, what to sell, and what to throw away. Would that be perhaps two years later ($3,312) or maybe even five years later ($8,280)? Personally, I’d rather take a trip to Europe than store a couch and a bunch of boxes in a closet that I have to pay for, while forgetting what I even put in there to begin with!

I’m sure that we will purchase a home at some point – and fill it up with, well, stuff. But for now, we are both content and excited for our adventures together. And for us, that means having a mobile lifestyle.

Our bodega (Spanish for storage area) in our rental home.

See, we still have stuff!

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What does it cost, really? – Pt. 2

If you read part one of this blog, you would know that M. and I talked a lot about our budget and what living in Mexico would cost, before moving here. Turns out, we were fairly accurate.

Here is a more detailed break down of our expenses:

The basics:

  1. Food – $375/month for groceries and $200/month for eating out. You could easily spend a lot more or a lot less (eat out more or have your own garden).
  2. Clothing – We buy all our clothes in the U.S. I’m an avid second hand store shopper, so clothing can be quite cheap. Also, we live in a beach community, so casual clothes for warm weather are really all you need.
  3. Shelter – Our current rent is $600/month for a large 1 bedroom “casita” on the basement floor of a house (see part one for a photo collage of our place). It has 2 bathrooms, an office, den, living room, large kitchen, laundry area, and two large walk-in closets (we use one for storage of our stuff), and a pool. The gardener/pool guy comes twice a week and is included in our rent. And utilities have been an average of $300/month including phone, internet, propane, electric, water, and a once-a-month housekeeper (required by our landlord).

Other expenses:

  1. Household – $45/month for household goods and bathroom items that are not part of the grocery money (paper products, toothpaste, light bulbs, etc.).
  2. Cell phone – $20/month for one Mexican cell phone. (There are more expensive and less expensive plans.)
  3. Gas – $100/month for a ’96 truck, an ’04 mini SUV (a.k.a. a wanna’-be SUV), and an ’06 motorcycle. This budget does NOT include any trips we take to the U.S.
  4. Gym membership – We are both avid exercisers, so an expensive membership to the new gym in town is something we’re willing to spend money on. There are many options, but we spend about$82/month. (We like to think of it as preventative health care 🙂 )
  5. Entertainment – For $35/month we have movie nights about once a week (more in the summer to escape the heat!). There is a large new cinema in Guaymas (20 min. away) that plays (mostly) new movies in English with subtitles (and movies in Spanish with no subtitles). Great for learning Spanish!
  6. Various other costs – $43/month
  7. Other – haircuts ($8-$20), debt payments, travel costs, food purchased while in the U.S. and brought down (or in bulk at Costco/Sam’s in Mexico), boat equipment, car maintenance, etc.

Therefore, our total average cost of living is $1800/month for two adults.

This DOES NOT include any travel costs, car maintenance, clothing, debt, boat equipment, or items purchased online or while in the U.S.

So, that’s $21,600/year.

As stated in part one … Obviously, you can spend more, or less, depending on your choices. We will be having a baby in August (more to come on that later), so our expenses will increase. We have, however, found a lovely 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom furnished home to rent for $450/month, with approximate utility costs at $150/month. That’s a savings of  $3,600/year compared to our current rent and utilities.

So, for next year, we anticipate our living expenses to be only $18,000.

I’d say that’s pretty inexpensive for ocean front living! And San Carlos is full of things to do. We enjoy beach walks, ocean swimming, kayaking, sailing, boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, cycling, running, parties, relaxing, community activities such as walks/runs and concerts, eating out, meeting new (and very interesting) people, and spending time with friends.


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Filed under Finances, Moving to Mexico

What does it cost, really? – Pt. 1

M. and I talked a lot about our budget and what living in Mexico would cost, before moving here. Turns out, we were fairly accurate.

Having both moved from southern California to Colorado, where you get more bang for your buck, we wanted to continue on the road toward financial freedom by moving somewhere we could live well below our means, which would allow us to travel.

So, what do we really need to live and enjoy life?

  • Some would say, the basics – food, clothing and shelter (ie. a garden, two changes of clothes, and a tent).
  • Others would say, the comforts (ie. high-end restaurants, Rodeo Drive, a 6,000 sq. ft. home in Newport Beach and a sports car or two).

Then there’s the rest of us … the in-betweeners. M. and I asked ourselves what we wanted and what we were comfortable with, and here’s where it led …

This is our furnished rental home in San Carlos, Sonora, a Mexican seaside resort community (the header photo is of the beach looking toward our house).

We moved here in June 2010. San Carlos is 250 miles south of Nogales, Arizona, on the west coast of mainland Mexico overlooking the Sea of Cortez. The population of 3,000 swells to 7,000 residents during the winter months, of which 70% are American and Canadian.

It is not the least expensive option in Mexico, but it has everything we want:

  • plenty of sailboats for sale (and sail!)
  • oodles of people around to teach us to sail (San Carlos is a hurricane hole, so many cruisers start and end their cruising season here, or live here most of the year)
  • easy access to the U.S. by land (a 7-8 hr. drive north to Tucson, AZ)
  • a familiar culture for an easier transition (lots of gringos around)
  • plenty of furnished apartments/condos/homes of all sizes to rent (think, snowbird community)

(I’ll have to talk more about these things in future blogs, including our preparation to move to San Carlos, but for now, I’ll focus on the money side of things.)

So the question is:

What does it actually cost to live here?

For food, rent, all utilities, household goods, a Mexican cell phone, car fuel, a gym membership, entertainment (movie nights), and random small items, we spend an average of $1800/month for two adults.

This DOES NOT include any travel costs, car maintenance, clothing, debt, boat equipment, or items purchased online or while in the U.S.

So, that’s $21,600/year.

Obviously, you can spend more, or less, depending on your choices. We will be having a baby in August (more to come on that later), so our expenses will increase. We have, however, found a lovely 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom furnished home to rent for $450/month, with approximate utility costs at $150/month. That’s a savings of  $3,600/year compared to our current rent and utilities.

So, for next year, we anticipate our living expenses to be only $18,000.

But, life isn’t just about money. To quote from another blog:

“Still, money can’t buy happiness. Friendship and community – true community – don’t require money. It can exist in the most remote of places amongst people with nothing to give or share than themselves. At the end of the day, this is what’s important, and if there is an escape from the Rat Race, surely it comes from just stepping off the wheel and spending some time with those we care about.”

We have found an amazing community here. Things have become less important and people (including ourselves) more important.

Giving up and selling many of our material possessions is allowing us to pursue our dreams. What are yours?

Read part 2 for a more detailed list of our expenses.

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Running away from ‘Comforts’

Yes, I admit, I do miss many of the ‘comforts’ of home.

  • I miss health food stores.
  • I miss having so many (healthy!) restaurant choices that I never get bored of eating out.
  • I miss bookstores and coffee shops.
  • I miss clothing stores and second hand stores.
  • I miss the convenience of having anything I want within a 30 minute drive.
  • I miss dark chocolate
  • I miss hiking The Incline
  • I miss my family and friends, most of all!

Of course I miss my family and friends! They can never be replaced by other people. Everyone is unique and touches a particular part of our souls. But, I’m not focusing on people right now, I’m just talking about modern and material conveniences.

I was reading a blog last night that mentioned a book by Jerri Nielsen called Ice Bound. The blog went on to describe Jerri as “a doctor who volunteered to spend a winter at the south pole – a life on the very edge of existence where thin air and extreme cold were a constant threat to body and mind. Jerri was able to find people who appreciated her for who she was rather than what she looked like or how much money she had.”

And I love this next part:

“When your life is defined by simply whether or not you’re still alive, and what you can contribute to the society, a strange thing happens. Walls break down. Barriers are destroyed, and your soul can be free.”

Now, I certainly love a hot shower and a blow dryer as much as the next gal, but I’m finding that I’m missing things less and less as we continue to live a simpler life that is below our means. Ironically (or not), we feel less burdened by not having stuff or having to maintain stuff, or thinking that we need more stuff!

Funny, I used to be so envious of friends who had beautiful homes with great decor and pretty gardens. That was probably one of my greater aspirations – to own a home. Now I’m so thankful that I was never able to purchase (well, be in debt on) a home. Not buying a home in California allowed me to move to Colorado. And not buying a home in Colorado allowed me to sell most of my belongings and move to Mexico to start a new life.

(I realize my lifestyle may not be the right choice for everyone – and many home owners are very happy – but I’m confident that it is the right choice for us. Besides, isn’t this blog about my experience?)

M. and I moved here with only the items that could fit in (and on!) our cars. There are a few small things I would like to have that I got rid of … like an electric hand mixer and a waffle maker … but really, I can buy them again for cheap! And as far as the list above goes, well, I’m just learning to live without those things. Honestly, we aren’t without most of the modern and material conveniences anyway. Hot running water, a comfy home to live in, a pool in our backyard, plenty of restaurants, our cars, lots of clothing stores (that I haven’t shopped in) and even a Walmart (that I shop often in!) … and more.

Now, concerning people … I’m thankful for planes, buses, and automobiles that get me back to my family and friends for visits a couple (or more!) times a year.

So, after running away from many of the comforts of “home,” I have discovered that I am quite content without them.

I think my soul is becoming a little more free everyday.

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Filed under Life Journal, Living in Mexico, Moving to Mexico