This morning, from the viewpoint of our master bedroom, I woke up to a spectacular view of Lake Chapala, in the Mexican highlands. There had been a light rain the night before. Scanning past our expansive, freshly mowed lawn with the newly planted palm trees my wife had the gardener position to frame the view, just down the hill from us, I could see the steeple from the church at our local little village rising above the homes as the people from the village emerged to go to work or sweep the streets in front of their little shops.
Across the lake, I could see the familiar and majestic view of what looks to be an extinct volcano, with the usual early morning clouds gently blanketing its higher reaches.
As I write this, it is mid-August and the high temperature today will be 79 with the low 60. Most of the day, it will be around 73 degrees.
As I walk through our home to open the doors for our dogs, I am greeted with the scent of the flowers my wife picked from our garden the day before and arranged into a magnificent display to take to our friend’s home later this evening. During the day, our dogs will luxuriate in the tall grass and my wife will collaborate with one of our extra gardeners who works for us at a rate of 60 pesos an hour (less than USD $3) to help her in her newest hobby: accumulating well-known as well as exotic plants and trees into relaxing, interesting and beautiful arrangements for us to enjoy, a horticultural endeavor not possible in other climates.
Do I have to be fabulously wealthy to enjoy this lifestyle? No, I don’t.
Our rent just increased to a little over $1,300 per month in our gate-guarded community, but includes use of the pool and tennis courts, water, security and trash pickup. For this price, as is the custom here, our landlord also provides us housekeeping and gardening services, which you can really get used to.
Is it perfect living here in Mexico? Of course not. There are lots of aspects of life here that are different than we would like. (For a short list describing some, see the article I wrote, The Top 7 Worst Things About Living in Mexico.)
While most of the expats where we live are retirees, in the interest of full disclosure, I must report that about two years ago, I started a business here moving people to and from Mexico (Best Mexico Movers), which has turned out to be much more successful than I had planned and much, much, much easier than starting or running a business in the US. (Believe me, I speak from personal experience.)
So clearly, moving to Mexico has worked out well for my family and for me.
But would it work out for you?
When people ask me this question (and I get asked it a lot), I start out by pointing out that, while everyone’s experience is unique to them, in general, moving to Mexico is a lot like moving from one place to another within the US, only more so.
Personally, I am a firm believer that people don’t change. Or at least, if you were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to bet good sums of money repeatedly on whether people would change or not, by betting that they won’t, you could become quite wealthy.
That being the case, when considering a move to Mexico, it makes a lot of sense to do an inventory of how you are now, before you move, and assume (it’s a pretty safe bet) that your character won’t fundamentally change. Just like, as we get older, we tend to get the face we deserve (paraphrased quote from George Orwell), if you do move to Mexico, you’ll likely just become more like yourself.
In order to predict if moving to Mexico would be right for you to do, the first thing you must do is a brutal self-assessment. Don’t kid yourself; moving to Mexico is different than moving cross-town. With this difference can come either unhappiness or the greater likelihood of reinvention, if you like that kind of thing. What determines your results will, in large part, be your attitude.
Can living overseas change you? Perhaps a little. But I believe that people who become successful and happy living abroad were pre-disposed to that success and happiness beforehand; that there are (as they said in college) pre-requisites or predicates that need to be in place first, before the move.
As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” There is no better advice when considering moving abroad. In this spirit, here are 13 attributes you may or may not have, but the extent to which you answer “yes” is the extent to which you may want to keep living where you already are.
1. Do you expect living in Mexico to be just like living in the US, only cheaper? (If you move to Mexico solely because it is less expensive but you have problems with all the other parts of living here, you will not be happy, because your perceived negatives of all the other aspects of life here will overwhelm the positives of the lower cost of living. Afterwards, you may stay here in Mexico because you can’t afford to move back, but you will not be happy.)
2. Are you moving toward something or from something? For this question, I credit one of the leading experts on moving abroad, Michael Cobb. It’s a good one. Of course, you need to be running toward something.
3. Do you get frustrated more than you should by lack of efficiency?
4. Do you resist learning or experiencing anything new?
5. Do you expect moving to Mexico to solve unrelated problems? (If you have problems you can’t solve in the US that you expect to be solved for you merely by moving to Mexico or, for that matter, any other place, you are bound to be disappointed. As variously attributed to either Confucius or Buckaroo Bonzi, “Wherever you go, there you are.”)
6. Are you running from the law, tax problems, an ex-spouse, child support or other obligations? (They will probably find you sooner or later, so it is better to deal with these issues while you’re in the US.)
7. Do you get depressed by seeing poor people and can’t look past their lack of money and instead see the richness of their social and other parts of their lives, their humanity and all that makes us more the same than different?
8. Do you need close to constant shopping to make you complete?
9. Are you not willing to even try to learn a few phrases in Spanish?
10. Are you unable to relax, willing to adapt to a slower, easier going pace? (On this one, I have seen people who were extreme Type A change, but they really wanted to, like, for example, after suffering a heart attack.)
11. Are you a pessimistic, glass half-empty kind of person? Do you welcome change, or run from it? Do you look at things that are different to find the good in them with an open mind, or do you naturally look for defects or categorize anything different as “bad”? There can be more than one way of looking at the world so, perceptually, there is more than one truth. What’s yours?
12. Are you not financially secure enough that you do not need to work? (It is not a good idea to expect to compete with the local workforce and make enough money to get by according to your North of the Border standards. However, if you can work remotely for US wages, you will love it here for all sorts of reasons, including the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.)
13. Did you not answer completely honestly to any of the previous questions?
After you have answered these questions, if you are planning to move with someone else, have that person answer these questions for themselves, because if they are not happy living abroad, the chances are you won’t be happy, either. Then, ask them to answer these questions for you. If after this you are still considering moving to Mexico, ask other people to answer for you who know you well who have the courage to tell you the truth and who may be a bit more brutally honest than you.
If everything comes back well, you’ll most likely be happy living in Mexico; just like you would be anywhere else… just more so. Bienvenidos!