We are back in the Lake Chapala region, near Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. You may recall that in January 2016 we embarked on an adventure to get up close and personal with the Mexican culture, avoiding the tourist areas along the coast but opting for inland mountains. We were testing the immersion experience and hoping that our language acquisition would flourish. It was a great experience and I would invite you to read Part One if you haven’t already.
While on our trip in January, we began to imagine ourselves living in the area we were visiting. We had met some other folks who had done that very thing, and they were very encouraging. So, following our trip in January, we prayed and spoke with our financial adviser.
We have been given the green light to retire, and retiring abroad is what we can afford to do now, rather than wait for up to eight more years to be able to retire in the United States. Given that choice, we have decided to move forward with an international move.
So much has happened between the time we visited in January to begin preparations for moving to a new country. We’ve moved to a new community before, and that can have its own challenges, but to move internationally has really stretched us and caused to us take account of all of our possessions — downsizing, researching the rules regarding importing our belongings, etc. Both of us have continued to learn the language with a new motivation.
Now, to fast forward us to August, we are on our trip to pick our future home. Again, we have immersed ourselves into a culture that is a bit new to us. While we have had very dear friends who are of Hispanic origin, it is quite a different story to be in a neighborhood surrounded by folks that don’t speak English.
These are beautiful people who have a history I dream of learning about. Their life may appear simple on the outside, but on the inside they are just as vulnerable to the situations of life as I am. That really resonates with me. Their struggles may look a bit different from what I’m used to, and that is just part of the learning curve. My biggest fear is that I will do or say something that is not “culturally” appropriate, without knowing I have done so. Again, our learning curve is about to begin.
Just a few short days ago, we made the decision that will affect the next six months of our life. After looking at 10+ properties for rent, we decided on a beautiful casa (house) in Chapala, Jalisco, which meets all our needs, including a yard for our dogs, and falls within our budget. It also provides us with Mexican neighbors to get to know and love.
We looked at other properties that would have put us in gated communities, side by side with other Americans, and we discounted that. For example, one tempting home was a little more than we could afford and would have put us apart from the real Mexico behind a 24-hour security guard protected gate. We don’t need that kind of luxury to be happy. Sure, the luxury did tempt us greatly, but I have found peace that living within our means is the most sensible choice.
With that big decision behind us, it’s time to finish up the plans for our move. It’s kind of like putting the big rocks in the jar first, and then filling it up with sand. So many of the things we have left to do relied upon the property we selected; for example, now that we know the size, location, and state of furnishings, we can make decision about what to bring with us. The big rock is in place, and now we begin to put other details in place.
Other details you need to consider when moving abroad include: cell phones and keeping contact with loved ones back home; internet or wi-fi to stay connected as we are accustomed (or in our case to keep our businesses running); utilities, water (both for the household use and for consumption); mail service, and proximity to grocery stores, healthcare insurance, medical/dental facilities, and the list goes on. One great resource we have found extremely helpful in sorting through these questions is Live & Invest Overseas.
While many of these “details” are similar to things you would take care of when moving to any new community, doing so in a different culture and/or country may pose some challenges. When in the states, it is very common to ask a friend for advice, such as “what is the name of your doctor, and do you like them?” I am hopeful this is the case for us in Mexico, too. I do know from experience that people in our new community love to share what they “think”, but I have to remember it may not always be what they actually “know”. A little difference that has at times sent us to the opposite side of town when asking directions.
What has been helpful for us is to make charts to compare and contrast the different options available. For instance, when we did this for cell phones, we discovered that what we originally thought might be the best option for us, actually turns out to be the most expensive. But by using this visual exercise, it has become clear that a less expensive alternative may really be the best in the end.
Whatever tool you use to help you decide on the details, or even the “big rock” of finding your retirement home, do your homework. Ask more than one person and investigate what will work best for your situation.
So our immersion experience is not over yet but only beginning. Stay tuned as we will be retiring and actually making the move in October. CONTINUED IN PART 3.