Why We Expatriated?

Mea culpa! A reader asked recently about why we expatriated. I distinctly remember writing our explanation early on in developing this blog and now darned if I can find it. We did response to another reader on this topic and we’re adapting this response into a more robust explanation. So, here goes, why we expatriated.

Today, July 1, 2018 is election day in Mexico. It’s been a noisy and even violent election season. Best of all, we don’t have a dog in this fight. We get to ignore all the rhetoric, all the hub-bub, all the noise. And we, as foreigners, are expressly forbidden to, per the Mexican constitution.

For us, this quietude is totally refreshing. We get to ignore politics. Now, of course, we don’t totally tune out. We need to be aware of seismic shifts in the social, cultural, economic and political landscape. And we are. It has just been so refreshing to be able to pretty much ignore the political circus.

Could we do that in the States? Not hardly. The political environment in the U.S. has grown so toxic in our estimation that it’s creeping into everyday life there in glaring and obtrusive ways. And we got more and more tired of that.

To be sure, the political environment was not the main reason for our expatriation. Still, it was a factor.

Before we pulled the trigger on the move to Mexico, we thought long and hard. It has been a decision years in the making. It has involved a ton of angst and hand-wringing and perplexity. But we needed an answer. Not to satisfy our friends and family, but for us. To know, deep within ourselves, that this decision was the right one at the right time. So, readers, here’s our current answer. Undoubtedly it will morph and re-form and this blog will record those changes. But for now, here is the answer:

We’re boomers, baby boomers that is. Children of the 50s, coming of age in the 60s, the era of hippies and free love and John Lennon crooning Imagine. Maturing in the Me Decade of the 70s, going corporate in the 80s and 90s and entrepreneurs in the 2000s and 2010s.

We grew up in an America that had ideals rather than platitudes. Did we meet those ideals? Heck no, but there they were, sometimes inspiring, sometimes taunting, always in the background and sometimes in the foreground.

We believed, and still believe, in the American Dream. Not the dream of shop til you drop or nuke’em til they glow, but the Dream of a good life for us and a better life for the next generation.

Instead, we’ve watched our elected officials sell us down the river. We recall with not a bit of irony the words of then presidential candidate George Wallace (1968), there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. How sad that his words were so true, even though then we didn’t see it as so. We still believed that our government had our interests at heart. We don’t anymore.

And approaching retirement age, social security and medicare, we have run smack into the awkward truth that healthcare in the U.S. is incontestably broken. This became painfully clear when one of us received the 2018 pricing for coverage under Obamacare. The premium would go from about $75 a month (the premium paid by us–the actual premium was around $650) to $450 a month (with no change in income level). Forgive us for not even looking at the total cost of the coverage. All this and a measly $6500 deductible. The ugly truth was that the cost of healthcare coverage for one of us would be more than our housing cost, all in, per month.

But but but I can hear, healthcare in the U.S. is the best in the world. Sadly, on an empirical basis, it is not. What it is, is by far the most expensive in the world, by magnitudes. We were forced to face this unfortunate truth in making the expatriate decision.

We also expatriated for climate. Political climate, yes, yet physical climate as well. One of us is adverse to the cold; one to the heat. So we needed a geography that would satisfy both. We found that geography in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

Every day I can look at the weather in our former abode in Wisconsin as I sit here overlooking the pool at our rental unit and watch the hummingbirds feed. Here it’s perpetually in the 70s with occasional dips into the 60s during the winter and the 80s during this, the summer. It’s okay, just as in the States, we have air conditioning.

In contrast, in our former abode, we observe temperatures of minus twenty (or lower) in the winter and excessive heat warnings as I write this, in the high nineties during the summer.

Which do we prefer? We voted with our feet.

Finally, for now, work ethic and the balance of life. We didn’t know this until we actually arrived here and got to really know the area and observe the culture here. Wherever we go, we see people hustling, in the sense of being entrepreneurs, doing what it takes to earn a living.

The social safety net in Mexico is thin. So people here turn to making their own way. I know it’s not to everyone’s taste. Everywhere we go in Mexico, we are approached on the street by individuals selling a variety of goods. Candy, tortillas, plastic thingamabobs, flowers, ice cream, pretty much everything that can be carried and sold. Vendors of such goods also set up on street corners and hawk goods to cars stopped at lights.

Can this be annoying? Sure. But, on the other hand, people are making their way here.

And the exchanges here are so pleasant, most of the time. Vendors greet me and treat me as a person, not someone to get rid of as quickly as possible and move on. I like that.

If I say no, gracias to a vendor, they move on without a fuss.

Yes, there is the hustle. And it is mixed with a lovely ethic of family life and caring for people. I keep running into entire families, grandma and grandpa, even great grandma and great grandpa and the sons and daughters and the toddlers and the infants. Everyone is cared for; everyone is cherished.

Does this still exist in the States? Sure it does, yet, less and less it seems as the government takes over more and more responsibility and control. Where is that leading? I don’t know.

I really like what we have found here. And having reduced our material life to a carload, if the need arises, we can move on.

For now, though, and for the foreseeable future, we are loving life here.



3 thoughts on “Why We Expatriated?”

  1. Thanks for your excellent blog. We are coming for a month in January to check out the area with a permanent move in mind.

    It’s great to learn from your experiences.

    Thank you. Glad to know. January is an excellent time to visit.

  2. Hello, Many, many questions- please. Been thinking- 2 yrs~ leaving MT move to Chapala. I’m SSDI, not proud, & not by choice. Been told that the “Cartel” in Mexico basically “owns” many people. I:E: They will protect you, but at cost. Also- If you happen by accident- wrong place, wrong time- witness a homicide by cartel, they know. YOU Will Be “eliminated”; “Terminated”. Is this true?? Scares hell outa’ me! Trying find rental in good neiborhood there; before I move, so its ‘ready’ when I arrive. @ Like find good clean rental of $200- $300 max. How do it? Who, where to contact? A realtor? $300 is 1/3 $$ my SSDI. I now have Humana health insurance. Can I still keep, or get one there cheaper? I pay $80.00 a month!! Can I get internet there? Cost? Cell phones?? Also planning selling my estate when move. Maybe buy travel trailer here? to live in. Anywhere to park it & cost?? Many more questions need know & ask- please. Also, don’t know anything about speaking Mexican. Would this be a problem? Anyway to get your email to ask more questions please?? Thank You

    1. Hello, Herb. About safety here; it all depends on where you choose to live. That is the general vicinity. Here at lakeside (Chapala, Ajijic, Jocotepec and others), we seem to live in relative safety. Sure we read here about murders and cartel activity too. It’s really a matter of staying aware. Just as in the U.S., there are areas in Mexico that are best to avoid. And we do. We’ve never been offered “protection” here. We don’t know anyone who has, either. About securing a rental prior to arrival; that is a true challenge. Most rentals here happen through personal contact and referral. There’s really no centralized way (that we have found) to find rentals; no Craig’s List, so to speak. Rentals for $200 to $300 U.S. can be found in this area. They would definitely be lower-end. The going rate for a nice one to two bedroom in this area is more in the range of $500 to $750 U.S. (Again, our experience so far.) You can contact realtors; there are several on the Web. We’ve been told, but have not experienced, that realtors here want to show properties and get a deal signed ASAP. As far as insurance, so far, we are using pay-as-you-go. We can see a doctor, even a specialist here for $30 U.S. There are insurance agents. Blue Angels is one. Internet is readily available; speeds are considerably lower here than in the U.S. We have premium service and get between 10 and 15MBPS. It works just find for watching Netflix and YouTube. Cell phones: we keep our U.S.-based accounts with Verizon and buy a plan from them which covers Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. You can only get a Mexico-based cell if you have a temporary or permanent residency visa. We are currently here on tourist visas. About trailers: we haven’t seen any here. However, we do see RV’s on occasion, so that is a possibility. I think but do not know for sure that you could find a place to park and live. And language: I knew no Spanish coming here. I was taking lessons using the Duolingo app on my phone. I’ve had no problems. Lots of the locals speak English and most everyone finds a way to communicate even if I don’t know the Spanish and they don’t know English. Please do write us here. I am reluctant to give out my email in such a public forum. Thanks, Bob

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