Why We Expatriated

When you finally disclose to close friends and family and then to an ever wider circle of acquaintances that you are going to move out of the good ole USA, the first question almost invariably is Why? You grew up here. You know here. You are rooted here. Why jump ship?

We’ve had to think long and hard on this matter. 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. 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.

Finally, at least for now, we are expatriating for climate. Political climate first and foremost, 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 one such geography in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

So here we are, just starting our adventure.

Thanks for reading and check back with us here for our progress.

All the best to you!


39 thoughts on “Why We Expatriated”

  1. This is great, best of luck down there! Looking forward to seeing you in Florida soon… perhaps we will have to make a trip down to Mexico to visit in the near future.

  2. Bonnie, so sad, but so true. Love you, keep us up to date on this new adventure! May you both find health and peace in your new home.

  3. Where there was utter hopelessness, even pondering a euthanasia party one day, we now have hope. Thank you for pioneering this blog. We will be carefully studying your experiences as they unfold. Sincere and deep gratitude to you both. xo

  4. We are Canadian. We are looking at Chapala as a place to spend two or three months a year and want to give purpose tonite time there. I hear there are several orphanages where we can volunteer. Any suggestions on the best way to proceed would be helpful.

    1. Hello, Indeed there are several orphanages in the area that would be happy to have volunteers. Two suggestions: 1) contact Tom Leonard at info (at) hotelperico.com.mx. This hotel is right next to an orphanage we visited on our exploratory trip. Quite inspiring. Tom will be able to give you good guidance. 2) Contact the local Shriners in Chapala. We know several members. They do a lot of work with children. You might look to contact a Shriner named Perry. He is especially knowledgeable about orphanages. You can find the contact info for the local Shriners in this article. I hope this helps. And hopefully we’ll meet in Chapala.

  5. We are moving to Chapala too! Kids think we lost our minds….. We are hoping it is great and selling everything. Stressing a little about traveling with our 2 Shepherds:( Hopefully we will find accommodations?
    Did you fly? How’s your Spanish? Any advice for us- we leave in a few weeks..

    1. Hello! So glad to hear you are coming down. Yes, we went through the stress of liquidation in the States. We ended up with a (very) small rental locker back there and then nothing but what we could put in our car. We drove here from Wisconsin. You will have no issues finding accommodations. And Chapala is very dog friendly. Almost every day we see a handsome Saint Bernard and two lovely sheep dogs being walked on the malecon. We are both still learning Spanish. I have enough to get by, as long as what I am looking to communicate is not too complicated. Out and about I’ve found that when I am struggling to speak what I need in Spanish, a Mexican angel steps up who translates for me. Do let us know when you are in town. Would be happy to meet up and visit. Welcome to Chapala!

  6. Hi, Just surfing for vacation rentals in the Chapala area and came across your blog. Amen to all you say, you sound like kindred spirits. We plan a trip this fall with the idea to find a long term rental. We are baby boomers from Fayetteville, Arkansas and, coincidentally,my name is Bonita, all my life called Bonnie. I will be following your progress.

    1. Hello, Bonnie, Great to hear. Let us know when you are coming. Would be good to meet up.

  7. Hello,
    My husband and I have over the years discussed living in another country for the very same reasons that you quote above. He speaks Spanish fluently and I speak passing Spanish. My husband is extremely paranoid about safety always fearful that someone is going to break into our house although I don’t see how that could happen as he has our house protected like a fortress. He has long expressed interest in living in Mexico and I know safety will be a top priority. We are both educated with multiple degrees and I would love to teach at a local school or university. We are not wealthy but have the means to live a comfortable life here in the southeast. However, the cost of everything is getting ever higher and the politicians are selling this country down the river. Can you give me your thoughts please? We will be selling our house next year and that will free us from any real obligations and will leave us debt free, but we are reluctant to sever our ties with the U.S. since we are seniors and don’t want to be trapped in a country where we do not know the lay of the land or the laws governing that land.

    Hello, Beatriz,
    Thanks for writing. Without a doubt, your safety concerns are the first question we get asked by everyone when they learn we have moved to Mexico. Just as in the U.S., there are areas in Mexico that it is best for gringos to bypass. The same is true in both the large cities such Guadalajara and small ones like Chapala. The trick, of course, is to learn the areas that are “safe” and those that are not. In most cases, in our experiences, the choices are patently obvious. We encounter strong police and military security presence most everywhere we go. It is routine here.

    Given that you both speak at least some Spanish you have a distinct advantage given that you can communicate with the locals easily.

    We have easy access to the U.S. from Guadalajara, just a two hour plane flight, or, an eleven hour drive up to Laredo, Texas. We do not see any issues with being able to re-enter the U.S. so we are not concerned with that. And definitely, yes, it is wise and prudent to become familiar with the differences in the way government works here, especially regarding law enforcement. We find that the expat community is an excellent resource and there are many Mexican lawyers here who speak excellent English to help when needed.

    In terms of home security, everyone here has that concern. Many dwellings are securitized–high walls, barred windows, multiple locks and the like.

    Truthfully, we feel safer here than we did in the States. And we have found that the locals are very willing to help when needed. There’s a real community spirit here in our experience.

    I hope this helps. My most urgent suggestion is that you and your husband arrive at a list of potential locations you might enjoy in Mexico and then book an extended vacation and scope them out. There’s nothing like boots on the ground, as they say, to discover for yourselves. We chose Chapala because we prefer higher altitudes and a more desert-y feel. Neither of us is particularly fond of living in a water-y environment (such as on the coasts–big benefit too–no earthquakes or tsunamis to contend with). Others only want an ocean view. Different strokes for different folks, as the song says.

    All the best to you both and feel free to write again if the mood strikes.

    1. Took our grandson down there a few years back. Wife would not even consider going. He had practiced Spanish while he helped me in the garden. The Jacaranda trees were in full bloom as we came in to the Guadalajara airport. Only got to spend a week but we both had a really good time. No problemas. Ate Mangos, Papaya, Avocadoes fresh off the trees where we stayed. There was a fellow who raised Chayote squash vines on a trellis so tall a the horses and cows could graze under it. Covered about a quarter acre. Raised some after we got back along with some Opo or Lauki squash,Also Moringa trees all from India. Called Miracle tree because of its nutritional values. Bet it would do good there, since it doesn’t freeze. Thank you for taking time to share your experiences with us.

  8. What time of the year is the best for visit, I can take 10 days off.
    Would it be enough to catch some of the spirit of Chapala?

    Hello, thanks for writing. Ten days is definitely enough time. We were here for a week on our exploratory trip.
    Our approach to visiting was to visit during the weather season that we both felt we would have the most difficulty
    with. For us that was the warmer season, with rain. That’s typically August and September. After September, it’s
    fairly dry and cooler, with evenings dipping down into the high 50s. Days in the high 60s, low 70s. Currently we’re
    having high 60s as the lows and mid 70s during the day.

    Around the Christmas season, you’ll get a real taste of the festival atmosphere. Also, during Mardi Gras in February.

    I would also note that Chapala is more crowded with expats during the winter. Lots of snowbirds who come here from
    November through April. It’s less crowded May through October.

    Hope that helps.

    All the best to you and feel free to write again.

  9. Hello, My husband and I are retiring in May of 2019. We only own right now a motorhome. We plan on traveling to se. Where we are most comfortable, weather wise as well as affordable. We are looking for 70 degree dry weather year round, or somewhat near that vicinity.
    Our concern is Mexico. Is it safe. We found out recently from a dear friend that Chapala is like paradise and is safe.
    Please give us your advice on this.

    1. Hi, Gisele,

      Thanks for writing. Your question is by far the most frequent question we get. See our blog post about it, later today. All the best, Bob and Bonita

  10. Am planning on moving to Chapala area. Can I have my car shipped there or close by for pick up. Or is that not advised? I am a Canadian with an income just under 3K a month, Have friend who vacations there 6 months a year and loves it. What area do you suggest?

    1. Hello, Ray,

      It depends on the visa you use, at least that is our understanding. If you come in on a tourist visa, you would need to drive the vehicle into Mexico and get a permit for it. The max timeframe you can have is 180 days, after which you have to drive back to the border and renew it (both the tourist visa and the car permit). If you get a temporary residence visa, you can again drive the vehicle to Mexico, but you can keep it in Mexico as long as you continue to renew your temporary residence visa (up to 4 or 5 years–not sure which). If you get a permanent residence visa, you can bring a vehicle into Mexico, which I believe you could drive here or have shipped. I would check with an immigration lawyer to be sure. We are using a lawyer here for our immigration needs–Alvaro Becerra. He has been a godsend for us. Providing free advice for legal, immigration and naturalization issues.New clients possible. alvaro100@yahoo.com 333-201-3123 (Number in Mexico). Alvaro speaks English along with Spanish. Hope that helps.

    1. Hi, Gayle,

      On average, I would guess that in Chapala, prices for gringos run about $400 to $600 U.S. for housing. In Ajijic, it’s more like $800 to $1000 U.S. This will get you a nice one to two bedroom place with utilities. You can spend less; you can also spend a lot more. All depends on what is on your “must have” list vs. your “like to have” list. Some insist on gated communities; other insist on U.S. or Canadian standard construction and fixtures. Generally, the more picky and choosy one is, the higher the cost.

  11. Great Blog and read. Where can I find rentals and also what airport to fly into? Would like to come down for a week stay. How’s the fishing in Lake Chapala?

    1. Hello, David, Thank you! The airport is Guadalajara. It’s only a half-hour ride/drive from here. There seems to be quite a bit of fishing in the lake, although I am not a participant, so I don’t really know. In terms of the rentals, you check out message boards here (the physical ones such as at Walmart, Soriana, Poncho’s Market, etc.). Real estate agents do have rentals but they seem to only want people who are ready to rent NOW. Not terribly good for those just looking. I’d also ask around among ex-pats. They’re easy to spot!

  12. Looking for a rental over December holidays for my Canadian husband and me, his American wife. I would like to stay on with him returning for a week in April when we both return to Quebec.
    I have former neighbors from Pensacola living there.
    Love the volunteer service.

  13. Hi, I stumbled upon your wonderful blog while researching a move to Chapala with my retired mother. ( We would like to leave Wisconsin for the same reasons you stated!) . I would like to teach English in Guadalajara and live in Chapala. Mom is concerned about healthcare costs – insurance quotes I’ve gathered seem a bit expensive. Can you provide any information or help in this? We are planning a week long visit this summer to check things out. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi, Sara,

      Thanks for writing. We’re very glad to hear you are going to visit for a week. I suggest you get together with insurance providers here. There are several. I am doing business with Blue Angels.

      That said, my cost is about the same as I would pay for Medicare over the course of a year.

      Many people here self-insure. That is, they pay out of pocket because it truly is shocking how much less medical care costs here (and truthfully for most health issues, how much better the care is here).

      Since we’re talking about costs here, I won’t go into the differences in the way medicine is practiced here. All I’ll say is that I can walk around the corner, see my doctor, spend a half to a full hour with him and then pay him the equivalent of $30 US.

      Some people keep Medicare active and then pay out of pocket here for minor issues and travel back to the States for more expensive issues.

      Hope that helps. All the best to you and your Mom.

  14. Very much enjoying your comments. I am single, semi-retired, (tried retirement twice and wasn’t happy!), and mid seventies. I need warmer weather so I can be more active in the winter. My only companions (besides casual friends) are my canine friends, a lab and a Westie. I tell you all of this because I am wondering about relocating as a single person. Do you have knowledge of any who have done this?

  15. Hello…thank you for your blog. I too am looking to move outside US for same and more reasons. I had originally thought of other countries as I had always thought no place in Mexico would be moderate temp, not realizing mountainous cities would be ideal. Also thought it not be safe, but have learned differently due to more research on the issue. I believe your city would be ideal. I would like to know if there are any affordable retirement communities in Chapala or nearby city, if not? Unfortunately, I will be traveling singly as I know no one else with a passport. So with that being said, I prefer being in community of other expats till I learn Spanish, as know very little. I want to leave US in this coming month of August, 2020.

    Oh yes indeed there are retirement communities at lakeside. Mostly in Ajijic. I haven’t explored any but have read about them. There are several spiritual communities, a very nice Course in Miracles settlement and several others focused on yoga and meditation. There are also several secular communities as well. There are lots of singles here. You’ll fit right in!

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