Why move to Mexico? Why, oh why?

So, I was awake with my eyes closed in bed this morning meditating, sort of, and that question popped into my head  — prompted by thoughts of a project I’m thinking about. Why would I advise anyone to move to Mexico? An honest question, not a challenge of any kind, but an attempt to find out where the true value lies.

cmarket5Our life is not so different here than it is up north on the Island. Except for the climate, which is a huge, huge, huge plus. I’d say that is categorically our number one reason for being here. And we love it. Even though, I’d have to say that April in Cuernavaca can be a bit hot, temperatures have been in the low 30s mid-afternoon for at least several days. Not humid, thank effing god, but still hotter than we prefer. And it also made us thankful for ceiling fans (and the pool, I admit it). We have air conditioners – but haven’t had to go that far yet. So, the climate. Big number one.

And from that comes the next real attraction – the produce and flowers. The fruits and vegetables at the daily Mexican markets are incredible, they really are farm to table. Ditto the flowers. Then you have the big grocery stores, the super mercados. Like Superama, Chedraui and others. Mega, which is generally more mid-scale where Superama certainly has a large gourmet/organic/gluten-free section in most of its stores. And a fantastic bakery and deli. Mega is more utilitarian, but does have electronics, clothes and hardware, among other sections. And is a full grocery store. And here in Cuernavaca, it’s huge. I’d say four to five times the size of other Megas I have been in. I wish there was a City Market here in Cuernavaca (there’s one in DF). But I digress.

cmarket1The access to fresh goods is certainly better than Vancouver Island, because it grows year-round here. The supermarkets are comparable, overall – the Superama to our Superstore up north. That wasn’t the case in San Miguel (the supermarkets are fairly upscale on the Island) but they are pretty even here. A wash is good, Mexico is still up on three fronts – climate, produce, florals.

Our internet is good. We have 10mbps but we can upgrade to 30 if we need it or even 100 (!) But 10mbps seems to work well enough to download Apple TV shows and to use our SlingBox, which is hooked up to Shaw Cable TV. So no problems with that infrastructure, I’d say it’s comparable to the services up north. Actually, a good deal cheaper. We get 260 Mexico TV channels and our internet for just about $40 a month. I think this was $125+ up north. Our home phone line, which included unlimited domestic long distance (within Mexico), plus 1,000 long distance minutes to Canada and the US, plus internet (we have two providers so we can always have internet no matter what as that is how we work) — is about the same price. We each have a pay as you go smart phone that costs us about $10 a month each.

fm1So the bottom line is that for $1oo here, we get services that would cost us $300 – $400 up there ($200 for tv/internet/phone and $50 – $100 each for cell phones, depending on use). Just as well, because our BC Medical insurance costs us $125 a month in Canada and down here our insurance is $300 – $400. So I guess that’s a wash. And down here, the private hospitals are world class. So they are each a wash on quality comparison and they are a wash on price combined. Netflix is a wash, too. We’re still up climate, produce and flowers.

Roads here are good. Traffic can get bad at certain hours, it’s a city after all. But we are just blocks from the quota (the toll road) so we can escape town quickly if we want to go somewhere. Like Mexico City. Or Puebla or Acapulco  – 3 hours to the beach, but Acapulco isn’t the safest right now and we’re not big enough beach people to need a weekend by the ocean just yet. All in all, most things, most service-related things here are equal and I can get just about everything delivered to my door. Labor is a lot cheaper, but that doesn’t really affect us, as we’re not renovating a house right now. For house renos, it’s a big deal. It’s a lot cheaper to do a project here. I’d love to do another project but not this year unless we find something that makes sense in DF.

mountainsofmexicoI keep veering off topic. Climate, produce and flowers are the advantages so far. And the colors – everything is so colorful. The people are happy but that’s generally true of poorer countries — they aren’t so unhappy about what they don’t have because they don’t expect to have it. Chanel who? But back to why move to Mexico… I must say, it was anti-climatic this time. I suppose because it’s old hat now. We wish our friends and family were closer – but they’re slowly booking Mexico time and we’re back north in the fall for an extended visit. It’s not as big an adventure as it was. It’s kinda “been there, done that”. And that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be here, or that there is nothing left to learn and explore. But the unbridled enthusiasm that accompanied our first move has been tempered with experience and perhaps somewhat lower expectations (which is a good thing, always).

lilliesOne thing that drives me nuts in Mexico is the necessity to have help. I’d like to have help the way I had it up north, every two or three weeks, one person comes and cleans the house for 6 hours or so. I can live with that. But most help here works six days a week. The maid who came with this rental house was working six days a week — even though no one lived here (or visited) for two years. The owners live in DF, they have houses in Miami and other places in Mexico, wife doesn’t like this house, and they didn’t even come to Cuernavaca for over two years. But they kept the maid and gardener on full time. We were not interested in having people around six days a week. Not a chance and we told them it was a deal breaker for us (and we were serious – we were ready to move on to another rental).

So, he kept the maid on staff full time (the owner is from a hugely wealthy family in Mexico) but we would only use her one day a week (what he does with her the rest of the week is his call but mostly he just maintains her normal pay I believe, with no further expectation). She’s been attached to the house for almost two decades.  Before we even got here (on the advance trip while I was hooking up internet), they convinced me that in a house this size, we needed her to come for two days a week.  We acquiesced, but only because the pool guys and the gardener also come two days a week so what the hell. So Monday and Thursday, our home is invaded – I just go to the office and don’t come out (it’s a separate building). I get a lot of work done that way, which is the lemonade thing. I knew people in San Miguel who have multiple staff, six days a week. Gives me the heebie jeebies.  They don’t even do their own grocery shopping (or cooking or dog walking). The next house and grounds will be smaller with someone every two weeks to wash the floors and clean the toilets. But that’s probably more a negative specific to this house. A smaller house and the problem is solved.

calasThis is a great house to get our footing from but it’s very hotel-like, not very ‘homey’. Very nice upscale hotel, but we need something funky. I hope our friends and family take advantage of this house — one year only you guys, don’t dilly dally — and then hopefully we’re off to DF where we will certainly have no space to speak of. Probably not even a guest room although we will have an office and hopefully a futon or pull out couch. It will be very different to live in such a small space.

Ok, let’s try another tack. Why Mexico City? That sounds like a much easier assignment. It’s probably our last opportunity to live in a world class city, for one. And by that we mean Paris, NY, London, maybe a couple of others could sneak onto that list. Toronto and Vancouver are lovely places to live, both, but I wouldn’t put them on that list yet. And I say our last opportunity because in another 10 or 15 years, we probably will want to go back to Canada and stay put somewhere (or not – but we may – options, options). But I don’t see us traipsing off to Paris to live after that. Still, I should never say never. Maybe to house sit.

Our DF 'hood

The target neighborhood in Mexico City

Back to Mexico City – the architecture, the history, more museums than any other city in the world, the galleries, the bistros and cafes. There are a million reasons. I never realized I was such a city girl, I must have been missing it (since I left Toronto, that is). And we have ended up, in all fairness, in Cuernavaca due to its proximity to Mexico City and due to not being able to find anything in the city that would suit our budget with dogs. But I was looking from 4,500 km away, online, in a language I am still learning to be fair. In any event, not in a position to make a move there from Ladysmith, really. That’s how we landed in this expansive guest-friendly house until March, 2016. So if you’re coming, get to it. Because you’ll likely get a blow-up single mattress in the next house.

Ok, back to the general question. Why Mexico? We looked at Costa Rica. We only spent a month there but we did drive around, we got to the coast (we based out of a San Jose suburb, in the mountains for the same reason – climate – the coast was humid & hot, surprise, surprise). I have to tell you though, the produce and flowers were even more spectacular. Considerably, actually. At the time, it was our first recon mission. The climate in the mountains was great, good infrastructure was happening early there (2003) for internet and I can only assume it’s kept improving. Their government was stable, their politics are admirable. They have no army, the money goes to education. The downsides: it wasn’t driving distance (really); the food was nothing, and I mean nothing, to write home about; the art & crafts were nothing to write home about. And it too (at least San Jose) was full of pinche gringos (many running online poker sites).

Margot de Taxco

Margot de Taxco

Mexico had the colors going for it, the art, the food. The Costa Ricans had no real indigenous materials to work into art and didn’t develop a strength in that area. We also didn’t really want to have to cross the US, Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicarauguan and Costa Rican borders by car with the dogs every time we moved back and forth (given that we wanted to visit a few times longer term before moving lock stock and barrel) , and it lost out to Mexico in the end. We thought of several businesses we could run from there, even brainstormed with the people at the Canadian embassy in San Jose but nothing came of it. We were younger then, and had more energy. The only business that interests me in Mexico at the moment is the DF condo ivnersion (conversion) idea. That would rock — and we’d have a condo/loft in the city that suited us perfectly – because we’d build it out from bare walls 🙂

There was a James Altucher piece this week that got me thinking. He convinced his wife to take her yoga inspiration blog and turn it into an e-book. She had to heavily edit it, and add to it, bridge it, tie it all in a nice little bow. But she did it, put it on Amazon and has had 20,000 downloads at 99 cents each. And I too believe that 99 cents is the magic number. $1.99 might be ok, but 99 cents is nothing to people. Maybe $1.49. So, I started thinking, this is my 128th blog post. They are almost all this long, and this is over 2,000 words. The average novel is about 60,000 words. I have enough copy for four or five or six books (probably more because I do go on sometimes) – surely if I pick the best parts, I can come up with one okay book. And put it on Amazon. But for 99 cents, $1.49 or $1.99? I’m leaning to the middle one. That’s the next thought. And the cover (very important for an eBook and not the same rules as a hard copy book).

IMG_8773Of course, I do have to do the work and edit the damn thing first. And add in a whole back end about the logistics and cost of living comparisons, a reference guide in the back. Because it should be a how-to as well as an amusing read. What do you think? I’m tossing titles around in my head. Not there yet. I guess I have to do the work first. I’ve downloaded the posts in groups of 3 months. I can probably edit one or two a week – each chapter/section would be 10,000 words (mas o menos) and there would be 10 of them. I think a book with a few hundred pages for $1.49 is a steal if it’s readable.

But I guess I’m wondering who would read it. But on the other hand, it keeps me off the streets and could turn into some passive income. The heavy lifting is done, all I need to do is edit. I’m considering. I have lots of fantastic photos.  I’d have to pay strict attention to the title, needs a little Google and Amazon ‘trending search terms’ research, I’ll need to figure out how to do that. All up my alley, thankfully. And maybe doing that will even help me answer the title question.

Until next time, remember: Canta, no llores.

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