The 27 women who wrote for the book are a diverse group in practically every way: why they moved to Mexico and how they planned it, age, marital and financial status, where they live in Mexico, length of time in Mexico, where they came from in the U.S.A. As such, their stories provide a fascinating examination of , well, “why we left.” I’ll be sharing snippets from each of their stories here on this page. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know more! Enjoy! (Click on any picture to enlarge.)
“Just. Like. That.” Gabriella M. Lindsay, Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Gabriella Lindsay’s poignant chapter in “Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats” explains the unexpected event that made her and her husband realize the time had come to do their dream. She and her family are active bloggers; learn more about their lives on their YouTube vlog at https://www. lavidalindsay.com.
“Despite our careers, despite our entrepreneurial ventures, we were still struggling to make ends meet, coming home tired, frustrated and disheartened. What were we working so hard to achieve? The house, the cars, the student loans, everything was a series of bills to pay. This was not what we had envisioned for ourselves. Day in and day out, hustle and grind, lather, rinse, repeat. That is, until reality, in the form of major heartbreak, hit.”
“Sometimes it takes death to realize you’re not really living. My mother’s passing truly put into perspective the idea that tomorrow is not promised and that the “someday” we’d been talking about may never come. We realized perhaps it was time to start living the lives we wanted. The lives we deserved. “
“We had to change that “someday” to today. We had to take the leap and do what we felt in our hearts we needed to do. On October 15, 2016, my family of five boarded an airplane with 10 suitcases, eight carry-ons, a whole lot of hope, excitement and a bit of trepidation and took off into our new lives as expats. We could no longer live wondering, “what if?” We had dreamed about it, we had prayed about it, it was in our hearts to do it and so we did.”
“We left America because we wanted more. We left because we knew that there was something out there beyond the everyday. We left because we wanted cultural experiences for our children that we could not provide in the U.S. We left because my Black husband and our two Black sons needed a chance to live without fear for their lives. We left because our freedom, our happiness, our livelihood and our discovery of self was important to us and we knew that we would not find it where we were. We sought and we found. But we had to leave America first.”
“Falling In Love (Twice!) South of the Border,” Nancy Seeley, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero & Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Nancy Seeley moved to Mexico from Wisconsin in 1995, intending to stay for a three-year sabbatical—but she’s still there. Careful planning and research, and trusting her heart, has created the life she dreamed of for many years. Her story is Chapter 12 in “Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats.”
“I flew to Zihuatanejo with only two suitcases, a backpack, a boombox and a bicycle—leaving most of my possessions behind. I was truly, utterly hooked. The friendly locals, the dependable bathing suit temperatures, the cheap and tasty food, the tropical breezes flitting under cerulean skies … everything suited me to a T, particularly when teamed up with the more sedate pace of life and the lower price tags.
This isn’t to say there weren’t challenges. Back in 1995, life in Mexico was very different than today. My little apartment in a Third World neighborhood didn’t have a telephone, TV, hot water, laundry facilities or air conditioning. I neither had nor wanted a car, and there was no internet. Going for a couple of weeks without either the water or the electricity crapping out was a miracle. Rainy season was challenging given that drains perpetually overflowed. I’d hear a noise at my door, and it would be a pig grunting while slowly lumbering down my dusty, potholed road.
“Just because you love a place initially doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Check it out. Talk with other expats. Approach a potential move with rationality and caution. I was fortunate enough to find that falling in love at first sight with Zihua was indeed the right course for me, but I gave the idea time to gel and did lots of research.”
“With the advantage of hindsight, would I do anything differently? Hmmm … maybe some little details, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy to report a most emphatic NO! Bottom line: America remains my homeland … but Mexico is definitely my home.”
“In Search of Connection,” Jan. I Davis, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Jan Davis had wanted to live in another country since she was a child. But it wasn’t until she was in her 50s, and had made multiple visits over many years, that she finally moved to San Miguel de Allende. Jan’s story is Chapter 16, “In Search of Connection,” in “Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats.”
“It wasn’t a simple decision to leave the U.S. I was worried that I was thinking “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” and I was afraid of leaving the comfort of my home, my nest, in Portland, Oregon. But it was time. A comment made by a good friend helped me gain clarity about my decision. “
“You go to San Miguel de Allende to disconnect,” she said at a dinner gathering.
“No,” I mused. “I go to connect.”
“I realized then that I just felt happier, more myself, in a country where the people—and the climate—were warmer. And my curious and empathetic nature yearned for relationships with people unlike me. San Miguel isn’t perfect. But for the moment, it’s where I’m supposed to be. The lifestyle here is providing the space and lots of opportunities to grow, and I feel lucky to live here. And if I move on one day, I doubt it will be back to the U.S. because now I know how it feels to be connected.”
“Home Is Where The Heart Is,” Carole Muschel, Guanajuato City, Guanajuato and Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Why live in just one beautiful Mexican city when you can live in two? Here’s an excerpt from Carole’s chapter in the book. “My husband and I made multiple trips to Mexico to see if life there would meet our dreams, visiting the Yucatán, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Puebla, Mérida, Veracruz, Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo, searching for “our” place. We spontaneously fell in love first with Mazatlán, and then with Guanajuato. We didn’t investigate the neighborhoods or what it took to live in Mexico—we just followed our hearts.”
“Guanajuato is a very cultured city with a famous university, an international music festival, many beautiful old theaters and interesting museums. Downtown is barely five streets wide in a ravine surrounded by high hills, decorated by colorful buildings stacked haphazardly up every possible side. The views were everything I’d imagined; Guanajuato looked like photos of Italian mountain towns I’d seen in travel magazines. We fell in love with the winding streets, the European architecture and the many lovely plazas. In Mexico there are designated Pueblos Magicos, “Magical Towns,” and Guanajuato is justifiably one of them.”
“We found a rental home up on the panoramica, with magnificent views looking down at the city and across at the opposite hills, to settle in for the summer and fall months. Now, almost 13 years later, we have two residences in our adopted country: Mazatlán and Guanajuato. Our family and friends visit us in both places, so we stay connected to our loved ones. We feel so fortunate to have developed a full life in Mexico. Each time we visit the U.S. we can’t wait to come back home to Mexico!”
“Seeking Paradise” PC Nordhoff Chuburna Puerto & Merida, Yucatan
After considering several other countries, former flight attendant PC retired with her husband to a small village on the Yucatan Peninsula. “Seeking Paradise” is Chapter 19 in “Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats.”
“Our retirement in Mexico began as more of a necessity than a spur-of-the-moment life choice. I knew we’d have to continue working until we were 70+ just to get by if we decided to stay in America. At that time, our “lifestyle” was nothing more than working steadily just to pay the bills and worrying constantly about making ends meet every month. In other words, no real quality of life as we grew older. I felt depressed and desperate every time I thought about the future.”
“We chose Mexico because of the lower cost of living, the proximity to the U.S. and the beauty of the beaches. I visited Mérida, thrilled and ready for adventure. I toured the Mayan archaeological sites, viewed the famous cenotes (natural pools filled with crystal clear groundwater), explored the city, visited museums and sampled the Yucatán cuisine. With my husband’s agreement I purchased a small beach house in the quaint fishing village of Chuburná Puerto.
When I returned to the States I sold our house, and within four months we sold all our furniture and personal possessions. We literally packed nothing but what fit in three suitcases and flew to our new home. “Crazy!” “Stupid!” “Ridiculous!” “Weird!” “How could you?!” We heard all of these negative comments and more, but nothing deterred us. Sometimes one has to do what the heart tells you to.”
“We slowly adjusted to the sometimes primitive conditions of our quaint little beach house; we brought so little with us our cottage was almost bare. No furniture, no air conditioning, no car, no friends or relatives, unimaginable sun and heat, multitudes of mosquitoes and just the sand and the sea … endless sand and sea. A move to Mexico is not for the faint of heart. But despite all these challenges—or maybe because of them— this is definitely our Paradise and has become, without a doubt, our home.”
“I Call Oaxaca, Mexico, Home” Norma Schafer Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
“I never chose first and foremost to live in Mexico because my retirement dollar would go farther, although that has certainly helped. I chose to live here because I admire the culture, history, art, the work ethic of the people, their ability to innovate and adapt, and to endure despite deprivation and political pressure from El Norte. Here, I feel a deep sense of connection to time and place. This Mexico life has given me the gift of unlimited freedom to create and to manifest my dreams. I’ve learned key life skills by living in an indigenous community, among an ancient people who know more than I do about family and relationships. This is a culture that has thrived for 8,000 years. I figured I had a lot to learn—and still do. ”
“And yet, it’s very important not to idealize or romanticize Mexico and living here. Many of us know it’s easy to fall in love. And, those of us with tendencies to fall hard and fast can make impulsive decisions. We can get in trouble. Did I anticipate the pitfalls? No. Would I have done anything differently if I had? Still, no. I am happy, content and satisfied to call Oaxaca, Mexico home.”
Norma’s Oaxaca Cultural Navigator programs travel throughout Mexico, exploring art history, weaving, natural dyeing, creative writing, photography & more. Contact her at: https://www. facebook.com/normalee.schafer
“Exit Strategy” Lina Weissman, Sayulita, Nayarit
Lina has lived in Sayulita with her husband and son for the past 12 years.
“I don’t think I moved here to change; I moved here to be myself. We’re healthier, more relaxed and less judgmental. I grew up in a Jewish middle-/ upper-class home and lived and worked in the Bay Area. I could not have been more politically correct. My “bubble” consisted of people just like me. Here, I’m exposed in close quarters to people quite different from myself. Maybe they’re not educated, maybe they barely work and maybe they speak a different language. But they’re my friends. ”
“In a world without borders, we’ve raised a bi-lingual, bi-cultural son who feels comfortable in different settings and with different people. Taking yourself outside of your comfort zone helps you learn who you are as you can see which traits travel with you across those borders and which are simply left behind. Chances are the characteristics and traits that follow you in your travels are truly you. When you look in the mirror, there you are. There are certainly other ways to get out of your comfort zone and discover yourself besides relocating to another country. But whether it’s for a year, a week, a day or a moment, try it out!”
“The Constructs We Construct: On Identity, Belonging & Home” Emilia Rybak, Mexico City, Distrito Federal
Emilia’s perspective as one of the youngest contributors to the book is thoughtful, balanced and inspiring. Hers is Chapter 7 in “Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats.”
“To anyone aspiring to travel or live abroad yet hesitating due to fear, social pressure, career norms or any other reason, I urge you to fully listen to that yearning rather than ignore it. Acknowledge those moments of clarity each time they occur. There are so many excuses we can make for being unable to pursue a life abroad, but too often the sole roadblock is ourselves. “
“I’m grateful to have had the background, resources, education and health that enabled me to embark on this journey. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that my viewpoints come from a position of significant privilege. I try to remind myself this is not an opportunity available to everyone, and to therefore make the most of it. I also strive to remain highly conscious of the fact that my parents made a similar move more than 40 years ago out of necessity, whereas I’m lucky enough to pursue it as a lifestyle choice. “
“I think that those who have the privilege and opportunity to live abroad, even for a short time, should absolutely take advantage of it. Really. Don’t just seize the day, seize the world! And I’m beyond convinced that aside from being a fun adventure or unique learning experience, this journey has helped shape me, and countless other expats, into more informed, empathetic and empowered global citizens. Perhaps it may be too idealistic, but I think living, working or just traveling abroad are some of the best ways to reduce ignorance, enhance empathy and spark action to combat some of the world’s most important issues.”