Picking and Choosing
Once I had decided that I would take a leave from ministry and pursue my long-delayed dream of living outside of the U.S., I went online to search out and revisit areas I had especially enjoyed while traveling years ago. I hadn't left the country since 1993 so there was little doubt that much had changed. It had.
At first I concentrated my search in St. Martin, Belize and Costa Rica. As I mentioned before, St. Martin was my first choice. But the cost of living in St. Martin and Costa Rica had risen until they were higher than I thought I could handle. Costs in Belize had risen, too, but perhaps not so much. After speaking with some others familiar with Belize today, I became discouraged by their feelings that crime targeted at U.S. residents was not vigorously investigated by the local police. That made Belize less attractive and I struck it from my list.
About that time I stumbled on an article on my Yahoo home page about the "Ten Best Places to Retire Abroad." I eliminated countries with cold winters immediately, as well as those in Asia. I knew I wanted to stay closer to the states. After culling the list I was left with Mexico, Ecuador and Panama as the most likely choices.
International Living magazine and it's website had an enormous amount of information and was very helpful to me. What I learned there (and in other searches) convinced me that any of those three countries would meet my needs and my budget. Panama offered the most attractive benefits to seniors, with discounted travel, entertainment and ultilities among other temptations. But I knew the climate in Panama was both hot and humid and I didn't want to live in the highlands, so Panama fell from the list, leaving Mexico and Ecuador as the most likely candidates.
I had visited Mexico previously so I began to look at Ecuador. There were some obvious advantages: low cost of living, great climate (almost a dial-a-temperature climate, depending on altitude), decent medical care and a stable government. I could choose from some terrific options; oceanside, or mountainside--maybe even both! But I ran into two obstacles. The first was distance from the states; doable, but likely expensive. The second was my good friend, Duke, whom I now introduce . . .
Duke is, at the time of this writing, a 21 month old boxer. Leaving Duke behind was not an option. I knew I would never crate him and turn him over to an airline. I had heard far too many horror stories about pet deaths in transit. Ecuador was simply too far to drive. The mere thought of navigating the all the different regulations for transporting pets through each country we would have to pass was the decider. Ecuador was out--despite all its obvious benefits. So it was time to revisit Mexico.
Despite having been in Mexico several times I knew less about it than other places I had gone. In other places I had not gone as a tourist, but as a potential future resident and so sought out information on living conditions. But my trips to Mexico were strictly tourista oriented. I had been to Tijuana in my younger years and to Cancun and Chetumal, but only to party. My best Spanish was limited to "Uno mas cerveza, por favor. Muy frio," and "donde esta banyo." Hardly enough knowledge to use as basis for a decision. It was time to begin digging deeply.
Next: Where to live in Mexico? A Pleasant Surprise.