This is the fourth instalment of a new series interviewing expats across the world. I’ve reached out to expats in different countries to hear why people might choose to move abroad, and how they do it. If you want to know more about moving to a particular country this is the place! If you’re interested in taking part, or want to see a certain place featured let me know!
I love reading other peoples stories about how they took a chance on moving somewhere totally new, and it changed the direction of their life. This weeks interview is with Mar from Testarossa Travel who moved from the USA to Mexico during tough times, and she hasn’t stopped moving since!
I went to Mexico for one day, and it’s somewhere I’d definitely like to see more of. Check out Mar’s interview below about what it’s like to be an expat in Mexico!
Who are you?
My name is Mar, and I am a mid-life mama who quit a high-paying job to travel the world on a “grown-up-gap-year.” I never really stopped. When I’m not traveling I live in San Francisco, California. I started Testarossa Travel to share adventurous, funny, and often humbling (or downright embarrassing) stories to inspire readers to ignore “FearTV” and get out there and see the world.
What made you decide to move to Mexico?
I moved to Pescadero, Mexico, a small pueblo on the Pacific coast at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, almost by accident. I found it when I clicked on a Groupon ad on Facebook ($200 for four nights in a tiki hut on the beach!), and I immediately fell in love with the place. It is 65km by highway — and a world away — from tourist-crazy Cabo San Lucas. The chill, laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals and surprisingly large population of ex-pats from Canada and the U.S. made it instantly feel like home. After my initial four days I went back for a month, fell in with a group of Americans renting a house, and ended up staying for a whole year.
Tell me about the cost of living.
Mexico is a cheap place for us Norte-Americanos, especially these days with the U.S. dollar so strong and the peso so weak. A killer margarita at The Little Lebowski Lounge runs me $80 pesos, or about $4.50. I can get two yummy carnitas from Carnitas de Machín for only $30 pesos, or $1.65. A massage on the beach under Hector’s magical hands sets me back only $500 pesos, or $27. Housing runs from $300/month for a 1-bedroom casita to $1000 or more for a big 4-bedroom house – higher than that on the beach, obviously.
How do you make a living?
I’m lucky. I sell software, so my only requirements are internet, phone and living an hour or less from an airport. During my year in Mexico I was a senior executive in a software startup and I managed my sales team from Mexico. Some days it was hard to work while the beach beckoned, other days it was hard because the internet is slow (5mbps on a good day). For those looking for local work, there is a process to get work papers that requires the worker to be sponsored by an employer. If you leave your job you need to be re-sponsored. If you become a citizen you can work anywhere.
Do you need a visa to live in Mexico?
Citizens of the US are granted a 180-day visa on arrival. (Migrating Miss note: There are several different Temporary Resident and Working Permit visas for Mexico for different nationalities as Mar mentions above. Make sure you check out your options thoroughly!)
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
It was a rough period in my life, so Pescadero and its people hold a special place in my heart for helping me heal. There are a few hundred ex-pats from the US and Canada who live there, and they took me in like family. Fewer than 1,000 natives live in Pescadero, so except for the highway that runs through it, the town is all dirt roads. The people are simple and humble, and their daily stresses are over real things, like can they afford to buy protein this week. And yet, they always greet friends and strangers alike, with a smile.
I love the small-town community atmosphere where everyone helps each other out. See someone’s car stuck in the sand? Better stop to help, because next time it could be me. Once I stopped on the highway to change a flat, and in less than two minutes a stranger stopped, changed it for me, and refused any payment. I never pick up hitchhikers at home, but I do it all the time in Mexico and I’ve met the coolest people that way.
What’s the best thing about living in Mexico?
It’s the wild, wild west, baby! You’re on your own and anything goes. For example, the legal blood alcohol level is .4%, which is essentially “you’re dead from alcohol poisoning.” It’s a nice break for those craving freedom from our governments over-legislating everything. Plus the weather is great (except summer) and it’s affordable.
What’s the hardest thing about living in Mexico?
Oh, the stories I could tell! Living in Mexico and dealing with the incompetent phone company, friendly but corrupt police, confusing dirt roads, and donkeys on the highway at midnight prepared me to travel the rest of the world with ease. I got used to dirty feet and endless insects. I acquired an affection for hand-washing my dishes and hanging my clothes in the sun to dry. I discovered how to drive on unmarked, unlit, rock-infested dirt roads without getting (too) lost.
I would say the worst thing about living there, though, would be August and September. Hot, sticky, humid, buggy, and anyone with enough money to leave is gone, so it gets lonely. Oh, and unmarked “topes,” or speed bumps. Those are the worst, and they’re everywhere.
If we had just one day in Pescadero what should we not miss?
Don’t go for just one day. But if you do, have a giant mango margarita at Art & Beer, then go watch the surfers at Cerritos Beach, then grab a White Russian and great conversation at The Little Lebowski Lounge.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to live in Mexico what would it be?
Leave your drama where you came from. If you’re moving there, it’s because you want to slow your pace and live cheaply, and there’s a price for that. So embrace the change and adjust your expectations accordingly.
The TelMex guy may or may not show up to fix your internet. The neighbors will go through your trash. People will drive down the highway with horses in the back of their pickups, at night, with no tail lights. It’s their culture, and you’re the visitor. Be grateful for the opportunity to live in paradise.