There are gaps in this narrative. I’m trying to fill them in, but it’s slow. My original concept of moving to Mexico to retire has fallen through totally. Retirement is the last thing on my mind here now.
It is around 4 years, since Sarah and I packed up everything in California and hit the road for Puerto Vallarta and a lot has happened in that time. Probably the central, most important thing that has changed for us is that I now run a few websites down here:
- VallartaScene.com (an expat and tourist bulletin board or forum)
- PVScene.com (an arts and entertainment calendar website)
- El Peso.net (A bilingual buy and sell website)
- XPlanta.com (Primarily an homage to my former profession of being an ethnobotanist)
Much of my time is spent working on these websites, attending various events around town and designing other websites. I, along with Sarah and a friend, host a gathering every Saturday evening at one of two popular local restaurants, Casa Isabel or Cafe Roma. In the summer low season maybe only 20 people show up each Saturday but in the winter high season, we often max out at 100 people and over the years, many of these people have become good friends.
I wish I could say that I am universally popular, but I can’t. My political and social views anger many and my rather uncultured directness irritates many more. That’s ok. These same attributes also have made me some very good friends. I’m too old to not say what I think.
On the physical level, our house is still unfinished (and probably never will be because we keep changing it), we have signed up for IMSS, the State-run Mexican Medical Insurance Plan, and I have a small income now from “odd” jobs like designing websites.
For those who wonder what it costs someone to live here on a relatively basic level, I’ve compiled a list. Sarah and I live a very basic life in a Mexican working-class neighborhood about a 30 minute walk from Los Muertos beach in Old Town, Vallarta.
- ELECTRICITY – About 250 pesos every 2 months for 2 people, lots of small appliances, 2 computers, large refrigerator. I do have air conditioning, the major electricity expense for most gringos here.
- WATER – About 200 pesos every 2 months (2 people, 3 dogs, AND lots of plants watered each day)
- GAS – About 300 pesos every 2 months (2 people, 1 stove, 1 water heater)
- CABLE TV – 200 pesos a month for the basic plan.
- PHONE – 200 pesos a month for a TelMex land line phone (but this cost around $200US to initially install).
- INTERNET – 500 pesos a month for 6Mbs high speed internet.
- CAR INSURANCE – $170 (US) a year for basic car insurance for our old 4wd pickup truck
- MEDICAL CARE – $500 (US) a year for 2 people for total medical care (including prescriptions) with IMSS, the Mexican National health insurance (slow sometimes and not gringo-ized).
- PROPERTY TAXES – $50 (US) a year.
- BANK TRUST – $500 (US) a year for bank trust for my house (foreigners cannot directly “own” a house on the coast).
- BUSINESS TAX – I pay about 150 pesos every two months for my business tax. this amount varies according to how much money I make.
- VISAS – $300 (US) a year for 2 FM3 visas (one a “working” visa (I am self-employed) and one normal).
All of these items can now be paid online although some require a Mexican credit card.
Perhaps the biggest problem I have is learning Spanish. Quite frankly, it’s too easy to live here in Vallarta without this skill. Sarah is learning Spanish but she is a much more vocal person than I am to begin with. I rarely talk to people in English and learn only what I need to get by. Am I ashamed of this? Sure, but not enough to push. To me, as I’ve said elsewhere on this website (PVScene.com), not speaking Spanish here is like being deaf and hearing is only one of several senses, any of which can be missing with a full life still possible.
Day to day life here, for me, is waking at around 6 am, doing things, and then going to sleep around 1 am. I drink alcohol probably more than I should for good health and I’ve been gaining weight since I moved here.
I’ve learned where the “best” restaurants are, where the best beaches are, how to set up almost everything bureaucratically and officially (as well as sometimes non-officially), who to trust, who not to trust, and how to do many things as inexpensively and quickly and easily as possible (not a simple feat here sometimes). More importantly, I’ve learned where and how to find what I need.
I like my neighbors, I like the “systems” here (transportation, mordidas, health, food distribution, etc).
I’ve learned that if you treat the people who live here with respect, they will treat you with respect. This is not as easy as it sounds because I’ve become aware of many prejudices and fears in me about Mexico that are popular, almost endemic, NOTB. Moving to a new culture and land is not as easy as it sounds in the travel brochures. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
I have one more year left on my FM3 visa and then I can apply for permanent resident status, enabling me with almost all of the rights of Mexican citizenship except for voting and holding public offices.
This effort will be another chapter in this narrative.