Moving to Mexico: Chapter 26
New Year, New Direction, New Plan, New Attitude
What if you knew the day you would die? What if you could look at the calendar and point, with 100% accuracy, to the date you would actually shuffle off this mortal coil?
What would that knowledge do to you? Would you feel angry, sorrowful, depressed, and anxious? Neurotic even? Would you go just a little insane?
Or would you quit your job, sell your house, travel the world, and give your belongings away? You can’t take it with you, right?
Life and death are a bit extreme for this example, so let’s pare it back a bit. What if you knew when you would lose your job, become divorced, or become pregnant? What if you had total assurance as to the day your life was going to forever be changed by an event you could not control? What would you do then?
Our last Christmas here in California just passed. Our last full calendar year, all four seasons and academic year for our son is winding down. We leave the USA for Mexico in six months. We will never see another Fall or Winter here and our son has just one semester of high school before he becomes an adult and heads to college.
I think that it’s possible we have taken on too much. In the month of June, we plan to sell our home, move our things to a rental in another state and/or store them for the long term, get our son off to college in another state while moving to a new nation all in just one month. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m feeling the pressure build and I have mentally given myself clemency until after the New Year has begun, without a hangover. That can be so depressing; starting the new year feeling sick. I won’t do that to myself this year.
We had dinner for 24 guests in our 2,100 square foot home so we had to create an L-shaped table to accommodate our friends and family, on Christmas afternoon, as has been our custom for many years. The familiar group was all present, and a few new people arrived. We had two new guests, friends from one of our fraternal groups, grace our family with their presence. They arrived and were immediately welcomed by all. They stayed late and thanked us for the event. Sadly, we got to know them only about a year ago. It would have been nice to have them over again.
“You will have to visit us in Mexico.” I said to Mr. New Guy.
“We’re not far behind you.” He replied. He and his wife also plan to exit California and the USA.
“Take a test drive in our house.” I said. “I’m offering the same to all of my readers. Anyone who wants to test drive Tulum and life in Mexico can contact me anytime.”
“We’ll take you up on that!” He said, and I believed him. They are also tired of this way of life.
We had a new arrival, a baby girl just four months old. Last year, the mother announced her pregnancy at our Christmas table.
“Can you make room for one more next year?” She said with a smile.
The last time we had a baby over for our Christmas party was in 2005 when my niece was only three weeks old. My sister’s family grew. My brother got a divorce, so his family shrunk, and even he does not attend anymore. My mother, best friend and father-in-law all passed away, so they are only with us in spirit. A friend from England has not been here for years. Some old friends right here in Walnut Creek chose not to attend; friends sometimes are not forever, I suppose. As I have said in previous articles, some people have left us, and some new ones arrived. If you are fortunate and blessed with health, life moves forward and even as people circle in and out of our lives, we do the same in theirs. Believe me, our plan to move to Mexico has not been well-received by our friends and family.
The Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas
“First you go to the Bahamas for three years and now Mexico?” My sister has said.
Our family must feel like Oakland Raider fans, twice left by those they loved. We try to assuage the move by telling them we are not “leaving” them, or even “leaving” Walnut Creek. But is that true? Should I point out to my oldest friend, who attended the party as he always does with his lovely wife and son, that I see him perhaps twice a year, and we live ten minutes from each other?
“I call you a lot.” I said.
“You call at the wrong times.” He said. He actually said that. I know he meant that he’s busy and that timing is everything, but jeez…that statement stung. I know he loves me, and he knows that I love him. That will never change. Nor, I’m afraid, will our lack of visits during the year. We’ll probably come home twice a year and hopefully, those visits will not be the at the “wrong times.” I would like to keep this family in our lives.
*Note: I was able to get this friend and his wife to spend their anniversary at Bahia Principe, Tulum and they loved it, even though they did not stay in our home (it was not complete at the time) and they were both horribly sick during the entire trip. They rested, didn’t venture off the resort once, and they still had a great time.
The party was a hit. Not a hit like it was “popular” and “well-enjoyed”, it was a hit like a nuclear bomb had been detonated nearby. Typically, our house and deck area are cluttered by the ten-hour ordeal that is our annual bash. This time, it was particularly messy for some reason. Bottles, cans, gift wrapping paper and bows, forgotten gifts, plates and uneaten food were everywhere. Betty and I worked for an hour or so after the last guests left. We put away the food, turned out the many lights and decorative lighting, turned off the gas fireplaces inside and out, locked up and passed out.
Two days later, we folded up the rented chairs and tables and loaded them into the truck. Our son drove them to the rental company, we put the furniture back into the family room and just like that, it was over.
Moving those pieces of furniture hit me hard. That was the last time I would perform that arduous, yet loving task. I would never go through this much effort and expense for anyone but this group of people. And now, I will never do it again. We will be living in Mexico, our son will still be young and in college, translation: still on our payroll. So, for the next several years I am sure we’ll be visiting home for Christmas, guest stars in our hometown. How strange that will feel.
I have to remember that when we lived in the Bahamas, we did not want to come home. Finances and our son forced our hand. The 2008 mortgage meltdown and financial crisis combined with our son’s constant requests to see his family and play American football made us leave the island and return home. But, I was bored there. Truly, I was dying of boredom. The local laws made it impossible for me to get a good job or start a company and the Bahamas, like many island nations, is a truly boring place. Beyond the beach, there really is not much to do. Even their culture is limited; celebrating Junkanoo not once but twice a year. That’s like us having Mardi Gras twice a year. Being a young nation, there is little independent history there so they still celebrate British holidays like Whit Monday, Randol Fawkes Day, Boxing Day and the Christian holidays, the Bahamas being almost completely Christian.
The main island of New Providence is tiny so it’s possible to see every single historical site in less than a week. And you can only cruise the two shopping malls they had there in 2008 (Marathon and Town Center) so many times before your mind goes numb from trying to see something new. We used to visit Atlantis when we wanted some American flavor. Yes, we went to a Bahamian mega-resort to feel American again. Why? Because there was a “Rodeo Drive” shopping area where we often visited the BVLGARI and Versace shops, ate burgers at Johnny Rockets and stared at the bazillion-dollar yachts that filled the marina. Atlantis is lovely but spending $13.00 for one local beer was repellant and ridiculous. And sushi at Nobu was $200.00 for three people, one of whom was a five-year-old who ate nothing by crab and drank water. We did it rarely, but sometimes we needed it. We did it because while the rest of the nation was third world, Atlantis was like Disneyland. Sometimes you just needed a break from all the excuses you had to make for your adopted nation.
Mexico is not the Bahamas. I have said it before, if you are bored in Mexico, it’s just you. You’re boring. Face it, own it and make a change. There are so many things to do in Mexico locally and just a short bus ride away. The good beaches have not all been hogged up and blocked by homeowners and hotels in Mexico as they have been in the Bahamas. You can live comfortably in Mexico without spending a fortune and while Mexico is not on par with California with regard to infrastructure, everything in the Mayan Riviera works just fine. The highway is modern, the Internet is fast, and shopping is abundant. You can shop at Wal Mart, Sam’s Club and the Apple Store less than 30 minutes north of our house. In the Bahamas, you had to go to three stores to find something as simple as a blender, the local beer was $48 USD a case and gas was about $6 USD a gallon…in 2007! One cool thing: you could buy heavy-duty (damn-near military-grade) fireworks at the hardware store. I don’t think do that in Mexico.
What else do we do here in Walnut Creek that we cannot do in Mexico? Shop at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus? Go see a play at the opera house? Climb Mt. Diablo? Eat at one of the many expensive downtown restaurants? Sorry, but we’ve done all of those things ad nauseam and have actually strayed from doing any of them for years as they are too expensive, crowded and quite frankly, boring. It’s time for something new.
Walking downtown Walnut Creek, looking in the storefronts again.
Needing nothing, wanting little and using Amazon for 100% of my purchased gifts this year.
The clock ticks. The days, weeks and months will go by regardless of our attempts to slow or stop time, if only to take a breath, get one last glimpse or somehow ask for these monumental tasks to occur more slowly. How will I use this first half of 2019? Will I allow it to be a frightening burden? Or will I accept it as a challenging time in our lives, full of twists and turns, rewards and losses that will happen? They will happen, just like childbirth…whether we push, or not, it’s going to happen. The New Year Baby is on his way. Will I look at the calendar with impending doom, or will I use it as a strategic tool to guide our journey?
In this life, it is almost always about attitude. I need to make a big change and get mine in check. I need to focus on the hugely positive direction we have been blessed with and do what I have told others many times: “Enjoy the ride.”
Perhaps, we need to slow this crushing plan and break it down a little, allow for some flexibility.
Our son has been accepted to eight universities so far and the offers from ones we did not even apply to also fill the mailbox. He is a fortunate young man with so many opportunities. I believe he will decide on one of two: Missouri or Arizona. They offer the best programs for his “nichey” major. Both welcome California residents, but at a price: be a resident of their state or pay what amounts to about 60% more in tuition. In order to afford this education, we will have to become residents of a new state and that is a difficult and costly process. I am not sure how to do this and when I think of it, I feel sick to my stomach and pressure builds in my chest.
We have a nice home in a desirable neighborhood, but the stock market just lost ten years-worth of gains, the Fed is raising mortgage rates and our nation continues to struggle globally and internally forcing many to reconsider big purchases like expensive homes. Translation: six months from now may not be the best market to sell a home. I don’t have a crystal ball, but these indicators don’t make me feel very powerful as a home seller in 2019. We will see.
Perhaps we will not sell in June. Maybe we’ll sell in April and rent it back from the new owners for a few months. That would alleviate some pressure. Or perhaps we’ll sell it in August, after our son is off to college. That may help…not sure how that will affect state residency that year. Perhaps we will have to pay out-of-state tuition for that first semester. Not exactly the end of the world. But then again, if he chooses Arizona State (and I think he will), we can rent a home in the Greater Phoenix area for less than $1,500/month. Not a bad option for that “test the waters” first year.
Merry Christmas from our little doggie, “Burrito.”
Yes, that is his name.
Lastly, with regard to our belongings: what to do with them as we transition to a new life in a new country? I am still struggling, bouncing between doing the “smart thing” and the “heart thing.”
Smart Thing: Sell, donate and give away as much of our belongings as we can. Keep only that which is precious. Lighten our load so much that the burden of all of this “stuff” goes away. All of this crap is making our move incredibly detailed and expensive. It would be much easier without all of this stuff.
Heart Thing: Store our things in a long-term storage facility and with family and friends. Or store our things in a rental home in a foreign state to help gain residency and thusly lower our son’s tuition bill. While the resale value of our things is very low, replacing them would be very costly. That, and as I have stated before, we like our stuff. We fed our son his first meal at this table, brought him home in that SUV and have eaten off of these plates for decades, etc.
Is this California life we have created really worth it?
I would appreciate your comments. Please assist me with this decision if you can. It has been driving us mad. Regardless, I believe we will follow the latter plan. It’s less decisive and permanent. For us, we will face moving to a new nation like we did our marriage. We didn’t get married the first day we met. We dated, courted, lived together and were engaged before we decided to get married. When we decided to have a child, it was seven years into our relationship. My family has been torn to shreds by broken marriages, my own childhood shot full of holes by many part-time step-parents, step-siblings, moving constantly and having no real roots anywhere. There was no way I would perpetuate this legacy by having a child with someone I was not sure would remain my wife and be a good mother. We took it slowly and worked hard on maturing our relationship before we involved another human being.
I think it will be best to do the same thing with Mexico. We can’t just dive in head first. We have taken a huge risk by building a home in Tulum, but that is an asset that could be liquidated if necessary. As it is, once we sell our home in Walnut Creek, California, we will never be able to come back. The prices have risen so much here, we would never be able to again afford that which we have now. That fact alone is daunting and causes a lot of trepidation.
There are several “burn the ships” point of no return stories, but the most relevant one here would probably be from 1519 when the Spanish conquistador Cortes landed on the Yucatan shores of Mexico to seize the Aztec treasures. He ordered his men to burn the ships, an act that surely inspired fear and dedication to their cause. I certainly don’t see myself as an invader of Mexico. I come in peace and I do so legally. I am respectful of my new nation, yet will forever be labeled a gringo, a guest. I do this willingly with no protest or resentment. But there is no way in hell I’m tearing up my blue passport and burning my ship full of stuff and memories. Not just yet, anyway.
Is it possible to be cautiously bold? Intelligently reckless? Well, that’s what we’re up to. Wish us luck.
The year everything changes.
Happy New Year to all.
This is what I’ll be wearing to our 1970’s-themed New Year’s lodge party.
*I hope my hair does not catch on fire.
Peace on Earth and
Happy New Year to All!