As of July 1, 2020 we have been living in Mexico for one full year. There are moments I can hardly believe 365 days have passed and other times when it feels like we’re fairly settled into life in our new location. Looking back it’s easy to divide the last year into three distinct parts. The first portion should be titled, “Figuring It Out,” followed by “You’ve Got This,” and concluding with “Who Could Have Guessed?”. Regardless, the decision to move south of the border has been a learning experience like no other.
While in the “Figuring It Out” phase we mastered the basics of relocating to a new town. During our 32 years of marriage, Mike and I moved several times. With each move we felt torn from our location but excited about the unknown opportunities of a move. This was no different. Wait, I’m lying, this move was completely different. Most daily functions were inconsistent with our past experiences. Shopping was a challenge. Asking questions was difficult. Making friends was not as easy as joining a gym, or taking your child to the local park hopeful for a playdate or easing into friendships with new coworkers. The first few months we lived in San Carlos took place during what is typically the “off season” for the area. During the summer months many residents were living abroad (from Mexico that is) in their homes in the US or Canada. Some businesses and restaurants had shuttered their doors for the warmest months, others limited their hours. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of places were open but SC wasn’t hoppin’ and boppin’ as we predicted it would be upon our arrival.
This worked out just fine as we had plenty of projects to focus on including finalizing temporary Mexican visas, finding a Spanish teacher, learning what was open when, joining a gym, planning for construction projects, selecting a doctor, figuring out how to pay for utilities via an ATM type machine, choosing a vet, switching all bills into our names with no online options to do so, getting a Mexican phone line, and simply creating a new routine.
During this time we were able to meet people who became our first acquaintances and new friends. Interestingly we found a neighbor who shared our passion for college football so we flaunted our TCU flag proudly on game days. We found that making connections with others was essential in surviving this kind of move.
When you’re used to a life surrounded by family and friends there is an enormous gap in life as you know it when they are no longer close by. The excitement of hosting guests kept us moving forward as these visits bridged the gap between our old and new lives. I will forever be thankful for our first visitors as they no doubt kept me sane. Seeing members from both sides of our family in September gave us a big dose of normalcy that pushed us forward into the next chapter. The first four months seemed to fly by.
By early November we strolled into the “You’ve Got This” stage of our first year. We had almost completed a construction project and we were establishing new routines. Mike’s routine was similar as working from home had not changed but he’s quick to say his view is much nicer. While his trips to the gym continued but his workout group at Grapevine Crossfit and “Beer Fridays” with the gang were things he missed. As the town filled with snowbirds our neighbors hosted a “meet our new neighbors” get together for us. In one fell swoop we met what felt like an entire town of people. We soon discovered there was always somewhere to go, a special event taking place, a celebration to attend, or a volunteer opportunity in which to take part. As a matter of fact, life became almost too busy.
Between morning beach walks, bi-monthly book club get togethers, ceramic days, kayaking, Spanish lessons, art classes, Jonni’s “power pump” workouts, learning to cook new seafood recipes, weekly euchre games with the girls, watching the sunset, margaritas at La Palapa Griega, pilates sessions in Spanish, listening to a jazz trio at Tortuga’s, yoga classes, Skyping into my special Texas Book Club meetings, dinners with friends at Captains, and weekend pickleball games…my plate was full. As a matter of fact it felt like I’d gone back for seconds. I found myself in the same position I had been in Texas. If my calendar had a free 30 minutes, I managed to fill it.
The temperature turned cooler at the end of December sadly coinciding with the first visit to our home with our girls and son-in-law. We did not let the weather damper our fun! We relished every minute on ATV rides, a sunset cruise, the horseback riding tour, jazz night on the beach at Sunset, Christmas Eve boat parade, the Naranjaros baseball game, a visit to the dragon fruit farm and so much more as we shared our new home with them.
During January, Mike and I ventured into the world of boat proprietorship purchasing a motorboat with another couple from San Carlos. We savored taking the boat out to view the lovely coastline from the water. One morning we found ourselves eye to eye with marine life surrounded by a group of sea lions playfully bobbing their heads out of the water. It was as if they were watching us watch them. We sat back in our sweatshirts, rocking on the waves as we devoured blueberry muffins from Barracuda Bob’s and drained our coffee tumblers.
We looked forward to fully enjoying boat ownership knowing the natural heating of the sea would be ushered in with the spring. March purchases of new snorkel gear, boat bumpers, towels, and a Rubber Dockie float had us chomping at the bit as the water temperature rose to the mid 70’s. This was it, this was the life we moved to Mexico to enjoy.
March arrived with the Carne Asada Festival, the Annual Rotary Club Tour of Homes, the Concert to the Coyotes, Spring Eco and Art Walks, a crazy Thank You San Carlos Concert Event, the yearly Color Run and the always fun Son’s of Freedom Weekend Concert. There were too many events to choose from.
In addition to the already busy schedule for March I enjoyed an awesome girl’s weekend trip in Tucson with my dear friend, Jane. I had planned surprise visits to Texas to attend Carson’s BIG 3-0 party and for a weekend family reunion mid April in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to celebrate my dad’s 80th trip around the sun. This was no doubt the highlight time period of our first year in Mexico.
Enter the “Who Could Have Guessed” third of this past year. As quickly as my social calendar had filled it emptied in late March. The small town of San Carlos was vacated by the part time residents as coronavirus numbers began to climb in the United States and Canada. Businesses in town responsibly closed or minimized offerings. Masks became the new normal and life as we’d just started to know it was drastically altered. The much anticipated birthday trips were replaced with Zoom Birthday Celebrations complete with homemade hats. We spent much of March, April and May as did other human beings hunkered down in our house watching the news, working puzzles, reading, sending memes to friends, following the ever changing guidelines and updates, worrying about our friends and family members, walking dogs, walking dogs who have begun to give you that “not again” look, cooking comfort foods, cleaning dishes, cooking more comfort foods, reluctantly cleaning more dishes, YouTubing Yoga With Adrienne, gaining a few pounds, promising to eat healthier meals, YouTubing cardio workouts, holding family zoom conferences, and finding new interests to keep from reducing general mental capacity.
We did have the advantage of sneaking out for hikes on the rugged hills, venturing down to the supposedly closed beaches, gliding through the smooth waters in a kayak early in the morning, and snorkeling in a nearby cove.
Being able to take advantage of the beautiful, natural surroundings of San Carlos was a little like falling into the rabbit’s hole and finding myself in a fantasy land during the onslaught of disastrous daily newscasts. When June arrived and online schools in the country closed for the year, the Mexican government went into action. In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 the state limited any activity that would make one want to travel to the beaches of Sonora. Now instead of saying the beaches and marinas were closed, they were enforcing these measures with road blocks, fines and removals from beaches. Knowing we’d been able to enjoy all San Carlos has to offer a little longer than others we made the decision to pull the boat from the marina and get our water fix from our pool until guidelines are lifted. A lot can happen in a mere twelve months. There was indeed a great deal of change, innumerable opportunities for learning, mountains of emotions, and an abundance of second guessing partnered with equal confirmations of decisions made.
Today is the first time I’ve looked back at my first Changing Lanes entry. It begins with the following… “Stepping away from an enlightening career, packing up twenty-three years of memories, leaving behind family and friends, vacating a perfectly wonderful home and moving to a quaint town in Mexico probably sounds like “stepping off a ledge.” At the time our move felt like a leap of faith but the past year even with the highs and lows has brought to Mike and I exactly what we were looking for, chaos. At the time, I didn’t know that’s what it was but in reflection, chaos was exactly what we needed and I’m not sure we could have found that without our move to Mexico. In an article I read recently I pondered the following quote, “Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows for creativity and growth.” To that I say, bring it on. Here’s to one terrific year in the books. I survived the ups and the downs and came out better on the other side.
July 9, 2020
“You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.”– James R. Sherman, Ph. D.