A Typical Day in Tranquil and Fun Mazatlán, Mexico

I’ve lived in Mazatlán, Mexico for the past 10 years, moving here after my kids were grown. Mazatlán is a mid-sized resort city on Mexico’s Pacific coast, with beaches that attract tourists and surfers, and easy access by ferry to La Paz, across the Gulf of California.

I wasn’t yet retired when I moved here from Northern California, and still had to work, but I’ve been able to start my own business: an English-language magazine for the expat community. It’s not only successful but fun to do, and helped me learn about my new community.

A typical day for me starts out early. I get up with the birds at 6 a.m. and then usually I do some kind of exercise. Maybe I’ll ride my bike along the beautiful beachfront esplanade, called the malecon, that stretches from Mazatlán’s Centro Historico to the hotel zone. Or I might walk along the beach itself, with the water lapping at my feet, for a change of pace and more tranquil scenery.

A few years ago, I took up surfing, and it has become one of my favorite things to do. I was 56 when I started, taking lessons from a local surf school, and have since bought my own board and learned enough that I can go out on my own. It’s something I’d wanted to do my whole life, and finally I’m able to. Most of the other surfers are young enough to be my grandchildren, and I know they get a kick out of seeing me in the line-up, waiting for a wave. I’m not very good, but I always have a great time and love being in the ocean.

Next, it’s time for coffee (iced of course) and breakfast, either at home or at one of several espresso shops nearby. If I’m in the mood, there are also taco stands open only for breakfast, where for under a dollar, I can enjoy a savory chicken, beef, or smoked marlin taco, deliciously complete with handmade corn tortillas, an array of fresh salsas, and the conviviality of my Mazatlecan neighbors.

At first, I struggled to learn to relax and not worry so much or work so hard. That might be one of the hardest things to do—and the biggest benefit to living in Mexico. You read about “leaving it all behind,” and I can tell you from firsthand experience that’s a challenging mindset to adopt. But once you do—and I guarantee if you move to Mexico, you will—you won’t regret it a bit.

If ever I forget how wonderful my life is in Mexico, all I have to do is talk to friends that are still living in the U.S. Then I see just how much I’ve actually forgotten: What it’s like to have a stressful life. A tight schedule. Not enough money to do the things I want. Having to live in cold, dreary weather for months on end.

There’s always a point in the conversation where I have what I’ve come to call a “reality check.” They’ll be on their morning commute to work, already tired and unhappy, and I look outside my window at my view of the sparkling Pacific and remember: This is my life. I did it; I made this happen.

Story narrated by Janet Blaser


The Overwhelming Benefits of Embracing Your New Culture Overseas

When you first arrive in a new country, everything seems overwhelming. You didn’t realize the electricity goes out from time to time and you’ve never dealt with this problem. Your car gets a flat tire on a lonely country road and you don’t speak the language, nor do you know how to change the tire. There are so many expats wanting to get to know you but you don’t know which ones are those with similar interests.

In all of these instances, there are solutions—and often better ones than you would think.

The number one rule when moving abroad is to “let go” of your inclination to want everything just as it was at home. Each country in the world is different; each has its own culture. Embrace the new culture and go with the flow…that attitude will get you through that first bewildering year and ensure you become wonderfully happy in your new home.

It’s like starting a completely new life. Many expats comment on how much younger they feel, like they are learning things all over again, much like the days of their youth. Imagine how it feels to once again have new experiences every day. This is the type of retirement that keeps you young and fresh. Much different than sitting on the couch watching TV. In fact, many expats like me don’t even have TVs anymore because there is so much to do.

So…when the electricity goes out, grab a book or your Kindle and a glass of wine, go out and sit on your patio and read while taking a few seconds to look up at the stars…where you’ll see more than you ever have before.

Flat tire? No Spanish? No problem. Flag down the next car that comes by, point to the problem and before you know it, the local people will jump out and fix the flat for you.

Go to the many expat events you are invited to. Eventually the people who will end up being your friends will pop out of the mix. It is easier to make friends in expat locations. And you’ll likely have friends from all walks of life and from different countries, making your life so much more interesting than it was at home.

I’ve been an expat for 10 years. I never imagined I’d stay in Nicaragua this long. Something inside suggested that I’d have my adventure for a maximum of five years, then probably move back to my house in San Diego. That’s why I kept it and rented it out, just in case. But Nicaragua changed me.

I actually became the person I’ve always wanted to be, a person I couldn’t be in the U.S. Here I’m free; there I wasn’t.

My love for material possessions has disappeared. Money is no longer the holy grail that I was always trying for, but never could quite reach. I have a healthy diet and live a much simpler life. I’m fluent in Spanish. I work on projects to help my Nicaraguan community. Social activities are abundant, fun, and economical.

Bonnie W. Hayman writes her experience living in Nicaragua as an expat.