One of my co-writers on this blog, Karen, said she’d like to know a little more about how I wound up in Mexico, what it took to get here, and what it’s like living here. So I thought today I would begin to answer the “how I wound up here” question.
In 2007, while I was working as the Controller/Human Resources Manager for the concessionaire at Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona, I got word that my best friend had died in New Orleans, that one of the three loves of my life had died in Reno, and that a guy with whom I was very, very close at Everglades National Park had died in a Miami hospital. All this within a six-month period. They were all younger than me, one only by a few months, but the other two were five to seven years younger.
I was 59 at the time. Too early for retirement, but I didn’t care. I refused to spend what could be the last years of my life working 40-50 hours a week. The amount in my savings account at the credit union was pretty small because in 2005 I had purchased a 2004 pickup truck for cash. I did have my 401(k) with the company I worked for, but that, too, was pretty small because I had only been contributing the minimum amount to it for less than 10 years.
So I had the lack of funds to deal with, as well as a decision about where I would retire. Since my 40s I had realized that I would never be able to afford to retire in any country where English is the native language. I also knew that since I was not well-travelled outside the US, my first retirement spot should probably be pretty close to the US so I could run back “home” with my tail between my legs if it didn’t work out.
Those criteria left me with the choices of Mexico, Central America, or some Caribbean island. So I started checking out places on the internet. I ruled out the Caribbean pretty quickly because, having spent my childhood in coastal Texas, and having lived in New Orleans and the Everglades, I knew how fearsome hurricanes could be. I didn’t have enough money to chance losing everything. The Central American countries on the Caribbean/Atlantic side were ruled out for the same reason.
I seriously looked at Panama (they even speak English there!), but it seemed too expensive. And the Pacific side of the rest of Central America just didn’t appeal to me. So that left Mexico.
My first thought was Baja. I like being near bodies of water and it was close to the US. The touristy sections of Baja weren’t appealing. I mean for the last 10 years I’d been living and working in the US National Parks, dealing with tourists, and I’d had about enough of that. After some internet research, I thought I would check out the little fishing village of Mulege in Baja Sur on the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez side, not the Pacific side.
So I booked myself a flight to Loreto, Baja Sur, for the first week of September 2007, and a casita in Mulege. I picked up my rental car at the airport and set off to Mulege. I knew I’d probably chosen the wrong place the minute I stepped out of the airport. IT WAS SO HOT AND HUMID! It was like being back in the Everglades. It was just totally oppressive!
Nonetheless, I went on to Mulege and as I drove along the coast and got glimpses of the Sea of Cortez, I felt better about it. My rental casita was just beautiful. I had no internet connection, no TV, and no radio, but I had lots of beautiful flowers. I thought it might work out. That is, until the hurricane came! Who knew that hurricanes could come up the Sea of Cortez or across Baja from the Pacific! The town had sustained terrible damage a couple of years earlier from a hurricane and now here I was, possibly in the eye of another one. And I didn’t even know it! Remember, no communications devices.
The fourth day I was there, a pickup truck with a speaker on it came through my neighborhood several times. But the announcements were, of course, in Spanish and I couldn’t understand them. Because it was nearly election day, I figured what I was hearing was a “paid political announcement.” It was only after I returned to Petrified Forest and my friend Jerry, who had been tracking my travels, showed me the printouts from the National Weather Service showing the hurricane, that I realized that what the guy in the truck had probably been saying was “RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! IT’S ANOTHER HURRICANE!!!”
And, so, Baja was ruled out. In my next post, I’ll explain how I wound up on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico.