So you’ll remember from my last post about Why I Chose Mexico that I had ruled out Baja. But I still knew that I would be moving to Mexico is the foreseeable future and I needed to find a place where I could live comfortably. Both physically comfortably and fiscally comfortably.
When I returned to Petrified Forest iin September 2007, I started thinking about what it was I truly needed from the place to which I retired. My trip to Baja had shown me that I would probably not be able to stand summers on the coast…any coast…of Mexico. So that left the interior. There was no way I was going to move into the desert, having done my time in Death Valley, California, and in Arizona. So that ruled out all the northern states of Mexico.
And I didn’t want to go too far south in Mexico, because that would place me too far from the US in case I needed to go back. All right then, let’s start thinking about the central highlands of the country. Mexico City (or Mexico D.F. as it’s known here) was out. Too many people, too much pollution.
So where else might I find a place with an international airport near by, less pollution, and, ideally, with a fairly large body of water? I’ve always liked to live by the water. In Chicago, I lived a block or two from Lake Michigan; in San Francisco and Hawaii, I was also on the water. New Orleans had Lake Pontchatrain. When I moved to Indiana, I found a town very close to a big lake and moved there (Bloomington near Lake Monroe).
Given these requirements, I started looking at maps of Mexico and discovered Lake Chapala, the largest natural lake in Mexico. It’s about 50 miles long and 10 miles across. And, lo and behold, there were towns there! Towns that were primarily Mexican, were not tourist destinations, but that also had numerous gringos. Guadalajara, with its international airport, was only 30 minutes to an hour away. EUREKA!
So in December of 2007, I used another week of my vacation time and flew to Guadalajara. I rented a car at the airport and drove to the town of Chapala, about 25 minutes away, where I had rented a casita for a week. As I came over the mountains from Guad and saw the lake sprawled out before me, I was, as the British would say, gobstruck.
For the next seven days, I spent almost all my time driving around the villages on the north shore of the lake, looking for one that called my name. I discovered that I loved Chapala (primarily a working-class town) and couldn’t relate to Ajijic (too artsy-fartsy for my taste). San Juan Cosala gave me a bad vibe….rich gringos on the mountain side and poor Mexicans on the lakeside. A revolution waiting to happen.
I liked Jocotepec on the western end of the lake, but there were few gringos and I knew for a fact that my little-remembered high school Spanish wouldn’t cut it there. But I also knew that it was probably the place I could afford to live. (Remember, now, I wouldn’t be getting my Social Security for a couple of years.) So, putting financial considerations first, as folks born and raised in the United States are apt to do, I chose the western end of the lake, the municipality of Jocotepec. And for once that turned out to be the absolutely right choice!
When I returned to Arizona after my trip, I continued doing research on the Lake Chapala area and discovered that it was frequently recommended as a retirement location because of the low cost of living and the “perfect” climate. So that cinched it. I was going to move to Lake Chapala, state of Jalisco, country of Mexico! A month or so later, I gave my notice at work, announcing that my last day would be early in April of 2008. My plan was to arrive at my new home on April 15. Seemed very appropriate to me that on the day that income taxes in the US are due, I would be in another country!
And I was….and I still am after two years and eight months. And I still love it here!