I read an article recently that listed some of the drawbacks of choosing to live somewhere other than your native country – in other words, becoming an expat. Some of them include: Losing touch with family and friends, missing important occasions and gatherings, feelings of loneliness and isolation.
All applicable to me at least once in a while. But much more so to other people I know well. It can be very, very hard on one half of a couple if they both aren’t “built” for it. This certainly isn’t something 99% of people would consider doing – ever. Why are a small percentage of people almost driven to become expats and experience life in a different culture, a different language, a different country?
I’m convinced it is genetic.
We don’t hate our native countries, we aren’t running away from anything – we just seem to need to experience living in a foreign country. And once we do, it is very hard to go back to what others might call a “normal” life. Our lives in our new and chosen home becomes the “new normal”.
For some, it is also all about economics. Living in a country like Mexico means being able to live well on minimal income such as Social Security. Still, even with enormous economic pressures, others wouldn’t dream of going to live in Mexico. So the curiosity and drive to do so must come first.
I call Mazatlan my home base – for now, not forever, because I have a strong desire to see and experience other places as well. I guess I have an extra component of genetic coding that makes me prone to wandering.
I still officially live in Canada. I have a condo and two businesses based there (that I am not involved in as much and Mike’s, my husband, son Matthew has taken on much of my role instead. I needed to step back.) I have ties there and I have ties here in the form of two dogs who, luckily, love their dog-sitter’s house as much as mine so I am able to leave them for up to two months at a time to go to Canada or elsewhere.
The other day I heard someone say (someone new to Mazatlan) that they had heard all about living in places like Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas, among others, but had never heard of Mazatlan as an option. However, now that they were here, they could see the appeal, and began looking around for a place to rent.
Mazatlan, I believe, has the best combination of aspects for enjoying life. Beaches and blue ocean – check. Economical – check. History and architecture – check. Great climate – check. (Although hot and humid in summer months but no more than, say, Houston or Austin or New Orleans.) Culture and art – check. (Mazatlan is one of very few cities in Mexico with a beautifully restored historical theatre where one can go to watch live productions, concerts – even opera, if you enjoy that kind of thing. For next-to-nothing.) Modern shopping malls and big box stores – check. Modern hospitals and excellent health-care – check. Easy and cheap public transport, and taxis – check. (Mazatlan is the ONLY place in Mexico with “Pulmonias” – open-air taxis that look like a large golf-cart. They were invented here. Some may say they are dangerous to ride in – no seat-belts – but I love them. I have found that pulmonia drivers are excellent and not reckless. Perhaps others have heard reports of accidents involving a pulmonia in the city – but I never have. Some of the bus drivers? They’re another story altogether.)
Another benefit for me is that there are seasonal direct four-hour flights from Mazatlan’s modern international airport to Calgary and Vancouver. If I need to get back there, at least in fall and winter, it is very convenient.
From my ground-floor, two-bedroom, spacious apartment I can walk almost everywhere I want to go. I live in Historic Centro where walking is a pleasure through narrow, cobblestone streets and beautiful public squares, public markets, art galleries, and architecturally beautiful buildings. I feel as though I live in a village where people know and greet each other daily, passing by. Gringo expats and local people alike. I feel safe. People are nice. They are friendly. They are very tolerant of gringos speaking Spanglish to them.
Mazatlan wasn’t first built to be a tourist destination, like many other Mexican coastal cities. It is, and was, a working city and busy port with much Colonial history. Now, tourism is certainly a big economic factor, with almost daily cruise ships arriving in fall and winter, and a string of beach resorts to the north of the city. But there is plenty of other industry here.
All in all, life is just so much better here for people like me – in so many ways. Maybe later, sometime, I will find another great home-base – maybe somewhere in Europe or Central America (both are of interest to me) – but for now this is it. This feels like home. Is it perfect? No. Is anywhere perfect?