Archive | September, 2013

Inicios Nuevos

29 Sep

New beginnings – We marked one month of living in Mexico this week. It still feels like one big vacation. We’re incredibly grateful to have a beautiful home to live in while waiting for our house to sell in Texas and eventually build our home here. Days begin with taking photos of the latest amazing sunrise, yoga, and meditation. Lisa has been working diligently on learning Spanish. She listens to a CD for thirty minutes and has conversations with anyone she comes into contact with. Local folks seemed pleased with her effort and are more than willing to enunciate and use simple language. I am all too familiar with the sensation of one’s head exploding in the effort to learn a second language. It is a necessary part of the process.

We made a new friend, Kathe who lives in Chetumal, about a half hour drive from us. Several years ago, Kathe and her partner traveled from Canada to Panama and back in an RV. She kept a blog which I include here. On her blog she shared a story, “Loose Chickens” by Nancy Vineski. The story was included in Chicken Soup for the RVer’s Soul and made me laugh and think about the choices we have made to live in Bacalar, MX. I include it here. As always, comments and suggestions for future blogs are appreciated. What do you do to rattle your cage? Please share.

Sep 8, 2007
Loose Chickens

By Nancy Vineski

It all started with a few loose chickens. . . .

I was a real estate agent and had gone to check out one of our listed
properties. It was an egg-laying operation, a commercial facility involving
thousands of caged chickens. The warehouse-like building held hundreds and
hundreds of small cages, each containing two hens. The cages were so small
that the chickens were unable to turn around. In front of the chickens, one
conveyor belt brought feed and behind them was another belt that carried
their eggs away. While the plant manager was briefing us, I noticed a dozen
loose chickens and an employee following them and scattering grain.

“Do you need help catching them?” I asked.

“I’m not trying to catch these birds” he replied. “Oh no, we let these
wander around. If the caged ones can’t see a few chickens living a free
life, they’ll lose hope and stop laying their eggs. Without these loose
chickens, the rest will just give up and die.”

Instantly, it struck me how similar our lifestyle was to these caged birds.
How many of us live our lives in cages, looking out and seeing others having
the adventures, living their dreams, being free? I realized that there are
two kinds of chickens: those who live in cages and those who roam freely. I
wanted to be one of those loose chickens!

Within a couple of months, we wangled a year’s unpaid leave of absence from
my husband Tom’s university employers, closed my small business, found
someone to house sit our home, took $10000 out of our retirement savings,
bought an old VW camper-van and set off to explore Mexico and Central

That year stretched into two and we decided not to return to our old jobs.

It’s been nine years now of full-time RVing full-time, exploring full-time
living. The house-sitter became a tenant who became the guy who bought our
house. The camper-van turned into a twenty-five-foot trailer, which turned
into a thirty-seven-foot motor home. And a few years ago our son Bill also
became a full-time RVer – a family of loose chickens roaming free.

Reprinted by permission of Nancy Vineski (c) 2000 from Chicken Soup for the
Traveler’s Soul by Jack Canfield Mark Victor Hansen and Steve Zikman.


Peaceful Beginning to the Day on Lake Bacalar

Some Days Just Amaze

Some Days Just Amaze

With a Good Book

With a Good Book

Loose Chickens

Loose Chickens

The Think You Think You Cannot Do

The Thing You Think You Cannot Do

Rainy Season – Lessons in Going With the Flow

22 Sep

Having recently moved to the tropics of Southern Mexico from the desert-like climate of Central Texas, we initially loved the sweet little afternoon rain showers. But then the rain didn’t stop. For close to three weeks it rained, rained and rained some more. A tropical depression invaded the Yucatan in more ways than one. Hurricane Manuel pummeled Mexico from the Pacific and Ingrid from the Gulf. In Acapulco forty-thousand tourists were evacuated and mud slides swallowed a whole community. In Bacalar, the worst we had was mold, mosquitoes, a leaky roof and a few docks under water. It seems like all I had to do was think about my kayak to hear thunder. It’s creepy.

Many of the expats are on their summer jaunt to the US. The Tortas were spending way too much time on Facebook in this beautiful, strange land, so Thursday we decided to brave the elements and travel 2.5 hours to Tulum to visit our Austin friends Karen and Skip. It was a change of scenery and an excuse to ride in air conditioning. Living in the wilds of Tulum has its own challenges. Keeping the jungle from swallowing your house is a full-time job. We did head out to see if the beach had been washed away in the recent flooding, only to be blessed with a beautiful sunshiney walk. Nine months ago during our initial visit to Skip and Karen’s, we were exploring the possibility of making the move to Mexico. They took us to the same beautiful beach as a talisman for all the hard work ahead. Never could we have believed that in nine months our life would be completely different and we’d be living in Bacalar.

When rain flows, it can take everything in its path for a ride, even the Tortas. The opportunities to “let go” abound. We are continually letting go of an old way of life, as well as the expectations for this new one, and we are ever grateful for the occasional sunshine.

Finally the Sun!

Tulum Beach Nine Months Later

Tulum Beach Nine Months Later

Moon on Bacalar

Thought For the Day

Off to Immigration We Go Hi Ho

15 Sep

Countries all over the world struggle with how to deal with migrating populations. Folks are looking for a better life, job, spouse, opportunity, cultural experience or like us, a slower, more relaxed life. We met Max and Aliza who hooked up in Africa and have been traveling for three years. They are from Canada and the Netherlands and make a living photographing, building websites, waiting tables and whatever it takes to barter their way around the world. They came to Bacalar from Cuba where they had been living for the past month.

In the US, the issue is citizenship. If people come to the States to work, should they be given the opportunity to become citizens? To be clear, Lisa and I have no intentions of becoming Mexican citizens. Relinquishing US citizenship is a movement that we are not part of.

For many retirees in Mexico, acquiring residency has been long and complicated. Up until last year, a multi-tiered process was in place that took many years to complete. In an effort to streamline the Mexican government completely overhauled their system. As a former state employee, I am intimately familiar with legislators who write law, provide no additional funding and expect well meaning, short staffed and underpaid workers to seamlessly implement it.

The new system provides temporary and permanent residency and must be initiated in one’s home country. For vacationers, a 180-day visa is supplied at the boarder. Temporary residents (retirees/jubilados) must prove adequate income from outside of MX. No working is allowed. Residentes temporales may drive a US-plated vehicle and keep temporary status for four years. After that time, they must sell or pay high fees to keep their US cars and apply for permanent status. The whole car thing is to protect the Mexican auto industry.

Our trip to the Mexican Consulate in Austin provided visas which we presented at our local immigration office in Quitana Roo. The requirements to prove financial solvency are a vague formula and perusing the internet and talking to expats in Bacalar only contributed fear and confusion. We gathered what we thought were the supporting documents needed (bank statements, copies of our passports, and proof of domicile) and began our petition with a visit to INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración). The advice we had been given was to arrive 30 minutes early to get in line and go when it’s raining because there will be fewer people. The weather cooperated and after three trips, our application was completed and submitted. My Spanish ability certainly enhanced and hindered the process. The alternative was an immigration lawyer or Spanish-speaking paralegal. I am stubborn enough that I thought I could figure it out and I did. The three trips were due to my inability to locate and understand the instructions, nothing more.

We were told that we would have to wait a month to get our residency card. Friends here smile at our naivety. It is true that nothing is timely in Mexico. Agreements are flimsy.

Lisa and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to live in Bacalar, MX. We decided to remain happy and peaceful no matter what happens. Actually, that is pretty much the formula for our lives. If more is required of us, we will provide it. For now, we will wait. Our motto remains, “No Complaining in Paradise.”

If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

Trumpet Vine Blooming


Thought of the Day

Thought of the Day

Can We Go Home Now?

8 Sep

Can we go home now? TRANSLATION – I need something familiar because I’m feeling insane.

Whether we move across town, across the country or across the globe, I think it’s common to want, at some point to click your ruby slippers and wish for “home”. It is definitely an adjustment to change home, job and language in the course of one week. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore. The truth is, Bacalar is our home and there’s no going back, nor do we want to. We just want the floor to quit shifting.

Lisa and I have both had boo-hooing meltdowns with unexplainable feelings which come out as, what the hell have we done? I don’t think I can do this, and I wanna go home! The good thing is that we don’t have them at the same time.

On Friday, our friends Karen and Skip came through Bacalar. They’d been in Austin and were on their way home to Tulum, two hours north of us. They have watched us go from cautious inquiry to “ta-da!” They have been where we are and offered sage advice, “get out some of your things that provide familiarity.”

There is so much about being here that is absolutely wonderful and we are very grateful. We have been provided transitional digs that are beautiful, comfortable, accommodating and free. I walk down twenty steps and glide my kayak into the most beautiful water on the planet, whenever the mood strikes me. I sit on the balcony early in the morning, drink Lisa-made coffee, watch beautiful noisy birds that I’ve yet to identify and observe the rising sun change the colors on the lake by the minute. The feelings of insanity will strike again no doubt. I ride the waves kicked up by a tropical shower as well as the swirl of emotions triggered by a life of the new and yet to become familiar.

This week it’s off to immigration. Yahoo! Do we apply as a married couple or individuals? Decisions, decisions. Stay tuned as the Tortas continue the adventure. As always, comments are appreciated.


Our bedroom in Pehaltun, Bacalar, MX

Our bedroom in Pehaltun, Bacalar, MX

Where to put stuff?

Where to put stuff?

Live the Life of Your Dreams

Fear And Loathing in San Miguel

1 Sep

San Miguel de Allende is a destination vacation for USers and Mexicans alike. It is near the top of the “Retire to Mexico” list for just about everyone, certainly for our hairdresser in Austin. SMdA is a quaint little colonial town, narrow cobblestone streets winding around beautiful churches, antique shops and artisan markets, nestled in the mountains north of Mexico City. Something that you don’t know until you’ve accidentally found yourself lost in SMdA is that the quaint narrow streets were built for donkey carts, NOT the traffic that clogs due to all those damn turistas and retirees. There are automobiles parked nose to tail along every high walled street with taxis and buses passing slow-moving, truck drawn remulques at unbelievable speeds. Lisa quit breathing when we pulled into town.

We learned so much from this trip of 1800 miles and endless speed bumps (topes). When Google told us that point A to point B would take us five hours, it took more like 8.5 which is quite descriptive of the entire moving to Mexico process. Lisa’s Spanish grew by learning road signs, “No tire la basura” (don’t throw trash). I learned that we should NOT drive for eight hours in Mexican traffic and then look for a hotel where we can park securely and not have to back up a trailer.

Most of all we learned that this has been TOTALLY worth it. We arrived in Bacalar on Friday and have been taking it easy ever since. It feels like we’re on vacation, which of course we are, a permanent vacation.

Snow topped volcano in the rearview mirror.

Snow topped volcano in the rearview mirror.

Thought for the Day

Thought for the Day


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