Tag Archives: retirement location

Advice For Living In Mexico

28 May

What advice do you have for those planning to move to or travel in Mexico? I penned “Retiring To Mexico Is It In Your Stars?” and reposted in July 2016. It has been my most popular blog. It’s worth taking a look back and see if things have changed in four years of life on the Costa Maya.


Lisa making friends everywhere.

Learn Spanish – Our Spanish has improved tremendously in four years. But not without lots of work. Lisa had zero prior Spanish. Her first words were highway signs as we drove south from Texas. Today she understands almost everything. She will miss words but understand the basic conversation. She also speaks passable Spanish. Lisa is not afraid to make mistakes and will try to converse in all situations. People love her for her willingness and she continues to grow in confidence. We both use the Ap Duolingo. Mexican friends are the best.


After an hour conversation, a shop owner in Ticul shares local history and gives great discounts!

I had passable Spanish upon arrival. I was worthless on the phone. Understanding was my weakness. I now too understand most conversations. I no longer avoid making phone appointments. I feel confident and am continually improving.


An international group of friends celebrating our marriage in July 2014.

So yes, LEARN SPANISH. Don’t avoid it no matter how uncomfortable.

Start Preparing Today – I did a lot of research before we took off for Mexico. Many people want to get on Facebook and simply ask questions. It’s lazy and does not prepare you for the strong independent life you will need to lead. If you are planning on living in a gated community with only English speaking immigrants and hiring bilingual help, you will miss much of the beauty that is Mexico. No strong opinions here.

Come Happy – I stand fast with this suggestion. There is so much here that delights, the people, the culture, and the natural beauty. However, like life, the same things that delight will dismay if you take them personally or impose your own standards. The relaxed living means things don’t get done in a timely fashion. The use of plastic is through the roof and recycling cannot begin to keep up. Much of the natural beauty may be littered in trash.


There was so much trash floating in the water of this little village, it was hard to be here.

Words are incomplete to describe our chosen life and country. It is painful to see the distrust and animosity between the US and Mexico. We are like sibling who’ve had a falling out and haven’t spoken in years for an infraction we can no longer remember. So sad. We will continue to be ambassadors. Please ask questions and suggestion topics.



Can You “Plan” Adventure? But Of Course

15 Jan

We have been in our little house along the coast of beautiful Laguna Bacalar in the tropics of Southern Mexico for a little more than a year. The walls have been settling around us. Our gardens are bursting with color from a long rainy season. Life is good.


Waking every morning to an amazing sunrise.

We left our life in Austin, Texas and made this extraordinary move in 2013 with certain pre-conceived ideas that were completely subconscious. Traveling and living in a foreign country is a great way to hold up a mirror to one’s assumptions. Here are some things that surprised us about our new life.


Orchid like flowers blooming in the jungle. 


A stone cross found in Valladolid, Yucatán. 

It’s not as easy to take off for the weekend and travel as we had imagined.

This may be a no-brainer for you but dogs are a lot of work. When we adopted Luna, our first dog ever, she was a throw away street puppy. We didn’t really think through all the ways she would impact our lives. Everyone told us, you HAVE to have a dog. Of course we adore her, but like every other relationship, there are inconveniences.


A sad little puppy who needed a home.


Lisa and Luna enjoying tour of the lake.

Leaving our house unattended for more than a day or two is not a good idea. There is crime of opportunity, much like in the US or anywhere else in the world. An empty house is a big opportunity. Since we have chosen not to live with bars on the windows, having a house sitter is the way to go. Finding the right someone takes time. Travel is less spontaneous than we had hoped. Another inconvenience.


The front of the house.

We have also turned into the proverbial home bodies. The view from the porch is to die for. We can swim and kayak in our back “yard”. The food (my cooking) is the best and our bed is supremely comfy.


So the “Adventures” of Dos Tortas has been looking more like the laid-back, staid life of Dos Tortas. We are not complaining.

As of today, I am happy to report there are adventures in the planning. Can you “plan” adventures? Stay tuned. We’ll try to step it up a bit.



Feliz Año Nuevo Torta Style

1 Jan

We weren’t big celebrators of Christmas and New Year’s before we immigrated to Mexico. Holiday gatherings had included fewer gifts, less decorations and more food, friends, and family. In fact, Mexico was a needed escape from thle frenzy, traffic and non-stop Christmas music. Can I get an amen?!

We spent today, New Year’s Day with friends on a great boat ride. We had so much fun that we didn’t take many pictures. Muchas gracias to our amiga Harper for sharing hers.


Friends Barbara and Jean who wanted a boat ride.


Lisa wishing everyone a Happy New Year.


Luna gets in on the fun.

Wishing you all peace in 2017 from our house to yours. Remember to have fun and learn stuff. DOS TORTAS



Mexican Expat Life

18 Dec

Sometimes adventure is not WHAT you visit, pyramids, churches, mercados, etc. but WHO you meet along the way. Join the TORTAS as we venture out from our home in Bacalar along the Costa Maya to explore parts unknown (at least to us).


To celebrate a Torta birthday this week, we visited the pueblo of Puerto Morelos nestled between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Little did we know that this cozy fishing village is an exploding tourist town and expatriate destination.


Guatemalan boys walking the beach looking for tourist pesos.

Something lacking in the far reaches of southern Mexico that we call home, is an English language bookstore. What a surprise to find Alma Libre Bookstore. 


Rob and Joanne Birce

Not only are Rob and Joanne long time residents of this sleepy little town, Rob went to school with our friend and fellow Bacalar resident, Mitch! We were immediately family and Joanne told us all the best places to eat in Puerto Morelos.


Visit their website for all things Puerto Morelos.

At Joanne’s recommendation we dined at La Sirena and met the owner Anthony Chalas from my home state of New Jersey. Greek food in Mexico, yum!


Great artwork for a photo op.


Caribbean sea turtle mural.

On our two day tour of Puerto Morelos, we got to visit the local mercado and meet Ann Trépanier, French Canadian and artist extraordinaire.


Making art from recycled plastic. My kinda gal!

Ann makes “fabric” from heating together layered plastic bags. She is passionate about the environment and the changes she sees in her precious little town due to unregulated tourism.


I wish I’d bought all her bags. Contact her at welovepuertomorelos@yahoo.com

There was one more astonishing encounter with a restaurant manager, but that is a story for another day. Travel in Mexico is full of opportunities. Do venture out of the all-inclusive hotel compounds. Not only will you meet lovely Mexican people and fellow fearless travelers but expats from around the world who live, love and fight to protect Mexico’s resources. Do tell them “hello” from




Rancho Paradiso

25 Feb

I have lived in Texas almost 40 years. It’s one of the few places you hear of people going to their “ranch” on the weekend or for a vacation. I always wanted a ranch. In Mexico, people name their homes or property. I always wanted a home with a name. So when we found our dream property in Bacalar, Mexico, I immediately began searching my imagination for the perfect name for our future home. Rancho Paradiso (Paradise Ranch), the perfect blend of Tejas y Mexico.

Of course the first time we walked the half acre on beautiful Laguna de Bacalar, we didn’t realize that, “this was it”. Visiting the property of a fellow ex-pat (Canadian) and seeing the layout of his home and gardens gave us the vision of what we could accomplish and thus created la idea of Rancho Paradiso. My inexperienced videography doesn’t exactly show off the property in it’s best light. It’s a narrow, sloping, lake property that will need terracing. We will build a small house with lots of outdoor living and a star-gazing roof. I have hand drawn plans that are similar to the ones I was drawing at 21 when I lived in Cholula, MX. We have miles to go before we get to the building phase but for now, it’s fun to troll pintrest looking for gardening and decorating ideas. Stay tuned.

Day One Bacalar

30 Jan

Getting off the bus, we grabbed a taxi to Casita Carolina, our home away from home for the next two weeks. We dropped our bags and walked to the water and out on to the dock. There are no words to express the beauty of the water and the sky. I immediately put on my bathing suit and went for a swim. It was fabulosa. The next day we met with Steven (stevenbacalar@gmail.com), our realtor who swept us off to see available property in the area. I wish I could say that we found just what we were looking for, but by the end of the day we were both disappointed and drained, and then I ended up at the emergency clinica…

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

From Tulum to Bacalar

19 Jan

After months of suenos of Bacalar, Mexico, Lisa and I were finally on our way. We had flown into Cancun and traveled to Tulum to visit the town, pyramids and our friends Karen and Skip. I think I held my breath all the way from Tulum to Bacalar. What if it wasn’t what we wanted? What then? The highway was smooth which made travel rapido y comoda. It was two lanes with wide shoulders (perfect for cycling), with an occasional exit for somewhere else, a few casitas and mostly long stretches of thick jungle. What I found out later was that the highway passed through Sian Ka’an,  a million acres of a biosphere reserve, i.e. protected wetlands, tropical forests, mangroves, and home to over 300 species of birds and wild monkeys. It borders on the Caribbean and has only five entradas. Sian Ka’an is Mayan for ‘Origin of the Sky’. This amazing ecological wonder is within dos horas de Bacalar and literally in our back yard and is available for camping, kayaking, birding and many other activities.

As our bus chugged along, I kept watching for a glimpse of the lake. I knew we had to be getting close and I wanted badly to see if it was as beautiful as I hoped. FINALLY, off in the trees, aqua azul! I was confused when the bus driver announced almost immediately, “Bacalar”. I thought I’d misunderstood. The lake is 55 km long; surely we couldn’t be there already! But we were. The lake is not visible from the highway, and one could miss it if they didn’t glance to their left as you pass through town.

We gathered our luggage and found a taxi to our destination, Casita Carolina. This was one of the first times we’d made reservations while traveling, usually we lean toward spontaneity. As we got off the bus, Lisa and I looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear. This felt like our new home. Bienvenidos a Bacalar.

Casita Carolina – the website is filled with information about Bacalar.

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

The common area where travelers access the computer and visit.

The common area where travelers access the computer and visit.

Lisa relaxing in the shade at Casita Carolina.

Lisa relaxing in the shade at Casita Carolina.

The Trip to Bacalar

13 Jan

In summer 2012 it became clear that I could be available to retire from my state job in 2013. After a conversation with the retirement office and a purchase of back service, I determined that a retirement date of July 31, 2013 was possible. The annuity would be small and living in Austin with it’s increasing taxes would be challenging to say the least. With Lisa’s help we created a plan. With my small annuity and her VA disability check, just maybe we could afford to retire and travel as we’ve always dreamed.

The search for a retirement location was narrowing and everything pointed to Bacalar in southern Yucatan. It was time for a visit to see el pueblo for ourselves. The trip would also be an opportunity to stop in Tulum on the way to Bacalar to visit my friend Karen and see her house.

We planned the trip for the first two weeks in December and made arrangements to fly into Cancun. We left on a Friday and arrived among the beach vacation and bachelor-party crowd, already in flip-flops and ready to soak up the sun (them not us). I stopped at the kiosk in the airport for ADO (ah-day-OH) bus line and got our tickets to Tulum. Buses in Mexico are clean and comfortable. We arrived easily and found the Weary Traveler Hostel not far from the bus terminal. Hostels can be a fun way to connect with other travelers in a laid back environment. For about $30 a night, we had a basic room, communal kitchen, breakfast and a free bus ride to the beach.

We spent the weekend exploring the pyramids, visiting Karen and Skip’s house and hanging out on the beach. Come Monday morning, we were ready to put Tulum behind us and head off to Bacalar.

ADO is a government supplemented transportation company that offers extensive and efficient transportation services.


The Weary Traveler


Los Arboles Tulum – An off-the-grid community near Tulum Mexico


Karen & Skip’s beautiful home on five acres in the jungle is waiting for their solar panels.




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