WHY AND WHERE WE HAVE DECIDED TO LIVE IN MEXICO

March 22, 2003
by Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher
for International Living in Mexico
Copyright 2003
Agora Ireland Publishing & Services Ltd.

A snowstorm dumped up to 55 inches of snow in the Colorado Rockies this past week. Hard, cold rains pounded the Midwest. Here in Mexico, we almost wished we had worn our sweaters when we walked to breakfast this morning since the temperature was not yet 70 degrees.

Now as we write this, it is a warm and sunny 76 degrees. A light breeze rustles through the bougainvillea and ferns in our garden. Perched on the "mile-high" plain of Mexico's Central Highlands, at about 5,000 feet above sea level, we share roughly the same altitude as Denver, but, thankfully, not the same weather. Here, the days are blissfully temperate. Not too hot, not too cold, and not at all humid.

If there is any such thing as a perfect climate, this may be it. National Geographic thinks so, once saying that this area of Mexico enjoys the best climate in North America, if not the world. We have to agree. Here, nearly every day of the year, the skies are a bright, cloudless blue and the sun is cheerfully warming. Just for the variety, we look forward to the rainy season (July to September), when evening rains wash the earth clean and turn the hillsides a lush, verdant green.

SO WHERE IS THIS GARDEN OF EDEN?

We are in the village of Ajijic, on the banks of Lake Chapala, just south of Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. This is the place we have selected as the location for International Living's newest office...the first of what we believe will be several in Mexico.

You might be thinking that we missed the boat on Mexico. After all, U.S. and Canadian residents especially have been moving to Mexico for generations. In fact, this part of Mexico, along the banks of the country's largest lake, is the most popular relocation destination for foreigners. San Miguel de Allende, also in the Central Highlands about five hours east of here, is another popular expat community, as is Puerto Vallarta, five hours west on the Pacific Coast.

WHY MEXICO NOW?

Three words: close, comfortable, affordable. We know that many readers are looking for a healthy, relaxed, affordable lifestyle, but think that a place as close and as obvious as Mexico must be overrun and used up by now. Well, we're here to tell you that Mexico's surface has barely been scratched. It still offers everything that has been bringing North Americans down here for years, without the feelings of isolation and unfamiliarity you sometimes can encounter farther offshore.

We drove here from the U.S. and spent close to three months on the roads of Mexico to prove to ourselves what we felt to begin with--that Mexico is safe, welcoming, manageable, and easy to enter and leave. In a post-September 11 world, this last requirement was important to us. We wanted to make sure that we'd found not only the perfect offshore haven, but also the closest one to friends and family in the U.S. if world events ever required a quick return--without having to rely on airlines. We're not alarmists, but we are realists.

WHY AJIJIC?

We've already told you about the perfect climate which makes this place tops on our list. Compared with anywhere else we've been, not only in Mexico but around the world, the Ajijic/Chapala area has the most temperate, most consistent weather we've ever experienced.

Prices are just as important to us, and for a place with so many happy gringos, it's still surprisingly affordable. The taxi from Guadalajara to Ajijic cost us 220 pesos—about $20. It's a 20-mile ride, the same distance that recently cost us more than $100 to travel by taxi in Miami.

For lunch today, we ate at our favorite little restaurant on the plaza, where we get three freshly made tacos al pastor and a cold beer for less than US$3. Tonight we'll have grilled fish and fresh shrimp at an open-air restaurant and pay about US$6 apiece, plus all the cool, clean air we care to breathe.

The affordability of real estate here surprised us. The market is soft. Many homes have been for sale for some time, and the owners are ready to negotiate. You can read more about Mexico's real estate market here:
Agora-inc.com Real Estate Market

There's always something to do here. There are dozens of social clubs--for artists, writers, bridge players, etc., plus opportunities to do volunteer work--and Ajijic even boasts its own community theater and annual film festival. Do you like golf? Two excellent courses are just minutes away.

The village of Ajijic is charming--cobblestone streets, wrought-iron, plant-filled balconies, and colorful stucco buildings--and, of course, the requisite cathedral overlooking the plaza. Other nearby villages on the lake include Chapala, Jocotopec, and San Juan Cosalá, where you can soak your cares away in the public or private thermal baths. (As if there are any cares to be had here!)

And talk about centrally located. By car from lakeside, you can be on the beach at the charming Pacific Coast towns of Barra de Navidad or Melaque in 3-and-a-half hours. Manzanillo is 4 hours and Puerto Vallarta is 5-and-a-half hours away. The beautiful colonial towns of Morelia, Patzcuaro, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende are all just a half-day's drive away.

By the way, the towns we just mentioned were also top contenders for our first Mexico office location. But after applying our own (very unofficial) measurements, Ajijic and Lake Chapala consistently came out on top. Weather, affordability, infrastructure (we have dependable high-speed Internet here!), natural beauty, and social life... we feel like we have it all here.

Why Now is the Best Time to Come to Mexico!

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