Decisions, Decisions


Where is my magic 8 ball?

When it was decided that our family needed to move from our state of origin (California) in 2011, it wasn’t all that hard to pick a location. We knew we wanted to stay on the west coast, we wanted a small city with plenty of things for the kids to do, we wanted good schools, good weather, and decent home prices. We were able to whittle our list down to one city in no time. We flew up to visit during the rainy season to ensure it was tolerable and then moved that following summer. From the time we decided to move to moving day was about 8 months. Pretty short considering we had never lived more than 2 hours from where we were both born and raised.

While you would think moving a family of 6 to another state knowing absolutely no one would be difficult, it was surprisingly easy, no 8 ball needed. If only identifying a country to retire in could be the same. If you Google, “best Countries to retire in,” or “best Countries for expats,” there are some really tough contenders. What I do know is, it needs to be affordable, it needs to be easily accessible from the States, It needs to offer good healthcare, people need to be friendly and welcoming , my marriage needs to be recognized (No countries like Malaysia that criminalize homosexual behavior-You can be sentenced to 20 years with or without fines and whippings.  ) but more important than all of that, It needs to call my name. We are talking about leaving all my family and friends, not only does it need to call, it needs to SING my name.

So who’s on the list? Colombia to start. Mexico is also in the running. Costa Rica is out and so is Panama. While both of those countries make the top 5 list according to International Living, they are too expensive and too far away to be worth it. Yes, Colombia is further but it is about half the cost of Panama and half as empty (this is a +!) as Costa Rica. While the Riviera Maya area of Mexico may be more expensive than the Caribbean side of Colombia, it has some real benefits. Most people that I have encountered in Mexico speak at least a little English.
The majority of people in Colombia do not speak English. Given that I only speak a little Spanish, this is a big plus for Mexico. Though I am dedicated to spending the next few years working on my Spanish. Since the majority of my top retirement contenders are in Latin America, this seems like a no brainer. I used to fantasize about retiring to Italy, and I might! Even in that situation, a good Latin base will be extremely beneficial.

Easy access to the States is essential. I have been playing with flight schedules over the last few months trying to figure out how to get to Colombia and back without wasting two days of travel each way. The issue is compounded by the fact that I am trying to travel on JetBlue because I have a hefty credit from when we decided to focus our time and money on early retirement instead of a lofty vacation in the Caribbean. This issue is further compounded by the desire to check out inland areas of Colombia, east of Medellin. You can’t just drive around Colombia, it would take days to get over the windy mountainous terrain so maybe that will have to be tabled for another trip. Most people can pop a sleeping aid and catch some zzzz’s on the plane. Not for the life of me do I fall into this category! I learned this the hard way on a red eye to Ireland. An Ambien and massive time change later, I was a mess for days. We will have a little over two weeks in November to explore Colombia-I don’t want to waste 4 of those days traveling with two of them sleep deprived. At least the time change is only a 2-3 hours,depending on our daylight savings, major bonus!

Traveling to and from Cancun or Cozumel is a piece of cake on just about any airline. It takes half as much time to get there than it does Cartagena. As you can tell from my previous post, Ahhhh the Riviera Maya there is much love for Mexico. That was my 3rd trip to the area. I have been to Cozumel, Cancun, Rivera Maya, and Progresso. Disclaimer, I have only been as a tourist. I think we are kicking ourselves now that we have returned for not checking out the local scene but what a better excuse do you need to return? I know the weather is warm and humid but tolerable. I fear that Colombia will be similar to Jamaica and I could hardly stand it there. The humidity is oppressive, even in the shade with a breeze. If we get to Colombia and it is similar, that part of the country gets a big red line through it on the list. There are much milder areas of Colombia, Medellin is actually named the city of eternal spring. Moving to a big city is not on my list though. I want the Caribbean Sea. I want to scuba dive frequently and do nothing while enjoying the white sand just as often.

Medical care in Mexico is not nearly as good as Colombia, touting a WHO ranking of 22. The US ranks 37 and Mexico claims the 61st spot. Interesting side note here. When we came back from Mexico, Lisa had a cold, then I got it. I have spent the last 9 days trying to fight off who knows what she caught on the flight down. I do take immunosuppressants for an autoimmune disorder so it may have been complicated by that. You can’t even assume you won’t catch measles anymore! Digression… Anyway, we picked up some cold medicine that worked really well in Mexico for about $1.50. I have some cold medicine that I had from Canada that works OK for about $5. Then I went out and bought somewhat similar (though not because of the regulations on pseudoephedrine) for $13 that didn’t work at all. $13 vs. $1.50- Works vs. Doesn’t. Hmmmm

As you can tell, it is all very much up in the air. One of the greatest benefits to writing is the ability to see things more clearly, however, If anyone see’s my magic 8 ball, let me know.

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Ahhh the Riviera Maya..

This vacation went down as the first one where I actually did not want to come home. If you are anything like me, you may have kids, a pet, a house, or even just a bed calling your name back home. Forget the job calling- that’s why we need a vacation to start with! And get this, Lisa (for those who don’t know, Lisa is my wife) had never been to Mexico! She was the inspiration behind this trip.

So, our last minute vacation plan started just a few weeks ago with the mention from Lisa that she wanted to take a couple of days off for her birthday. She works hard and long hours and has for close to 30 years. When I met Lisa, she was working about 12-14 hours a day and hadn’t taken any vacation to speak of in decades. She works so much that she can no longer accrue paid time off from work because she never uses it! This madness had to stop! Since we became a couple, Lisa has traveled more in the last few years than she has in her whole life. I am fortunate enough that I have a great group of colleagues who can hold down things at work for me if I don’t have anything big scheduled, which I did not. I also have a good relationship with my ex-husband who willingly keeps the dog and kids in check while I’m gone. I digress, I am the queen of digression so if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to stop reading now 🙂 Back to birthday plans… She suggested a day or two to the hot springs or maybe a trip to the spa. At the sheer notion that she was willing to take ANY time off, I seized the opportunity. Hey babe, what about Mexico? You’ve never been, I have a ton of miles to use, it’s your birthday, we didn’t really have a honeymoon…. I would bet money that her bosses don’t think I am that positive influence on her.

Traveling as a lesbian couple can be tricky. One of the first things I do when looking to travel is research LGBTQ friendliness in the country we are going to and then identify resorts, excursions,etc. You wouldn’t think in this day and age but those issues are still very prevalent. And I want to be clear, this blog/post isn’t about being a same sex couple. We are just humans like the rest of you but it is something that needs to be considered when travelling abroad. You can probably imagine that there isn’t much need for research when it comes to Mexico aka MexiPlay. The customer service and general attitudes of locals are beyond welcoming no matter who you are. And for those of you who are interested, same sex activity has been legal in Mexico since 1871. Most of the states within Mexico recognize same sex marriages.

Moving along… Lisa’s few days off turned into an 8 night all inclusive adults only stay at the Royal Hideaway Playacar and IT WAS FABULOUS. Customer service was top notch, the room was wonderful, the flight was great, (we love Alaska! Never fly Allegiant btw, especially if you are a same sex couple. )
the food was out of this world. We had an excursion to Tulum and Jungle Maya where we experienced a Mayan blessing ceremony, rappelled into a Cenote, zip lined through the jungle and overall just had the best day of our lives. I underwent ankle fusion surgery 3.5 months ago so my I wasn’t sure of my abilities but was pleasantly surprised. The only black mark on our trip was Pro Dive International- you can read more about that terrible experience here if you’d like. Nonetheless, the dive that we did do at Planacar Reef was spectacular. I have been a certified diver for several years but Lisa just got her OWD certification in November in Maui. She is sold on Mexico and swears we will never go back to Hawaii again. Gosh, twist my arm.

I am so grateful I got to share all of this with her. The woman who has dedicated her life to her work is finally putting her own regulator on and diving into life. BBYODO