Working as crew on yachts around the world, my partner and I had the good fortune of experiencing diverse cultures and seeing stunning new places. 20 years ago, after a 6 month stint in Costa Rica, we immediately returned to Bahia de Banderas and bought our first little house for less than $20,000 usd. At the time, my Mexican friend commented, “Oh, so you bought in the barrio.” Of course, we soon discovered what she meant, as the loud, pulsating music blared all hours of the night and there was a steady stream of people walking by our door going to and from the outlying areas. It was our introduction to living in Mexico and owning that house anchored us to the North Shore for the next 20 years.
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We had a stream of colorful expats staying in that house, when we weren’t able to be there, giving us a wealth of amusing and fun memories. We’ll never forget the sweet elderly couple, who used to hang out at Orca’s Restaurant/Bar on the beach in Bucerias. Our Mexican neighbors later told us shocking stories of them passed out drunk on the street in front of the house. They finally sobered up and moved back to the U.S. The German fellow that hosted winter solstice celebrations in our backyard, really had our Catholic neighbors concerned for fear of witchcraft or worse! And there were several young families with adorable children that we got to know, who warmed our hearts over the years!
15 years ago when we finally retired from crewing on yachts, we realized that we needed a more comfortable place to live, out of the barrio. As luck would have it, we purchased a spacious house in Bucerias that has been the perfect retirement location.
We invited a young bilingual Mexican man who had been living in the casita on the property to stay and help us with maintenance. Our experiences with him gave us more insight into the culture and people of Mexico. Unfortunately, he decided to leave one day with the furnishings, but the experience was worth the minor rip off. And yes, we’ve been ripped off more than once, but that can happen anywhere. Just be a little cautious about who you allow into your life.
We’ve had the same Mexican neighbors over the years and have watched their families grow and have seen them mature past “all night Banda/tequila parties” that shook our windows and disturbed our sleep. The 12 barking puppies on the other side of our wall, nearly drove us mad, but finally all found good homes and we soon returned to peace and “tranquilo.” And that family is now raising an adorable little boy. Across the street our Mexican neighbor sells Mary Kay Cosmetics and is always working hard to move ahead in life. The lots on our street have sold over the years and the new construction has also brought us more American and Canadian neighbors bringing the mix to about half nationals and half expats. So as you’ve probably guessed, our house isn’t in the tourist zone. For retirement, living away from the tourist zone has actually brought us closer to the people and culture of Mexico.
And during that time we’ve also had wonderful friendships with expats from around the world and gotten to know many Canadians. Even during the years that Americans were a little timid about showing up in Mexican, you couldn’t stop the landslide of Canadians escaping those bitter winters in the North.
Besides working on the house projects, we have become involved in the entertainment scene in Vallarta and the North Shore. I write promo articles and reviews of shows and musical events, which has added another exciting dimension to our lives here. Getting to know the entertainers and venue owners and being a part of that community has enriched our experience.
So how can I summarize our 20 year experience in Mexico? It’s been mostly good, occasionally a little challenging, but never boring. The old saying, “Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe,” has rung true for us in Mexico as it would almost anywhere in the world. The Mexican people deserve their good reputation as warm and welcoming and we have found a fun, interesting, safe and fulfilling retirement here.
It is definitely true, that happiness comes from within and contentment is achieved through good choices, service to others, following the path of peace and being true to oneself. And there’s no better place to achieve these things than in the Bahia de Banderas.