A rare breed

DECADES AGO, before she ran off the rails and joined a cult, my sister, who’s a therapist or counselor or something of that sort, gave me a standardized personality test, a tool used to determine one’s best occupational fit.

oddballsThe trait that topped the list was that I favored adventure, which was not a surprise to me, and likely explains why I now sit atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico in my declining years instead of on a park bench, feeding seed to pigeons in Des Moines or St. Petersburg.

With that in mind, I was quite interested in this news story headlined “Ten Surprising Facts About Retirement.” Some of the facts interested me more than others and, despite the headline, some were not surprising at all. You need investment growth, sure. Most retirees depend mostly on Social Security, yep. Something about Medicare, which interests me not at all because I don’t use it, and never will.

Forty-four percent of folks over 65 live alone. I don’t like that, and I don’t favor living alone, but living alone is certainly better than living with some people. Yes, there are worse things than living solo.

Let’s go directly now to the item that really captured my attention. And that is the percentage of Americans who retire and move to another country:  a minuscule 0.3 percent.

This percentage is of people over age 65. I bailed out of the workforce and flew over the Rio Bravo when I was 55. Would I have done it at a more settled 65 or now at stodgy 70? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.

Those of us living out here beyond the porous and troubled border are clearly a rare breed, which would make a fine title for an old television Western. Giddy-up, go!

22 thoughts on “A rare breed”

  1. I have tried to piece together some attributes that expatriates in my area have in common. More adventurous than their brethren up north. Of course. But, as you point out, the assertion is a tautology.

    My research is hampered by the low number of full-time expatriates in my cluster of villages on the coast. The vast majority are here only for short bursts of time each year, and are not really expatriates. The fact that a majority of them come from a country that requires them to return north merely to maintain a health benefit skews any adventure analysis.

    Like you, I can only answer the question for myself. And, in my case, the answer has long been a moving target.

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    1. Señor Cotton: I emphatically deny pointing out that anything is a tautology because I have no idea what a tautology is. I am a simple country boy, after all.

      But moving on, yes, furriners in your area go home in the summer. What does that tell you? They get out of Dodge when the furnace is turned on. They are not expats. They are annual vacationers. I know of Canada’s requirement that everybody head home to check in periodically. Ain’t that a pile of bull?

      As for your case, I still am waiting for you to live in Mexico. You did buy a house, but it appears that it’s going to be as vacant most of the year as your previous rental was.

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      1. Felipe, don’t be so hard on Steve. I read your comment to mi esposo and he emitted a pain-filled groan, instead of his usual noncommittal grunt.

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  2. I guess I have always considered myself a citizen of the world. I went to Germany when I was 18, courtesy of my Uncle Sam, and spent 3 wonderful years visiting and traveling in Europe. One thing it takes to move to another land is plenty of intestinal fortitude and a sense of adventure, regardless of your age.

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    1. Andrés: One of the great disappointments of my military career, such as it was, is that the very person who stepped into my exact job in California after my discharge was soon transferred to England. Dang.

      When I moved south, my son-in-law said to my daughter: He’ll be back within a year.

      Ha! Been a long, long year. Clearly, he did not know me.

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  3. A good many retirees would exit the country except they are tied to their children, grandchildren and friends. My wife would never live more that a few blocks from her grandkids.

    We get entailed in real estate and other ventures that bind us to our home place. My older brother retired from the Navy, and he moved not back to Mexico, but to Costa Rica. His kids were absolute pains in the posteriors, yet he eventually moved back to be near them.

    It is all about family.

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    1. Señor Gill: What you say about family connections is quite true, and it’s why so few older people pull up and move to other countries, of course. In part, it’s due to a lack of an adventuresome spirit, but I think it’s the family connections primarily.

      When I moved here, I just had a mother, sister and daughter. My mother, who was 80, had a hissy fit when I told her my plans, but I came anyway. I pointed out to her that I could just about as easily hop a plane in Mexico to Atlanta as I could from Houston to Atlanta, which is true. Didn’t calm her down any.

      Any additional space between my sister and me is good space. And I’d love to be closer to my daughter, but I’m not. She has plenty of free time and money to fly down here. I’ve been waiting for that almost 15 years. It’s an unfortunate tale.

      Your brother did not “move back to Mexico”? You a Mexican?

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  4. If only 1% of all retirees move to another state, then the .3% who move abroad doesn’t seem like such a small figure. Think of it this way: for every 10 retirees who move to Florida, there are 3 who move abroad. That doesn’t make much sense, does it? But then the author did write “overseas,” which is far from merely “abroad.” Could she have not known the difference?

    I think it’s more than family connections that keep Estadounidenses from moving abroad. I’ve known a number who moved here to get away from their children, to keep from burdening their children with the woes of an aging parent, still maintaining a friendly but healthy distance from their progeny. My own mother would move here, all alone, when she was 70.

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      1. Sometimes that is true, but you have to admit that as you get older, you value your connections to other people in ways you didn’t when you were younger. Keep inviting your daughter. Even if she never comes, she will remember that her dad always invited her to visit.

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  5. My big fear is that the greedy government will go looking for funds. I was working in the prison system when it was decided to not pay Social Security to incarcerated people. I thought that would cause a riot. It happened without so much as a whimper.

    Now if they decide to withhold payments to those living abroad, where would that leave expats? I am afraid the U.S. government may seek to drain the foreign accounts of its citizens.

    What happened to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure? It sounds like it would never happen, but now the police are confiscating funds from citizens without proof of wrongdoing. Possession of cash is enough to provoke seizure.

    Your mattress may by your best resort.

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    1. Señor Gill: Barry’s government is the only one in the world that seeks to tax its citizens’ investments outside of the U.S. They racheted up the efforts just last year. It is indeed ridiculous.

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  6. My philosophy has always been, my sanity and survival come first. As that noxious Disney song goes: It’s a small world after all.

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  7. I’m still on the fence Mexico-wise. You see, I’m already an expat in Canada! Now some folks might say that moving from one first-world country to another is just a change of address with the same language, give or take a few vowels. Moving countries in your thirties is one thing but trundling through the centuries to Mexico in later years is a more intimidating proposition!

    I salute you all.

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  8. Colm54, Come to Mexico. It will make what some call this “third age” of life more exciting, richer. We came to Mexico for a visit and could not bring ourselves to leave. We have three children and nine grandchildren in Texas that we love very much, but they have their own lives. We make it back to visit twice a year to slather them in love, piñatas, Mexican candy. We have a lot of friends here who catch a flight out of GDL, three or four times a year to visit their kids — as often as they would have if they lived in the USA. During the other ten months, we live our own lives, have our own friends and interests. We volunteer at a local charity, take Spanish lessons. We have a full social life. Thanksgiving, we joined a large group of expats on a bus trip to Puerto Vallarta. My point is, this is paradise. Believe me.

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      1. Felipe, I just spent Saturday watching the Colima volcano erupt, and sitting in a café on the square that, once you order a drink, brings one tapas plate after another at NO EXTRA CHARGE. We only paid for our drinks and got an amazing variety of food. Stayed in a clean, pleasant and safe hostel in the center of town for $40/night. Had more than one local, when we said, Buenos noches, reply, we welcome you to Comala. We were the only gringos in town. Have you been to Comala and watched the Colima volcano blowing steam and ash 40,000 ft into the air? If not. Make a visit with su esposa and then tell me if this is not paradise.

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        1. Bonnie, that does sound pretty wonderful. I guess I’m just a bit more sparing with the paradise word than you. Also, I do think the Gringos tend to overuse it quite a bit due, in large part, to socializing almost exclusively among themselves. Being married to a Mexican, and also dodging Gringos here most all the time, gives me a bit more of a local perspective, I do believe. There are plenty of problems, many of which are not known by Gringos because they speak little or no Spanish, which is essential. And then there’s the fact that the Mexicans are always giving us that — often insincere — smile (toss in quote by Octavio Paz right here).

          In short, color me a skeptic. But that does sound like a pretty great day you had.

          Nope, never been to Colima. Like to go one day.

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          1. There are problems everywhere you go. So what? I speak fairly competent Spanish, having graduated from HS in El Paso when you could cross the border with just a US drivers license, being forced to take a language in HS and college and my desire to date Eddie Chavez, the drum major. I continue to take lessons and have a 90 year old neighbor who chats with me in Spanish, in hopes I can help her find a gringo husband. Quit thinking like a journalist, looking at the dirt, and look at Mexico through the eyes of an historian and a writer. There is so much to see here, so much to learn. We are going back to Comala in two weeks, so my husband will quit staring at the Colima Volcano webcam, and are staying at the inn of a man who also runs tours to the volcano, and the 2 archeological sites in the area. Private room, internet, outdoor gardens and hammocks, full Mexican breakfast every morning, about $45/night. You cannot convince me that this is not paradise, qua paradise.

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            1. Bonnie: I look at the dirt and also at the clear blue skies. I thought of you yesterday when my wife and I were eating at a great restaurant a stone’s toss from our high mountain lake. The grub was good. The prices were good. The air was cool and nice. It was a moment of paradise indeed.

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  9. Hi Bonnie, thanks for lifting the spirits!

    We were entertaining a move to Ajijic. Went down for a foray, and both my wife and I really liked the community and at that time the Canadian dollar was almost on par with the U.S. currency which made for a favourable purchase. Folks we met suggested staying for a few months to explore the various fracs and perhaps stay in a couple of places to see what would work for us.

    On our return to Canada we decided to have a cooling-off period due to failing health issues with elderly parents while exploring the area on the internet. The intent here was to get a house that could be used not just by us but by our extended family too, but it had to be accessible!

    Now, five years on, Ajijic and Lake Chapala are not on our radar anymore except for a visit perhaps, but we will probably wander farther south to Merida next year! Strangely flying to Yucatan is a relatively simple trip, six hours one way to Cancún (plus a bus ride or short flight), but the flight to Guadalajara includes two layovers both ways with possible fog delays in San Francisco which makes for extra difficulties for other family members.

    So this year Europe beckons while next year will be Yucatan dreaming!

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