We used to live under this “normal” paradigm of life in a 21st century, modern society, but no longer do thanks to manifesting and creating a radical change in our family’s lives. I can remember in our last few months before leaving Southern California, being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—and just sitting there at the steering wheel, anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers, moving along, inch by inch, so over and so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be, and feeling so READY for a change.
That meme represents so much what we were ready to change (and say goodbye to) in our lives. Breathing in the exhaust fumes of other vehicles, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in traffic was not the way we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the front end of my car to the sea of bumpers in front of me and text them to my husband Frank at work with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”. And I don’t, not one little bit. What’s to miss about it?
Since moving to Mexico in 2012 we have lived in the small coastal town of San Pancho, Nayarit—population under 2,000—and now, for the past year and a half, in the larger town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato of around 150,000 people.
We have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on dirt jungle roads and 16th century cobblestone streets. We have traded in those mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engaging in other, more meaningful activities of our choice.
If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.
This is not to say that life was dreadful for us in the States… certainly it was not. San Diego is a beautiful city with much to offer, see, live and experience. Yes, we had some rough patches, but that is just life and part of its various dimensions anywhere.
Without a doubt we miss our family and friends and that continues to be the biggest adjustment and area of conscious acceptance in our transported, immigrated lives… BUT, life here in Mexico for the past 3 years has proven itself to be rich, colorful, textured, varied, vibrant, stimulating, empowering, character-building, soul-enhancing, sustainable, life-changing.
We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their 3rd grade year, and within 3 months we became permanent residents. The process went rather quickly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, good luck and having the right legal liason were in our favor as well.
Our twins, a.k.a. “The Reds”, were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and our place in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!
Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. This, together with the fact that I have always spoken to them in Spanish in addition to English, allowed Mexico as our country of choice for relocation to not feel so foreign to them…in fact, they were very excited and embraced the idea of a move South for their association with Mexico was nothing but good.
Aside from the understandable and inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be, something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for.
We arrived to San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week school, a Montessori-based program saturated in banana, coconut and mango trees and open green space to run and play in—to be free! No asphalt, prison-like school grounds around there.
It was a big adjustment on many accounts, least of which being greeted by both a chicken pox and lice outbreak during their first week of attendance! ¡Viva ‘los changes’ and life! Thankfully, we weathered through and escaped both of those little introductory treats.
While the Spanish immersion component of the program was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish via me and living in a bilingual/border city for their first eight years of life. Even without those “language advantages” we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they can assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only ‘Mairead and Liam’ their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers graciously and warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.
After school in San Pancho, we placed them at a school in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.
Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…. and surfing! Not such a bad experience to have—going to a bilingual surfing school in the jungle—it was actually part of their PE program!
Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to another country. Their language skills progressed and improved so that at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease… impressive and beautiful to listen to.
After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico, and so set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another.
Frank and I see tangible evidence of engaged, joyful, academically sound learning. They WANT to go to school, and even if given the opportunity for a home day, they will vehemently pronounce “no”—that they want to go to school and not miss out on anything! Music to my mama/teacher ears!
They are learning, excelling, growing and expanding their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing, academically solid environment…what else more could we want for them as parents? And to do all of this against the backdrop of a 16th century UNESCO World Heritage colonial Mexican town… well, life is just really great for us all here! Happy Mom, Happy Kids, Happy Husband, Happy Dogs, Happy Family!
Since moving to Mexico, our kids have been feasting and flourishing in ways never before—running barefoot and free in the warm tropical air, surfing, horseback riding, pyramid climbing, adventuring upon the 16th-century cobblestone streets of central Mexico, exploring and expanding their horizons in life-changing ways, immersed in history, culture and opportunities colored in texture and dimension and a certain vibrancy and life that escapes words.
They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to published writer and photovoltaic designer and installer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals, but also many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this world who are also living life out of the box and on their own terms.
From San Diego to San Pancho to now San Miguel de Allende, we are embracing our lives in Mexico and reaping multiple rewards. We are learning about ourselves and the world around us, thriving in the 3D nature of our days that have a certain spirit, soul and ‘vibra’ that so resonates with us.
We thank you Mexico for your warmth, your hospitality, your graciousness and generosity, for welcoming and adopting us and allowing us to feel at home in our new country.
May the adventures continue on…
This post was originally posted on Los O’Gradys in Mexico.
Katie O’Grady is a 4th generation San Diegan who together with her retired firefighter hubby and now 11-year-old twins packed it up and immigrated to Mainland Mexico in 2012—first to the jungle, coastal town of San Pancho, Nayarit and now residing in the desert highlands of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.
Three years into their journey, they continue to live life “out of the box” and on their own terms, immersed in a culture rich in color, texture, and sensory stimulation.
Katie’s blog, Los O’Gradys in Mexico, won the title of InterNations Top Expat Blog.
She has been featured in various online and print publications, and embraces her reinvented life in Mexico.
She can also dance salsa with the best of them!
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