Living, Mexico Essentials

A Journey to Retirement in Mexico

What propels someone to uproot from Minnesota and move to Mexico? For Steve Timm, a chance meeting and a serendipitous visit changed the course of his life’s story

Steve Retirement Journey in Mexico

Retired and single, moving to Mexico wasn’t on Steve’s mind when he signed-up to an online dating site.  After meeting several women online, he struck a chord with Patricia, who lived in Mexico City, and they eventually decided to meet in person.  As their relationship evolved, Steve and Patricia spent time together traveling around Mexico and getting to know each other.  One of their earlier trips took them to Patricia’s friend’s house, situated in the highland town of Tepoztlán, near Cuernavaca —about an hour’s drive south of Mexico City— and this short weekend break left an impression on Steve that would change the course of his life, as he recalled, “…that first night, we were sitting together facing a log fire and looking at the mountains when a yellow dome began to rise between two cliffs.  We watched in awe as a full moon ascended, beautifully illuminating the cliffs—and it cast an immediate enchantment on both of us.”

Some months later, Steve was back in Mexico and together he and Patricia rented a house for a month in Tepoztlán, a town that Patricia had admired for decades, but for Steve, a place that had only just begun to weave its charms around him.

Tepoztlán’s impressive copper-tone mountains offer an agreeable backdrop for Steve, who prefers the openness of the rural countryside but also seeks easy access to local amenities. “The town is big enough for everyday needs, and close enough to Cuernavaca when we need supermarkets and healthcare services,” Steve remarks.  The cobble-stone streets, the local stalls with sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the colorful artisan markets that set-up at the weekends when the tourists come to town add to the charm and character of this rural enclave.  The warmth and welcoming nature of the local people was another big draw for Steve, and it was during this second visit that he made the decision to move here.

The process of searching for and eventually finding a home they both liked took longer than they had anticipated.  With a checklist of practical requirements, they visited different house styles from stand-alone properties situated in neighboring rural villages to newly-built condominiums set inside gated communities near Tepoztlán’s center—but for varying reasons the properties were not suitable, or owners were unresponsive when they made an offer.  Steve recalls how, “one seller refused to answer an asking-price offer for weeks and when she finally responded, the price had been raised!” Although the process was, at times, frustrating, it was the second visit —underpinned by a longer house rental lasting several months— that gave them adequate time to buy a home.  With less haste, and with the assistance of a local realty agent they found helpful and supportive, they were able to view more properties, and take a calmer approach to the buying process.

The house they bought is situated close enough to the center of town for everyday amenities, and far enough away so as to enjoy an idyllic rural setting.  The 18 year-old property met their key criteria and, although it was in need of some repair —in particular, the roof needed resealing and retiling— these works added-up to no more than 10% of the property price and they have since spent about another 20% on upgrades and enhancements.  Steve reflects on how he and Patricia agreed the property ‘felt right’ from the moment they stepped-in: they love its character, its colonial architecture, and the breath-taking views and sunsets it offers across the surrounding valley.  Steve said that he never could have afforded a house of this style and quality back home, “I’d need to have saved twice as much money for retirement to live this lifestyle in the United States.” He considered the purchase price to be a good value, and the ongoing maintenance and taxes are affordable, as well.

By investing in the property and making the house comfortable, Steve began to put down his first roots in Mexico.  Discovering Mexico through his relationship with Patricia and taking an active role in the local community has deepened his endearment for the country and its people.  Steve’s enthusiasm is palpable when he talks about the new friendships he has been able to forge, “I have met so many interesting, engaging and thoughtful people here,” Steve says, “within Patricia’s social circles, with our neighbors and their friends, many who are Mexican and others from overseas, and the wonderful local people, from the builders to the market sellers we’ve gotten to know over time.  Everyone here is so warm and friendly, and I’ve been able to forge bonds with people of the kind that I wasn’t often able to back in the States.”

Steve concedes that he finds some aspects about living in Mexico difficult at times, and that some expectations he had imported from his US lifestyles are being gradually peeled away. “I would get very irritated at how long it took to drive through town, with tourists and slow delivery trucks holding-up the traffic,” he says. “The electricity power cuts were annoying, but the service has improved over time; and anyway, I’m relaxed about power cuts and traffic now.”  He admits that his frustrations are sometimes exacerbated by his reluctance to speak Spanish and he knows his experiences would be more enriching here if he did.  In reflection of the last couple of years he remarks —almost wistfully— that being in Mexico is teaching him so much; helping him to slow down and widen his perspectives; encouraging him to enjoy what is, and not live in continual resistance.

The concerns vocalized by some of his family and friends when he announced he was moving to Mexico full-time, particularly fears they held around security and the drug cartels, have been allayed.  “I feel very safe in Mexico, and when friends and family come to visit, they witness the calm here firsthand, and those fears they carry melt away.”

Steve confidently asserts that his move to Mexico was one of the best decisions he’s made.  “Every day, Mexico surprises me, and I love the serendipity of life situations here.  Patri and I live in this beautiful highland town, we spend days taking care of our home and garden in this extraordinary temperate climate; we regularly welcome friends and neighbors, we hike, we travel in Mexico, and I still have plenty of time to keep my blog updated!” He concludes by adding, “I could not have wished for a happier and more fulfilling retirement than the one I have.”

Steve’s blog —StephenAlanTimm.com— offers readers articles and essays that share knowledge and understanding he acquired over the course of a lifetime working as a professional psychologist.  His intention is to help people find ways to live life more peacefully, and with a sense of abundance.

We asked him if he would ever return to the US to live.  He takes a long pause to contemplate, and then replies, thoughtfully, “only if a major healthcare issue obliges me to go back.  I consider Mexico my home.”  The point of no return happened on the occasion of the first birthday party he celebrated at the new house in October 2018. “There were about 20 people present; and as I looked around that late afternoon, an awareness came to me that I felt so at home, and comfortable here.  In that moment, I realized that this is where I belong.”

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