Five and a half years ago, I vaccinated the dog, vacuum-packed linens and clothes, got my soccer-mom SUV tuned up, and drove from Minneapolis to Mexico, where I recently received permanent resident status.
I became an empty-nester when my son went off to college in 2004. He spent summers at home, but I didn’t feel the need to operate a bed-and-breakfast any longer. I was sick of living in the suburbs, maintaining a four-bedroom house with a pool that I could use only four months of the year.
I felt burned out after 20 years of PR consulting, corporate speechwriting and business travel. I was restless, relationship-free and ready for adventure.
But mainly I moved to Mexico because I detest winter. I wanted to be blissfully, effortlessly warm. As I write, it is 14 degrees in Minneapolis and 81 in San Miguel de Allende, where I live.
The decision to move south of the border was instantaneous.
Fresh out of a job and dreading winter’s frigid inconvenience, I rented a condo near Cabo San Lucas in late 2007. One day I sat peeling a mango on a balcony overlooking the Sea of Cortés and heard buzzing next to my ear. I imagined it was one of the giant flying beetles we get down here.
But the buzz came from the wings of a tiny, shiny emerald hummingbird that had taken a break from a pot of pink blossoms to hover in front of my face and — I swear! — smile at me. In that moment, in my mind, I moved to Mexico.
In February 2008, I attended a writers' conference in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. I didn’t see much of the town, so I returned in May, living rent-free in a friend’s one-room casita. Every day I sat in the courtyard with fresh fruit and almonds and Mexican coffee and I wrote. By night, I got to know San Miguel, practicing my Spanish on stage at a karaoke bar.
When I went back to Minnesota, I sold or gave away 20 years’ worth of accumulated furniture, household goods and winter clothes. I moved my artwork into storage. I took a five-week Spanish class at Normandale Community College and listened to 107.5 FM, “La Mera Buena,” on the radio.
I put the house up for sale.
My plan was to move on New Year’s Day—a symbolic start to my new life in Mexico—but in September it occurred to me that moving in the snow would be insane, so I packed up the car, wedging the dog’s kennel between boxes labeled ropas and cocina, and began the four-day drive to San Miguel. I arrived on October 1, 2008.
My house in Minnesota never sold. I rented it out for two years, then gave it back to the bank. Now I own little of material value except for my SUV, my laptop computer, and a sound system for the karaoke show I host in San Miguel.
I haven’t yet published a book, but I’ve got an agent waiting for the first 50 pages of my novel.
An amateur photographer, I wander daily through a kaleidoscope of brick and bugambilia, festivals and fireworks. I’ve taken hundreds of close-ups of formidable scorpions and glistening black widow spiders.
Falling in love again was not on my bucket list, but after all these years, I finally found Mr. Right: he’s a Mexican musician and language teacher, fluent in English. We celebrated four years together in February.
Happily, thanks to LinkedIn, Facebook and Skype, I’ve stayed connected with family and friends, and with clients around the world for whom I write and edit business and lifestyle books, executive bios and memoirs.
As a permanent resident of Mexico, I am still an American citizen, but can come and go freely from Mexico. I can get a job here, but not vote. I love Minnesota and have not rejected my homeland, I have only expanded my definition of home.
As an indigenous Mexican man muses in the documentary film “Hecho en México” (Duncan Bridgeman, 2012), “Acuerdate que el ave no es del nido en el que nace, sino del cielo en el que vuela,” or “Remember that a bird does not belong to the nest in which it is born, but to the sky in which it flies.”
Anne Nicolai is a Minnesota writer and book editor living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, where she hosts a weekly bilingual karaoke show and helps shivering souls to find rental homes. Find her at editorsma.com and karaokeani.com.