Mexico Retirement Locations – Comparing San Miguel de Allende to Chapala, Part III

Guest blog post by Kevin Knox

Kevin is a semi-retired coffee taster and buyer, world traveler, gourmand and student of yoga and meditation. He and his wife, Erin, currently spend their time between San Miguel de Allende, and Chapala, Mexico. To follow his writings and musings, click on his blog here

Last week, in the discussion of comparing the popular Mexican Retirement Destinations of Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende, Kevin focused on San Miguel. This week, he will offer you his perspective on comparative Costs of Living.

Relative Costs of Living

Housing

Real estate in central San Miguel starts at about double the price of comparable properties at Lake Chapala, but rents, on an apples-to-apples basis, are the same or less than asking prices at Lake Chapala. One finds a mixture of dollar and peso denominated rents in San Miguel and more opportunities to rent directly from owners rather than paying real estate agency prices.

Utilities

Utility costs are on par, with the important exception of propane or firewood for winter heating in San Miguel, so that’s one additional expense for living there that could add several hundred dollars a year depending on the severity of a given winter’s weather and the size of your home.

Prices for rentals in San Miguel are reasonable

Transport

More than compensating for that expense is that in San Miguel, provided one lives in or near centro rather than out in the countryside, a car is neither wanted nor needed. You can walk everywhere, and unlike Lakeside, which has a relatively poor transportation infrastructure with buses running limited hours and taxis that must be called rather than hailed, San Miguel has 25 peso (less than $2) taxis plying the streets at all hours and an excellent bus system. At Lakeside we (and most other people we know) find a car to be all but essential, especially during the rainy season, but at San Miguel you’ll be far happier without one, as streets are narrow, traffic is heavy and parking either hard to find or expensive.

Curious about Mexico? Click here

Food

Food costs for meat, produce and local Mexican foods from tacos to stews to burritos are lower in San Miguel than at Lakeside, with far more choice, but with a very important caveat: there are many more opportunities to blow your budget on fancy restaurants and international cuisine. Lakeside has relatively few restaurants and arguably none of an international caliber, while San Miguel has everything from Chinese to Thai to French and Italian, plus jazz clubs, flamenco shows and an endless procession of festivals and special events that, as one friend puts it, “can create a giant sucking sound in your wallet without even trying.”

Expansive view of Lake Chapala

Health Care

Health care costs are about on par between Lakeside and San Miguel, but with a couple of important differences. In both places there’s an abundance of bilingual doctors who cater to expats paying out-of-pocket, but Lakeside has no hospital facilities so in the event of anything serious occurring one has to hope to make it by car or one of the two ambulances serving the entire area to one of several world-class hospitals in Guadalajara, 45-60 minutes or more away depending or traffic. San Miguel has excellent hospital facilities right in the city.

Relatively expensive private insurance is available in both places. For those looking to join the Mexican system San Miguel has the great advantage of the Seguro Popular system, with no annual fee, an excellent hospital in the city and none of the discrimination against expats and arbitrary ejections from coverage that continue to plague the IMSS clinic at Lake Chapala.

Which Place is for You?

One thing for sure is there are fantastic expat communities in both of these places, and both are extraordinary places to live. In my opinion, anyone wishing to explore Mexico as a retirement destination would be well advised to come on down and rent for a year in one or the other of these places. Then make it a point to take a deluxe bus to Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende and – for the more adventurous – the city of Oaxaca and the lovely colonial town San Cristobal de las Casas before even thinking about buying property or putting down roots.

 To read Part I, click here

To read Part II, click here

For more information on Retirement Issues, click here

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A Reader’s Comments on Retirement in Tatters

I too read the Joe Nocera article in the New York Times. It was surely bleak, and frightened a great many people.

Your take on the article was quite unusual.

Mr. Nocera saw $100,000 as paltry and near poverty but you see it as a beginning, as capable of bearing fruit, depending on where one lives. I agree.

Guatemala is now on my list of considerations, thanks to you and Billy. (By the way, there is a huge marketing campaign to convince eligible people to delay taking SS benefits. I think this would be a suitable topic for discussion at some point. There are strong points on both sides.)

Best Wishes,

Paul

Find answers to all your retirement questions, click here

Hi Paul

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting us know you appreciated our take on Joe Nocera’s piece.

You mentioned the huge marketing campaign to convince eligible people to delay taking their SS benefits, and I know there are arguments for both sides. What a great idea to have us discuss this and then share with our Readers. Thanks for the suggestion!

When will you take your payments?

Billy has often mentioned that he would take his as soon as he was eligible, whereas I had thought – being the wife — that I would wait until later. In this way, I was hoping to receive a larger payment if I became widowed.

We will probably have to rethink the issue as we become closer to eligibility — things are changing quite fast these days as the government is scrambling to cover these monetary promises. However, since we planned our retirement without the need for Social Security, this money would be gravy on top and if we chose to take it sooner, we would probably just invest it.

For tools and calculators to analyze your monetary situation in all areas of living, click here

I have also noticed how journalists are emphasizing how much we all need the government in order to survive. People are being trained to think in a very dependent manner and we find that disturbing. It’s not working so much for Europe and the Euro and that situation will become our future if we are not careful.

No matter what happens, our position is that there are always opportunities. Billy and I at Retire Early Lifestyle try to present these possibilities as best we are able.

You have more possibilities available to you than you think

Self-reliance is a skill that can be learned and a muscle that needs working in order to become strong. Regardless if people choose differently for themselves, we find that this viewpoint suits our personalities the best.

We wish you all good things,

Akaisha

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Important Steps to Finding Your Trusted House Sitter, Part II

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected“  Laws

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

If you own a home, are new to the house sitting world and don’t know where to start to find the right sitter for your home and pets, read Angela’s post below. 

Many home owners have decided that house sitting is just THE best solution to leaving home and pets safe and secure. I’m a home owner myself who has been house sitting for over five years. I’m sharing my advice on how to get your very own Trustedhousesitter.

In Part I, I spoke about how to list your home, whether or not to have a vehicle available to your sitter and how trust is a priority on both sides when finding your perfect sitter.

These are my tips this week:

Pets 

If the primary reason for engaging a sitter is pet care, be very specific in your listing. This will pay dividends in terms of saving you time.

Your pet might require special care – let your Sitter know

If you have dogs, state the age and breed as all dogs are not equal and some are more labor intensive than others. A Springer in its prime will run in all weather for hours and still want more. On the other hand, even though Great Danes are large dogs, they can’t run like this and they won’t. A Goldie requires huge amounts of grooming for that double coat, where a Labradoodle doesn’t even shed!

A sitter who loves animals but isn’t necessarily that active wouldn’t be suitable for our Springer but would be a perfect match for a Shitzu Princess. Being specific will about the breed and required care will make certain that you will get the right sitter applying. Although breed specific information is important with dogs, it’s less so with cats. But again, the details about age, breed, and whether your pet is indoor or outdoor trained are important.



Horses and farm animals are a very specialized remit and should illicit applications only from those sitters with experience. However, it would be prudent to stress the level of expertise you require and expect. Again, be honest with your requirements and – in fairness- be prepared to offer some financial compensation where necessary.

Simplify your life, save money, learn something new, choose a walk-able city, be car free. To learn more, click here

If you don’t already know the costs associated with pet/animal care/boarding, check your local services. You’ll then realize just how much financial savings pet sitters provide. And the savings of stress to your pets’ welfare is immeasurable.

How many applications can I expect?

Depending on time of year, location, type of property, length of sit and the skills you require, the number of applications can vary. House sitting is becoming more popular and the number of sitters is increasing. That being said, most home owners say “normal” is to receive between 10 and 20 applicants.

Sorting Applications

All emails will be linked to the sitter’s profile. Some people may write just a couple of lines others will write more. You may decide not to pursue some of the messages, but for others you’ll want to read their full profile. At every stage of the process, please inform the applicants regarding the status of their application. Because the website provides a “Reply” link to emails, notifying each person is simple to do without unnecessary hassle or inconvenience.

Home Owner and House Sitter work together for the perfect fit

It’s worth remembering that you, the home owner, are only dealing with one listing. For some sitters, this is a lifestyle choice and they travel many months a year between countries. In order to give you the very best service they can, planning is a vital part of what they do. Knowing whether they are being considered, short listed or rejected is always appreciated and is extremely helpful.

Local or Long Distance Sitter?

This is really your preference.

I would encourage everyone not to dismiss applications from sitters all around the world. Just because they don’t live in your town, or even your country, doesn’t make them less of a potentially perfect match.

Sitters who choose this lifestyle are passionate about travel and giving the very best service to their clients. Long-haul travel is the norm for them. It’s a way to explore a new country, or revisit an old favorite without staying in an impersonal hotel. Or they may wish to be near (not staying with) a loved one or family member.

Your home may just be the perfect solution for both of you.

Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

Make a short list

TrustedHousesitters has the most concise sitter profile information that I have found. This includes references, photographs and some have amateur video introductions. Compile a short list of your favorites, again making the sitters aware that you’re at this point in the selection process. Your choice is very personal at this stage. Perhaps you’ve not done any due diligence such as the checking of references, telephone, email or Skype contact, so it’s really a theoretical exercise based on the personal information that has been given.

Use that all-important gut feeling. I promise you’ll be drawn to like-minded people and to those with whom you want to communicate. Sometimes, you will note immediately that you already have something in common.

Work the short list, make your choice

Now you’re ready to make direct contact with your selected sitters. It’s just like interviewing potential employees or internet dating, except it’s for your home. You’ll have personal contact details, email, telephone, and perhaps Skype contact. Ask for the contact details of references and for permission to contact them directly – either by email, telephone or both. This is the time to do your due diligence.

In verifying references, ask them if they would like to add anything about your potential sitter. Ask any specific questions that might not already be covered. You may find that after one telephone chat, along with the sitter’s profile information, photographs and possible video that you have enough on which to base your decision.

House sitting opens doors to both Sitter and Owner

I advise you to feel comfortable about your decision. You don’t need to feel pressure but at the same time, don’t take too long. You may miss the sitter you really want because good ones are always in demand.

Win-win

You have finally made your choice. It’s the right one, you’ve made a connection, and it even FEELS right. It’s a WIN-WIN relationship!!

Now wasn’t that easy?

The List – 10 Steps to Prepare for your Sitter

Finalize day and time of arrival/departure.

Prepare an info pack on your home, list contact numbers for neighbors, relatives, for yourself, tradesmen you trust, utility companies, vets and local doctor/hospital.

Note days of garbage collections and any idiosyncrasy associated with your home.

Check Insurance for car, add driver’s details.

Leave your home the way you expect to find it – Clean and Tidy.

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Clean fridge out and leave fresh milk and some basics. No science lab specimens in the fridge or food cupboards,

Clean bathrooms, towels, fresh soap etc. Make space for the sitter’s toiletries.

Supply fresh and clean bed linen. Empty draws and closet, leave a supply of hangers and bath robes, if possible.

Poop scoop garden if necessary, leave all pets bedding clean and smelling sweet.

Stock up on pet food, treats, medications, flea/tick prevention.

Appreciated but not necessary – have a meet and greet with the neighbors the day before your departure. This familiarizes everyone that you will be leaving and that you will have house sitters in your home.

Wave goodbye, have a brilliant holiday knowing all is well in your home world, thanks to your TrustedHouseSitter

 House Sitter Profiles on TrustedHousesitters provide in-depth information including references, experience, availability, location, photographs and even video introductions.

For Finding Your Trusted House Sitter, Part I, click here

Related Articles:

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

House Sitting My Way Around the World

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing, Is It Work or Is It Passion? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mexico Retirement Locations – Comparing San Miguel de Allende to Chapala, Part II

 Guest blog post by Kevin Knox

Kevin is a semi-retired coffee taster and buyer, world traveler, gourmand and student of yoga and meditation. He and his wife, Erin, currently spend their time between San Miguel de Allende, and Chapala, Mexico. To follow his writings and musings, click on his blog here

Last week, in the discussion of comparing the popular Mexican Retirement Destinations of Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende, Kevin focused on Chapala. This week, he will offer you his perspective on San Miguel.

San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende is a small but very cosmopolitan city, not a collection of rural villages, so the feel is very different. Moreover, San Miguel is a famous place within Mexico, with nearly 500 years of cultural heritage and close proximity to towns such as Dolores Hidalgo that were the epicenter of the Mexican revolution.

San Miguel Church

San Miguel is above all a city of and for the arts. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning, among other things, that traffic lights, neon signs and even fire hydrants are forbidden. There are dozens and dozens of world class art galleries and schools and a year-round calendar of jazz, classical music and theater that put many cities of ten times the size to shame.

San Miguel is located at 6400 feet (1400 feet higher than Lake Chapala) in the vast fertile plains known as El Bajio. Climate-wise the feeling is quite high and dry – like Santa Fe, New Mexico but without the snow or harsh winters. Year-round temperatures average about 5 degrees hotter in the summer and 5 degrees colder in the winter than at Lakeside, and in the colder months of January and February you’ll need a down jacket or heavy fleece in  the mornings and will spend some extra money on firewood or propane heat.

Curious about Mexico? Click here

San Miguel is hilly, and while it’s perfectly possible to rent a place that’s a flat walk to centro there are plenty of hills in town that would make a San Franciscan feel right at home. Overall it is certainly not a place for the less than able-bodied. This isn’t to say that Lakeside, with its cobblestoned streets, is an ADA-accessible paradise, but for some the steepness and/or higher altitude of San Miguel will rule it out.

Steep steps and hills in San Miguel

San Miguel isn’t directly on the way to or from anywhere, which also has advantages and disadvantages. Mexico City, with its vast population, is about 4 hours away and has one airport that serves San Miguel, while the industrial city of Léon (1.5 hours) and the hopping hi-technology community of Querétaro (1 hour) have smaller airports with international service to Texas and Los Angeles.

On the plus side, San Miguel is far from any drug trafficking transport corridors and has thus far been spared from that unfortunate part of current Mexican reality. It also attracts a different kind of Mexican visitor than Lakeside, drawing primarily wealthy individuals from Mexico City to Monterrey in search of fine arts and a peaceful respite. For those who drive from the U.S., San Miguel is a far easier haul than Lakeside, with a straight shot and one long day (11 hours or less) from Laredo, all on toll roads.

Culturally and culinarily San Miguel is to Lake Chapala what San Francisco is to a small town in the American Midwest, with an exponentially greater number of choices both of Mexican food and of international cuisines. The same holds true of arts and entertainment.

The Chapala malecon gives a different feel than San Miguel

San Miguel has a wonderful bilingual library called the Biblioteca that houses one of the largest English-language book collections in Latin America, but unlike Lakeside where so much revolves around the Lake Chapala society there is no one central hub of activity in San Miguel. Instead one finds many intersecting groups with special interests, from the visual arts to music, from yoga and meditation to organic produce or foreign films, meeting at a diverse range of venues all over the city. There are at least three lively web forums, most of which are Yahoo groups that are lightly moderated, and the Biblioteca sells several excellent guidebooks written by locals.

The most important local print news resource is a well written bilingual newspaper called Atención that’s published by the aforementioned Biblioteca. The bilingual and bi cultural nature of that paper speaks volumes about the difference in overall vibe between the expat populations in San Miguel vs. Lakeside, with far more gringos in San Miguel making some degree of effort to speak Spanish and engage with local Mexican culture (of course there are exceptions and I also don’t mean to slight the many decades of wonderful charitable volunteer work by many at Lakeside).

To read Part I, click here

For information on cost of living and how to decide which place is for read Part III

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Important Steps to Finding Your Trusted House Sitter, Part I

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected“  Laws

If you own a home, are new to the house sitting world and don’t know where to start to find the right sitter for your home and pets, read Angela’s post below. 

Many home owners have decided that house sitting is just THE best solution to leaving home and pets safe and secure. I’m a home owner myself who has been house sitting for over five years. Here’s some advice on how to get your very own Trustedhousesitter.

Listing your home

While it might not always be possible, it is most advantageous to you to post well in advance of your confirmed travel dates. Post your home’s availability on a reputable and high profile web site. In my opinion, TrustedHousesitters.com is far and above the best and most user-friendly, with excellent house sitters situated throughout the world.

Registering is easy, even for the novice internet user. Within 24 hours of joining the site, your listing goes “live” and TrustedHousesitters sends email alerts to their registered house sitters who are looking for assignments in your area. Not sure of when you’ll travel? No problem, you can still go “live” with dates showing “variable.”

House sitting helps both owners and those who want to travel

Listing Content

Be specific about your expectations. Are you a super-proud house keeper? Do you have a high maintenance garden or just a few pots? Do you retain a cleaner or gardener? If you have pets does your house sitter need to be experienced with certain breeds? Do any of your pets have special needs? Are you away from civilization? Is there the opportunity to explore the area perhaps with the occasional overnight away?

List only the important points so sitters can immediately assess your requirements. This is professional courtesy, and in that way no one’s time is wasted.

Housing on the road, RVing, long-term stays, global house exchange, vacation rentals, apart-hotels, hostels.

Home owners

As a home owner, you’ll have access to many sitter profiles which are full of personal information, references and photographs. To attract sitters, it’s very important for you to include some of your own basic personal information along with photographs of you, your pet and your home.

Would you apply to look after a home without a photo?

Location, transport and extras

If you are in a very rural location, you need to consider if sitters have the use of a *car? (see below) Be honest with your expectations. Are you expecting the sitters to take on extra household duties? Do you have rental units you want managed, relatives you’d like visited?

If you are expecting extra services from your sitter, would financial compensation for these duties – which are not considered part of a normal house sit – be offered?

If you live in a remote location, your sitters may need access to a vehicle

* Important Car Facts!! Car rental is very expensive. Yes, sitters are getting “free” accommodation, but if a car is available I would encourage home owners to make it accessible. This may make the difference between getting the sitter of your choice, or not.

You’re trusting the sitters with your MOST prized and precious possessions – your pets and home – so why not the car? In my personal house sitting experience, it’s been the male of the species who gets possessive over the family car. But to me, it’s the least precious of possessions.

This is something a home owner must consider fairly and reasonably in order to give you access to the sitters of your choice.

Want to sell your home? Trade your home? Find walk-able cities in which to retire? Age in place? Click here

Priority is Trust on both sides

House sitting is an arrangement based on trust.

Honesty at every stage by both parties is a paramount. As a homeowner, always keep in mind that a House Sitter is someone who will care for your home and pet, and keep everything safe and secure and just as you left it. House sitters are not free laborers, gardeners, sub contractors or cleaners. They provide an important service to give you Peace of Mind. They are not there to remodel your home or garden. Just as you trust them to live up to their commitment, you have the same responsibility – no more, no less.

Related Articles:

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

House Sitting My Way Around the World

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mexico Retirement Locations – Comparing San Miguel de Allende to Chapala, Part I

Guest blog post by Kevin Knox

Kevin is a semi-retired coffee taster and buyer, world traveler, gourmand and student of yoga and meditation. He and his wife, Erin, currently spend their time between San Miguel de Allende, and Chapala, Mexico. To follow his writings and musings, click on his blog here

Why I am writing this piece

My wife and I recently moved to San Miguel de Allende after two years of living at Lake Chapala and several more years of exploring small-town retirement hotspots in the U.S. Billy and Akaisha, inspirations and mentors for us as for so many others, have kindly asked me to share a few comments about these two Mexican retirement havens.

While we’ve spent a few months in San Miguel we’re still newcomers and just learning the ropes. Our newbie status notwithstanding, I’m hearing from more and more people who’ve heard about but not visited one or the other of these places asking for information and advice, so at the risk of being presumptuous I thought I’d offer some impressions based on our admittedly limited experience.

San Miguel de Allende from the Mirador

Common Clichés & Stereotypes

Perhaps because they are the two most important expat retirement havens in Mexico, stereotypes and misinformation between the two communities are abundant. When we lived at Lake Chapala we were frequently discouraged from even visiting San Miguel: “It’s too cold, too expensive, too snooty – you’ll hate it!” we were told.

Conversely, when we first visited San Miguel and let it be known we’d lived at Lake Chapala, we heard things along these lines: “Oh, Lake Chapala. Don’t you pretty much have to be 75 years old, ex-military, belong to the American Legion, smoke and drink like crazy and live on a fixed income to fit in there?”

Needless to say both stereotypes are inaccurate, yet arose from tiny kernels of truth.

  Curious about Mexico? Click here

Similarities

Lake Chapala, or “Lakeside” as it’s known among local expats, comprises the town of Chapala and several villages, from San Antonio Tlayacapan to Jocotepec, on the north shore of Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. The cumulative population of these places is around 100,000, which is pretty close to that of San Miguel de Allende, with around 85,000 in the city proper and perhaps 140,000 in the greater metro area.

While both places are well-known as havens for American and Canadian expats, we gringos comprise only about 5-10% of the population, depending on the season. This translates to 5,000-10,000 (a total guesstimate – there simply are no accurate numbers) foreign residents: just enough for there to be an established infrastructure of English-language news, clubs and activities.

Both places are strongly seasonal in their expat occupancy, though this is truer of Lakeside than San Miguel. High season is from roughly November through March, and “high high” season is January and February, in both places, with many expats residing in Mexico seasonally.

Differences

Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala is a beautiful natural setting that’s only 40 minutes away from Guadalajara, the third-largest city in Mexico, with a population approaching 8 million. That proximity has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand you have an excellent international airport only half an hour away, which is great for those who return frequently to the U.S. or Canada, and of course shopping opportunities in such a huge city are limitless.

On the downside, Lake Chapala is inundated with partying weekend visitors from the big city, and increasingly functions as a southern suburb of Guadalajara. Big city crime, including a significant level of activity from the narco cartels, has also made its presence felt at Lakeside in recent years. There’s just one major road into and out of all of Lakeside, so on occasion one can feel a bit trapped, geographically.

Beautiful Lake Chapala has been a retirement favorite for decades

The advantages of Lake Chapala are also numerous, starting with the lake itself, which is beautiful in every season. Being on water moderates temperatures, giving Lakeside one of the best climates in the world, with year-round highs ranging from the low 70’s to high 80’s and comfortable lows in the high 50’s to mid 40’s, with lovely rains in the summer months and a lengthy dry season that stretches from November through May. The climate is significantly gentler than San Miguel’s, as is the vegetation (think Santa Barbara or Italian Riviera for Lakeside vs. a warmer version of Santa Fe for San Miguel).

One has a sense of living in nature at Lakeside, and most homes have covered porches or verandas where locals spend much of their time. The pace is slow, the streets are cobblestoned and opportunities for recreation, from tennis to hiking, are abundant.

  Not interested in Mexico? Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

The epicenter of the expat community at Lakeside is the village of Ajijic and the Lake Chapala Society, a long-established haven for expats. It offers beautiful gardens, an excellent book and DVD library and has a wide range of classes and activities. Local English media includes the Guadalajara Reporter weekly newspaper and a couple of monthly publications with heavy real estate promotion emphasis, the Lake Chapala Review and the Coldwell Banker sponsored Ojo del Lago. The only truly popular web forum for the area, Chapala.com, is also Coldwell Banker-sponsored and is moderated with a heavy hand.

With regard to the Mexican community, there are really two distinctive communities at Lakeside. Historically and even today in large measure this is a rural, agricultural place, and while employment in service industries and construction has boomed in recent decades the lake is still the world headquarters for Driscoll berry farms, while the entire south shore of the lake is primarily used for agriculture and fishing.

Contrasting sharply with the dominant small village agricultural working class are wealthy second home owners from Guadalajara, for whom the lake is a weekend and holiday playground.

For specifics on San Miguel in Mexico Retirement Locations, Part II

To read Part III, click here

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What if Akaisha and Billy Hit the Big Time?

Hi B & A,

I was just reading your article about the woman who was ill prepared to deal with the syrup on the coke bottle at lunch in Guatemala. Very interesting and amusing to read.

It’s been over 4 years since I’ve began following your adventures and it seems to me that you have more products for sale, both to adventure seekers and advertisers alike. Good for you!! Your entrepreneurial spirit lives on!

I’m also impressed on how you have kept up with technology. I’m pushing 59, and since I’ve retired, I confess that I have lost some incentive to learn the latest and greatest in the electronic world.

Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

Then the thought occurred to me, “Suppose B & A hit it big and became niche ‘Trip Advisors?’ with substantial financial rewards.”

Would you continue to live frugally in Mexico and Latin America, or would you move up to 5 star hotels and explore Europe and more expensive places of the earth?

Or would you contribute the excess to the needy in the places where you have visited?

Or would you pick a happy medium?

I may be bordering on “none of your business” territory, and if I am, please accept my apologies.

Have a great day!

Tim

Villages around the world are in need of basic services

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my reply. And just so you know, we really enjoy hearing from our Readers!

We are very happy that you have been following our adventures for over 4 years. It feels wonderful that we have been able to keep your attention with our journeys and our writing for that long a time. And of course, thank you for your good wishes!

Sometimes learning electronic gadgetry has been a personal challenge, but we thrive on having a digital office, being able to do what we love and write about it from anywhere in the world. This keeps our minds sharp, gives us avenues for our creativity and we find it both exciting and fulfilling.

As far as “hitting the big time” and making major money… wouldn’t that be fun?!

I can assure you that we would have a grand time contributing to building sources of clean water for villages where we have visited or finding ways to provide affordable electricity so children can study at night time or so family life can improve. Helping young women become educated and supporting the “Girl Effect” in pueblos, teaching about hygiene so children are healthy, encouraging micro-lending for small business people around the world so they can become self-supporting and donating to organizations who help prevent family violence and abuse, funding literacy programs, building schools, clinics, funding medical research… There are countless projects and ways to contribute that would be fulfilling, challenging and worthwhile.

People are people everywhere

We’d love to have millions of dollars at our disposal for such plans!

Billy and I are not major consumers and we are comfortable with that approach to living life. We might want to celebrate once in a while, but we have no need for yachts, cars or living a lavish lifestyle.

There is nothing wrong with that manner of living and we don’t begrudge anyone who has made that choice. Personally, I think we would be too busy with our projects to keep up with owning a lot of stuff. Sometimes we think our lives are too complicated just as we are living them today!

We would love to return to Europe and plan to do so again, this time visiting Greece and spending more time in Italy. Our style is to spend a year here and a year there… I think we could easily do that, even now (before the millions!)

After 2 decades of travel we appreciate the perspective it has given us on so many different levels. We eat well (and probably too much), we have friends everywhere, have seen gorgeous scenery of so many types, experienced cultures around the world and have developed more self-reliance.

Educating this child could impact his whole village

It’s a sense of personal freedom that we have cultivated and it suits us both very well. It’s also something we wish for anyone who is attracted to this kind of world view.

I hope I have answered your questions and again, thank you for taking the time to write.

Feel free to write any time.

All the best!
Akaisha and Billy

Volunteer. Change a life!

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Perfect Places to Live?

Hi,

I have been receiving your news letter and ordered some of your books. Thank you. I would have never made it this far without your help.

I go to Chapala, Mexico in January and February, then again in July and August. I have a small problem with the heat – a little colder would be fine – any suggestions?

I know I am asking for everything.

I would also like to travel back and forth without too much hassle. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah with easy airport access and usually change planes in LAX or Phoenix. From there it’s easy to take taxis to Chapala from the Guadalajara airport. I’m not crazy about big cities…

I would love to hear from you, and  cannot thank you enough.

Gwen

Guanajuato has exceptional beauty as a city

Hi Gwen,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We love hearing from our Readers.

I don’t know the level of your Spanish skills, but if you speak basic Spanish, you might try living in Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico, or San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.

Comitan  is a clean, sweet town with family values and the nearest airport is in Tuxtla Gutierrez (3 hours away). But the weather is spectacular (more on the cool side) — and the city has very little crime. People are friendly and the town supports just about everything you might need, except night life. I don’t believe there is much of an Expat community there.

If you are looking for a place with a bigger English speaking community you might try San Cristobal (serviced by the airport in Tuxtla Gutierrez, only an hour away.) This international city has strong colonial influence, very good restaurants, nightlife and a colorful indigenous population. It is also cooler in general than Chapala.

Oaxaca is also a very beautiful, international Mexican city with restaurants of all kinds, night life and culture. Or perhaps Guanajuato where turning every corner offers a photo opportunity.

Oaxaca has history, food and culture to offer

If you want to consider Guatemala, you might try Antigua, Guatemala. There is a thriving expat community there, a colonial feel with international restaurants and nightlife.

Something smaller and more “cutesy” would be Panajachel, Guatemala. It is literally one of the most beautiful places in the world, with a volcano lake, lots of indigenous for color and flavor, fresh food markets and an active Expat community. It’s very affordable to live there.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Thank you for your kind words, and feel free to write anytime!

Best,
Akaisha

Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

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The Essentials—Creating the Ultimate Digital Office for Travel

Guest post by Maria Rainier

There are few things more important to our success when we are trying to do work or complete a task than the environment in which we are working. There’s a reason teachers spend so much time putting together their classrooms, libraries are ideal study zones for over-caffeinated college students, and companies put so much thought into their employee work stations—our work environment in many ways determines our success. That being said, today with online learning, online classrooms, remote jobs, and digital enterprises, the term “office” has evolved to mean many different things. More and more often, activities that at one point relied on physical work spaces and classrooms are moving to the digital realm.

Work from anywhere in the world with your digital office

As our world has become increasingly more mobile, so too have our offices—and it’s pretty amazing. With the influx of online education and online enterprises, people are able to study from the comfort of their own homes and can earn a living while travelling the world. This mobile freedom comes with some requirements. Whether you are a busy work at home mom going back to school online or a successful business person looking to travel the world while still maintaining your business, in order to create a truly successful and productive digital office there are a few essential office items you’ll need to consider.

Good Laptop

As a traveling employee, a traveling student or as the owner of your own mobile business, your online success boils down to the capability of your computer. Find a device that satisfies your specific work needs. Some of the most important aspects to consider for your computer include wireless connectivity, battery life, speed, memory, graphics card quality, and hard drive space. Your computer essentially comprises your entire office space. You complete your work on your computer, store things there, conduct communications there, and, for the most part, spend every moment of your workday at the screen. For this reason, it is essential that you find the computer that really suits your needs. While this includes computer specs and hardware, it also involves the appearance, size, and usability of the device. Find a laptop that you are comfortable using—make sure the screen is large enough, the keyboard is comfortable, and the operating system is familiar.

Simplify your life, save money, learn something new, choose a walk-able city, be car free. To learn more, click here

Mobile Hotspot

Aside from your computer and word processor, the next most essential element of a digital office is the internet. Mobile broadband is basically a must these days. While many coffee shops and businesses offer free Wi-Fi, running a mobile office off of these spots is not always realistic. You have many options for mobile broadband providers. It’s important that you look into the speed of connection you can get from your various options. Make sure that you get something that will give you enough power to be truly productive online. Here are some of your options:

Cellphone: Many cellphone providers offer “internet tethering” (which is just a fancy way of saying using your cellphones internet connection on your laptop). Verizon offers this service on several of their phones at a very reasonable price. Other cellphone providers have phones and plans with the same capabilities. Talk to your cellphone provider about your options. This can be a great way to carry around fewer devices when you are working and traveling.

USB Wireless Cards: This is another great option for internet connection from anywhere. The USB cards are small USB devices that hook right into your laptop and give you internet access (these look like small memory drives or “sticks”). There are several different types of these cards and they come with various different speeds and capabilities.

Personal Hotspot: Another option is a portable WiFi router that can be moved from city to city and plugged directly into a wall outlet. These devices use cellular networks to connect online and are a bit more restrictive as far as size and mobility than the above options.

There are many more options for “hotspots” and WiFi devices. I recommend doing your research and figuring out what would be best for you. Talking with your cellular provider is a great first step.

Your world in a suitcase

Digital Storage

Some sort of storage device or external hard drive is an absolute must for a digital office. All too often, we are devastated when our machines malfunction and we lose our hard work. Computers are wonderful in that they can store a significant amount of our important data and digital material, but things do go wrong. It’s important that you prepare yourself with a backup system. Either buy an external hard drive to keep with you and store backup versions of all of your work, or use an online “cloud” storage system. One of the best online storage spaces is Dropbox. With Dropbox, users can store up to two gigs of data on their personalized and secure space. That space is accessible from any device with internet access through cloud technology. Dropbox is extremely reliable and very handy. I highly recommend cloud storage for traveling offices. External hard drives do the job, but they take up just that much more space. Having a “digital office” is all about minimizing the actual devices you have to lug around.

Communication

While most of the aspects of a digital office involve impersonal communication through instant messaging and email, there are times that face-to-face interaction is necessary. In the past this was the most challenging aspects of maintaining a mobile lifestyle while also maintaining a stable office career. Today, there are technologies like Skype to help us stay connected. Skype is a free calling system that enables you to connect with people all over the world. You can video chat using Skype or hold traditional calls. Today, many laptops come with built in webcams that users can use for Skype talks.

Modern technology has made it possible to remain connected and productive in every kind of unique situation. With the right equipment, you can earn your living while traveling through Eastern Europe or complete an online bachelor’s degree while sitting on a beach in Mexico. Consider your possibilities and create a digital office that can help you realize your mobile dreams.

Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.

 

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A Two for One Retirement – Volunteer!

Akaisha,

Glad you write about volunteer opportunities for your Readers. I’ll give you two more websites which give more options and scope to prospective retired volunteers.

People with a multitude of skills are required in most of these places. Builders, bricklayers, electricians, painters, chefs, cooks, welders, engineers, teachers for adults and/or children, social workers, doctors, nurses. The list could be endless but you get the idea. There are a heap of countries, not just Thailand that urgently need assistance and many of the countries are in your area of expertise.

So here we go………….

International Volunteer Headquarters

also Responsible Travel Browse Thailand – Volunteer Travel holidays.

People who are planning retirement and a possible move overseas can dip their toe in the water so to speak, and take say a 3 month holiday in one of the many places mentioned and do some volunteering and sum up how they feel about the place before making a life changing decision. If they change their minds and decide it is not for them HEY! they have had a wonderful adventure and done some splendid work for people who really need their help. There is no real age limit it is open to anyone who is fit and healthy enough to give it a go.

Love,

Mokshadharma

To learn about more excellent volunteer opportunities, click here.

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