We became an Expat Family.

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In 2012 we sold, gifted, donated or tossed our belongings, put the remaining bits and pieces of our material lives into storage and moved to mainland Mexico with our eight-year-old twins and 90-pound chocolate lab.

Storage has since been cleared out and we now have nothing tying us to the States other than our loved ones.

We are free.

We traded in the “American Dream” for a real life—a genuine, rich, textured, colorful, varied existence that is not restricted or compromised by a frenetic and exhausting pursuit for the pot of gold that may or may not come when you are perhaps too tired or too old to fully enjoy it.

Why do so many people buy into some culturally indoctrinated definition of the “American Dream”? Why do individuals and masses march along like good little soldiers to ideologies that perhaps make little sense nor support their happiness and life fulfillment?

There is another way, I promise you.

I can remember a time, not too long ago, when my husband Frank and I were strangled by mortgage payments and all of the other financial strains that go hand in hand with home ownership and “civilized life” in Southern California. I remember the crazy hours he and I would both work as a firefighter and an educator just to keep our heads above water.  Those crazy hours also resulted in limited quality family time and the feeling that we were merely surviving.

If the “American Dream” is a home by the beach with a white picket fence, children who are raised by nannies, parents who are slaves to their work and two ships passing in the night, I don’t want any part of it.

If it is sitting in rush hour traffic for hours on end, shopping at chain stores, spending a large portion of your paycheck on groceries and utilities—leaving very little left for leisure and pleasure—I have left that far behind.

If it is absorbing the toxic chatter of the asphalt jungle—tuned out and on autopilot—rather than being alive, awake, and immersing your senses in the beauty and wonders of this world, I choose to walk away from that.

I don’t want my connection with the diverse opportunities of this world to be relegated to a long awaited two week break from the rat race of modern day life. I want exploring, adventure and fun to be a natural part of the very fabric of my everyday life, and most importantly, my children’s lives.

My husband Frank was able to retire from the fire department at 50, so he went for it! Could he have stayed on and continued to work himself into the ground, shorten his life span, and lose time with his family? Absolutely. But instead, he—we—chose and choose to live a life outside of the box, on our own terms.  Part of our every day lives is having experiences many can only touch the edges of on a vacation. Exploring, adventuring and learning is our daily round.

So, why Mexico?

This seems to be the million dollar question. Why—sometimes with intrigue and curiosity, other times with confusion and skepticism—did we choose Mexico of all places to relocate our family to, to begin our lives anew?

What about safety? What about schooling for our kids? What about medical care? What about the government? What about the driving conditions and cows in the road?

The answers are varied but all end up at the same place.

We wanted a better life. A better quality of life for our family, our children, our marriage, our dog, our family’s physical and emotional health.  We wanted to cultivate longevity and enjoy every day and the precious moments within those days; to slow down, smell the flowers, disconnect and reconnect.

Frank and I are going on 17 years together, and like any long-term relationship, it has had its ups and downs. Yes folks, normal life. Our shared love of Mexico is a vehicle to deeper understanding of each other—where we’re at, where we’ve been, where we’re going. We have always been a good team, but something about life here in Mexico has made us even stronger, more solidified—exploring our own paths but always converging together with a mutual focus to live our lives to the fullest and provide the best that we can for our children.

Mexico is not for the faint-hearted. There have been sacrifices, changes, shifts and tremendous gains that escape description. There are times when we feel like pioneers, paving a brave new way for our family in a new world, a new culture, a different language and way of thinking—where marching onward and upward requires a certain amount of guts, determination, focus, and picking ourselves up from the bootstraps.  A healthy sense of humor goes a long way,  too!

In the past two and a half years, we have feasted and flourished in ways never imaginable. We have grown and expanded our horizons, developed depth of character and gained life insights as individuals and as a family that we never would have had we stayed in the States. We took a chance, stood at the edge of the cliff and jumped.

We now live in a dynamic country that is alive in color, vibrancy and sensory-rich stimulation.  From outdoor markets, live music, smells from the fresh, local food dancing through the air to a people that embrace, revere and honor their national pride and cultural heritage with festivities and ceremony.  Many people from Mexico assign importance to their identities and mark and celebrate them with intention and meaning.

Our children love Mexico—her beauty, the free, fun, family time she represents; the opportunities for unstructured, unregulated play and the ability to connect with Nature and all of her amazing gifts and beauty.

They are experiencing freedom and flight like never before.


From surfing and horseback riding in the coastal jungle of Nayarit to climbing pyramids and swimming in spring-fed watering holes in the 16th century colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, their story has just begun.

Mexico shows you what you are made of, how self-reliable and industrious you are and that your choices and their consequences are first and foremost your own doing and your own responsibility.

Mexico teaches us and reminds us daily to relish and thrive in the here and now, to celebrate the present moment and the textures and layers within that moment and to be aware of the detail and magic of our surroundings.

Daily life in Mexico is an opportunity for our family to connect to that which is important and disconnect to that which is not.

Thank you Mexico, you have changed the destiny of our family forever.



11 Ways Growing Up Abroad is Ruining My Daughter’s Life.

Another way to do it differently:


Author: Katie O’Grady

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: courtesy of author

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Katie O'Grady

Katie O’Grady is a 4th generation San Diegan who together with her retired firefighter hubby and 8-year-old twins, packed it up and moved full time to Central Mexico in 2012. Now almost 3 years into their journey, they are living a life of color and texture, on their own terms and “out of the box”.

Through life’s challenges, journeys, and adventures they stand strong, solidified, and unified as they rediscover themselves in another country, language, and culture.

Katie’s blog, Los O’Gradys in Mexico, won the title of InterNations Top Mexico 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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anonymous Mar 7, 2016 9:27pm

Good for you! Loved reading your article and hearing your story! My husband lived in Mexico for a few years and he loved it! He says life was slower and the things that are so important to so many of us here in the US , driving nice cars, having name brand clothes, having big homes etc, are irrelevant there. You have what you need and that’s all that you need. Thanks for your story!

    anonymous Mar 11, 2016 2:37pm

    Thank you Emily.
    Family, friends, culture, nature, fun…..
    The simple and best things in life.
    Katie O'Grady
    Los O'Gradys in Mexico

anonymous Nov 2, 2015 6:07pm

Congratulations, I guess, on doing well enough at Americaning that you can take your money and be a part of exploiting and re-colonializing that “vibrant culture” that you reference, but don’t address specifically in your “article.”
I hope that your interactions with locals (if you have any non-commerce related interactions with locals) are not as condescending and smug as the tone of your writing here. It really does concern me that you spend so little time examining the effect of your move on your host country and so much of it focused on yourself. I also hope you give them all of your money. They deserve it for dealing with all y’all.

    anonymous Dec 14, 2015 5:40pm

    Interesting comments Sara Rudoolph, truly.

    It is unfortunate that there are people that stand in such strong opinion or even judgement of others they know not.

    I welcome you to read any of my other articles on my blog, which I'm sure you can discern for yourself, have nothing to do with "exploiting" or "re-coloniazing", as you say.

    As for my interactions with locals, they are wonderful, but thank you for your concern.

    Katie O'Grady

anonymous Oct 27, 2015 8:43am

Greetings myotherbrotherdarryl,

Thank you for taking the time and thought to contribute such an insightful and meaningful comment.

Indeed my article has generated a wide gamut of emotions and responses. Many of these responses have been very interesting to me, my family and friends that understand our choices in life.

I don't take any of "not so nice" ones personally but rather just view it as a reflection of where that person is at in his or her life evolution, understanding and experiences.

Each to his/her own and if no harm is being done, I don't understand the need to judge or criticize others for THEIR CHOICES. We O'Gradys simply live our truth and stand in it confidently and boldly with no need for excuses nor apologies to anybody. The fact that I chose to write about some of our life adventures and share them publicly, is indeed my personal choice.

As for us, living in Mexico is been incredibly gratifying, enriching and sustainable and we intend on experiencing as much of it as we can in this lifetime.

I so admire your commitment and work towards creating a new "new" for you and your family—however you see fit without concern for what others opinions towards it may be. This is, after all, your life.

And as to your statement of "many friends think I'm crazy, and i reciprocate by being more true to myself". Haha, I get it! Good for you!

We love Mazatlan and had even considered it as a relocation spot. This is such a beautiful country with so much vast biodiversity and textured, colorful culture. In fact, we are gearing up for a move back to the coast after this school year.

Everything you have shared so resonates with me. Please feel free to reach out to me and stay in touch via my Facebook Page or Blog. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

I look forward to crossing paths with you on this journey of life lived in truth and on your own terms.

Cheers & Best,

Katie O'Grady of Los O'Gradys in Mexico 🙂

anonymous Oct 24, 2015 3:30pm

Sitting here, awaiting another hard Michigan winter, and reading the vile attacks on people who have the courage and willpower to change their lives by moving where things are less demanding… I'm stunned at how people see others and just can't let someone else be different or happy. I'm nearly at the age that I can retire on a combination of social security and my savings — I've been saving and investing in a 401K for just over 16 years and can't see a pretty picture ahead by living hand to mouth here… so we (a spouse and infant son… yes, we are late bloomers!) are looking very hard at Mexico for a new life and my retirement. I've been coming to Mexico for decades and have always loved it and its people. Many friends think I'm crazy, and I reciprocate by being more true to myself. 🙂

I'm very encouraged by Katie, Frank, and the twins adventure in life. It gives me more courage and belief that we too can navigate another language, culture, and weather system with success. I want to raise my son where people don't hate you because you are different, or feel you have to wear a gun to feel free, or denigrate others who are less lucky or privileged than yourself. I have grown to despair how horrible North Americans treat each other, and other religions, and colors. I want my son to be a citizen of the world, speak another language, and know that there is more to life than possessions.

So glad I found this blog, perhaps our paths will cross. We are currently looking at Mazatlan for a variety of reasons, but San Miguel has always been attractive. Buena Suerte!

anonymous Aug 24, 2015 9:54pm

Good for you! Ignore all these negative comments fueled by jealousy and misguided patriotism For the record, I have lived on two continents and 4 countries over the course of my life. I can say that I have enjoyed each country as it had something unique and different to offer and allowed me to expand my horizons both intellectually and culturally. I can picture american flags flapping at the front doors of those bashing your article and point of view. Both you and your husband have worked hard and earned the ability to move to a country of your choice to live out the remainder of your life. The united states of america is not the best country in the world! I do not have an answer as to which one is as they all have their pluses and minuses. I feel that a lot of people to tend to fire away their negative comments are those with limited choices, having blinders on or simply not having experienced another country or culture. Some are afraid, paranoid or too busy saluting the american flag. I have moved to Mexico 2 years ago and have enjoyed each and every day of it. I am not retired and still have to earn a living here. Sure I do miss some of the luxuries of living up north but the lack of stress, new daily experiences and not having to focus on "shiny stuff" has easily out weight what I have left behind. Open your eyes people, as someone here said, "life is a one chance offer", get out and explore beyond your own city limits.

I personally cannot imagine dying in the same place that I was born in. There is so much to see and experience out there that one lifetime is not enough.

Best to your whole family and enjoy each day with a breath of fresh air.

anonymous Aug 16, 2015 10:10am

Hi Katie,
I just finished your article and read it to my fiancée as I knew it would be of great interest to him because we are moving our family to La Paz, Mexico in 6 short weeks. We both loved reading it and it got us even more excited for our upcoming move. You have a wonderful way with words and described how we are feeling perfectly. I was disheartened to see some of the negative responses. We have run into some of this as well, I think they felt you were attacking their lifestyles when it is obvious to me that you are simply sharing your family’s adventures, experiences and why you chose to make the move. Why some people take things so personally is beyond me. Thank you for sharing, your story it is an inspiration to us. People should be thanking your husband for risking his life time and time again and like you said he earned his pension however much it is which is no one’s business. Sounded like a little bit of sour lemons in other words jealousy. We started reading your blog and are enjoying that too. Maybe one day our paths will cross in Mexico.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2015 12:36pm

    Greetings Anslyn!
    Congratulations on your upcoming move to La Paz!
    We love Baja and spent many years exploring the entire peninsula, including leasing a small piece of land in the Bahia de Los Angeles area. Our twins grew up knowing it as their second home. In fact, we had considered La Paz as a possible relocation spot for us, but at the end of the day, mainland won out for now. There is just so much to see, explore and enjoy in this beautiful, dynamic culture of texture and color! And thank you for your kind words about my writing…I do appreciate that. It is wonderful to have my passion and creative labor of love so well received. As for the "negative nellies", each to his/her own….We all need to find our way in this world and ideally without judgement or assumptions of our fellow brothers and sisters walking this earth. Peace and best to you and your family and please do stay in touch! Would love to cross paths….. Cheers, Katie

anonymous Aug 16, 2015 1:15am

why an US citizen who moves to Mexico is an “expat” and a Mexican who moves to USA in an immigrant?

anonymous Apr 23, 2015 9:01am

To MimiAndTilly … part 2 ….
Well today, it is getting more difficult to orchestrate but the "Southern Strategy" still turns out to be a big plus, because even a minority of voters who support you are better than no voters at all. And as was proven twice now, the fact that a Black Man has won our Presidency quite honestly has thrown the corporate (I mean, conservative) side into a tizzy. They are still asking how it happened a Black President somehow got into the White House. Well they've had nearly eight years to plan a new strategy to match the Southern one and here's what they've come up with. The "powers that be" have realized a much further effort is needed to divide and conquer; in other words, more hate and prejudice is needed in order to amp up our "dumb as a post" populace and keep them falling for these same old worn tactics against themselves. Once again the propaganda team is called upon, the news media is beckoned and of course "America's Most Trusted News Network", Fox News falls into line without as much as a prod.

The idea now is to begin to demonize the poor, or more-so anyone who is not a day trader or hedge fund manager; it's time to attack anyone who's on the minimum wage roles and not happy about it, or better to wage war against anyone in the public or private sector who has not yet relinquished their pension to the "powers that be", those who proclaim they so desperately "need it to be competitive". And thus that brings us around to the subject of this long diatribe and allows us to focus on the latest victim, the chief receiver of this week's heavy dose of Vitriol, the famous friendly fireman, Mr. O'Graddy.

But what can be done about it? I haven't counted but how many people have come here to attack the fireman for receiving a pension and called him a thief of "our" tax money? Will the "dumb as a post-ers" continue to fall in line to the propaganda of the main stream media and Fox, believing that someone who is willing to risk his life every day to save yours is a "moocher" or is no better than Regan's welfare queens? It's a growing problem and you have to ask with it if the small mind is at fault here or is it the fault of those who manipulate from the control room of a higher power? It's certainly nothing new in history, but it's sad to see it happening to our own country.

911 proved just how nasty our politicians are and how greedy our people are and in general, what a bunch of phonies everyone is. (See http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/p… "Last week, Stewart stepped onto the field. The change came after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in medical benefits to firefighters, police officers, and health workers who got sick from working at Ground Zero on and after 9/11." Truth be known, it's easy to brainwash someone without a soul. It would take nothing to convince likely a majority of voters to bring in some H1B Middle Easterner's while "privatizing" the industry. ("Privatizing": Taking something that is losing money and giving it to a private corporation to skim off 30% while continuing to lose money, plus commission.) And in case you didn't know it, it happened with our Air Traffic Controllers already. And all the more reason I might add for me to continue taking the bus to Mexico.

Still it's a large problem, and it's going to get worse. It will take an act of congress to eliminate the poison of unlimited campaign contributions and as long as our legislators are lining their pockets with campaign cash and giving tax cuts in return favors, the tax man will be turning more and more toward the middle and lower classes to collect. And to keep us diverted from realizing this, more and more divide and conquer tactics will continue to manifest and more and more of our fellow men will begin to turning against each other – just as has been witnessed here. Are we left to continuously swirl down the toilet as a nation of ruling oligarchs with subjects below based on a society designed on Crab Mentality ? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality). Trust me, it's not looking that great 🙁

{ Note: Jon Stewart does an excellent job of chronicling this precession of the insanity of brainwashing the ranks of our "dumb as a post-ers"; have a watch and let us know how you are progressing on your own path ….. http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/jfmt11/world-of… }

anonymous Apr 23, 2015 9:00am

To MimiAndTilly … you must be from Canada. Vitriol is the name of the game here in the US. The NATO Consortium, New World Order, Wall Street Warriors or whatever you want to call them have taken over pulling the strings that drive our government officials today and while doing so have created a keen army of disciples instructed to destroy our middle class, while expecting as payment a regalo (gift) of no longer having to pay taxes. Included in that army is our corporate owned media that continues to work diligently to make certain America becomes the best in the world at being "dumber than a post". Additionally that same media excels at serving as a mouthpiece for these same corporations, those that delight at paying nary a penny to the tax rolls of our country, the country who hosts their Wall Street windfalls. And with that the hopeless remaining minority of citizens who can still think are left only to weep and watch as these "reverse robin hoods" direct their next batch of employees to the layoff lines and bring on board the India and China team. It's a non-stop corporate effort and with that they only take a break while reaching out to line the pockets of our local politicians as they give them a brief salute of "your work is never done" and "mission accomplished". Dependably and without much fanfare (or being noticed by the "… as a posts"), our politicians begin to pump our national treasury into defense contractors pockets while voting on the next round of tax cuts for these fine upstanding corporations and all in time for the cycle to continue.

And while no political party is non-corrupt, as in Obama's T.P.P. secret super-NAFTA trade deal he is working on today, Tea Partiers with their budget that pumps up the war chest while slashing Social Security and Medicare, that leaves us with only the Republicans who are awash with ideas as they blindly follow the Tea Party with "just a little less crazy" in the mix. So if you will humor me for a moment and my sidestep into politics, here is what I am driving at as cause of your observed Vitriol.

You have a massive coup d'état of large corporations who have overthrown our people and our government. How is this possible you might ask. That is where the "dumb as a post" come in. It started in the time of Regan and what his political strategists called the "Southern Strategy". In other words all Regan had to do was show the folks in the south a few photos of black women living a life of assumed luxury while driving a Cadillac. All they had to do was proclaim these ladies were on welfare and my Southern brothers and sisters gave him and anyone else who came up with the idea to eliminate this "crime wave" the keys to the city. And in fact they gave Regan and company the keys to the US Bank as well.
Now by being a Native Texan and growing up working on a small farm out in the sticks, there is no one who would understand better the "Southern Strategy". I have known and lived among the "pissignernt" as they are known in some circles, for some time now. Over the years I have personally watched as the "Southern Strategy" has kept cutting down the competition year after year. The "… as a post-s" became putty in the hands of the corporations and danced as they giggled the strings attached to our governance. Yes Regan found he could depend solely upon the prejudice and hate that ran through the Southerner's veins to drive the agenda of "anything goes", which included and is most famous now, trickle down as he began the slow progression of today's corporate overthrow of our Democracy. ( to be continued…)

anonymous Apr 23, 2015 8:58am

And to Cheri – I believe the jest of "good little soldiers" perhaps meant that we all just sit in front of our TV sets listening to marketing and political persuasions that tell us to act a certain way, how to believe, and what and how to think as we all continue to be endlessly brainwashed, and that most of us perform like soldiers to the tune of the masters of marketing, we buy, buy and we charge, charge, charge. The strangest part of this is that very few ever realize (even after a lifetime of it) that they have become victims of brainwashing.

I estimate the O'Gradys are just moving into the culture swap that makes it all so easy to see. In just a few days it becomes so clear that one doesn't need a certain hair color or perfume, there's no need to wear a designer anything, there's no demand to look "younger; more beautiful" or they don't need a ghastly overpriced Humm-vee to prove anything to the neighborhood. All of the dreams and thoughts "if I could just have this or that, my life would be complete" – none of this matters any longer once you escape the borders and the mentality of the US.

(Also this brings to mind another of Joni's songs "got to be a winner trophy, be number one" (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jonimitchell/numberone.html). This is the American Dream that some people who escape the hustle and bustle of the US stand up and they shout about in joy, celebrating the moment they realize it's all been a farce and anything "as seen on TV" is really not going to make anything any better at all; it's only going to raise the bills an make it worse. So that is the American Dream we all celebrate leaving., the one where you've got to be a winner, a trophy winner, got to be number one……. Which I could digress to say everyone could learn something from Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa as he crushes yet another American "Holiday Dream" while he remarks to "The Kid", upset over his candy corn from Billy's mulled attempt at patching the Advent Calendar, "now they can't all be winners now, can they".)

To Julie Bennett: "The world is a book, and those who do not travel have read only a page." You said a volume in a simple phrase!

anonymous Apr 23, 2015 8:57am

Well I'd like to move away from this thread but since said subject is so dear to my heart, I can't help but toss in another twenty or so topics LOL. First to Heyra Crosley, it's kind of strange isn't it that adding a post to a blog about living in Mexico would ignore the thoughts of the poster who posts in Spanish? Still you bring up a very interesting topic and one of my dearest loves of Mexico as well:

"Eso exactamente es lo que me esta pasando vine a usa para tratar de conseguir el "sueño americano" y amo estados unidos este es un pais hermoso que me ha dado tanto y amo estados unidos pero mi nostalgico corazon anhela estar viviendo alla tan solo vivir el algarabio de la gente una tarde en el "centro" algo tan simple como una tarde en la plaza observando madres sentadas con los hijos corriendo alrededor o parejas bailando al son de la musica en un domingo en la plaza disfrutando la tranquilidad de una tarde veraniegay muchisimo mas!!"

"That's exactly what's happening I came to try to get used to the "American dream". and I love United States, this is a beautiful country that has given me so much and I love the USA but my nostalgic heart longs to be living beyond just live algarabio people an afternoon at the "center", something as simple as an afternoon in the square watching mothers sitting with their children running around or couples dancing to the music on a Sunday in the square enjoying the tranquility of a summer afternoon … and much much more !!

To Heyra – This is something that I continuously talk about. For those who travel to Mexico, sharing with other Mexico visitors will always be understood, but these tales fall on deaf ears at cocktail parties where the response at best is a blind stare. I ride the bus from Central Texas to Central Mexico a few times per year and I tell my friends that when I cross the border going north that all of the people from Mexico morph into concrete, asphalt, glass and steel as I look about my bus window. All the colors of the rainbow flip my swatch from pastel beige to medium dark tan. Even the grass qualifies as dull brown. In just a crossing of a border there are no more people outside or walking, no more happy faces, no more lovers in the park, no more soccer balls rolling under foot, no more balloons on sticks or wheeled ice cream carts. Back home I once got asked if I needed help because I was walking down a major street in my neighborhood. But those who have sat and rested on the zocalo (square) in Mexico can never describe to their Gringo friends what a wonderful experience this is, to see mothers walking late at night with their babies and to see all the happiness in these families and faces, it brings cheer to me as well.

When I observe this I always hear the lyrics from Joni Mitchell, talking about her "secret place" (with Paul Simon) when she asks if there are parks with mothers after dark, rhyme to define that place to her that is secret and wonderful and with that I think of Mexico. Entonces, si, entiendo la belleza de las madres en el parque por la noche.

anonymous Apr 22, 2015 2:35pm

I enjoyed your article and think what you have chosen to do is wonderful. I’ve read through the comments and am stunned by the vitriol extended towards you. Particularly regarding your husband’s pension. As I understand it, as a firefighter he put himself into life threatening situations as a matter of course, for years on end, and, I imagine, has witnessed the horrors and losses that fire brings. I suspect he deserves every peaceful, soulful minute of his retirement, and the pension he is receiving. Not that his or your financial circumstances are any of my business. I applaud your choice as a family to walk the road less travelled and find joy and satisfaction. The personal financial choices you have made to get there are none of my business.

    anonymous Apr 22, 2015 5:26pm

    Thank you MimiAndTilly….

    Simply, thank you.

    Katie O'Grady 🙂

anonymous Apr 22, 2015 7:44am

I'm sure Mexico has provided a wonderful experience for your family. You bring American retirement checks to support you. If Mexico was all it has been for you for the Mexican populace, there wouldn't be so many Mexicans breaking down the fences to get into the USA for a better life.

    anonymous Aug 17, 2015 10:24am

    Well, that comment is indeed condescending. I hopefully my reply does not offend anyone but since I resent JanC comment I hope people is a bit sympathetic. I am Mexican, living in Mexico and with no desire to live in USA. I have been in the US as a tourist and truly I would not want to live there. Why? Well, not one can argue that the US may seem as the perfect country: all is neat, orderly, civil…oh, and huge. Malls are a bundle of enticing and almost hypnotizing goodies. TV as well. In comparison to Mexico, the US has law and order. Everything seems to have its own place in the US. So why would anyone not want to live there? Well, many people like that but for someone such as myself who is used to different colors, smells, neighborhoods, people, culture, the US seeems too homogeneous. When in there the visitor feels the need to adjust one self to fit in (since everything has a place and a look) rather than a freedom to be. So JanC I believe that the O'Grady family has found that here in Mexico. A spaciousness and a freedom to be, to do and to enjoy. But there is still the matter of your remark: why indeed so many people are trying to "breaking down the fences to get into the USA for a batteries life"? Well, because of wages and a positive US dollar – Mexican peso currency rate. Mexicans who do go to the US work hard to send money to their families in Mexico. With that money they built houses in their hometowns so after a few years of hard work they can come back. And they do come back. A few stay there, that is true. But most actually unnoficially retire and go back to Mexico to enjoy what they built. So we are not that different you see? Regardless of the sad little picture US media likes to portray of Mexico, we are a good country with kind and generous people. And we also have issues. As the US do. You have wonderful places too. What I am trying to say is that there are no better countries. Each country has its own unique flavor, its own values and its own issues that needs dealing with. And I am very glad that people has the freedom to choose where in the world they want to live, plant some roots and be happy. But I do not appreciate anyone who tries to belittle any country. Especially my own.

anonymous Apr 22, 2015 4:17am

You became an Immigrant Family!

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 11:57pm

Great article Katie and congratulations on having the courage to create a new lifestyle in Another country and enjoy a different quality of life – one where time with family, growth, exploration, adventure, meaning and simplicity are part of every LIVNG as opposed to merely existing in the “normal” societal way.

There are always going to be people who “choose to be offended” as some were (unbelievably yet not) by your excellent article.

I wish to congratulate you on the articulate, informed and intelligent way in which you handled those.

My husband and I also chose a different path to “the norm” a year ago when we sold our home in Colorado, bought a motorhome so we could live, work and travel the USA full time. Our life is simpler now, less financial stresses, more meaning, more fun, more nature, more experiences, more connection with interesting people, more sunsets… More of what matters to us and less of what doesn’t… Our decision bamboozles some, but we are truly happy, we are truly living and our lives are expanding in ways we could have never imagined. We look forward to opening up our travels to more international opportunities in the coming years.

We are all (those of us lucky enough to have been born into countries that offer us so many simple privileges like clean water, food, shelter, education and more) responsible for our own lives and we have the power to make more life choices than many people are willing to admit… I say good for you for making the choices you have – you are an inspiration to many, whose eyes are being opened to different ways to enjoy a great quality of life without the high personal cost (beyond merely financial).

Travel, love and be happy… That’s our motto. Enjoy!

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel have read only a page.”

Julie Bennett

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 6:30pm

Moving to San Miguel de Allende is not a plunge into a foreign culture. Americans invaded this Colonial Mexican town several years ago and there are now more than 10,000 USA expats living there, many of them rich retirees. SMA is known throughout Mexico as an enclave for the ‘ugly American’, people who still live as if they were in USA and take a superior attitude to all things Mexican. And, sadly, it’s a town where many expats treat the locals with arrogant condescension.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 5:27pm

I would just like to say, that whether you retired or not, giving up a crappy lifestyle where you can’t breathe for the bills and never have any quality family time, let alone vacations..or even eating out…IS A WONDERFUL THING!

I envy the ability you had to do so. I am still trying to convince my 10yr old son to pack up and go.

I am in Canada and the pensions etc. are becoming just as nonexistent here as in the US. Not that the minimum wage jobs that I have/had, have such a thing anyways (yes I have a college diploma). My dream for retirement is to sell my house and live on that in a different country. I don’t have anything left to save or put aside (which I make) because my income isn’t enough to carry my mortgage and insurances etc.

I constantly dream of a simpler, slower life that can be found in other countries. I currently dream of Asian countries as well as Central and South America.

Until I can manage to convince my son it’s time…I will enjoy, and envy I won’t lie, 🙂 those who can do it!!

Enjoy and live your life!

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 5:14pm

I also chucked it all to move to Mexico (Lake Chapala area) but I was 64 when I did it 2 years ago and never looked back…..it was absolutely the best decision I ever made. Life here is like a step back in time…..people greet each other with Buenos Dias, you pay your electric bill at the local Abbarotte and the perfect weather just encourages life satisfaction. Whenever someone posts about the fantastic life we have here, those North of the Border seem to have a sense of hostility and resentment in their comments……and that’s too bad….you’re not a tree…..if you’re not happy…….move….change your life….after all life is the original limited one time offer. Yes we might have had our careers and earned our money in the US, paid our taxes, but does not that make us prisoners of that society for the rest of our lives.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 11:54am

I am also from San Diego and moved to Guatemala four years ago. This article reflects the feelings of many expats here, including me. Living in a place like this opens you to a completely different perspective on life.

If the article seems lecture-y, perhaps it’s a response to those who lecture to us. I got all kinds of negative responses from friends and family when I left my well-paid corporate job and suburban house to pursue a different kind of life. Many of the comments were along the lines of “how could you possibly leave the best city/state/country in the world.” Those comments came from people who had never lived outside of the US, and some from people who had never even traveled outside of their own borders. Sure, there are drawbacks and adjustments, and not everyone can, or wants to, take the plunge into living in a different culture. My visits back to the US have become less frequent and that culture now feels foreign.

I know many people who made the move without big savings or retirement income. My 78-year-old dad recently moved to Mexico because he could no longer afford to keep his home in Southern California. He can live comfortably in Mexico on his social security. I’m still years away from collecting retirement income, but have a business here and do work that I love.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 11:53am

I moved to Mexico about five years ago with very little in my bank account and an online job that pays way too little to survive in the States. I was tired of working myself into the ground to maintain a standard of living that I felt was comfortable in Los Angeles. I was laid off from two of my jobs, still had the one online. So I left. My standard of living here in Mexico is pretty much exactly the same, except now I work less than part time from home instead of two jobs plus freelancing while battling traffic to only just scrape by. The level of crime is actually significantly lower where I am now than where I was in LA. I have time to enjoy my life, make my own schedule, and travel when I please. You don't have to wait until you're retired. You don't need a pension. You can live here quite well on less than $1000 a month. A friend of mine is renting a 4 bedroom house with an amazing view and a HUGE garden for about $250. Most non-retired expats here make great money teaching English or starting their own very small businesses and live comfortably. If you're bilingual, you'll be able to find work here easily. Best decision I ever made.

    anonymous Apr 23, 2015 7:24pm

    Jamie, what kind if work do you do online?

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 10:54am

I, too, was fortunate enough to have a job with an excellent early retirement. We also retired to Mexico. And we also love it.

We love it, but know it is not something most people can or want to do.

Your story is interesting, but I agree this particular piece seems lecture-y and condescending to those who either cannot, or choose not to do what you have done.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 10:30am

You didn't "move" to Mexico. You retired to Mexico. Those are two very different things

    anonymous Apr 22, 2015 6:52pm

    Hi mike,
    Yes, we did move to Mexico. We have no holdings in the USA except for a few things in storage that will be retrieved soon.
    We have been living as permanent residents of Mexico for one month shy of 2.5 years.
    Katie is working and I have a small business.
    Retiring from one career and starting another is pretty normal and part of the evolution of life.
    We both have many very productive years left in us and we will continue to contribute for many years to come.
    My children have attended school full time since we moved here.
    We receive medical care here and, for those that say wait until someone needs surgery, we are already past that point.
    So, please clarify for me how we did not move to Mexico.
    I await your reply.
    And please leave out the hyperbole of government pension largesse……. it is tiresome, non-factual and and a rehash of an emotional topic rather than on objective one.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 9:58am

I enjoyed reading your article and am glad you and your family have found a lifestyle you love. It seems to be perfect for you. But I have to say, I found it very condescending. Why are those of us who choose to live in America defined as “good little soldiers”? And why does owning a home mean we are “living the culturally indoctrinated definition of the American Dream”? What if it is MY dream? My family and I live in the Bay Area. We have a diverse group of friends from all walks of life. We love our jobs. We love our extended family. We love the scenery the art, the food and the culture here. Give people some credit for making their own decisions and don’t think you are superior because you decided to move. Unique? Yes. Better than the rest of us? Not so much.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 6:58am

Most people who even reach the age of 65 and "retire" cannot afford to live on what they have coming in in this country.
They will not live the lifestyle they thought they would after working 45 years.
It is a rat race and call it what you want , but why not choose to live a simpler lifestyle…
Why not have less debt.
Most do not even have a savings and think their J O B is grand.. So, enjoy!!
If you dislike being underpaid and think that is how life should be… Do something about it!!

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 6:47am

Eso exactamente es lo q me esta pasando vine a usa para tratar de conseguir el "sueño americano" y amo estados unids este es un pais hermoso que me ha dado tanto y amo estados unidos pero mi nostalgico corazon anhela estar viviendo alla tan solo vivir el algarabio de la gente una tarde en el "centro" algo tan simple como una tarde en la plaza observando madres sentadas con los hijos corriendo alrededor o parejas bailando al son de la musica en un domingo en la plaza disfrutando la tranquilidad de una tarde veraniega…y muchisimo mas!!

    anonymous Apr 22, 2015 7:35am

    Hola Heyra,

    Te entiendo por completo.

    Yo también amo a mi país, mi ciudad donde nací, pero por ciertas y muchas razones, decidimos buscar otra realidad—una que hemos encontrado y creado aquí en tu bello México.

    La tierra y la gente nos ha aceptado con abrazos abiertos.

    Y como dices, la simplicidad y belleza de poder hacer algo como pasar una tarde en la plaza o el jardín, viendo a la gente, los niños, las familias, los músicos…es algo que nos da tanto color y alegría a nuestras vidas.

    Saludos y te deseo todo lo mejor.

    Katie O'Grady 🙂

anonymous Apr 20, 2015 6:16pm

Dear “One of the Masses”,

First off, I would just like to mention how rich your online name is. Next, I would like to address some of your criticisms which I believe to be insensitive, ignorant, and possibly deceptive.

Your comment below:

You ask: “Why do so many people buy into some culturally indoctrinated definition of the “American Dream?” I guess the obvious answer is that for many people, working hard for an employer (ie not a government worker being paid by the taxpayer), struggling to keep their heads above water financially on a salary far less than Frank’s, and working into their old age because they can’t afford to retire, isn’t about “buying into the American dream”. It's the reality of working life in USA. Fine for you to say you “don’t want any part” of the American dream – I’m sure others feel that way too. But unlike you and her husband, the average person doesn’t have the luxury of being able to take an extraordinary amount of taxpayers’ money and clear off at age 50 to Mexico.

Although you are criticizing the author here, you are actually reinforcing her point.

“It’s the reality of working life in the USA.”

Sadly this is true, but you have to ask yourself why.
Thirty years ago there were a lot of people who were not just struggling to keep their heads above water. They were actually comfortable, and could afford a home, education, and even some leisure time with their families. They didn’t have to work into old age because they couldn’t afford to retire. Employers provided pensions, both public and private. They called this the middle class. They called it the American Dream.

With the advent of Reaganomics, intellectually backed by Milton Friedman from the (Chicago University School of Economics), the beautiful and once prevalent American Dream has all but been stamped out. The American dream is gasping for air, and corporate profits are at record highs.

This libertarian ideology, which I believe you subscribe to, has been the culprit.

Blaming the poor and middle class for the woes of the economy is nothing new, but it is effective, as history can attest to. No need to mention how Wall Street crashed our economy, and was then bailed out by the taxpayers while the greatest wealth transfer in history took place. We will demonize teachers, cops, and firefighters. The level of absurdity is mind-boggling. Privatize the profits, and socialize the losses must be your idea of how things should be I presume.

It is sad that you are unable to comprehend the fact that you are nothing more than a modern day scout for the financial elite. For the financial elite who are working to increase their quarterly profits at the expense of the American worker.

The people that subscribe to this ideology:

The very wealthy: I hesitate to call them people, but the corporations that exploit unrepresented, and undercompensated work forces in emerging countries to make a increase their profits, while simeoultaneously destroying our economy in America. Now personally, I think they are unpatriotic monsters, but at least it makes sense. At least it’s rational. They worship money over everything including ethics, morals, loyalties and values. Morally wrong, but understandable at least.

Next, you have the idiots, or the “masses” that believe everything Fox news tells them, and then repeats this message verbatim to anyone who will listen. If you have some free time, Edward Burnays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud and the father of the Public Relations industry will provide you some interesting reading.

The last group is the worst of them all. They are the illusion peddlers who would campaign for the votes of the very people they will victimize. The very people that will suffer because they will be manipulated into voting against their own interests, and the interests of their loved ones. They pretend to care for and protect the people while plotting their demise. People like Carl Demaio and Chuck Reed who pretend to be “one of the masses” such as yourself. Spread your propaganda somewhere else.

anonymous Apr 20, 2015 4:27pm

Very interesting conversation. (This should be one fit for the sociologists.) After much thought I believe I finally figured out what the issues are here …. I mean aside from what started as a quaint story of some people heading South as a permanent escape and a reward found from doing some heavy planning, cost cutting and deal making to get into a job that offered early retirement, combined with choosing a career in the public sector that meant a pension was to be banked on and never lied about (as we have all been convinced is "business as normal" now in the private sector). Now I don't think anyone would argue that the US gave this couple the foundation of what they are doing today but why fault them with disconnecting and changing their lifestyle by seeking a simplier life?

And no you can't live in the US for the same price you do in Mexico. In the US, there is no livable or affordable housing by that fought-after treasure of a rocky mountain stream or a beautiful ocean or a green waterfall that you normally can find for a bargain in Mexico. But everything is a tradeoff and there is really still no free lunch. In the US finding a get-away by any of our national treasures will run you a nightly fee starting at around $150, $1200 a month and up for an appartment, plus utilities. Your dinner out will start at around $12 and add a soda starting at around $3. If you want alcohol, make the cost $5-$8 per drink. The house for rent in Mexico will normally be a simple and cheap home with limited facilities but if it is a traditional home it will be more economical. The food in Mexico will not be a chef's delight each night; they never ponder in Mexico if tonight it's sushi, braised brisket, a Chilies oldtime with cheese, an Outback steak or oysters rockefeller. Tonight in Mexico we'll ask if it's tacos bistek or tacos pastor.

No, you cannot have in the US what you have in Mexico, at least from a cost perspective. The Mexican lifestyle is different and simple. And untold here, the roads in Mexico are more bumpy, the police are more questionable (well if you not a black kid running from one), the water has to be carted in, tacos for near every meal has to be accepted if you are on a budget, the air, surroundings and water are often poluted and you'll have to find a home with a breeze because no one can afford air conditioning. If trying to establish "a nest" there while comparing it to the US can be a very difficult thing. In Mexico the roosters start crowing at 5AM and the dogs stop barking at 4AM, and the fireworks begin on Friday and the end on Sunday (if it's not a religious holiday, which occurs ever other week). The garbage men come clinging a ring a ding and you houist your own garbage into their truck, the speaker topped autos roll down the city streets blaring "agua pura" and the deep "clonk, clonk, clonk" means the bottled gas man is near; time to put on your pants and run out to catch him. There's trash over the Mexican countryside and every creek seems to be someone's dump. But that's the bad side to go with the "good side" that we have read about above.

Still with all the bad I have noted, it doesn't change my mind, the O'Grady's, or others who love the choice of living in Mexico. And we continue to do so because we aren't making that full car payment for a bruised and delapadated "old" new auto we now hate, or a $70K (half a million dollar in interest) house that's already falling apart 1/10 into ownership or a boat on our payroll that won't stay afloat. And we aren't charging up our credit cards for "stuff" we think will make our life better while in reality it only forces us to run up our bills higher each month while chasing a dream that we need or can afford all this crap.

So with all that I say let's let the O'Gradys enjoy their new life -or- let's not and we'll hunker down at home in front of our reality shows and just do as a late, great President once suggested about making our lives better, "just go out and charge something".

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 7:31pm

Comes across as desperately defensive Frank. Instead of addressing the points I made in this forum, you seem more interested in discussing what’s been written by me and others elsewhere. Might be a bit more respectful to readers to have those discussions over where the comments were made, but I guess your style of dialog is different than mine.

And thanks for all the unsolicited advice you give me in your post – I see that the arrogant style of lecturing is shared by both O’Grady’s.

Just one last point, and then if you feel the need to write another long and rambling post in reply I’ll leave it as the final word…. I agree with you about the ‘degradation of USA’, but I don’t find it as easy as you to dismiss one factor in this, the retirement system for public employees. For taxpayers to fund a small number of elite individuals for a long retirement of ‘color and excitement’ is unjust, inequitable and a triumph of greed Frank, however hard you try and justify it.

Everything both you and your wife have written here shows that you're completely devoid of any empathy and compassion towards the residents of some of California’s poorest cities who have suffered from the devastating effects CALPERS has brought to their community. Your ‘many decades of political activity’ may have given you, your family and your workmates a privileged and financially secure lifestyle well beyond the reach of most, but it certainly makes your claim of ‘fighting inequality’ sound total BS.

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 4:03pm

Shout out to Don A. for doing the right thing.

I completely understand and empathize with his opinions about the complacency of the workforce in the USA.

Divide and conquer………Ignorance is bliss.

The degradation of the USA started back when actors became governors and people just happily ignored it…. it will take as many decades to make this mess to unmake it.

In the meantime, my family and I are living our lives with color and flavor.

I fought many of those same battles from the public sector side and I do not and did not ever have the temperament to swallow pablum and placidly watch my and my co-workers and neighbors’ quality of life erode.

( As a sidenote I consider everybody my neighbor….without thought for the people we ride around with on this big blue ball what are we?)

And, now, so many of those good jobs are where now? Here in Ol’ Mexico…. I can not help but find great irony in that.

And, Greg Comer, you made no point…. you speculated and fabricated when some simple research at the University of Google would have given you at least my current salary , when someone else did your research for you and my salary was posted on the FB page you are a member of, I have no doubt you were disappointed that it was no where what you were theorizing.

The only point you have made is that you are a easily offended individual. I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do about that from here……that has to come from within and some of us have it and many of us don’t.

You get to choose, just like my wife and I willfully chose our career paths, where do you fall……. speculative and overly sensitive complainer or factual dialoger open to a perspective that might not actually mirror your own.

Of course, I am conjecturing…. I am allowing one of my many flaws to surface because I only have limited tolerance for BS.

I made a point. I backed it with facts in the link I posted earlier. Read it. Refute it if you can. Suerte.

I am not as subtle nor diplomatic as my wife, unfortunately and, as a union member and officer throughout my career, I and my cohorts had to deal with many people who chose to have their sensibilities “hurt” or “offended” without actually paying any attention to facts.

I often wonder at what point did so many people become so indignant over fabricated BS and so “sensitive” that a point of view that is outside their own myopic world is considered offensive.

Even after many decades of political activity it never ceased to amaze me.

If I have any advice for you, read everything on Katie’s blog and then form your own opinion rather that adopt the opinion of a Facebook moderator who calls Mexico a “third world shithole”.

But, I don’t offer unsolicited advice. I’ll leave that for those that critique rather than do.

I like Don A’s analogy of “sheeple”. Funny how many times we sang the very same lyrics as we went door to door during every election cycle trying to educate voters and walked away marveling at our interactions with the electorate.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever participated in a campaign, held candidates accountable, written them, called them, gone to their offices?

I have. On my own dime. I’ve traveled to Sacramento and talked face to face the people I helped to elect or actively opposed.

I would bet you a cold beer that you never have…… it is far too easy to just bitch and complain, especially when you have a pulpit built right in for you at your finger tips. Make a real point….. not some fabricated and bizarre indignation over an article…… get offended about something real. There is plenty out there that is real and not fabricated pablum if you care to look for even a few minutes.

I choose to get offended about inequality, theft of futures, theft of the American Dream, theft of quality education by what has become the for profit university system, the loss of skilled labor jobs in the USA and the complacency of the “Masses”.

But, hey, that’s just me and I do my own thinking.

Peace…. and, if you are ever in my neck of the woods I embrace dialog….. an art lost in politics and, seemingly, by maybe not just “One of the Masses” but, rather, many of them.

I do not miss the politics of hate and division in any way.

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 2:04pm

Well said !!

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 12:04pm

That’s all very well Frank, but it doesn’t address the point I made. If Katie had written an article about her family’s experiences in Mexico then I’d have enjoyed reading it and hearing her story. But when she adopts a lecturing tone, talks down to people who are "slaves to their work” and asks “why do individuals and masses march along like good little soldiers” it comes across as a smug and unfeeling attitude from someone in a very privileged financial position. Her inference that others should “leave the American dream” and replace it with “exploring, adventure and fun” shows she is totally out of touch with the vast majority of American workers who aren’t handed the opportunity to retire at age 50 on a very generous pension for life.

    anonymous Apr 20, 2015 8:59am

    Dear "One of the Masses," Your reaction (and I observe it to be a very strong reaction, not a response) actually has nothing to do with Katie.

    She has obviously triggered something in you that may be helpful to you to look at. Perhaps an opportunity for some inner work? Perhaps she's doing something that on some level you would truly love to do?

    The truth of my own experience is that if I have a strong reaction to someone or something I've read, after some objective observation and aware questioning, the majority of times it's about my own issues, and nothing to do with the other person. But it is a great opportunity for spiritual growth.

    Good luck! (that, or you are a troll 😉 )

    anonymous Apr 21, 2015 1:05am

    The whole point of the article is that there are options beyond struggling to live hand to mouth until you die. Even a very modest retirement savings is going to go further in a place like Mexico. That's not bragging or inconsiderate. That's very simple math, but it's math not a lot of people consider.

    Also, if you honestly think that first responders are 'handed' a pension, you're clearly far out of touch with the realities of the job.

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 11:45am

Didn't read all the comments here until I posted mine just now. Noting the anger placed toward you because your husband still has a retirement program. Here is what is going on. The people who still have pensions today will continue to be attacked more and more in the future by people who don't have them. This is the age old divide and conquer that has worked so well in our country (US) and that is driving corporate owned America full force into third world status. It's going to get worse as I have long said and it's going to turn to dog eat dog if it hasn't already.

And it's our culture that allows it. In 1990 when the great private sector pension heist began, I still don't know why everyone stood silent. I jumped up and joined a group of about .01% of the very large company I was working for and I almost lost my job because of my activity, but I would not take the theft of part of my promised compensation. Not so I found for the sheep who stood around me. Yes, the small group we formed were able to fight to restore it to about 25% of what was promised but all the time I couldn't figure why everyone in the company did not stand up and fight beside me. Was it no one could believe it was happening or that our culture had decayed to the point that simply no one stands for anyone but themselves any longer?

Over the past years one by one everyone who had a pension in the private sector has lost it. No one said a word. We are now starting to see that today with government workers where more and more cities are trying the bankrupt route to swindle their past employees out of pensions. And the way they have been successful at it is with their propaganda campaign and that is gaining steam today by flooding us with propaganda over our corporate owned airwaves. The objective? Turn of us against the other.

If you read one of your most recent posts you see the comment regarding your pension taking away from the poster's "tax money"…. You will find this same script gets sprayed out daily by American's corporate mediat giants, number one being "America's Most Trusted News Network", Fox News. It's a well thought out and contrived plan to make sure that everyone in the US has lost their pension, changing the way we all think to where the popular movement today is to push down anyone who still has one rather than taking a stand to demand a reverse to the errosion, and with that of courset we have lost all memory of the ones who lost theirs all togehter and today are faciing a future wrought with poverty.

Today our corporate owned media has ripped apart the legitimacy of retirement programs and Social Security and rebranded it all with the attrocious name of "entitlement program" trying to twist popular thinking around the idea that these are things that are not really ours but"just something we think we are entitled to but really aren't". And just like we watched our neighbors, our fathers and other relatives all lose theirpensions one by one over the years, today we all just sit here and say and we do nothing about that? (It reminds me of a Barbara Streisand hit "Sheeple, sheeple who need sheeple, are the unluckiest sheeple, in the world").

Positively it is not by accident that corporate owned media has allowed this rebranding. Turns out in good old nation NUMBER ONE DOG EAT DOG, no one cares that you worked for all your life with the agreement that a promised retirement package was always termed as part of your compensation. To them they have allowed our new corporate owned oligarcy to call all of that an "entitlement program".

I today have a private sector pension that is still hanging on at 25% of what I was promised after working 30 years for one of America's largest corporations. As a large activist against the Watson Wyatt actuaries that led the way to the theft of our private sector pensions starting in 1990, I know better than many that what's left of our pension programs, including Social Security are at the very top of every Wall Street and government official wish-list. So it's up to each of us to work hard every day to do something about that. I'll gve you a hint, it's not going to come by voting in today's Tea Party or Republican candidate. And as sad as it is, I can't say that the Democratic choice is that much better. Still to sit in your easy chair and not put up a fight, or worse, to say your neighbor is stealing your tax money by receiving being one of the few who still has a pension, you are not only contributing to the detrement of a once great society but you are in effect, highly responsible for its downfall.

    anonymous Apr 19, 2015 5:31pm

    Thank you Don for your very well-stated, logical, thoughtful, informed and respectful comments.


    Katie O'Grady

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 11:18am

I find wilful ignorance repugnant.

I would encourage anybody who takes the time to read what I am stating to open and read the following link about pensions.
It is factual and well written.

After being a union member for close to thirty years and having my retirement salary publicly posted on Facebook and other forums I have developed a fairly thick skin.
This is nothing new for me and I am proud of my and my wife's service to the public.

There are many people that choose to hate or tear down other people for various reasons.

Fortunately, there are far more people that are happy for those that wilfully choose to influence their lives, take their lumps when they have to and then look for the good in life and the situations they are presented with.
I spent a career helping people through the darkest moments of their and their loved ones' lives. That doesn't make me a hero or anything noble, it is just the career I chose.
And, often, there are no happy endings. People are scarred, crippled, emotionally damaged or dead for, well, forever.

It is up to each of us as individuals and, if you view a family as a team, your team to make the best of life. So, take the rough spots, take the beautiful spots and live a life.

That all being said, with my career came certain and, less and less so for current employees, reasonable benefits.

The theory in life is that it is dynamic and when presented with a negative situation steps are taken to alleviate that situation as much as possible.

Or, you can take shots at people, post their wages online and complain that, in your state of thin-skinned indignation, complain.

In my state of utter imperfection I can live with the image I present to the world and I am proud of what my wife, Katie O'Grady, has worked at and written, with her heart and soul, so well.

And, if it comes across to you as an individual distastefully, put your fingers to the keyboard and write your own stories.
However, it is much easier to criticize so I won't hold my breath.

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 10:30am

I have been “On the Road in Mexico” for about 9 years now and I offer this:

– due to the sell out of the US to the highest bidder (Citizens United & SuperPACs) and as this drive gets closer to trying to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare, there are very, very few who will be fortunate enough to be able to retire at even 65. You and I are blessed by being so lucky and I hate to say this but even our retirement packages are not always guaranteed “for life”, so with this I also recommend doing ground work wherever you go to think what type of work you might do when the wave of retirement sharks “get to yours” as they are slowly one by one going after both government as well as the private sector.

– the life we live in Mexico and Central America is extremely foreign to most everyone and thus why we get the blank stares when explaining our new utopia during brief encounters at cocktail parties and family get togethers on our short trips “back home”. It’s certainly not for everybody and requires as you explain, quite the mind inversion. Perhaps if more people were capable of that mind inversion they would have done something to fix the rapid decline of the US society. But that’s a pipe dream; so for now it’s Viva Mexico. True there are those who bought low and sold high their California homes who have purchased million dollar dwellings in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala that will fuel House Hunters International for years to come, but that’s certainly not the norm for the lifestyle that you and I live on a conventional budget here and have chosen to replace our broken US dreams.

– also with Mexico, it’s get it while you can. The same “big box rapid consumption and decline” that has attacked the US is only a decade or so behind, eating Mexico just like it did us. Along with that comes the falling of all the uniqueness of Mexico and like bowling pins as the big box “sameness” engulfs Latin America while driving up prices, limiting choices and bringing in the US line of “glorious products” while at the same time introducing both their in-affordability to Mexico along with the inevitable loss of the products and stores they displace which were affordable but now gone for good. The big chain cracker box hotel rooms for $100 or more are plowing through the quaint, old and faded but clean $30 dollar rooms, and the same line of marketeers that have overtaken the US are barking down our heels chasing us south of the border. Mexico is changing and rapidly. Already today it is looking more and more like the US in some cities than the US does. Laredo Texas is an example. Today the thriving economy with US fast food joints and big box stores line the streets of Nuevo Laredo like Disneyland. Cars are buzzing, money is flying and the chicken is being fried. Not so on the US side; today it is starting to look more and more like a ghost town whose time has come and gone. And even during those brief moments when we backslide south of the border and hit somewhere like Costco, the products I have found run about 30% more for imported goods we consider as the norm in the US.

– Mexico is not cheap. It is possible to live an affordable lifestyle there if tuned into one like the locals but today it’s getting just too easy to slip into their encroaching “big box” world where you’ll be right back where you were at home while dropping in at the local Walmart. In Mexico not only do you have Walmart but their re-branded Bodega or competitors Chadraui, Mega, Soriana, Commerical, etc. And with one of these popping up on every corner, it is growing every too easy to slip back into flopping down the plastic for that new bigscreen and ending up right back where you just worked so hard to escape.

True the economy in Mexico is thriving, everyone in the city seems to have a job and a new car and all is well. And with everyone working comes along the businesses that exist to absorb that money and with that it’s killing the culture that existed beforehand without the thriving economy. A very new and different culture is being created as the new world order continues to expand.

So get it while you can is my mantra. See it and weep as you watch the Cinemax and large malls build on the outskirts of remote places you’d thought you’d never see it happen. Have a drive around San Cristobal de Las Casas and catch the latest 3D full color. Be sure to catch the English showing. Look at places so out of this world you’d never have dreamed and to your shock there’s a big shopping mall plopped down on the shores of ultra remote Flores Guatemala, or see the Walmart there that popped up now in the middle of Quetzaltenango.

Maybe most look at all this as progress. To me it’s change I hadn’t hoped for. Not that I consider that the Mexican people don’t deserve US culture if they want it, but for the hope there would never be a “Mexican Dream” and all the illusion of false hope to goes with it. Humm now what’s that I hear about Boliva ?

anonymous Apr 19, 2015 10:13am

Katie, sounds great. I love the jealous and ignorant comments to your piece. We have a place in Italy, currently working on Thailand, but looking forward to tending the olives in Campania.

Keep on keepin on.

anonymous Apr 18, 2015 6:35pm

Great article! My husband and I are considering moving to Ecuador as soon as our youngest graduates from high school in three years. Continued joy and blessings on your new life!

anonymous Apr 18, 2015 2:16pm

Katie, I take issue with your comments about “leaving the American dream” – to me they sound totally disingenuous.

“My husband frank was able to retire from the fire department at 50, so he went for it! Could he have stayed on and continued to work himself into the ground, shorten his life span, and lose time with his family? Absolutely.”

Who are you trying to kid? I bet Frank was counting down the days till he could walk out the fire station door and take advantage of a retirement plan that many USA taxpayers find obscene. The retirement age of firefighters and police, and the ridiculously high pensions they receive FOR LIFE, have left many Californian cities bankrupt or stuck with unsustainable pension costs.

You ask: “Why do so many people buy into some culturally indoctrinated definition of the “American Dream?” I guess the obvious answer is that for many people, working hard for an employer (ie not a government worker being paid by the taxpayer), struggling to keep their heads above water financially on a salary far less than Frank’s, and working into their old age because they can’t afford to retire, isn’t about “buying into the American dream”. It's the reality of working life in USA. Fine for you to say you “don’t want any part” of the American dream – I’m sure others feel that way too. But unlike you and her husband, the average person doesn’t have the luxury of being able to take an extraordinary amount of taxpayers’ money and clear off at age 50 to Mexico.

Instead of asking why "individuals and masses march along like good little soldiers", with the implication that everyone should retire at 50 and go off to have fun, why can't you be honest and admit that the reason most people 'march along' is that they have no choice – they'll never receive anywhere near the taxpayer funded privileges your husband did.

You don’t think your comments about the American dream are a little insensitive and something many people would find offensive?

    anonymous Apr 18, 2015 4:55pm

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article "One of the Masses" and I am happy that it is provoking thought and dialogue.

    Regarding you perspective on my husband Frank's career and compensation, to presume what Frank's mindset about his career and retirement are and were is quite presumptive and inaccurate. He has zero regrets retiring but he also loved his career. It is curious that you claim to know what Frank's salary was and is. It is and was probably much less than you imagine. Your are welcome to your perspective on what constitutes fair compensation but our opinions on that appear to differ significantly.

    My husband I both worked hard to attain our educations, careers and retirements. We like to call that active participation in our lives, current and future. I fail to see how that is considered a luxury. Some people might call that planning ahead.

    Our wages paid our retirements. I know that is easy to overlook but that is the truth of the matter. Perhaps you might want to inform yourself as to the true nature of funding and management of CalPERS and CalSTRS so you may make a more knowledgeable statement next time you want to ridicule those with public pensions.

    These are not privileges, these were hard earned and planned for careers with known levels of compensation that were hard fought and won by proactive unions and their members. Nothing was handed to either of us.

    To quote John Lydgate:

    “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

    The overwhelming response to my article has been positive. I would answer your inquiry as to whether or not I think I'm being insensitive and offensive with a resounding "no".

    My intent is not to offend but, rather, tell a story, our story.

    Again, thank you for reading my blog and I do hope you can find enjoyment in reading it further.



    anonymous Apr 21, 2015 12:33am

    It seems to me that this comment illustrates the sort of attitude that corporate America absolutely loves. When presented with the idea that the average person isn't compensated as well as a first responder, you blame the first responder. If you're working yourself to death and you're still struggling when it comes time to retire, like much of the American work force, perhaps you should be pointing fingers at the people who get huge bonuses for figuring out how to pay you less rather than the person who had the determination to deal with thirty years of thankless, exhausting, dangerous work. It's not the people who succeed you should be mad at. It's the people who profit at your expense.

    I didn't find this story insensitive or offensive, because I don't begrudge others their success, Shaking your fist and gnashing your teeth at those who profit from their own hard work is essentially the opposite of the American dream, and, frankly, if that offends you, the problem is with you.

      anonymous May 1, 2015 5:15am

      It seems to me you lived the new american dream. Work as little as possible to collect your lifetime hand out and then split. The new american dream is to take advantage of american tax payers. Good for you and your husband. But as far as I know mexico doesn't have such a generous system for your kids to take advantage of.

      I will be certain to share this story with anyone that defends the ridiculous pensions that are destroying this country. Thank you.

anonymous Apr 18, 2015 11:32am

HI Stephanie

I hear you and understand what you are saying. There are indeed many beautiful (and perhaps sustainable) parts of the States, but our experience in Southern California was such that sustainability came at a great price.

Clearly there is much more to the entirety of “our story” than what is captured here in this one piece.

Both my husband and I chose to go into civil service and professions where we worked hard for our retirements.

We love our lives in Mexico and wouldn’t change it for the world.



anonymous Apr 18, 2015 9:32am

Celebro su nueva vida en México, el coraje y el carácter para tan gran desicion. Disfruten mi amado Mexico! Ya Mexico los disfruta a ustedes.. Un Abrazo Familia Ogradys..

    anonymous Apr 18, 2015 11:35am

    ¡Mil Gracias Patricia!
    Sí, lo estamos disfrutando mucho, gozando las riquezas de este país y agredecidas por la generosidad de su gente.
    Katie 🙂

anonymous Apr 17, 2015 10:41pm

This is a wonderful story and I am happy for you and your family. One must consider though that it was America that offered you the opportunity to be able to retire at such a young age, with no doubt a nice chunk of money via your husbands job and hefty retirement plan. Would people earning minimum wage opt to move to Mexico? Some, yes. Most? Probably not. America too has amazing beauty outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. You don't have to move to Mexico to be free. It's your choice to do so, but you are retiring. You make the bucks in America and took advantage of what it had to offer. America gave you the opportunity to be able to move your family somewhere else and be financially set. I'd call THAT the American Dream.

    anonymous Apr 21, 2015 6:49am

    I do agree Stephanie…I however am seeing something a little different. We are all unique….As Elephant Journal likes to let us know. The "Universe"..Now the "masses" pursuing the "American Dream" blindlessly.. followers, perhaps? I think it is fabulous that you have transformed your life..become "free" in Mexico. I live in San Antonio so understand a little of this culture myself. Quite beautiful. My daughter's Father's family was from Mexico. Not so delightful.. but we shouldn't put everyone in that 'Box"..of course. Tossing the belongings, donating, gifting..how selfless..and exciting to be so..unencumbered by..things. I think as a Nurse for 25 years..and working exclusively with Wounded Warriors… American soldiers that have lost their limbs and left their souls on the battlefield…has given me too..a new sense..of loyalty. of sacrifice. The pursuit of the American Dream is not only exquisite but costly…and can sometimes be the American Nightmare for some. I am baffled by your words "good little soldiers". I am all for what you are doing to better your own lives, spirits. Loving this new culture…. So amazing that so many from there would want to leave such a place?! I hope it all works out…just remember once in a while….you were given your freedom by the blood of American 'Soldiers'. I ..for one..am ecstatic that you left. Adios

    anonymous Aug 16, 2015 7:10pm

    After reading your article, I started to wonder if you really are happy. It almost sounds as if you are trying to convince yourself. And you put down the rest of the Anericans “marching like soldiers.” In my experience, it is unhappy people who feel the need to put others down.

    You painted this whimsical picture of a happy and thriving family, mentioning all of the places you visit. Sounds like a glorified vacation to me. You say your family is stronger now. Of course you are! You moved to an area where you have no friends or family.

    And you say that you’re children are so happy. As I read your words, I could practically see them sliding down rainbows. But I can’t imagine that ripping them away from their friends, school, extended family and community was easy on them.

    There is much beauty here in the states, as well. There are many communities where people are not worried about keeping up with the jones’. Not everyone chooses to march. You didn’t have to go to Mexico, and trash our country on the way out, to figure that out.

      anonymous Aug 18, 2015 11:44am

      Hi Jessica,
      This is Katie's husband, Frank, and I think I can set your mind at ease.

      You may cease to wonder.
      We are happy…. however, like any life, there are ups and downs but we have experienced a much better lifestyle, a more content lifestyle and one that works quite well for us.
      In a nutshell, life is good and full of opportunity for us here in Mexico.

      I marvel at people taking offense to someone else's personal experience but to each his/her own…. however, it seems like a waste of time to me.

      To us, there is nothing whimsical about our life…. it is what we have worked for and we are grateful for it. It is no vacation…. it is our life. Our choice, our work, our perseverance and our ability to make our dream a reality to make it all happen.

      I am not certain how you can ascertain that we have no friends or family! There are airplanes that deliver family here, we visit them and friends are as plentiful as they were on the other side of the border.

      When I hear my kids laughing, hanging out with their friends or with just the two of them, talking about how much they love their school, I don't hear what sound like kids that were ripped away from their life. Of course they miss their stateside friends but our kids are becoming citizens of the world…. and, they are happy doing it.

      Of course there is much beauty in the USA! However, it is a big world and we are trying to experience as much of it as possible.

      And, no, we didn't have to go to Mexico…. we chose to.


Amoya Knudson Dec 2, 2017 5:36am

I will be in Mexico with my 3 daughters for the first time in January. Thank you for this beautiful post!

Arturo Gomez Tagle Nov 29, 2017 11:44pm

Frank and Katie and their kids have tons of friends here in Puerto Vallarta and their family complements this small community greatly. Our kids go to school together and they grow up as family. Katie is not making anything up, it’s just the way it is and I personally love to hang out with them whenever we can. Great family!!! PS. Let’s go surf soon!!!

Greg Fowkes Aug 2, 2016 6:44pm

Buy everything you can while you have a job (for us this includes a small house in Mexico and soon, a little cabin in northern Michigan), so that when you don't have a job there isn't much left to buy. Overly simple? Maybe but it's the plan we're going with.