April 17, 2015

We became an Expat Family.


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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