Field Research: Celebrating The Anniversary Of Our Decision To Move To Mexico

by Nate
Tulum, from the beach

It’s been a year now since I got the irresistible itch to move to the jungle. Once I realized what was bothering me -a gnawing need to escape mainstream life somewhere with blue waters and green canopies- it’s been all I can think about.

Every thought is spent planning our escape. What helps us escape is a priority, what doesn’t -isn’t.

I’m a born schemer and so, as is my way, I spent many late nights and early mornings doodling notes on how to shift my paradigm from the “American dream” (a mortgage, a high-paying job, chronic illness, and depression) to the pura vida (the “pure life” of the Caribbean: beaches, early retirement, and eco-conscious values).

I had many bad ideas before coming up with any good ones, but I was determined to cook up a plan that made sense -and one that I could sell to my wife Sarah, who’d never been to Mexico at the time.

The first step on this long road obviously needed to be taking Sarah to Mexico so the country could work its magic on her. Ironically, I had already promised her a trip to the beach previously, but the season had just ended here in the US. Rather than waiting until the early Summer (which wouldn’t have worked out anyway), I opted to plan a last minute getaway to the Riviera Maya.

This beloved stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coastline between Cancun and the Mexican border with Belize (just south of Chetumal) is a magical place -a beautiful landscape of green jungle and blue ocean- and it is very hard not to love.

With barely four weeks until Christmas last year (2019), I booked a trip, expedited passports, and went a bit crazy scheduling little adventures like standup paddleboarding and snorkeling.

Suffice it to say Christmas had a distinctly Caribbean flavor last year…

Well, I love it when a plan comes together. The Mexican Caribbean worked it’s charms on my better half, and after several days spent on the beaches, in the ocean, and getting a feel for the understated elegance of Mexican culture; Sarah was in -we were moving to Mexico. We just weren’t sure how yet…or when.

Image: gabrielphoto

Time is a flat circle

Any good story ends up where it began. Good things –complete things- come full circle. Cycles are just part of how the universe retains cohesion.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you…2020 has been an interesting year. Flying back from Mexico last year we were excitedly planning how to return no less than four times in 2020. You can hear the gods laughing…

Obviously this wasn’t meant to be. Instead, we opted to use the restrictive nature of 2020 to our advantage and save money like crazy. Due to that, and waiting to see how Mexico reacted to the pandemic, we’ve stayed in place this entire year.

But you can only hide from destiny for so long…

Day by day, Sarah and I watch for news of travel closures and the return of lockdown -and I’m still convinced it’s coming- but we finally got fed up with waiting for the world to make space for us to pursue our dreams.

So in humorous, spontaneous fashion we booked a trip to Mexico and a stay in Tulum over Christmas, almost a year to the day that we did this previously. This time we’re not going to fall in love with the place, we’re going to rekindle our passions and make plans for the future.

UPDATE: The Fates are keeping us on our toes this year. Almost immediately after booking this trip and publishing this post, our dog Fritz was injured and had to be hospitalized for the better part of a week. He’s back home now and healing but it now seems prudent for one of us to stay home to care for Fritz.

Since Sarah wasn’t thrilled about the idea of navigating Mexico with a language barrier and on her own, it looks like I’ll be going on this adventure alone…doing reconnaissance and getting a feel for Tulum and the surrounding area.

Image: Adriana Barros

Planting a flag in a strange land

Staking a claim in a foreign land is altogether too imperialistic a metaphor for what we’re trying to accomplish by GTFO’ing from mainstream American society and “disappearing into the jungle”.

But in a sense that’s closer to reaching the summit of Everest and leaving a memento, I’m visiting Mexico this year to “plant a flag” and make ourselves (and our intentions) known to the place.

We’ll no doubt concoct a ritual of some sort to petition the spirits of place (that I’ve come to realize have been calling on me for years already) for support in our transition. Give offering, bury a piece of ourselves there, etc…

We’ve set the intention to depart our current place, recognized and petitioned its spirits for support, and have been navigating their demands for most of this year. With that work in place, it’s time to start building a connection with our future home and both its human, and more-than-human, inhabitants.

In a mundane sense (i.e. non-magical, if that’s even a thing) this means I’ll be visiting communities where we might rent an apartment, discovering places where the locals hang out, and hopefully making some friends.

Magically, it means making offerings, sensing how the places we visit react to our presence, gathering dirt and other physical links (after asking politely and burying some pesos in the dirt in exchange). It means sending out intentions in places where local spirits might be listening and, generally, trying to deepen our connection to this enchanting place.

Above all it means finding Joy in being there and experiencing the richness of what it is to be present among the bright colors, bustling corridors, and bio-and-culturally-diverse “ecology of selves” (Kohn, How Forests Think) represented in the Riviera Maya.

Since I’ll be going solo now, I’ll be sure to FaceTime with Sarah frequently to get her all worked up with envy over the beautiful blue and green vistas and delicious delicacies.

Image: Nan Palmero

So what’s our “plan” anyway?

It’s nearing the end of 2020. We want to move next spring or early summer and we’re looking at a long “dark winter” by all forecasts. Planning under these uncertain conditions is uniquely challenging. Planning an international move…well, it isn’t ideal.

There is no shortage of confusion around our 2021 plans. Mexico suspended visa processing back in March and though that action officially expired on November 19th, the email listed on the consulate’s website for visa-related questions doesn’t even exist at the moment.

When we’ll be able to officially immigrate is unfortunately a “known unknown” at the moment. On the bright side, moving to Mexico unofficially, and occasionally exiting and re-entering Mexico, is already a well-established workaround to temporary residency.

Once entering Mexico as a tourist, you can stay for 180 days legally. At that point you have to go spend a week out of country before attempting to re-enter (which is usually not a problem).

Doing this repeatedly is technically frowned upon, but given the lack of alternatives, I assume they’ll be understanding. Mexico, more than anything, will do whatever keeps the US Dollar flowing into its economy. I intend to be very helpful in this regard.

We’ll consult a Mexican immigration attorney and prove or disprove my theory as much as possible, but I believe our success in this venture will come down to willful intention, divination, and no small amount of faith -rather than good planning.

Maybe we run this old gambit of rolling the dice every 6 months until visa processing reopens. Maybe we live in two places for a time. Maybe we manifest some as-of-yet-unknown special circumstances that allow us to immigrate ahead of schedule. I’m not ruling anything out yet; that would be bad magic.

Just intend for the end result and don’t worry about the details. Let the Gods sort it out…

I’m aiming for agility, resiliency, and redundancy in my planning, rather than specificity or clear, direct action. A flexible plan, that evolves along with the situation, has better chances of succeeding under these volatile conditions.

And in that spirit, we’re I’m going to Mexico over this Christmas (Gods willing) to research where we’re going to live one day soon, to reconnect with this magical place, and to reaffirm our commitment to finding our Joy in paradise.

Featured image of the ruins at Tulum courtesy of jmmblue – Used without permission (contact me with complaints)

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