By Suzanne A. Marshall from the April 2018 Edition
Well into our retirement life now, we are heading into our second year of living full time in Manzanillo. It’s a process that began over ten years ago when we dove in head first, and bought our little piece of paradise smack on the beaches of Manzanillo bay. It was a gradual process, since we thought we already had our retirement home by a country lake in Alberta, which we bought 15 years ago. It was quite special, beautiful and quiet. At the time, we were busy commuting an hour each way into the big city and working hard at paying off the mortgage and longing for the days when we could finally jump off the tread-mill and run free and wild in our senior years.
And while we trudged through the never ending work grind (though we both enjoyed our work), we also felt we had earned our annual vacation and had begun our regular treks to Mexico and a variety of different resorts there. For many of us Canadians, winter is definitely a part of our lifestyle but, the older we get, the more we long for the warm retreats from the harsh climate. You can get to an age where the icy roads and snow removal get really annoying. Yes, the sunlit days on brilliant expanses of pure white snow and crystal blue skies can be stunningly mesmerizing but enough already. We really want to run around in the sun in next to nothing and jump into a pool and walk the sun-drenched beaches and manufacture more vitamin D which the average Canadian has far too little of. It’s the hap-piness supplement both mentally and physically and I honestly saw a dramatic difference in my moods and so on. But I digress.
By that stage of our lives, we had earned our way up to a one month vacation each year. We headed to Mexico and we loved it. Of course, a couple of weeks are never enough, so we started scheming about how we could stay longer for less expense. Many will agree that the resorts are not cheap and you’ re kind of isolated from the real Mexico. We longed to mingle and really see and experience daily life outside the resorts. And of course, there is only so long before you’re ready to ditch the buffet dinners and wrap your mouth around some true Mexican cuisine.
We booked our next vacation at a little Mexican villa above the bay of Zihuatenajo and truly fell in love
with Mexico. Not only did we mingle at the grocery stores and cook our breakfasts in our own little kitchen, but we walked the streets and markets and mingled with the most wonderful, friendly and courteous people we had ever imagined. Now the temptations grew to have more of this fair weather country and its history and people. The research began and we developed a list of ‘must have’ criteria for the quest of buying a little winter paradise. The goal was simple: hide out in paradise for the winter and enjoy the best of Canada and its glorious spring and summer. It became a challenge as we ‘played with’ the planning of our quest for a year or two. We also had to retire from our jobs; but we were tired and ready for that.
It took a few years to accomplish this retirement quest. Our criteria list was a bit daunting. We wanted
value for a reasonable purchase price; ease of access; good hospital and health facilities and absolutely must be on the beach. We prairie dwellers long for the crashing surfs and sea birds. And lo’ and behold we matched all of these desires by visiting Manzanillo the following year. I had researched properties all up and down the Pacific coast line and ruled out a number of areas based on affordability, health care and access. The rest is history.
We purchased our condo in a building on the beach and really surprised all of our Mexican neighbors when we showed up to stay the winters. They are mostly from the city of Guadalajara and have proven to be wonderful and welcoming. Only one other family has opted to live here full time. So our lives took on a new cadence and we settled in for our winters, living the dream and returning to Canada with the rest of the snow birds in the spring.
But did you notice I slipped in the words ‘full time’? Yes indeed, well…. you know how one thing can lead to another? It began to feel like the right thing to do. Eight years later, we were fully retired; our families had scattered across the country or were mostly working. Most of them could fly down and visit for less cost than traveling across Canada and of course we would make an annual trek home to see everyone in the summer season.
I’ll admit that the right circumstances must come together in order to make such a big decision but, in our case, they did. It had become a burden to keep a vacant home six months of the year. We still paid taxes and heating costs and relied on friends to check the home, pick up mail and etc., etc. We sold our home, liquidated most of our possessions and hung on to the things we needed to keep in a small storage unit which we return to when needed.
This also allowed us to be debt free and makes a huge difference to ones’ perspective, needless to say. It wasn’t easy to deal with all the detail but now we feel quite liberated after working out the necessary living processes of banking, visas and health care registration and so on. It’s complicated to write about but, suffice it to say, it can be done, one step at a time. It really need not be too complicated; if you are still healthy and the country of Mexico determines that you are not a risk to their resources so to speak. I’ll save some of the adjustment details for another article in the future, but for now I’ll continue and complete part of the story regarding spending our first summer here.
Many people ask us: how did you stand the heat? Is it really that hot and humid? How can you stand the rain? The answers are that it all came with some experience and adjustment, naturally.
As the expat community dwindles and life settles into a smaller activity cycle, you work your way through climate management. It’s not so much the actual temperature that changes but the humidity factors. Together they do rise considerably. And there is definitely the combination of these factors to consider. In Canada, we’re quite used to the ‘wind chill’ factor when experiencing our winter weather. So it’s similar regarding the combining of heat and humidity. What do you do in Canada when the arctic weather hits? You dress for it, stay warm, manage the heating in your cars and homes and you get on with life.
Summer and fall in Manzanillo are similar in reverse: you dress for it, manage your air conditioning and stay cool with dips in the pool and by staying out of the direct sun in midday. Most indoor areas such as grocery stores and malls are cooled with air conditioning. Luckily we have marvelous prevailing off-shore breezes living on the beach and we allow it to blow through our condo. We air condition the bedroom to cool it down at bedtime and run the overhead fans.
Yes, we have to wipe down damp surfaces and stay on top of home care but we’re not shoveling snow or putting on winter car tires either. I’m actually anticipating a more comfortable summer this year since I’ve noticed that my body is tolerating the heat so much better and the acclimatization seems to have taken place. Or am I just getting really old? It’s almost humorous to tell you that I’ve been quite chilly in the evenings this winter and have found myself searching out long-sleeved shirts to be more comfortable. It seems we’ve had a cooler winter than normal in keeping with the crazy weather patterns happening all around the planet.
Regarding the rainfall, I was honestly expecting an unending deluge of tropical rains such as I’ve seen in many movies about jungles and so on. But it really didn’t happen that way. There are still an amazing amount of sunshine hours with intermittent cloudy days. It reminds me of my trip to Hawaii where the skies seem to dump rainfall at night and by morning the sun is out again. In Manzanillo, there are similar sudden surprise showers (if you’re not a sky watcher) and you learn to always keep an umbrella with you. But as I say, it passes over and the sun breaks out again.
The storms that pass through are amazing demonstrations of Mother Nature’s whims. The thunder and lightning can be absolutely awesome and to sit and watch the show out over the bay from our covered terrace brings back memories of those big prairie thunder storms in Canada. Thankfully our father, who spent his working years travelling the countryside working with farmers and farm equipment dealers, taught us all to enjoy the spectacle of a good, old storm and admire nature and its most spellbinding magnificence. It was also interesting to dis-cover that the hottest months here are the end of August to mid-October. Whereas, where I come from, the hottest months, by far, are July into August.
This is not to say that we don’t get an accumulation of rain. Indeed we do. Many of you who are here over winter will no doubt have seen the dry river beds and empty storm canals with the odd egret standing there with a few tufts of long grass. When the skies do empty over the city, the volume can be quite astonishing and these rivers and canals run extremely high with torrents of water eventually escaping into the nearby sea. Low lying areas will sometimes overflow with puddles and wait for an overtaxed storm sewer system to catch up. One must pay attention to one’s destination and watch for these accumulations. But, within the day or even hours, they diminish and life goes on as usual. Bear in mind, I am not addressing tropical storms and hurricanes. That’s a whole other experience.
So, this summer, we think we are more the wiser. We know what to expect from experience; our bodies are better adjusted and hopefully there won’t be too many surprises. What we plan to do however, is take a break here and there and do short trips into the Sierra Madre where it is much dryer and some-what cooler. There are numerous places to visit and we hope to enjoy the ancient history of Mexico City, Guanajuato and areas that are sure to be a cultural experience and widen our under-standing of the history and lifestyles of the Mexican people.
Now, if we can just work our way into more Spanish fluency, all the better. We’re really working at it and the Mexicans appreciate the effort.
Suzanne A. Marshall hails from western Canada and has been living the good life in Manzanillo over the past 8 years. She is a wife, mom and grandma. She is retired from executive business management where her writing skills focused on bureaucratic policy, marketing and business newsletters. Now she shares the fun and joy of writing about everyday life experiences in beautiful Manzanillo, Mexico, the country, its people, the places and the events.