University of Minnesota Alumni Association

The Last Word

Living the Dream in Mexico

When my husband Tom and I lived in Southern California, we had successful businesses as an attorney and engineer. Our lives were a blur, hustle, and grind. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Day after day. We were making great incomes, but money flowed out just as fast as it came in.

Then, the financial crisis of 2008 struck and, virtually overnight, we lost almost everything. Tom’s engineering business dried up when government contracts were cancelled. Most of the companies I serviced closed or experienced massive layoffs. We had substantial credit card debt and struggled for two long, difficult years trying to solve our financial troubles.

When it became clear that we could no longer hold onto our past careers, businesses, and real estate, we simply let go.

We left California in 2010 and steered our sailboat 5,000 miles through the Panama Canal to Florida, where we lived for six years. While the move was good for us, Florida didn’t feel like home. We yearned for a vibrant community, a beach lifestyle, and richer cultural experiences. We packed up the sailboat again and began a voyage to Isla Mujeres, a tropical island in the Mexican Caribbean.

Living in another culture takes flexibility. At the U of M, I majored in anthropology. I learned a word that fascinated me: ethnocentrism. As I studied other cultures and societies, then backpacked across Europe for a summer, I became keenly aware of how damaging this bias can be. For the first time, I had an opportunity to see the United States through the eyes of people who were not Americans. Many Europeans I met loved the U.S. and greatly respected her citizens. In France, I met people who remembered how we helped end World War II and expressed deep appreciation. But I also came to realize Americans can be the worst offenders when it comes to believing in the inherent superiority of one’s own culture.

After retiring as an attorney, I worked as a sales trainer in the network marketing industry. I mentored and coached people and it provided us with a great income and lifestyle—and gave us the freedom to live anywhere. I had studied Spanish in college and visited Mexico often when we lived in California. Tom and I loved the kindness of the people, the beautiful scenery and, of course, the food. Moving there felt like the right next move for us.

We’ve lived in Mexico for six years now—and are moving to Merida, the capital of Yucatan, this fall to continue living our dream. Today, I specialize in helping professionals who are yearning for midlife reinvention, including people who want to start a new life abroad.

One lesson I learned many years ago serves me particularly well in our life as expats: Respect others, their values, and way of life, and don’t judge them because they do things differently. I love living in a culture that values community, the wisdom of elders, and caring for each other. It’s a blessing to be with people who allow us to feel safe, be our true selves, and feel loved and supported without judgment or criticism.