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Immigrating to Mexico with Children

Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives, we no longer live under this paradigm of life in a 21st century modern society.

I can remember being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along, inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be and feeling so READY for a change.  

That picture above represents so much of what we were ready to eliminate in our lives—breathing in exhaust fumes, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in a sea of cars. That was not how we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the hundreds of bumpers in front of me and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”. And I don’t, not one little bit. 

Since immigrating to Mexico in 2012, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in other, far more meaningful activities of our choice. 

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.

M on horseback SP 2012

Our daughter learning how to horseback ride in San Pancho, Mexico

 

Wardmens

It’s a kid’s world! Nayarit, Mexico

This is not to say that life was dreadful for us in the States for certainly it was not. San Diego is a beautiful city, “America’s Finest City” after all, with much to offer and experience. Yes, we had some rough patches, but that is just life and part of its various dimensions anywhere.

Without a doubt we miss our family and friends and that continues to be the biggest area of conscious adjustment and acceptance in our transported, immigrated lives…BUT, life here in Mexico for the past four years has proven itself to be a character-building, expansive, sustainable and life-changing move for our family.

We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their third grade year, and within three months of our arrival we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, good luck and having the right legal liason were in our favor as well.

Our twins, a.k.a. “The Reds”, were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Adventuring in Baja

Adventuring in Baja, 2006

 

Baja Babies La Gringa Beach 2008

Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be and something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for

saying goodbye to mom at SD airport 2012

Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012

We arrived to San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children were free!

1st day of a 5-day a week school in the Mexican Jungle Coastal town of San Pancho, after homeschooling for 5 years in San Diego, California

1st day at Escuela del Mundo

While the Spanish immersion component of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city the first eight years of their life. Even without those language advantages, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they can assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only Mairead and Liam their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers graciously and warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Liam 1st Day of School 12-4-12

Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, the went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, it was part of their PE program!

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease.

Costa Verde

4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another

 

Kids in Watering Hole

School field trip to Cañada de la Boca!

Our children are developing their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth. 

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to Writer/Relocation Consultant and Photovoltaic Designer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe.

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca rural school

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca rural school

From San Diego to south of the border, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives in Mexico. 

We thank you Mexico for your warmth, your hospitality, your graciousness and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us and allowing us to feel at home in our new country.

May the adventures continue on!

~Katie

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{ 51 comments… add one }
  • Daniel Reveles January 25, 2015, 8:01 pm

    You have the makings of a book here. A great book. Anyone who has ever fantasized about moving to another country will gobble it up! Even better is that you can share an experience on a page and allow your husband his page – and yes, the kids. It’s got winner written all over it!

    • Katie O'Grady January 25, 2015, 8:26 pm

      Wow! Thank you so much Daniel!

      I am indeed interested in the book-writing route. Thank you for the encouragement!

      Cheers,

      Katie 🙂

    • The Educational Tourist October 7, 2015, 8:03 am

      I couldn’t agree more…think Under The Tuscan Sun. The flavor would be wonderful!! Can’t help wondering what you guys do for work? Love the post!

      • Katie O'Grady October 7, 2015, 8:49 am

        Greetings The Educational Tourist!

        We are retired from firefighting and teaching and have reinvented ourselves as a photovoltaic designer and published author! 😉

        Your site looks so interesting as well, going to check it out!

        Cheers,

        Katie

      • Katie O'Grady January 12, 2017, 4:30 pm

        Hi The Educational Tourist!
        My apologies, I am just seeing this now!
        My husband is a retired firefighter and myself a retired Spanish teacher. We have reinvented ourselves into Photovoltaic Designer & Installer and Writer & Relocation Consultant!
        ¡Viva México!
        Best,
        Katie 🙂

  • crystal January 25, 2015, 8:28 pm

    I love it!! We are only partially as Adventurous as you but it is so freeing to be able to travel with your family! My family a 3yo and 6 yo plan on going saulita for 1-2 months this summer!!
    Great read!
    Crystal

    • Katie O'Grady January 25, 2015, 8:33 pm

      Hi Crystal,
      Adventure is adventure and I think it is wonderful that you will travel with your children for a month or two—go for it! The only regret would be not doing it…
      Thank you for the kind feedback…..
      Cheers,
      Katie

  • Lourdes January 26, 2015, 8:24 am

    Another very well written post. Thank you for being so honest in your writing. Looking forward to the next entry…and the interview. Can’t wait to show it to my girls!

    • Katie O'Grady January 26, 2015, 10:22 am

      Thank you Lourdes!

      My husband’s should be out today or tomorrow with our twin’s interview following….

      Thank you for following along with the adventures of Los O’Gradys on Mexico!

      Cheers,
      Katie

  • Shayna March 23, 2015, 5:52 pm

    Love your post. I hope this isn’t too nosy. What do you do for work in Mexico? Are you planning on remaining in Mexico?

    I ask because I really think my husband would like to move back to Mexico (he is Mexican). I have always been an adventurer but I’m afraid that once we get there we’d be stuck there (I have the rest of the world I’d like to see! lol). My other concern (bigger concern) is my 5 year old. In the states college is easy to get to (easy enough any way). What do you think about opportunities for kids growing up and living in Mexico?

    • Katie O'Grady March 23, 2015, 7:42 pm

      Hi Shayna!

      Not nosy at all…ask away! 🙂

      My husband is a retired firefighter and myself a retired Spanish teacher and we comfortably live off of our pensions.

      Additionally, my husband has a solar business here in San Miguel de Allende, Eclipse Solar, that while still very grass roots, is showing itself to be promising and profitable.

      Regarding the raising of children here, I encourage you to also take a look at the post by my husband titled “Moving to Mexico With Children~A Husband & Father’s Perspective” and the video interviews by both of our children, “Moving to Mexico~Our Children’s Perspective”. They, together with the one I wrote from a mother and wife’s perspective pretty much summarize our collective outlook on living in Mexico and raising our children here.

      Cheers,

      Katie

  • Kathryn Ferguson March 29, 2015, 6:33 am

    What a great blog and a great life decision your family made to move to Mexico. I agree that you should put this in book form. We will all read it!
    I live in Tucson, Arizona, and have crossed the border all my life. It is nice to see someone thinks about Mexico, not as either beer and beaches or cartels and violence, but as a day to day adventure filled life.
    Much happiness to you and your family.

    • Katie O'Grady March 29, 2015, 8:51 am

      Hello Kathryn,

      Thank you for the vote that I turn my writings into a book! I think the universe is sending me a message, and I will give it some serious thought…

      Mexico is such a diverse, dynamic and beautiful country that I am fortunate enough to call home.

      I am grateful that I get to raise my children in a country that values family, culture and history to the point that it is weaved into the fabric of everyday life and permeates all interactions.

      Cheers,

      Katie 🙂

    • Katie O'Grady April 22, 2015, 8:56 am

      Hi Kathryn,

      I am so sorry that I did not see this earlier.

      Thank you for the compliments about my blog, and I am in serious discussions with myself about pursuing the book route. 🙂

      Yes, Mexico is so much more than what mainstream media presents. It just takes a bit of breaking out of our comfort zone to get out there and experience it for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I do love beer and beaches, but this country is dynamic and so diverse.

      Thank you for the well wishes for my family…the same for you and yours!

      Cheers,

      Katie 🙂

  • Mildred May 18, 2015, 6:16 am

    The photos are so wonderful! Mexico seems really beautiful! Congratulations! Moving there is definitely a great adventure! 🙂

    • Katie O'Grady May 18, 2015, 7:32 am

      Hi Mildred,

      Thank you for the nice words about the photos. I so enjoy taking them and it has turned into a creative passion for me!

      Moving to Mexico has been a life-enhancing experience for our whole family.

      We are proud to call Mexico home..

      Best,

      Katie 🙂

  • Jason king May 23, 2015, 1:32 pm

    I’m actually on my way to the area now for a visit and would love to move there. Could you tell me how much the cost of schooling is? I have 3 in elementary school.
    Thanks

  • Kate August 21, 2015, 7:18 am

    Hi,
    I have been looking into schools for my younger two (9 and 12). We are homeschoolers but open to trying Montessori/Waldorf/democratic experiences. Prices in Mexico though seem really high for expat kids coming in. I looked at the one near you and it’s same as US prices. Have you found that in the others and your exploration? Just wondering if I’m not searching well. That plus the horrible “safety” issue is holding us back (would be mom on her own with two kids so no fire fighter to help:) Of course after living in the Middle East for 5 plus years and hearing how scary that sounds to outsiders, I wonder if Mexico is the same — fine once you know it.
    Thanks for a great blog. It’s hard work.
    Kate

    • Katie O'Grady August 22, 2015, 11:59 pm

      Hi Kate,
      We homeschooled our children in the States as well, so in all honesty, I wouldn’t be able to compare U.S. prices to the ones we have paid here in Mexico for private schools. I will say though that is is very do-able for us, especially with the strength of the dollar right now.
      As for safety, we have felt very safe in the two areas we have lived in—San Pancho, Nayarit and now San Miguel—and of course practice common sense in our comings and goings just like one would anywhere.
      Thank you for the kind words about my blog.
      Best,
      Katie

  • Ulises October 6, 2015, 3:44 pm

    Beautifully written…as usual! : )

  • Magali Peña October 6, 2015, 8:45 pm

    I’m soo happy to hear everything is great down there my parent 5 yrs ago moved to La peñita after 21 yrs of living here in the states, its been soo hard for them specially my little sister and brother. They’re really struggling now do to not having a job. My father was a fishermen down there and my mom has been a housewife. I wish there were more opportunity down there for the kids. After reading your story I just wonder if maybe if they moved city it would maybe help out a bit. Im glad you love it down there its a beautiful culture and of course the peoplewhat can i say they are wonderful.May God Bless you and your family.

    • Katie O'Grady October 6, 2015, 9:02 pm

      Hola Magali,
      Thank you so much for sharing part of your family’s story and trails with me. I wish your parents and of course your whole family the absolute best. I know that times can be hard for anyone, anywhere, and I do hope that the right opportunities will present themselves for your family.
      Qué Dios les bendiga…
      Saludos,
      Katie

  • Cheryl Mcintyre October 7, 2015, 2:48 pm

    I also live in Mexico now. I have a 5 year old son that has an absolutely wonderful life here. We moved to Nuevo Vallarta in 2010 with his father, who is Mexican. That didn’t turn out to be a healthy relationship so we split up but continue to co-parent our son successfully. We moved to San Pancho in 2013 and stayed there for a year. My son also attended escuela de mundo which I personally did not care for. Growing up in Illinois, I was not familiar with Spanish language and found it difficult to adjust to the school since it was Spanish only, amount other things. We loved San Pancho and made wonderful, lifelong friends there, so overall was a great experience. We now live in Marina Vallarta and my son attends the American school of PV and we love it!
    Mexico is a great place to raise a child and although is an adjustment with somethings being rather difficult at times, we too are happy and much healthier living here. Good luck with your family journey and keep writing about your interesting lives. Salud! ?

    Cher

    • Katie O'Grady October 7, 2015, 4:22 pm

      Hi Cher,

      Thank you for popping in to say ‘hi’ and share some of your story….

      Wow, so if you were in San Pancho in 2013 we were there at the same time. We didn’t move to San Miguel until March of 2014. We also connected with some amazing people….

      We have heard great things about The American School in PV. In fact, our legal liaison that helped us with our immigration process is the assistant to the President/main administrator.

      Wishing you and your son the absolute best.

      Cheers,
      Katie

  • Barbara October 9, 2015, 8:04 pm

    Oh my. I’ve just found your blog and LOVE it! First of all – what a gorgeous family you are! So dynamic and joyous. : ) Thank you for sharing your journey. I will be moving to San Miguel in late 2016 after planning it for many years. I’ve had to wait until I can retire, and that will come next year. So close and SO exciting! While I intend to go back and read your blog from the first post, I’ve not yet done that. You may well address my question in an early post and if so I apologize for bothering you with it. If you do and can link me to it I’d appreciate it. My question is, if you would be so kind as to share the information – and I know you didn’t move directly to San Miguel from San Diego, what moving company did you use to move you to Mexico, were you happy with them, and what did it cost for the amount of goods/weight you moved? I am desperately trying to get a feel for what I’ll be facing financially in the physical move. I won’t be taking any furniture, yet there are still many things that will go, and the weight quickly adds up.

    Thank you so much for any light you can shine. Oh I think it’s absolutely wonderful what you’re doing – and what a life you’re giving your children! So, so rich. Bless you all.

    • Katie O'Grady October 12, 2015, 9:53 am

      Hi Barbara!

      Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico! Thank you for popping in to say hello and for the kind words you have about my blog and family.
      And CONGRATULATIONS on your upcoming move to SMA–how grand and exciting! 🙂

      I wish I could help you with the questions relative to a moving company, but in fact, we did all of the moving ourselves in our car and little attached boat with trailer–it was quite the sight indeed! I do speak a bit about the experience my husband had crossing the border twice with our items in my iTunes interview which you can find here: Episode 9. I hope that will be of some help to you.

      Best of luck to you in your upcoming move and all of the preparations that go into it!

      Cheers,

      Katie

  • Kelley November 6, 2015, 8:55 am

    Yay!!! We are a family that moved from Seattle to Mexico about 4 months ago. We live in Nuevo Vallarta with our 3 children ages 4,8,16. It has been the most amazing move ever! Love heribg stories of other famines doing the same!! Keep writing!

  • Nancy July 5, 2016, 9:12 pm

    What schools are there in San Miguel de Allende? We have considered moving here and the educational part is key since our kids are 12 and 16. They will need it to make friends and learn the language. Thank you 🙂

  • Raul August 30, 2016, 10:02 am

    Greeting Katie, WOW what a story! I love reading these types of stories. My wife and I have also been thinking of leaving behind the busy streets of Los Angeles for SAn Miguel de allende, However we have stalled due to not knowing many things ie. Kids schooling, housing , and over all if it would be a positive experience for our family. We have 4 Children ages 16(Senior), 9,8 and 5 years old. If you dont mind I would like to know more about how you came to make your decision and what is involved in making the big move. Thank You in advance for the help we greatly appreciate it.

    Raul Gutierrez

  • Shelley September 22, 2016, 10:01 am

    Hi Katie – Just happened upon your blog. Great post! I was wondering if you felt comfortable sharing feedback on the 2 schools your kids were at before you moved from San Pancho? My husband, 4 year old son and I are thinking about a move (maybe 1-2+ years out) and I was initially looking for a Montessori like escuela de mundo, but I like the look of Costa Verde as well. Any thoughts on one over the other? Do you mind sharing ballpark cost as well (i know it’s been a couple years now). Thanks!

  • Brian Johnson January 11, 2017, 10:06 pm

    Katie and Frank…you guys have been a very valuable asset to our pending move to Mexico. Our long list of questions that you so patiently answered was so helpful! It was also great that you were able to refer me to your many great contacts to assist in our move. With you and Frank having gone through the process yourselves, your information is invaluable to anyone planning a potential move to Mexico. Thank you Katie for passing on your knowledge and research of the schools, it was a big help in narrowing down the choice for a school for my daughter. I also have appreciated your follow-up calls and emails to make sure everything is going as planned. It is nice to have you “on the ground” down there and always ready to lend a hand or answer my questions. Thanks a million!

    • Katie O'Grady January 12, 2017, 4:23 pm

      Thank you so much Brian and Raquel for your kind words!
      We are so happy to be of assistance to you and your family as you plan out your own Mexico Adventure!
      Saludos,
      Katie 🙂

  • Jennifer Pearce January 16, 2017, 12:24 pm

    Hi Katie! What an amazing life your family has created for yourselves in Mexico. Thank you for this post, I enjoyed reading it. I also want to let you know that my family is here in San Miguel de Allende for the next several weeks and we’d love to get together with you guys if you have the time.

    • Katie O'Grady January 16, 2017, 12:30 pm

      Hi Jennifer!

      Thank you for popping in to say hello!

      We lived in SMA for 2 and a half years and are now back to the coast in Nayarit as of this past Summer.

      The beach was calling to us!

      Enjoy your time in central Mexico…such a magical part of this dynamic and diverse country.

      Cheers,
      Katie

      • Jennifer Pearce January 20, 2017, 11:09 am

        Oh, wow, sounds wonderful! Yes, we are really enjoying it here in San Miguel de Allende. We haven’t made it to the coast yet, but we’ll be in Merida for the Worldschoolers event in April!

  • Lucy Karrys February 17, 2017, 6:32 pm

    Do you have any friends in the Special Needs Special Olympics community in San Miguel ? Do you know what kind of Neurosurgeons would be available in San Miguel .

  • SO February 27, 2017, 10:35 am

    Fantastic blog! I am curious about the cost of tuition for private schools in San Miguel. I am having a hard time finding information online. Thanks in advance.

  • Melinda April 6, 2017, 1:52 am

    Now my husband is from Michigan mexico. I from California born and raised. I’m moving to mexico next year with my husband and kids. I wanted to move to Tijuana and work in San Diego. So I know we still have a good income flowing but my husband is only 36 and ready to retire in mexico. I would love to retire but not until I know I don’t have to struggle no more.
    So my question to you would be how expensive is it to live in Mexico?

    • Katie O'Grady April 8, 2017, 4:13 pm

      Hi Melinda,
      It varies of course based on your own family’s budget and lifestyle choices but for sure is more affordable than NOB living on all accounts. At least that has been our family’s experience for over 4 years now.
      Best Regards,
      Katie

  • Cris June 13, 2017, 4:14 pm

    What a great blog!! My husband has been talking about moving to Mexico and live off his retirement pension from the US military. My biggest worry was our 3-year old daughter. However, after reading your blog I have him looking for real estate. I have read a few articles naming San Miguel de Allende as one of the most popular areas for foreigners, but I think the jungle area in Nayarit seemed far more adventurous. How would you compare the 2 areas?

    Also, my husband keeps talking about San Felipe. Are you familiar with that area?

    Best,
    Cris
    Austin, TX

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