This is definitely not normal–or at least not my kind of normal.
I can remember being stuck in that ↑ kind of traffic in our former Southern California lives–anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel trying to get from point A to B, 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.
Breathing in toxic exhaust fumes and missing out on active, joyful engagement in life–on hold in hours of bottleneck traffic–was not how my husband and I wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime lives together with our children.
Being married to a firefighter who saw on the daily the extreme fragility of life was also without a doubt a contributing factor to our focused decision to recreate and reinvent our lives anew in Mexico–a land that embraces community, connection, conversation and a quality of life having nothing to do with the numbers in your bank account.
After several years of diligent research, planning and downsizing on November 30th of 2012, our eight-year-old children and I boarded a one-way flight to Puerto Vallarta while Frank and our 90-pound chocolate lab Seamus made the trip down South by car.
We said goodbye to the frenetic paradigm of our north of the border life. No more disconnection, traffic rush, hurry scurry, worry flurry…no more concrete jungle and burning candles on both ends.
Moving to Mexico with Kids
Since moving to Mexico 9 years ago, we have gone from chaotic 5-lane freeway madness to driving on jungle coconut-tree lined roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets where pedestrian safety and right of way is a real thing. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in soul-enriching, meaningful activities of our choice.
Time is precious. Spend it well.
Baja California, Our First Mexico Home
Our twins were seasoned little travelers prior to our move to mainland Mexico, 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 my children’s hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection.
Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with our loved ones, the move itself and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively easy and something we were so ready for.
We made the move when Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Patience, planning and having the right legal Visa liaison at our side paid off and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. We arrived in San Pancho, Nayarit on a Friday, and that following Monday our previously homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at the former Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, they experienced freedom and discovery like never before.
While the Spanish immersion of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city and by their Spanish-Teacher Mama for the first eight years of their life in San Diego. Even without that advantage, children’s sponge-like brains, when given the opportunity, are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease.
I do believe they were the only Mairead and Liam their classmates had ever met, and their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.
Schooling, From San Pancho to Sayulita
From Escuela del Mundo, Mairead and Liam transferred to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surf culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the trusting, positive attitudes that they approach 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…and surfing! In fact, surfing was part of their PE program!
Now in the 4th grade, Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of our family’s move to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our relocation, they could easily flip back and forth between English and Spanish.
From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico
After a year and a half of living in San Pancho, 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 moved to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country.
San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule and life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride with one festivity after another.
A Life Without Limits
Our children see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true and that carving one’s way in this diverse world is achievable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from Firefighter and Teacher to Solar Designer and Freelance Writer/Relocation Specialist. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners.
If one of my jobs as a Mother is to facilitate and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico with our kids has been one great step towards that endeavor.
We O’Gradys embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give daily thanks for Mexico’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming, adopting and inviting us to feel truly at home. Moving to Mexico has been an undeniable adventure that continues to shape the trajectory of our individual and collective lives.
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