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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Daughter Horseback riding in San Pancho

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. 

Departure Day

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

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Moving to Mexico with Children

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. 

~Katie

For information about Moving to Mexico with Kids and my one-on-one, personalized, customized Relocation Services, feel free to email me at [email protected]

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The Roof Is on Fire! 7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

The Roof Is on Fire! 

It was our first big Summer storm since our return to the coast from San Miguel de Allende that immediately and clearly reminded us of the importance of proper & savvy house maintenance in Mexico (or any country for that matter)! The lightning came cracking down like an arrow landing a bullseye, resulting in my jumping at least a foot into the air and one of our rooftop AC compressors catching on fire! 

Fortunately for me, I am married to a firefighter and knew that our family (and my nerves) were in good hands. It was a powerful lightning bolt that caused the fire and thankfully the downpour that extinguished it. Glass half full, no?

Thanks to ingenuity and the reuse and repurpose culture of Mexico, the AC wires were changed out and the unit spared! 

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

The Power of Lightning!

Jungle storms can be powerful, messy and destructive. They are equally exciting and regenerative–popping out the dense, lush, canopies of green and a multitude of ecosystems that thrive inside of them–reminding one of the absolute magnificence of Mother Nature.

The rainstorms also provide an opportunity to identify where exactly more silicone is needed, like around the collection of leaking windows at the base of a 20-foot high boveda ceiling! Tall ladder anyone? Those first few falls on our slick marble floors were not so fun (especially after my back surgery!) and made us delay not in tending to this issue ASAP.

The jungle wasted no time in welcoming us back and reminding us of the fortitude, sense of humor and determination one needs to both survive and thrive in this thing called Life. Yes, there is a price to pay for living in paradise, folks!

The following House Maintenance in Mexico 101 Tips~Tried and True are based upon our own personal experiences from our now nine years in country. I hope they are useful and help you to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your frustrations!

1. High-Quality Roof Sealant

Ensuring that the roof of your home has been properly inspected, sealed and protected against leaks and moisture intrusion should be a top priority. We learned this the hard way when our San Pancho rental grew large circular mold spores from the outside in after our first rainy season there. A disgusting and unsafe “inconvenience” to say the least and one that a layer of paint would not remedy! Needless to say, the roof had never been sealed. A slight oversight. 

Hire a reputable company to assess the roof’s condition and if needed, to power wash it prior to putting on a quality sealant that has not been watered down.

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

What a difference a powerwash can make! The Before and After in Progress!

There are various types of impermeabilizantes (sealants) available. Spending a bit more to ensure a quality result is well worth it. We went with this one, considering the amount of rain we receive here on the coast of Nayarit. 

Having to climb up our tallest ladder to cover the mold spores coming through the unsealed roof into our bedroom was not my idea of fun! 

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

Covering the mold spores coming through our bedroom ceiling with duct tape!

2. Air Conditioners Serviced

Have all AC’s serviced at least once every six months. The filters should be cleaned of mold/dust/debris and the electrical panels checked for any unwanted critters that can wreak havoc. Apparently electrical wires are a delicacy to geckos—ridding your AC’s of them is far easier than having to replace the entire unit, trust me.

3. Over-The-Bed Mosquito Nets

Screens on all doors and windows are not just a luxury but an absolute necessity lest you want to share your home with mosquitos, spiders, geckos, scorpions, iguanas and stray animals. Additionally, these-over-the-bed mosquito nets  are must-haves and will allow for peaceful, uninterrupted sleep ( ie. no annoying buzzing in your ear!)

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

Mosquito-Free Sleeping

4. Drain Covers

If you want to prevent golf ball-sized flying cockroaches and sewer smells coming into your living space, you’ll want to get some of these

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

5. Moisture Absorbing Bags & Room Dehumidifier

Jungle living equals hot and humid for at least 6 months out of the year! Ventilate your home as much as possible to protect your clothes, shoes and other household items. Using these moisture absorbing bags inside closets and other closed spaces helps to absorb excess humidity and to protect your items from musty odors and mold. 

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

Room dehumidifiers work really well and you’ll be amazed when you empty the water collection tank how much moisture they remove!

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!6. Polarity Tester for Electrical Outlets

Make sure your outlets are grounded and wired correctly with a polarity tester or hire a qualified electrician to do so.

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

Just Say No To Electrical Fires!

7. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you’ve been following us for any time, you know why we recommend carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety. We recommend placing one in every bedroom and next to any gas-fueled appliances such as a stove, clothes dryer, hot water heater, fireplace and any freestanding gas heater.

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Recently we purchased these units that test for both carbon monoxide and combustible gas. 

House Maintenance Tips for Life in Mexico!

Combo CO & Combustible Gas Alarm

Of course we have smoke alarms too! All a small investment for peace of mind.

These are our House Maintenance in Mexico 101~Tried & True Tips.

Do you have any other tips that you would like to add? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. 

Saludos,

~Katie O’Grady

House Maintenance in Mexico 101 Tried & True Reader’s Tips:

Arturo: For the summer months it is highly recommended to put your clothes in airtight/vacuum sealed bags so that mold doesn’t grow in them especially if you skip town. I highly recommend doing this process with your shoes because if you don’t, the soles will disintegrate completely from the salty air and humidity.

Margaret: Keep all your food in the refrigerator, even if you wouldn’t normally, especially fruit. Clean up your kitchen messes as soon as possible to deter unwanted scavengers and never ever ever let your kids eat in the bed unless you want… ANTS ANTS EVERYWHERE! (and they bite)! Even with screens and drain covers, if you leave food out they will find you.

 

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Banking in Mexico

Banking in Mexico can be frustrating for some, but don’t let it bother you for more than a few minutes. Adaptation, patience and a sense of humor are key. 

Like many things in life, especially the immigrant/expat life, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Who you bank with in your current home country and what your banking needs and residency status are will guide your banking path. 

Residency Required

In order to open a bank account in Mexico, you must be at least a Temporary Resident (it is possible that some banks would require Permanent Residency). You may not open a Mexican bank account on a Tourist Visa, as a CURP (similar to a social security number) is required and these are provided only for Temporary or Permanent Residency Visa holders.

Diversification

Mexico in large part is a cash-based society, and as such, it is best to diversify your options for accessing cash because things will not function smoothly 100% of the time.  

Our Banking Path

As Permanent Residents we opened a Mexican bank account with Citibanamex and linked it to our stateside Citibank account. This allows us to pay for things in Mexico with our Banamex debit card and provides another option for withdrawing cash.

With our Citibank account we can transfer dollars directly into our Mexico Banamex peso account and the transfer occurs within 30 minutes. A Capital One transfer can take anywhere from 3 to 5 days, so best to plan accordingly.

The following three banks are easy to work with and will refund ATM withdrawal fees: 

Capital One 360 

Fidelity Investments 

Charles Schwab Bank

It is important to set up these accounts prior to moving to Mexico so that you can take care of any necessary paperwork by traditional mail and get their apps installed on your smart devices. 

ATM Exchange Rate

When withdrawing from a Mexican ATM, it is very common for a message to be displayed asking if you accept their offered rate of exchange. Always decline. If you accept their rate of exchange it will be lower than the rate of exchange your bank will use.

Notifying Your Bank

You will want to notify your banks that you will be in Mexico so that the fraud department is not flagged when charges and withdrawals start coming in from out of your home country. 

Many banks in Canada and the USA will not accept a foreign address and will not want to maintain accounts if a customer is living full time in Mexico. You will need to navigate this as you see fit depending on who you are banking with.

Maintaining a home country mailing address is easy via US Global Mail

Going as paperless as possible is highly recommended as is maintaining a US number for when you need to receive security text message from your stateside bank. 

One option for having a US # on your Mexican cell is via:

Voip.ms obtain NOB phone #

Zoiper.com download app to your phone and connect with Voip.ms

Documents Required to Open A Mexican Bank Account

*Your passport and copies
*Your residency card and copies
*2-3 consecutive utility bills from your residence dated within the last 3 months–it does not matter if it is in your name or not–from CFE (electrical) or Telmex (landline/internet). This proves the residence actually exists.

*Home Rental contract 
*2 Personal References

You will need these documents for almost any government, banking or other service transaction you wish to initiate so it is best to make several copies of each.

You may want to consider taking a translator with you, in case they do not have English speaking staff.

In most Mexican banks, you will need to take a ticket and wait your turn as many don’t allow you to make appointments.

Two Popular Mexican Banks with Expats: 

Intercam

CiBanco

All banks have their own specific requirements. Check with their customer service or websites before you head out in person to open your account. 

Banking in Mexico Summary

Everyone must find what works best for them. You will no doubt get many different opinions on what banking path(s) work best for others on Facebook groups and other forums. It is not a bad thing to speak with other folks to compare notes and determine what options will work best for you. 

*Last but not least, have your local bank in the US provide you with some pesos prior to leaving the States.

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For information about Moving to Mexico and my one-on-one, personalized, customized Relocation Services, feel free to email me, Katie, at [email protected]

*Protect yourself and your loved ones with an Expat Travel Insurance Policy & Carbon Monoxide Detectors *

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El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

My friend Julie and I headed over to El Charco del Ingenio the other day to get a much needed dose of Mother Nature and all her beauty.

The fee was 50 pesos per person (approximately $2.50 USD) and masks were required for entrance and if and when in close proximity to others.

A majestic wonderland of butterflies, waterfalls, cactus apples, green trails and the enchantment that the desert highlands of Central Mexico is, a visit to El Charco is not to be missed.

El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

Safety at El Charco del Ingenio

For families with little ones or adventurous teens, it is highly recommended that no off-trail explorations are had unless under the watchful eye of an adult. In fact, the Charco rules state that minors are required to be accompanied by an adult at all times and with good reason. There are designated paths but also many areas that are not roped off and could potentially be quite dangerous. 

El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

We have had such a wonderful rainy Summer season here in San Miguel de Allende, still continuing now into mid September that the water levels in the wetlands of Parque Landeta down to the Obraje Dam and La Presa are quite full…a much welcomed change after the dry months we had this past March through mid May. 

El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

 

El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

The panoramic views of San Miguel, the valley of the Rio Laja and the distant horizon of the Sierra de Guanajuato are just spectacular.

El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende

The variety of trees, shrubs and cacti from this semi-arid region are sure to delight, including this little treasure, titled “Mother-n-Law’s Chair”.

Birds at The Botanical Gardens

Starting in the rainy Summer season until the end of winter, aquatic, resident and migratory birds take refuge and nest on the vegetation-covered islands.

 

Two hours was not enough to explore this national treasure, and I will indeed be back!

 

For more information about El Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Gardens)~San Miguel de Allende, I highly suggest that you check out their very educational website and Facebook Page.

Have you been?

If so, would love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.

Saludos,

Katie O’Grady ☘️ 🇲🇽

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Ready to Simplify Your Life and Move to Mexico?~with Elle Zimmerman

Are You Ready to Simplify Your Life & Move to Mexico? 

⁠⁠

Do you ever feel tired of the busy, monotonous go-go-go of life? 

Or ever think “I wish I could just get away…forever!” ⁠⁠

On Episode 40 of She Made It with Elle Zimmerman, I share my story along with tips for creating a more adventurous and meaningful life for your family, too!

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Katie O’Grady of is a former middle school teacher who grew up in Southern California, and she always felt a call toward Mexico.

Finally, in 2012, she decided to listen. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Katie, her husband and their 8-year-old twins packed their bags and moved south of the border and started a new life filled with adventure. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
Today, she’s an internationally-acclaimed writer, relocation consultant and founder of Los O’Gradys in Mexico, assisting other families, couples and individuals in their own reinvention in Mexico. ⁠⁠
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Listen in to hear:⁠⁠⁠⁠

  • Why Katie and her husband decided to simplify their lives and move their family south of the border⁠⁠
  • The mindset you need to write your own rules, break free of conventions and live a life that feels like YOU⁠⁠
  • The innovative ways that Katie rejects consumer culture and cultivates curiosity and creativity in her 17-year-old twins ⁠⁠
  • Keys to creating a career that aligns with your passions⁠⁠
  • Katie’s advice for other busy moms who want to create a different kind of life for their family⁠⁠
  • How to deal with naysayers and stick to your truth
  • Tips on how to simplify your life 

Listen to Katie’s interview with Elle Zimmerman on:

Apple Podcasts: Ditching The Rat Race and Rewriting the Rules For Your Family

Spotify: She Made It

Episode blog: She Ditched The American Rat Race, Moved Abroad, and Brought Her Family With Her

If you are ready to Simplify & Downsize Your Life and want to discuss what a Move to Mexico entails, feel free to reach out to Katie at [email protected] for details on her personalized Relocation Assistance.

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*Be sure to travel with (and have your home outfitted with) Carbon Monoxide Detectors. You can read here why Katie is an advocate for Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness and recommends a combination of both battery-operated and plug-in CO Monitors. Power outages can and do happen. 

 

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