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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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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 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 bottleneck traffic–was not how we wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime lives.

I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the sea of bumpers in front of me and send them to my husband at work with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.

And I don’t, not one little bit. Why would I?

Family and friends? Yes.

Five-lane freeway traffic and the stress-inducing reality of that hectic world? No.

After several years of diligent research & planning, on November 30th of 2012, the kids and I boarded a one-way flight while Frank and our 90-pound chocolate lab went by car, and off to Mexico we went!

Nearly 9 years ago we said goodbye to that rat race paradigm of life in the 21st century. No more root disconnection, traffic rush, hurry scurry, worry flurry. No more concrete jungle.

We choose to ring our joy bell every single day, to suck the marrow out of this thing called life and to live the highest and best versions of ourselves.

If not now, when?

Moving to Mexico with Kids

Since immigrating to Mexico, we have gone from multiple-lane traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets where pedestrian safety is wonderfully honored. 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

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.

Children Playing in Pool

We immigrated when our twins Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison at our side paid off and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico.

Baja California, Our First Mexico Home

Our twins were seasoned 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!

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

 

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 as it was something we were ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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, our children 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 Mom for the first eight years of their life in San Diego. Even without that advantage, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if 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.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Changing Schools, From San Pancho to Sayulita

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, Mairead and Liam 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, surfing was part of their PE program!

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Moving from Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

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. 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 with one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Our children are learning and growing in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water to survive in the rat race.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Life Without Limits

They 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. Our children have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from Firefighter and Teacher to Solar Designer and Freelance Writer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners, interacting with the world around them with their bicultural perspective. 

Moving to Mexico with Children

We O’Gradys embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us and inviting us to feel at home.

Moving to Mexico with our kids has been an undeniable adventure that continues to shape the trajectory of our lives, and we are forever grateful.

Saludos,

~Katie

For more about our family’s immigration to Mexico: Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective

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

 

 

 

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Ready to Downsize Your Life and Move to Mexico?

If You Feel Ready to Downsize Your Life & Move to Mexico, Take A Look at My Interview with Elle Zimmerman of “She Made It”: 

⁠⁠

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!” ⁠⁠

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. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
She, 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 relocation consultant and founder of Los O’Gradys in Mexico assisting other families, couples and individuals in their own move to Mexico. ⁠⁠
⁠⁠
And on episode 40 of She Made It, Katie shares her story with us—along with tips for creating a more adventurous and meaningful life for your family, too!⁠⁠

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 16-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 the 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

How to Contact Katie of Los O’Gradys in Mexico about a Move to Mexico:

Email: [email protected]

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If you are ready to Simplify Your Life, Downsize Your Life and Move to Mexico, feel free to reach out to Katie at [email protected] for details on her customized, one-on-one Relocation Assistance

 

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

                

 

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Is Mexico Safe?

A question many of us Expats in Mexico are asked–Is Mexico Safe?–is one I understand but also admittedly grow tired of it.

Seeing the toxicity in the White House these days and the news channels that propagate fear, racism and all sorts of ugliness, it is no wonder some people question the safety–not just in Mexico–but all over this big blue globe that we humans inhabit. 

Fear Sells

The bigger, the bolder, the more horrific the headline, the more clicks and ad revenue.

Staying encapsulated in one’s own world, never traveling or adventuring outside the boundaries to experience new foods, people, music and cultures different from one’s own, certainly does not serve to cultivate a broadened and diversified view of life. It is that simple. 

Is this to say that bad things don’t happen in Mexico? Of course not. Bad things happen every single day, in every country of this world, sadly. Human free will–a reality since the evolution of man. 

Utopia, Where Are You?

We all want that utopic, safe place to live and raise our families.

Alas, there is no magic wand, elixir, or perfect answer to address one’s concerns about safety in the world, including Mexico.

Nonetheless, I will share with you my simple and clear position on this matter: 

  • Use common sense and situational awareness everywhere you go.
  • Limit night driving, know where you are going, map out your travels.
  • Do not be flamboyant, rude, pompous, loud nor inebriated in public.
  • Learn/speak the language–doesn’t need to be perfect, just make an attempt.
  • Don’t hang out with the cartels, drug lords or mafia.
  • Learn and respect the culture and customs of the country you are lucky enough to be a welcomed guest in and to call home.

Everyone must define the reality that what works best for them.

The following has been making its rounds on the internet regarding this hot topic of Safety in Mexico–perhaps you have seen it yourself. 

Gringo: Hi, where are you from?

Mexican: Hi, I’m from Mexico

Gringo: Ah! The land of Chapo Guzmán, narcos, marihuana, crime and extortion.

Mexican: I’m sorry, are you a drug addict or a TV junkie?

Gringo: No!!! Why?

Mexican: Because if you were an athlete or sports fan, you would have identified Mexico with Ana Guevara, Hugo Sanchez, Julio Cesar Chavez, Finito, Chicharito Hernandez, Canelo Alvarez, Rafael Marquez, etc.

If you were an educated person, you would have asked about the Aztec empire, the Mayan culture, the Olmecs or any other of the great Mesoamerican cultures.

If you were a well-traveled person you would have talked about our majestic archaeological sites, our tourist-friendly colonial cities, our megalopolis or our exotic beaches…the astonishing biodiversity of our rainforests, mountain ranges, deserts, conifer forests.

You could have identified Mexico with our great painters, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco; our composers: Agustín Lara, Consuelo Velázquez, Armando Manzanero, Juan Gabriel Jose Alfredo Jimenez, our writers and poets: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, Juan José Arreola, Elena Poniatowska, Amado Nervo, Jaime Sabines; our inventors or scientists: Manuel Mondragón, Guillermo González Camarera, Luis Ernesto Miramontes; our cinematographers: Ismael Rodríguez, Emilio Fernández, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki, and even Luis Buñuel, who, being originally from Spain, chose to adopt the Mexican nationality.

If you were a gourmand, you would have asked about Tamales, Cochinita Pibil, Mole, Adobo, Chilaquiles, Chiles en Nogada, Guacamole, Pan de Muerto, etc. Or our traditional beverages: Tequila, Mezcal, wines and beers.

However, I can see, the only thing you can relate to Mexico is the provider to American drug addicts.

I just want you to realize that México is a lot more than what ignorant people and fear-mongering media knows or chooses to propagate.

There are millions of honest Mexicans, who even without knowing you, will open the door to our homes, and that if you care to visit, you will love to get to know us and to visit us. Mexico is even more than I can possibly tell you!

Thoughts from Another Expat Friend

“It’s a complex and complicated issue. It appears that violent crime is on the rise, but it’s hard to know if that is true or if crime is simply more visible now. There has been a big push on social media the last year or two to report crimes and try to hold authorities accountable in a way that really never happened before. Everyone is certainly more aware of it than they were in the past. With the continued growth of Expat-popular areas and the ever-increasing income disparity, it’s not surprising that the situation is exacerbated.  Now, it’s probably worth noting that in just the past few months there was another mass shooting in New York and in San Francisco. And I read about travelers being murdered on a Canadian highway. I guess I’m starting to wonder if anyone is safe anywhere these days.”

My Final Thoughts on Safety in Mexico

I too see the alarming posts and articles on various media outlets and while I am not a Pollyanna with her head in the sand, I choose to limit my exposure to the news while staying as informed as necessary. 

Worthy of stating again, Common Sense, Cultural/Situational Awareness, Language Skills, Kindness and Respect truly are golden, anywhere in this big wide world.

Mexico is complex and layered, just like any other country, and we love her dearly. She is not for everybody, and that is just fine too. 

We all have to create the lives and make the decisions that sit best with us.

Saludos,

Katie

I welcome you to respectfully and thoughtfully participate in this conversation in the Comments section below. Thank you.  

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As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony that I, along with my retired firefighter hubby and our eight-year-old twins–burnt out on the consumerism-centric, rat race grind of life in Southern California–would immigrate to Mexico to create our lives anew. 

Departing from San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of the “essential belongings” that remained after selling, donating and tossing the rest, we headed South!

Shortly after our arrival to San Pancho, Nayarit, we received our Permanent Residents cards–having begun the process stateside at our local Mexican Consulate and with the assistance of a highly reputable, Puerto Vallarta-based legal liaison. 

Immigrate to Mexico

O’Grady Mugshots!

A DNA Kind of Love

From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love and respect for Mexico–her people, food and music…her allure and absolute reverence for community, history and tradition.

I often joke that if former lives exist, I was a salsa dancing latina in mine! 

Growing up just a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana Border gifted me a bilingual/bicultural upbringing and thus an ability to move easily between both worlds. Speaking in both Spanish and English at school, work and play has always been my norm.

And without a doubt, my relationship with my Grandfather was one of the most significant influences in my love of and connection to Mexico. 

Grandpa, A.K.A. “Big Joe”~Chief of Us-Mexico Border

Always dressed impeccably in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shined leather shoes–no matter the occasion–my “Big Joe” (as we affectionately referred to him) was a humble, bright, witty gentleman with no time or concern for nonsense. He was as tough as nails and lived his life to the fullest until the age of 94.

Chief of US/Mexico Border

He adored me, and I him.

A Living History Book

Sitting in his living room overlooking Mission Bay, he would speak to me of his many adventures, of his life on our family’s dairy farm in Chula Vista, of the beautiful horses in his care, and how at the age of 14 he left his home to become a cowboy on the last rancho that spanned the US-American border. 

Family historians state that he was the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” by warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ultimately ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.

I would listen in awe, taking mental notes of these precious conversations, knowing that I was bearing witness to a living history book. 

We would drive down to Rosarito Beach on weekends for an early dinner at El Nido and I would marvel with pride and joy at my Grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures. Sitting in front of the open, wood-fired oven where quail and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned the ordinary into magic.

His affinity for conversation, charisma, thoughtful ways and sharp sense of humor made for a dynamic mixture that simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I was lucky enough to be his granddaughter. 

Although my Grandfather passed before I began my teaching career, I know that he would have been so very proud that I had chosen to go into a line of work that shares the beauty of the Spanish language and culture with the youth of today. 

Family Shenanigans

My Grandmothers Mary & Elizabeth also had their own fair share of South of The Border Shenanigans and their stories were nothing short of hilariously entertaining–truly like something out of an I Love Lucy Show! This picture is of the two of them (in the middle) on a day’s outing in Tijuana…I can imagine the laughter!  

Immigrate to Mexico

Grandmary & Baba in The Middle. Can You Hear The Laughter?

Crossing The Us-Mexico Border

It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people want to move to Mexico, looking not just for an escape from “politics” that defy reason and common decency, but for a reinvented, reinspired life where adventure is affordable and time and freedom are your most precious commodities. 

Life in Mexico WAKES you up from whatever slumber you might have previously found yourself in, RESETS your outlook and REMINDS you that true, mindful, engaged living results from paying attention and participating in a life of design.

I thank my beloved Grandfather for setting the bar high, for leading by example and showing me a love and respect for Mexico that is forever imprinted in my heart and has forever changed the trajectory of my life.

Mi Querido México, thank you for taking my family in, for welcoming us with open arms. These past eight years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it. 

!Viva México!

~Katie 

Looking for an excellent read on US-Mexico Border Relations? Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and The United States Together  

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