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An Expat in Mexico: Life Anchors of an Immigrant

                                               “We should not moor a ship with one anchor, nor our life with one hope.”                                                                                      ~Epictetus, Ancient Greek Philosopher

She calls me Kayyyy (said with a thick Colombian accent) and I call her Sophia–as in Sophia Vergara. Her waist-length, brown, ringlet hair with sun-kissed caramel highlights, flawless terracotta skin, and long, graceful limbs made it hard not to notice her in my morning yoga class.

In a room where one does their best to be simultaneously connected and disconnected–somewhere in between half moon and standing bow poses–I was drawn not only by her undeniable physical beauty, but more remarkably, her calm and confident energy. My kind of energy.

In spite of our nearly ten year age difference and having been raised in two different worlds, Daniela and I forged a friendship that knew no borders nor generational differences. The fact that we are both considered “extranjeras”—foreigners, outsiders, not originally from Mexico—is of interest to me as both a writer and a student of life.

Daniela—a native Spanish speaker, who is all things Latina—is nonetheless considered an expat, an immigrant…much in the same way that I, with my Dutch-Irish ancestry, am considered by many, a “gringa”. 

Colombian Dance Lessons in Our San Miguel de Allende Living Room!

Colombian Dance Lessons in Our San Miguel de Allende Living Room!

My friendship with Daniela got me thinking about some of the “life anchors” of an immigrant—special relationships with people, objects or even places that provide a sense of comfort and stability in a new environment.

1. Family 

Reinventing one’s life in a foreign land carries with it its own unique set of challenges. Surviving the unexpected, kick-you-in-the-arse, pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap moments, and emerging more connected, resilient and determined with a sense of humor and character still intact, is no small feat and certainly something to be admired and celebrated!

O'Grady Style! #ogradystrong

O’Grady Style! #ogradystrong

2. Home

Ensuring the habitability and maximum comfort of your home in a foreign land is an exercise in awareness, adaptability, and gumption. Whether figuring out how to best heat your home in the desert highlands of central Mexico or the most efficient means of mold abatement in the hot and muggy tropics, home safety and comfort is key to settling into your new life.

3. Fur Babies

I know some people have to make the very difficult decision of re-homing their pets prior to an international move, but that was not an option for us. Our Famous Seamus and Luna Love are our kids, just with four legs and fur. Seamus, our big brown lab, came with us from the States and Luna Love, our little feisty fluff ball, was adopted in San Miguel de Allende. They are two of the sweetest gifts of unconditional, slobbery love. #adoptadog

move to Mexico with dogs

Famous Seamus and Luna Love

4. Mementos

My grandmother’s antique rocking chair, the crucifix from my grandfather’s memorial, the kid’s collection of books and legos, all of our many musical instruments—even Frank’s tools! They each have their own story, hold their own memory and represent, in their own way, permanence through the flux, fluidity and transient nature of life.

Altars & Life Anchors

Altars & Life Anchors

5. Care of Self

Our bodies are our most precious vehicles via which we integrate, communicate, operate and define our place in this world. Taking good care of them provides a source of wellness and maximized life experience. I am eternally grateful for the amazing health care my family has received in Mexico, including two major surgeriesER visits with our children and saving my husband’s life from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness~Travel with a CO Detector

Carbon Monoxide Awareness~Travel with a CO Detector

6. A Connection to The Divine

God, Alibaba, Buddha, Swimming with Dolphins, Yoga, Tai-chi, Hiking The Sierra Madre Mountains…call it and find it how you wish. Moments to pause, reflect and connect with the divine. Whether in a 16th-century colonial church, atop horseback in the high desert plains of central Mexico or surfing in the Pacific Blue, having a place to pause in reverence and gratitude for life and its many gifts is a defining, grounding source of connection.

An Expat in Mexico

Catching Rainbows with My Son~Nayarit, Mexico

9. Climate

Having lived the majority of my life in “Sunny San Diego”, my activities and production levels were consistently high year round. Now having experienced both the cold winters of the desert highlands and the hot, humid summers of the coast, I have seen first hand how much climate alone can affect productivity, mood and overall quality of life.

The months of October through February in Central Mexico can be cold, requiring extra blankets, socks, scarves and layering of clothes. Since most homes in the colonial regions like San Miguel de Allende are not outfitted with central heating, fireplaces and free-standing gas or electric heaters are often used. *With any gas-heating appliance, it is highly recommended that you have carbon monoxide detectors installed in each room.

Knock Knock, Someone's at The Door! Firewood Delivery in SMA

Knock Knock, Someone’s at The Door! Firewood Delivery in SMA

Life along Mexico’s Pacific Coast can be hot, muggy and buggy from May through October. Sleeping with air conditioning, battling cockroaches the size of golf balls and frequent mold abatement is enough to put your sense of humor, grit and gumption to the test! There are prices to be paid for living in paradise!

10. Technology


WhatsApp, Messenger, Email, Skype, Google Chat, phone—thank goodness for them all! Although we are thousands of miles away from our loved ones in the States, these various options in communication allow us to stay in close touch with our family and friends north of the border. 




Friends, Family, Home, Pets, Sentimentals, Health, Spirit, Weather, and Communications…these are some of our Life Anchors as Immigrants to Mexico.

If you too are living a reinvented, reinspired life in a new land, what are some things that allow you to feel tethered and grounded in your new world?

I would love to read about them in the comments section below! 

Cheers & Saludos,

~Katie O’Grady

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About the author: Together with my Retired Firefighter Husband and our now 18-year-old twins who were just 8 when we immigrated to Mexico in 2012, we have created a joyful life of design and freedom South of The Border. Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico! Saludos, Katie 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Trevor Gregg October 26, 2017, 6:07 pm

    Initially having large amounts of patience and understanding that virtually nothing will go as planned. Enduring a new build in Mexico can be a life changing experience. The first 6 months, by myself, were lonely and very challenging in a new country. Anything that could go wrong did, even having my truck burn up.
    After 6 months my wife and our two dogs joined me. These being the anchors in my life, with their unrestricted love, got me through the final 3 months of construction.
    It’s not for the faint of heart and the challenges haven’t ended, but having your anchors that love you unconditionally makes anything doable.

    • Katie O'Grady October 26, 2017, 7:14 pm

      Hi Trevor,
      My goodness, yes, you have had your fair share of introductory treats, eh? including the burning up of your truck, goodness!
      You are indeed right..this life of paradise is not for the faint of heart!
      But somehow, all worth it, no?
      Cheers my friend,
      Katie 🙂

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