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Five Lessons from 11 Years in Mexico

Six Years in México: A Life in Color

On November 30, 2012 I celebrated my 44th birthday by boarding a plane with my eight-year-old twins on a one-way ticket to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

My husband Frank had left a few days prior by car with our 90-pound chocolate lab and our 14-foot aluminum boat filled to the rim with all of our remaining earthly belongings after a several years of  downsizing.

We happily and willingly said adiós to five-lane freeways and a rat-race mania in Southern California for a slower and more connected way of life south of the border.

No Map, No Worries!

Frank will have to tell the story of how he did the 1400 mile trip from San Diego to San Pancho, Nayarit without a map–something about just heading south?!

He made it, safe and sound, in four days–car and trailer intact–with Seamus slobbering on the back of his neck the entire drive down. Fun!


As we approach our eleven year Mexi-versary, we pause to reflect over some of the more noteworthy life lessons our time in Mexico has gifted us:

1. Savor The Moment

Here in the land of “mañana”, there is a beckoning and invitation to slow down and take it all in. The sensory stimulation of a quintessential Mexican town, alive with a mosaic of sights and sounds, make it nearly impossible to not pause and linger in the magic and awe of the moment.

Life Lessons from 11 Years in Mexico

2. Honor Your Heritage & Celebrate Life!

Mexico embraces her rich history, values her roots and honors her young and old alike. She celebrates with intention and holds in reverence the sacredness of family and community. Her people are hard-working, welcoming and generous of both time and help. 

Life Lessons from 11 Years in Mexico

Weddings, Quinceñeras, Blessing of The Horses, Día de Los Muertos..there are oh-so-many wonderful reasons to celebrate life!

A very good friend is often referred to as a primo (cousin) or hermano/a (brother/sister). Our children have just as many, if not more, tíos and tías (uncles and aunts) here in Mexico than they do in the States simply due to the fact that family ties are not limited by blood relations alone. 

Conversations are sin prisa (without hurry) and you can count on a customary kiss on the cheek between young and old, male and female alike.

3. Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

Living in Mexico invites one to stop and look around, to be in the moment, to celebrate the textures and layers within the day, to pay attention, to take it all in, to notice…to be participatory and present.

There is a certain organized chaos on the streets of Mexico–families of four piled atop a motorcycle, off-leash dogs dodging in and out of traffic, police officers standing in the middle of busy, four-way intersections–a cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds emanating from the markets, corner cantinas, mariachis, city buses and street vendors.

To some it might seem a chaotic, lawless and haphazard way to live–to others, a fabulous cultural immersion of community, connection and feeling alive!

Is Mexico Safe?

4. Live Sustainably

Life Lessons from 11 Years in Mexico

Delicious and affordable street tacos, super-sized fresh fruit cups, chicken rotisserie dinners complete with tortillas, rice, salad and grilled peppers, shopping at affordable outdoor markets and Mom & Pop stores, all allow one to live (and eat!) sustainably in Mexico. 

5. Be Grateful

This was not meant to be a promo for Coca-Cola, but I love this capture of a cowboy with his horse, taking it all in at the Jardín in San Miguel de Allende. 

Life Lessons from 11 Years in Mexico

From the jungle to the desert highlands and back again twice each now, I have thousands of pictures of our immigrated lives that capture the multitude stories within the images.

I am so grateful that I have chosen to live in a country that provides an abundance of sensory-stimulating experiences with a people so generous and full of corazón and alma.

These are but just a few of our Life Lessons from 11 Years in Mexico.

What about you?

Has Mexico taught you a thing or two, changed your perspective on something formerly held as “the truth”, opened your heart and mind to a new way of living?
I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!







About the author: Together with my Retired Firefighter Husband and our now 19-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 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 50 comments… add one }
  • Sarah Oyervides February 10, 2015, 11:07 pm

    My husband found your blog a few days ago and shared it when me. We are moving in a few days to Guadalajara with our three children. He is originally from GDL and his family is still there. I have loved flipping through your posts, they really resonate with me. I’ve been visiting GDL and other areas in Mexico for almost 15 years and I love the snapshots of daily life. Usually I just commit them to memory, rather than film, because my in-laws kinda look at me funny…it’s not outstanding to them, just every day stuff.
    We are looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.

    • Katie O'Grady February 10, 2015, 11:13 pm

      Hi Sarah!

      How exciting for you and your family! Best of luck in your new adventures! And you gave me a good laugh—your comment about your in-laws looking at you funny, taking pictures of the extraordinary—which is their normal! What a beautiful normal to have!


      Katie 🙂

  • Keith February 11, 2015, 10:25 am

    The people and the culture are the main reasons that I chose to not only invest in Mexico, but to make it my home. There are so many cultural areas to experience, which all add to my passion for Mexico.

    • Katie O'Grady February 11, 2015, 1:37 pm

      Hi Keith,

      I absolutely agree with what you say.

      Mexico is such a dynamic and diverse country…grateful that this life is giving me the opportunity to experience some of it!



  • Rick February 11, 2015, 1:11 pm

    My wife and I have been here in SMA for 16 months now. She is a Chiropractor and I work from home (too.) I love this blog post and am sure I will enjoy more of what you write. I am learning internet marketing and also blogging. I don’t know if it would interest you to share/link blogs or not. Much of what I do is tied to my business, some is not.
    Since I am rather new at this, I hope I am not asking the wrong question….
    Keep up the good work….

    • Katie O'Grady February 11, 2015, 1:41 pm

      Hello Rick,

      Thank you for reaching out and introducing yourself! Hope to meet you and your wife in town!

      I clicked on the link to your url but it brought me to an unavailable page. Could you send it to me again so I can take a look?

      Thank you and look forward to our paths crossing.


      Katie 🙂

    • Susen August 12, 2015, 4:48 pm

      Is your wife licensed in the U.S.? I am also a Chiropractor and wanting to live in Mexico. Is she able to practice in Mexico? I’d love to know more.


      • Katie O'Grady August 12, 2015, 5:59 pm

        Hi Susan,

        Katie here… I am not a Chiropractor, but an educator and writer…although there are many expat Chiropractors that do successfully practice here in San Miguel and I imagine many other regions of Mexico.


        Katie 🙂

  • Barenda February 11, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Ah, how I miss Mexico ! Few tidbits to share…..I visited Guayabitos on the Pacific coast, for the first time in 2007. I was single, divorced, and loving the new life.. However, as luck would have it, I met my new husband there! In the following 5 years we travelled a lot around Mexico, using bus transportation. Our favourite place by far was San Miguel…. Sadly, we have not been able to return because of a number of circumstances….Thanks for sharing this blog ! Great memories !

    • Katie O'Grady February 11, 2015, 6:12 pm

      Hi Barenda,

      You are welcome, and thank you for reading and participating in the conversation here!

      What parts of Mexico did you travel to in those 5 years?

      Hoping you can return…



  • Daniel Reveles February 11, 2015, 6:18 pm

    This is sooo charming! There isn’t an American family who wouldn’t love this adventure as a book. See IT SEEMS LIKE YESTERDAY by Ann Buchwald to see how she worked it all out. You have a national best seller on your hands!

    • Katie O'Grady February 11, 2015, 8:28 pm

      And you, my Dear Daniel Reveles, will get the first signed copy! 😉

      Your support and encouragement is humbling and much appreciated!

      Thank you,


  • John McWilliams February 12, 2015, 7:25 am

    Just found you on Facebook. Loved seeing your pictures and understand your feelings. I have lived in Ajijic for 16 years and never plan to return to the states. I have a business of introducing new people to our area and providing necessary information about moving and living in Mexico.
    Hope to see more of your pictures.
    John McWilliams
    Ajijic Mexico

    • Katie O'Grady February 12, 2015, 11:30 am

      Hello John…

      Glad you found us! 🙂

      The pictures, for me, carry their own story and I have plenty of material to choose from in this amazing country.

      Ajijic is an area we had considered and for sure want to come explore it on a vacation basis.

      Would love to know more about your business. I will go look at your website now.

      More pictures coming!



  • Dian February 12, 2015, 8:05 am

    Hello I live part time in ACA Mexico .We used to stop and rest up in San Miguel for a few days on our way down .I am here because of the weather And the people are wonderful I know soon I will have to sell my places and it’s killing me .We live in Caleta Beach looking at the beautiful ocean

    • Katie O'Grady February 12, 2015, 11:26 am

      Hola Dian,

      I actually had to look “ACA” up…thank you for the learning opportunity! 🙂

      I am so sorry to hear that you need to sell your place. Hopefully it won’t prevent you from continuing to enjoy Mexico and all of her treasures!



  • Deanna Duncan February 12, 2015, 5:06 pm


    We bought a condo and moved to Acapulco 1 year ago and love it!
    Thank you for your post! I loved each picture as it portrays exactly how I feel and the experiences we have had also. We plan to explore many more areas in this beautiful country!

    • Katie O'Grady August 14, 2015, 1:51 pm

      Hola Deanna,

      I was in Acapulco in my late 20’s, and well…you can imagine how much fun I had!
      Thank you for the kind words about my post…so happy to know my words and photos resonate with other folks.

      Happy exploring!



  • Kimberly Wilson February 12, 2015, 5:26 pm

    We live in Acapulco part time and are from Orange County, CA. You hit the nail on the head about Mexico. We have a group that we have formed called “The Lost Ninos”, most of us are retired and we travel throughout Mexico, have parties and are members of the American Legion here. We all feel like we have found the “fountain of youth” as we are all over 55. Like you, I have many, many pictures of our travels and we are on FB. We are trying to convince Americans especially how wonderful it is here and yes, there is a small amount of danger here as there is in any big city (Acapulco population 1.5 million) we embrace this culture, we are not here to change it. It has changed us.

    • Katie O'Grady August 14, 2015, 11:14 pm

      Hi Kimberly!
      I am so sorry I am just seeing this now…..perdóname!
      I love what you have shared here!
      I love the group and the name and how you all feel like you have found the “fountain of youth”….that for sure resonates with me!
      Going to look you up on FB…
      Katie 🙂

  • Katie February 12, 2015, 7:25 pm

    Quesadillas. Need I say more? (Okay now I need to buy plane tickets. :))

    • Katie O'Grady February 12, 2015, 7:26 pm


      Yes, Katie–those are pretty darn good too!


  • Rob A February 12, 2015, 9:35 pm

    Hey Katie,
    Glad to see you all are doing well in Mexico, been getting down to LA bay often and am about a year out from retirement……..Yah! Tell Frank that Justin and I said hi and hope to see you all again some day…..Take Care

    • Katie O'Grady February 12, 2015, 9:38 pm

      Hi Rob!

      So great to hear from you!

      We miss the bay and have so much to explore on mainland too!

      We hope you are well and congrats on retirement being around the corner!



  • Lourdes February 16, 2015, 9:31 am

    I’m so happy to have found your blog. Every time I read it I am transported back to San Miguel. Love to see the pictures you post. I hope to one day “transport” my family to your happy place also For all the same reasons you’ve listed. I know it’s difficult for some people to “get it” but that’s just fine. Those that “get it” enjoy it.

    • Katie O'Grady February 16, 2015, 9:15 pm

      Hi Lourdes,

      So wonderful to hear from you! Welcome to the adventures of Los O’Gradys in Mexico!

      How long ago was it that you were in SMA?

      And yes, there are those that get it, and those that don’t….and that is just fine…


      Katie 🙂

  • Candice Bergseth April 22, 2015, 2:08 pm

    Oh Mexico ! Sounds so simple just got to go… a bit of james taylor !
    Just discovered your story on Elephant Journal and I am enamored.
    Many trips thru baja and current 15 year obsession includes the Yucatan Peninsula. I swim like a kid in the warm waters.
    I shared your story to my hubbys facebook …. waiting for him to cut the cord from the americian dream…
    xoxo candice

    • Katie O'Grady April 22, 2015, 4:33 pm

      Hi Candice,

      Thank you for popping in here to say hello!

      We also LOVE Baja AND the Yucatan and at one point considered relocating full time to either of them….there are many places in this beautiful, diverse and dynamic country that one could land and live a very happy, good life.

      As for us, we have lived a year and a half in the small coastal jungle town of San Pancho, Nayarit, and now, we are a little over our year mark of living in Central Mexico in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende….both unique and life-expanding experiences in their own rights.

      May your journey continue to include your love and exploration of Mexico!


      Katie 🙂

  • Nova Grahl April 22, 2015, 5:33 pm

    This is great and so true:) I moved here (Guadalajara) on a whim to teach and have no plans to leave. It’s been five years and everyday Mexico still seems magical to me! Not to mention the traveling….so many beautiful places!

    • Katie O'Grady April 23, 2015, 6:48 am

      Greetings Nova,

      We are very interested in getting to know Guadalajara and only drove through it on our move from the jungle to San Miguel.

      Love to hear that you still find the magic after 5 years!

      And I couldn’t agree more—this is such a beautiful, diverse country with so much to see!


      Katie 🙂

  • Dina August 12, 2015, 2:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I am a couple of months away from moving back to San Miguel after being stuck in the states for five years. I’ve been enjoying your posts and pics while I await my return. I’m so missing it’s Magic. Glad you found it.

    • Katie O'Grady August 12, 2015, 5:29 pm

      Hi Dina!

      Thanks for reading and commenting… 🙂

      Congratulations on your upcoming move back to San Miguel…and as you aptly say—the Magic. That is exactly it…Magical.

      It is quite addicting….



  • Ed Chelini August 12, 2015, 3:16 pm

    Spent two wonderful weeks in Primo Tapia on the beach enjoying the ocean, food, drink, and the very gracious people of the area. Can’t wait for our next trip to Mexico.

    • Katie O'Grady August 12, 2015, 5:54 pm

      Hi Ed…

      Primo Tapia…now that is an area I have not heard of before! Going to look it up!

      The graciousness of the people, no matter where we have traveled to or lived, is one constant for sure.

      Enjoy your Mexico adventures!



  • Allison Poutiatine August 12, 2015, 3:54 pm

    Your photos are just beautiful! I am glad to see your blog as I am considering moving to SMA from San Carlos, Sonora. I love Mexico and I just adore San Carlos but I will be ready for a change in a year or so. I look forward to reading more from you.
    Thanks Katie,

    • Katie O'Grady August 12, 2015, 5:52 pm

      Hi Allison!

      Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico!

      Your comment really resonates with me, as there is just so much of this beautiful country to experience!

      We LOVE San Miguel, have been here for a year and a half, are committed to another year, but then have our sights on experiencing/living in yet another region.

      In my opinion, there would be no mistake made moving to SMA to experience it for yourself….it is magical.



  • Ruthie Clarke August 12, 2015, 4:00 pm

    Hi Katie,
    I have always loved every trip that I took to Mexico as I found the most gracious, happy and kind people there. I have been wanting to go back (maybe to stay) as I am now traveling the US in my small RV while living in it full time. Whenever I share my dream with anyone here I always receive the same scarey responses on crime, drug cartels, etc. I am hoping to find a way to connect with individuals with a more positive attitude about Mexico and living there (and I don’t even have small children!). I will be following you and your family and enjoying until the time comes that I can experience it for myself.
    Thank you so much!

    • Katie O'Grady August 12, 2015, 5:36 pm

      Ahhhh Ruthie…

      We kindred spirits always seem to find each other…small children or not! 😉

      I love that you are living “out of the box” and in your small RV! Good for you!

      And keep living your dream….there are many of us like-minded people out there that you will connect with, me included!

      Please stay in touch.



    • Sharon Richards June 7, 2020, 1:44 pm

      Hi Ruthie, I share the dream if living in Mexico too and have had the same experience as you when sharing this idea with friends. They respond with fear about crime, cartels, distrust of government, etc.. I feel that they/we are not able to see the same problems (maybe even worse) here in the US! I’ve waited way too long to take this leap, but the idea has never left me, so hopefully I’ll muster the courage soon to at least visit and then take the leap.

  • Melissa Sennett October 12, 2016, 5:28 am

    Hello Katie,

    Love your content. My family and I are planning on moving to Mexico next summer for a few months to decide whether we should stay permanently or not. We’re planning on staying in Ajijic. My question to you is, do you know what cities in Mexico are best to raise small children in? Do you know if Ajijic is a good one? I want to make sure my children grow up around plenty other children. We value natural organic life if that changes anything.
    Thank you!

    • Katie O'Grady October 12, 2016, 1:26 pm

      Hi Melissa,
      Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico and thanks for popping in to say ‘hi’!
      I have not personally been to Ajijic but my understanding based on friends of mine that have either traveled or lived there is that it is wonderfully suited for the retirement community. I could be wrong, but it does not come to mind as a top place to raise young children. Perhaps some of my other readers could chime in here…
      There are many communities, both coastal and central that have a strong culture of organic, sustainable living.
      I wish you the best in your explorations and adventures!
      Katie 🙂

  • Liz November 30, 2017, 9:44 pm

    Hi Katie!

    I love your blog. We got to spend a month in SMA last year around this time. I miss it so much! With the kids, do you like the coast or inland better? And why? Thanks!

    • Katie O'Grady November 30, 2017, 10:42 pm

      Hi Liz!
      Thanks so much!
      I love both, not equally, but for different reasons, if that makes sense.
      When I am inland, I long for a certain coastal vibe.
      When I am coastal, I long for certain things central.
      Don’t know if my answer helps, but it is the honest truth, ha!
      Best Regards,
      Katie 🙂

  • Miguel December 4, 2018, 12:48 pm

    As a Mexican it is very heartwarming and touching to see all the love people outside Mexico feel for it. The O’Gradys are very good ambassadors. They are the kind of people that build bridges between people and spread love instead of fear. We need more O’Gradys-like people in the world. And I hope people like them keep coming to Mexico, those people are always welcome here.

    • Katie O'Grady December 4, 2018, 1:09 pm

      Wow, Miguel…it is such an honor to read these words. Thank you for taking the time to share them.
      I am truly humbled.
      Katie 🙂

  • Angel Bravo December 10, 2018, 8:56 am

    I love your blog!, I’m a Mexican-American retired Army veteran, who dreams about moving back to Mexico, with my wife and two children 12 & 10. We own property in Michoacán my wife’s inherited, but making the move has been the issue. We think we are getting closer to making the move before my oldest child goes to 8th grade next year.
    Congratulations and thanks again!

    • Katie O'Grady December 10, 2018, 12:44 pm

      Thank you, Angel, for taking the time to share this with us and for your selfless service to the ??. May you and your family have many wonderful adventures and stories to be told about life in Michoacán! ??

      Viva México! ???

  • Ana October 14, 2019, 11:56 pm

    What a great blog! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I grew up in Eastern Europe and have lived in the US for the past 15 years, and can totally understand the vibrant culture that inspires you in Mexico. We have been RVing with kids around the US and heading to SMA tomorrow, I am excited to meet this town! Katie, could you please recommend a school in SMA that wouldn’t be a bilingual school ( Spanish only)? I know public schools are for Mexican citizens and residents only. Are there any private primary schools that are only in Spanish? Thank you so much!

    • Katie O'Grady October 15, 2019, 10:14 am

      Hi Ana,

      Thank you so much for enjoying the blog! And yes, the vibrant culture of Mexico–especially the central, historical areas–inspires me so!

      Regarding your question about schools, how long do you envision your children being in the school for? Are you looking for an immersive, Spanish-language school in particular or a full-year program for your children to integrate into?

      I do have quite a bit of information on the schooling options in SMA, but perhaps you could provide me with a little more info.–ages, grades, etc.

      Feel free to email me at losogradysinmexico@gmail.com



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