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.
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 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!
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 as it was something we were ready for.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more about our family’s immigration to Mexico: Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective
*Protect yourself and your loved ones with an Expat Travel Insurance Policy & Carbon Monoxide Detectors *