Mima

My pen name is Mima but my real name is Michelle M. Arsenault.
I’m originally from Prince Edward Island, Canada and although I’ve lived coast to coast, I’m currently back on PEI. Although my feet aren’t nailed to the ground.

Since publishing my first book, I’ve had to find a balance between writing, my day job and social life etc. I haven’t always been very good at this but over time, managed to adapt my schedule accordingly. I also get up much earlier than I used to (usually 6 a.m) in order to get something accomplished every day. For this reason, I don’t have many late nights and definitely no late night parties, since I want to wake up fresh and clear each morning. My days are very full but I’ve learned you can always find a way if you’re passionate about what you do.

My belief system has changed vastly over the years. I now think it’s more important to focus on my art and be creative rather than worrying about being ‘discovered’ and becoming a best-seller. You can’t allow your ego to get involved or you will be doomed because some people will love your books, some people will hate them and if you allow their feelings to dominate your worth as an artist, you will find yourself on a very rocky path.

I have grown much more confident in myself. I used to be a perfectionist and that almost made me quit writing. Now, I don’t allow myself to get upset if I find mistakes in my books, if I misspeak in a radio interview or if I have a bad hair day in one of my YouTube videos. Who cares? If anything, that’s what makes me relatable and real.

I used to worry about editing my books. It was to the point that I almost drove myself crazy rereading one sentence, repeatedly until I almost drove myself mad. Now, I have people helping me out and if a mistake goes through to the published book, so be it.

I sometimes feel like I’m not being taken seriously as a writer. I feel like most people would rather grab a book from a best-sellers list or whatever Oprah has suggested than take a chance on a less known author and that’s pretty frustrating.

My characters keep me going. They want their story to be told and who am I to say no?

The fact that I’ve published ten books makes me pretty proud. I feel like I’ve faced a lot of my fears along the way and continue to do so. I’m proud of the fact that I am persistent and aggressive when it comes to marketing my writing and dealing with issues, such as with publishers, booksellers etc.

I miss taking a day off. I’ve heard it’s lovely.

Overnight success is no longer important to me. I know hard work is the key.

The defining moment for me was when I realized that the story writes itself, that the characters create themselves and all you have to do is make your mind be quiet….and listen.

If I have any free time, I enjoy watching Netflix programs, documentaries and reading. I work a couple of jobs on the side and usually exploring new options.

Currently, I’m finishing my 11th book and I’m attempting to write a pilot episode for my current book series.

You can find me at:

Mima on Fire

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Also, I have bookmarks (see below) and would be happy to send some to anyone interested (while supplies last). I just need your mailing address.

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And the winner is…

Last week I told you about the signed book giveaway of Travels with Grace through rafflecopter. The winner is Cassandra Darensbourg! Congratulations Cassandra! Please contact me to make arrangements for your book delivery. A big thank you goes out to everyone who participated as well!

Erma Note is the author of our giveaway prize, Travels with Grace. You can read what she has to say about her life in Mexico here.

You get your own copy of Travels with Grace by Erma Note at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.

Daniel T. Gair

Daniel T. Gair is originally from Maine, U.S.A. and is currently living full time at Rancho Sol y Mar in Jalisco. Here’s what he has to say about his life.

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Mexico had loomed large in my mind since, in junior high, a friend’s older brother came back from a trip to Mexico with his buddies, and regaled all of us younger boys with stories of the adventure. Just the word itself “Mexico” seemed larger than life while growing up. In many ways, it has remained so to this day.

The property we bought in Jalisco was a catalyst for a total makeover of Holly’s and my life. We’ve transitioned from a norm of black-tie fundraisers and cocktail parties to shoveling goat poo and tending chickens. Perhaps the largest transition is that I’ve gone from a life of jetting around the world, to living quite simply, and swearing off red meat and all unnecessary plane travel in an effort to limit my carbon footprint. My main focus in life has become the pursuit of a more sustainable lifestyle, and Mexico, with its ample sunshine, and relaxed regulations, has been the perfect place to follow that intention.

Other than the above practical day-to-day belief system changes, I don’t think my underlying spiritual beliefs have changed any. My beliefs are pretty standard issue Buddhist: Live with integrity. Be as present and in-the-moment as possible. Don’t harm other living beings unnecessarily. Be kind and truthful.

I’ve gotten calmer and more disciplined in my approach to things. I’d like to believe I’ve gotten softer and kinder. I’m trying to live less in my head, more in-the-moment, and to go easier on myself, but that is still a work in progress.

Achieving basic fluency in Spanish has been a big challenge that I have overcome. I have also overcome a lot of my core, day to day fear. I’ve had a good life. What comes now is the icing.

I’d say that other than all the challenges described in the book, the most intractable challenge is breaking through culture and language barriers to achieve the fullest assimilation possible. That and reducing my carbon footprint to as close to zero as possible, which, I’m finding, is a much, much larger challenge than I had anticipated. Creating community at the property is an ongoing challenge. Other challenges I face include missing friends and family and having good pavement to ride my bike on.

I try to take care of myself by eating well, meditating, and getting some good aerobic exercise daily.

I’m deeply proud of my daughter Aja who is one of the smartest, compassionate, and well-adjusted people I know. I am proud of how well Holly and I have dealt with mountains of stress getting to this point in our lives, and, even though the tracks of our lives have diverged a lot, especially with my current self-imposed travel ban, I’m proud that we have still remained committed to keeping our love intact and growing. I’m proud of what we’ve created here at the ranch. It makes me feel hopeful when I see young people get excited by the Permaculture Principals we are practicing, and I feel empowered to see the efforts we’ve made beginning to bear fruit (literally and figuratively). Lastly, I have to say, I’m proud of the book. I think I’ve transmitted a fun, insightful read, and that the stories carry with them a deeper message of respect for culture and nature.

The day we found the ranch was the defining moment in my life in Mexico. Where we’re becoming more and more self-sufficient, I no longer care much about all the consumer choices that we’ve left behind. Part and parcel with that, I barely ever worry about money anymore. We live off a combination of investments, social security, and rental income from a couple of properties, one here, and one in the States. I also have a dribble of photography residuals. As a retired photographer, Mexico has always provided me with visual inspiration. The country folk of Mexican, with their grit and positive attitude, despite so often having the deck stacked against them, are a constant source of inspiration.

I spend my free time reading, listening to and playing music, bicycling, horseback riding, swimming and taking walks with Holly.

As for writing aspirations, for now, it’s all about pushing this little bird, The Mexico Diaries, out of the nest, and seeing if it can fly. I’ve also begun writing regular articles and book reviews for Permaculture North America Magazine, and I intend to continue with that. I am re-working one of the chapters in the book, The Ride To Talpa, into a submission for Outdoor Magazine, or possibly others. Depending on how the book is received, I may begin a follow-up. Just a few weeks ago we had a story-worthy incident where a volunteer we had headed here turned out to be on the Atlanta Top Ten Most Wanted list and was being sought by both the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service. We helped stall him until his capture by U.S. agents posted in Mexico city. Seriously, this shit keeps writing itself! Lastly, I have a couple of fiction book ideas that I’m kicking around.

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Take it from me, you won’t want to miss out on the adventures found in Dan’s book The Mexico Diaries: A Sustainable Adventure available now at Amazon!

Don Karp

 

the bumpy road

Don Karp has written The Bumpy Road, A Memoir of Culture Clash Including Woodstock, Mental Hospitals, and Living in Mexico.

Hometown is Syracuse, NY. I spent 12 years living in W. Mass before moving to Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. It’s in the central volcanic region, an hour south of Mexico City.

The culture—fiestas, food, music, celebrations. And the temperate climate brought me to Mexico. Since moving to Mexico, I live more cheaply and made some sacrifices. My life is enriched with more vital food, beautiful nature, and people more open and accepting. I’ve also become less judgmental and more open. Because of this, I have had a greater number of opportunities unfold. I am more solitary and happy with that. I am healthier and happier.

I’ve overcome challenges. The first ones involved getting it together to move here. I’ve learned to speak Spanish and survive on a very low retirement income. I am still working on building an email audience for my publications.

My motivation comes from a desire for leaving a legacy—a body of published work that helps many people, based on a varied life experience keeps me going. Perseverance is a part of my nature.  I am proudest of self-publishing my memoir. I consider it my defining moment in Mexico.

Now that I live in Mexico, mostly I miss the ability to organize projects with people. In Mexico, the culture is largely not accountable enough to do this. I find that working on projects is how I develop intimacy with people.

Hot showers are no longer important to me. I spend my free time mostly hiking the wonderful mountain trails. Mexico has been an inspiration to me in many ways. The friendliness of the people with their emphasis on community and family has made me feel more at home. The extreme suffering economically and politically, but yet retaining a general joyful attitude about life is very inspirational to me.

My site lists the memoir, contains my blog, information about workshops and speaking engagements. The memoir is available from Amazon; the blog, Letters from Mexico is here,  If you are interested in personal coaching, here is my US phone number: (413)366-1023. You can email me here.

I am revising and updating my memoir, and have three more memoirs planned, each for a different audience with a different theme. My blog, Letters From Mexico, is to become one of the books. My hope is to build an audience to fund professional preparation and to help with the title, cover art, and editing.

Beverly Wood

Beverly Wood co-authored The Move to Mexico Bible. Here’s a little more information about her life.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was born in Toronto but spent two decades on the west coast of Canada (Vancouver and then Vancouver Island) before moving to Mexico in 2012. We work from home (we are writers, editors, producers) so we could live anywhere in the word that had internet. We briefly considered Europe as I have due Canadian/Irish citizenship but it rains in the winter like it does in BC. We were done with Canadian winters – even though the west coast is much kinder than Ontario.

We explored destinations like Costa Rica and Galveston, TX (where we spent a number of winters). CR did not have the culture, the vibrancy or the food of Mexico and while the weather was spectacular, we found the environment lacking in something. Galveston was comfortable – we had previously lived in Dallas for a year on assignment – but that was in the Ann Richards time period. We witnessed a shift in the US over the years we spent wintering in Galveston and as Canadians, weren’t happy with the direction. So we started checking out more locations in Mexico. It was all research.

To be honest, it’s our environment that has changed – our lives are pretty much the same as they were! We still work at home, so get up, make coffee, go to the office. I do have a housekeeper once a week and gardener once a week,  which was a luxury I didn’t have up north. More sun instead of winter rain, and a longer gardening season, We really don’t eat processed food as much as we did, I suppose.

I actually have a stronger appreciation for Canada, as I watch the news from Mexico (being writers and editors, we are news junkies). And I realize how incredible the health care system is in Canada. I appreciate my home country more than I ever did before. But I do think some of that is the global situation and gaining perspective from distance.

I have been trying to learn the language for six years off and on and finally my latest instructor says I would be considered ‘intermediate’ now, were I to head for a Spanish classroom (I do one on one Skype lessons with a local teacher – much easier to make that happen than a physical class for me).

Emergency medical care in Spanish (my husband has had both a gallbladder attack and an emergency appendectomy) is a gong show for me. I can’t communicate on any medical level, and I am sure they run every test in the book (private hospitals) because we are gringos and have insurance – never mind that we have to pay on our credit card and wait three months for reimbursement, My heart jumps into my throat every time anything happens that might result in a hospital visit, If anything will drive me out of Mexico it will be my own inability to manage the language well enough to deal with medical issues. And the medical system itself. Again, I was raised in Canada where one’s health care is almost taken for granted.beverly3 How does anyone persevere? I stick my head in the sand and pretend we aren’t hitting an age where things start to break. And when it happens, you deal with it. I think it’s probably true that the anxiety worrying about anything is more painful than the event. When anything happens, so far we have dealt with it. We’ll see how it goes in the future. I am very grateful that we have a country we feel is worth going home to, should we decide to leave. We don’t plan to live in Mexico for the rest of our lives  – maybe another five to 10 years. But who knows? Maybe we will. We love the way Mexico deals with death spiritually (the Day of the Dead).

The things that have always been important remain important – friends & family, being honest, not doing harm, trying to do good. We were never very material people and the typical middle-class aspirations have never been important to us. This is an interesting exercise. I hadn’t realized before articulating this but we’ve always been kind of nomads so having things wasn’t really practical. We have a 5 x 10 storage locker in Canada. We moved the important stuff to Mexico, even a couple of pieces of furniture. One is an antique Chinese cabinet that was the first item I ever shipped and imported into Canada on my own and we like it, but if it disappears tomorrow we don’t really care. I’ve gone off a bit here, sorry – but I really don’t have answers for some things. When we came to Mexico – we’d already figured out who we were. I know it can be a complete change for some – but we started freelancing 30 years ago so haven’t participated much in the rat race, lucky for us.

A defining moment for me was looking around at a social gathering in the first town we landed in, where every guest (big catered party) was gringo and speaking English. Incredible home, worth $1 million+. Half a block away, I had noticed a small house with the door open – the floor was dirt and the roof was a blue tarpaulin. I looked around and thought, “This isn’t what we came here for, I could be in any gated community in Arizona”.beverly1We have two dogs, we have a pond, a pool, a large garden. Lots of chores. Paying bills, grocery shopping in the markets – it all takes time.

We are both writers and consultants. We write books and also do ghostwriting of memoirs for select clients.  I am currently working on two ghost jobs for clients – one is a Canadian story – a successful businessman who has run airlines and pubs and the other is a tragic (true) love story that happened in Mexico. move to mexico bible

I was a real estate agent in Toronto and know Mexico well. We have bought and sold several homes in different areas and I have working relationships in assorted cities and have been consulting on possible moves to Mexico for clients. I conduct a series of interviews that helps them determine the area they would like to explore and I will find potential rentals or potential purchases for them to check out when they arrive. I can arrange any facet of their arrival and pre-planning and my co-author of The Move to Mexico Bible – Sonia Diaz – can assist with visas and other legal requirements/options once they arrive.

I can be contacted at:

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Jennifer Robin Lee

Jennifer Lee wrote How to Not Run Away to Mexico and from her experience designed an eCourse to help people NOT repeat her mistakes. Here’s what she has to say about that process. 

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not move to mexico

I use my branded name Jennifer Robin Lee online but most of my friends and close ones call me Jenn.

I’m originally from Edmonton but my heart is in Mexico City. I spend my time between these two places these days. I am a completely different person because of Mexico. I don’t even know how to describe it. I’m more relaxed, more discerning, less naive, as well. I’m always changing, regardless of whether of I’m in Mexico or not. I’ve had quite a bit of challenges in Mexico which you can read in my book.

I joined the circus in 1994 in Monterrey, Saltillo. And then I ran away from the circus. The way I got started writing my book was for at least 20 years people have been telling me I should write a book. I went to the circus at 17 and now I’m in my 40s. I’ve been coming and going to Mexico for a long time. So finally I was like how am I going to get this book started? I’ve got two little children and I want to get this thing off my bucket list.

I saw a website online, Stefan James, talking about how to write a book in 24 hours. I also got a professional life coach. That’s when I set up the e-Course, in May 2017. So I decided to write a book. Then I bought the domain names and set up the website. Then I helped people with some immigration questions on the site because I was having the same problems.

After the site was developed, somebody approached me to see if I needed some videography done. I met with this Mexican guy and we ended up working together and filming at least half of what is in the intro course.

The accomplishment that makes me the proudest is building this e-course. I’m excited to get up in the morning. I feel I have a purpose. I have more emotion now as I’m growing through success than no emotion when I’ve been unsuccessful or failed. It’s just more emotional when you’re like Wow! I did this. I accomplished this. I created this. I had this idea and it came true. You have to create things in your mind before you can create them in reality. That’s the hardest part. People can’t think about what they want and then they can’t express what they want.

When I moved to Mexico the second time, I had a 6 bedroom character home. It was beautifully renovated. I just gave the keys to the neighbor, and my cat, and said I was going on a trip to Mexico. I sold it while I was gone with everything in it. It felt so freeing.

Before that, I had downsized a lot. And really cleaned up my environment, cleaned up my things, got rid of all the junky little things and everything I had was in good condition. I’ve learned that is more of a headache to have all this stuff.

There have been many moments that have defined my character in Mexico. Because sometimes there will be moments when the situation defines you. Mexico really tests your patience.

I don’t have a lot of free time. I schedule in every moment something that can be done that I enjoy doing, like going and visiting my friends. But my friends have the same kind of interests as me when it comes to business and stuff. So I’m always talking about my business and sharing ideas.

Helping others. When they have trouble, I’ll share what helped me. So that’s what I do in my spare time. I’m living my business but it’s not like I have to escape from it.

I work online. I have a certification in e-commerce. I have a specialization in SEO from the University of California-Davis. I’ve been a geek since I was 7 years old when my dad gave me my first Texas Instrument 100 computer where I learned programming at age 7. There were video games on it but I had a programming book that my dad gave me that’s what got me really into computers and I’ve been a geek since. I don’t program now, I just do web development but nothing complicated like Java. I’d love to meet more people in that work role.

My services are mostly consulting for clients who have at a sizeable amount to spend on a project. I used to do hourly, I still have some clients like that but I don’t accept any new web development work where I’m actually customizing for clients anymore.

My current goal is to help people move to Mexico and be a mentor or role model in helping others achieve success online whether it be writing, e-course development, web development, search engine optimization, networking, making videos and whatnot. Every day I work towards this goal.

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Make sure you don’t miss out on either the eCourse or the hysterical roller coaster of a ride Jennifer writes about in her book How to Not Run Away to Mexico. 

Nicole Salgado

Hi, my name’s Nicole Salgado. I’m from Syracuse, NY but now live in Queretaro, Mexico.

I originally came to Mexico to build a house here with my husband. My husband and I met in the SF Bay Area after we both migrated there for work in 1999. He was an undocumented immigrant and we weren’t able to adjust his status in the U.S., so the plan was we would leave the U.S. for 10 years until we could submit his green card application.

Well, now I feel like an expat, someone who has left their home country. In our case it wasn’t by choice – I would have preferred to stay and live and work in the United States, where I am from. But, by honoring my marriage vows and accompanying my husband to a place where we both can be 1st class citizens, my life has changed accordingly.

One funny thing that happened to me as a result of living in Mexico is that I have an adopted a lot of cultural customs that once exasperated me – for example, I have a flexible relationship with punctuality now. I also use indirect communication more now than I ever used to – I am by nature pretty direct, but since the culture here has a different way of being in many ways, I’ve adapted.

My beliefs haven’t changed much – I still highly value friends, family, the environment, culture, artistic expression and individuality, social justice, a strong work ethic, continual improvement, and the like.

I have had to become much more patient. I have had to accept governmental corruption and non-enforcement of laws. I have had to accept less time outdoors and more time in cities and in an office. Queretaro is a pretty big city, and even though we get a little more country exposure living on the outskirts, at the end of the day it’s still a metropolis. I have also learned to embrace the Mexican culture much more than before.  Although I had a grandfather who was born in Tijuana, we really weren’t steeped in the culture like I am now.

I think everyone has their stuff to deal with as a kid, in my case, I overcome typical adolescent taunts about my poor eyesight and my weight by getting into sports and being more social, and learning to ignore “the haters,” so to say.

At the university level, I overcome stiff competition at an Ivy League school and being the first in my family to complete a 4-year college education by seeking out allies and mentors, and never giving up – and also, by giving back to my community as a volunteer and in socially and environmentally conscious activities, which has rewarded me multifold.  While I don’t currently volunteer, there are many worthy causes that one can participate in. I do make both in-kind and monetary donations to a variety of things such as progressive political campaigns, migrant relief, and youth empowerment efforts, and of course environmental conservation.

As a young adult, I overcame the emotional burden of being far from my family by maintaining good long distance communication, and again, relying on and trusting friends to support me in many aspects of my life.

In Mexico, many things have been hard. For one, I am a naturalist, biologist, environmental activist, and outdoor enthusiast, so it’s been strange not having immediate access to as many natural, green, or wilderness areas as I did in New York and California, where a high value is placed on environmental conservation and enjoying nature as recreation. Here, most people are just struggling to get by or build their businesses or the local economy so it’s harder to place emphasis on conservation.

Another thing that was difficult was finding myself again professionally, but again, I had to just keep putting myself out there and believing in a positive outcome, and it eventually happened.

Finally, I have had a lot of health challenges, several of which I think are related to stress and our move south, but I have tried to see the silver lining by focusing on different ways I can get and stay healthy.

It still affects me and depresses me that American immigration laws and public perception are just getting more and more xenophobic, and they are making our country less and less welcoming to immigrants worldwide. The prospect of never being able to (or wanting to, due to our perception of how unwelcoming the U.S. is getting for immigrants and brown and black people) go back to the U.S. is a little frightening. Not because our life here isn’t good, but because I would like to be closer to my family in the States, and I always dreamed of my daughter experiencing the culture and wonderful things I grew up with at some point – and all the anti-immigrant rhetoric just is really threatening to my family and our prospects in general.  I miss all the time outdoors and spending time with family and friends in the States.

My father once said one of my worst characteristics is also my best, and that is that I am very stubborn, or headstrong, so to say.  That’s how I persevere.

My family, my friends, my coworkers keep me going. So does my conviction that there is a better way. I believe in myself and others. Having contributed directly to many positive outcomes in the past convinces me that I/we can do so again in the future, with the right approach, or mindset, and sometimes even surrendering to divine will.

It is hard to say what accomplishment I am most proud of. I am quite proud of my education and profession, but I am also very proud of my marriage, and my daughter.

I still laugh when I think back to my teenage years and how much I coveted material items, fancy dresses, cars, big houses, etc. I think a lot of that was because of marketing, advertising, and catalogs. Seeing ads and comparing it to what you have makes you feel almost incomplete, inadequate. I no longer feel that my status or quality of life is determined by what I don’t have. That’s not to say I never like to get new things, but I do believe the mantra “live simply so others may simply live” can inform our lives if we let it.

While living in Mexico, there came a time when I had to let go of toxic relationships – with certain in-laws, with certain friends/acquaintances, etc. I had to realize the role I was playing in continuing negative thought processes and/or relationships with negative people. By starting to meditate, and distance myself from toxic or dysfunctional individuals, although at first, I felt guilty as if I were neglecting something/someone, I actually found a lot more freedom to be myself, make progress, and experience less drama.

I work full time for Peace Corps Mexico, whose office is in Queretaro. We have a team of a couple dozen staff and over 70 volunteers serving in over 9 states in Mexico. I am in charge of the environmental education program, I help to select sites, train, and provide follow-up support for EE volunteers, who do a lot of really great work in conjunction with our partners in the SEMARNAT (National Protected Areas Commission, National Forestry Commission, others). I am pretty much exclusively working with and for Peace Corps Mexico at this time, due to the full-time schedule. Previously, I offered workshops on urban gardening and a few other speaking engagements on environmental topics and my two books.

A couple things have changed that affect how I spend my free time. I have very long work hours and travel a lot, so on the weekends I am pretty tired out and spend a lot of it recuperating. Before, I used to garden and do yoga more, but now I like to read, spend time with my family, be in touch with friends, and cook if I have the energy. I also enjoy ecotourism and “puebleando” (visiting quaint small towns in Mexico) as they call it and luckily I can still do that when we get long weekends or I take vacation time. Photography is a pastime I have always been able to maintain and enjoy, luckily. I have also recently taken up learning piano.

bajios

To me, it’s important to balance opportunities for work, free time, and friends and family. It’s also very important for me to express myself creatively, whether through art, writing, or currently, I am learning about music through the piano. I also like to think that I am part of a movement for sustainability on this planet, although I’m aware we could always be doing more.
I have co-authored 2 books in Mexico.  In 2009 I self-published “The Bajio’s Bounty: Home cooking for the Queretaro, Mexico Region” which is essentially a collection of family recipes (my husband’s family were farmers, and his father still is) and fusion recipes. In 2011 I began co-authoring “Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders” with Nathaniel Hoffman, Boise-based journalist and friend/colleague from Cornell. We published under our own imprint, Cordillera West Books, in 2013. The Kindle version is available here. Even though our project was self-financed, we did have a successful crowdfunded kickoff campaign where we raised enough funds to take our book to Washington, DC and deliver a copy to every Congressperson, Supreme Court justice, and the President and First Lady.  You can read about that here.  We still blog from time to time and recently launched a new project, #buildbridgesnotwalls which we are hoping will gain more participation.

amor

A wise midwife friend once told me: fear is F.E.A.R.: false expectations approaching reality. I think I was less fearful and more adventurous as a young adult. Now as a mother and wife, I have to remember I am thinking for the rest of my family. But on the other hand, letting fear get the upper hand can cloud your decision-making ability or prevent you from making positive changes in life, so you have to find a balance in your relationship to things that intimidate or frighten you.

I am inspired by people who live their principles. People who rise out of poverty, abuse, or addiction, and break cycles of negativity and/or violence. People who dedicate their lives to serving others.

I am angered by people who don’t appreciate their blessings. Greedy, violent people. I especially am angered by those who take advantage of others, especially those who hurt women and children. People who don’t respect Mother Earth or their neighbors. Hypocrisy, double standards, disrespectful attitudes bother me a lot.

The most important thing for me right now is to continue putting food on the table for my family, making sure my daughter gets a good education. I am currently pretty happy with what I am doing, but I am also interested in working for myself again, more with plants, art, writing, and maybe helping my husband to grow his own business. We’re not sure where the future will lead in terms of geographical locations, so any future plans have to have a certain level of flexibility built into them.

There are a number of misconceptions about the process of legal immigration to the US.  Amor and Exile not only provides personal accounts of couples trying to negotiate the shaky and ever-changing landscape of immigration but also provides a history of US immigration and explanation of current laws.  Find out more on Nicole’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Monique Alvarez

success-redefined
I’m originally from Colorado and I now live in Guanajuato, Mexico. On May 1st of 2016, my family and I decided to travel Mexico and a friend highly recommended Guanajuato.

I would say my relationship with my family and friends started to change when I moved overseas for the first time about seventeen years ago. Making the decision to travel long-term changes our world view so dramatically it’s often difficult to return to the same relationships and even when we do they are not the same because we have changed so much.

My belief system changed when I was 19 and on my first overseas trip to Myanmar. I’m from a very small town in rural America and I had no world view. I was raised with a few thousand people that for the most part are exactly the same. There’s not much diversity for the fact that they don’t welcome it. I saw how close minded I was and how I had been taught (mostly silently) that people who are different from me are less than or bad. I realized that there was so much more to see and experience. I realized how different and how alike we all are. I also learned that we always fear what we do not understand and that would impact me until this day.  I wouldn’t say I have overcome fear. I have got comfortable feeling fear and acting anyway. Every time I do something new I feel fear. Every single time.

I returned to the U.S. ten years ago after getting malaria in Kenya. I knew Colorado would be a tough transition for many reasons including the change in climate. I decided to move to Tucson, Arizona and a few months later I met my husband on a blind date. We traveled together for a year before having kids and now we are traveling with our two sons. I feel like my husband and I have a much better relationship when we are traveling. Life, in general, is lighter and more carefree. We have more time and more fun and that’s always good for our relationship.

In some ways, our life is very similar to how it was before we moved to Mexico. Toddlers are still toddlers. We still own our businesses. My husband and I started a business together in 2008 and it has evolved into my consulting business. He does a little web design but for the most part, he is fully in his art business. He paints on the iPad and sells limited edition metal art online. I facilitate masterminds for female entrepreneurs and I have recently written a book called Success Redefined Travel, Motherhood, & Being the Boss. We still work and play. I would say the thing that impacts us the most, however, is the change of environment. We are living in a country where I feel much more supported as a mother. It’s very family friendly in Mexico. They love kids. They expect kids to act like kids here. In the U.S. kids are expected to act like adults. Parents have many pressures on them and it feels nearly impossible to do “good enough” there. In Mexico, we take more time to do fun things. Meals are longer. We walk everywhere. We spend less time working. We go with the flow more.

Because of my travels, I have changed entirely. I’m not who I was raised to be. I’m not religious in the traditional sense. After I started traveling I began an inward journey. I sought out to find what spirituality meant to me. I am pretty liberal. I’m inclusive. I believe everyone should be able to love and live as they choose. I don’t believe that anyone on the planet is illegal. I see borders as absurd. I don’t buy into the philosophy of hard work or martyrdom. I believe in living well and deliberately choosing my life. I would like to believe I have become a more compassionate and tolerant human being. I also have to say I have become more protective of my time and energy. I am incredibly particular who I allow in my inner circle and that has been very good for me. I would say the most valuable skill I have learned here (and everywhere I’ve lived) is to ask for help, to ask questions and to receive help.

There have been challenges, though. When I first started traveling I went everywhere by myself. That in and of itself was a huge challenge. I lived a very sheltered life and so this shift to independence had lots of growing pains. Looking back it was the single best thing I did for myself, my husband and my children because I know who I am as a woman. I overcame getting the deadliest strain of malaria while living in Kenya. I had always been healthy and suddenly I was bedridden for almost a year. The contrast in life helped me see how valuable good health really is. Later when my husband and I traveled together we had to overcome our clients backlash about out decision to leave the U.S. for a year. After we returned to the U.S. I had two babies in twelve months and had severe complications after birth that were life threatening. We also almost lost both our boys as babies. As a mother, this is extremely painful and yet it’s also when I found my strength. I fought for my own life and the lives of my children.

I would say the biggest challenge I face as a full-time traveler is the amount of criticism I receive. People who never travel or don’t feel the have the means to travel are the first to say my life is not good for my kids or that I am out of touch with “reality”. Truthfully I am out of touch with a reality that blames others for circumstances. In my life and business, I am passionate about empowerment. Most people don’t realize the biggest challenge standing in their way of having an amazing life is that they are unwilling to take ownership of their decisions.  Spanish has also been a challenge for me.  However,  I’m focused on classes this quarter and I am excited to learn this language.

Professionally, the accomplishment I am most proud of is creating reoccurring monthly income for nine years in a row. Most people who start businesses dream of steady cash flow and I have experienced it. Personally, my kids make me incredibly proud. They are complete miracles and bring me tons of joy.

I can’t say I miss anything about living in the U.S. but that took time. In the beginning, I did. I missed some foods and some systems and procedures. Now what I miss is how simply my life was when I first moved overseas. There was no social media and I rarely even used email. I appreciate how technology connects me to my clients around the world and yet it was very nice to live without it.

Stuff, in general, is no longer important to me. When I moved to Tucson after being out of the U.S. for most of my twenties I thought I had missed out on something.  My friends had gone to college (I did not), they were married, they had bought houses and cars and I had a suitcase of dusty clothes. My husband and I bought a house our first year of marriage and the second we did, I knew I didn’t want it. I didn’t realize how travel had given me a taste for experiences and I lost so much of my desire for status symbols in my country.

The defining moment of my life since leaving the U.S. nine months ago was when a client wrote a nasty blog post about my choice to travel. I lost clients over it. I lost friends over it. At first, it was painful and confusing and then I found my fierce, take no prisoners self. I raised the bar in my life and that was the best thing I could have ever asked for.  I have a good life and a good family. I don’t need the whole world to understand it, I simply enjoy it.

I spend my free time downtown and in our favorite plazas eating street tacos and churros. When the boys are napping I sometimes sneak away for yoga, a walk or nap myself. My boys just turned two and three and the move has been good for them. They are loved by so many and are very happy. I believe kids pick up on the energy of their parents, particularly their mother in the early years and so having me happy and light is a good thing for them. My life is meaningful because it’s deliberately simple. I love a good cup of tea or playing Legos with my boys or having a nice dinner with my husband. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. It has brought me to the beautiful place I am today.

monique

Carmen Amato

Carmen Amato_best

I’m originally from New York, went to college in Virginia and Paris, and my husband’s job took me to Mexico 17 years ago. While we live in the US now, the years we spent in Mexico were life-changing, mostly because what I saw and experienced there inspired my writing. I’m now a full-time mystery and thriller author, best known for the Detective Emilia Cruz police procedural series set in Acapulco.

My notions of Mexico City were rather naïve before we got there. I didn’t realize what a huge city it is, or what big gulfs there are between social classes. An early lesson came from a mother whose children rode the same school bus as mine. Her chauffeur drove her to my house because we were the first stop and their house was the last. The mother wanted her kids to have the experience of riding the bus, but not too much. So they got off at our house and were chauffeured the rest of the way home.

Later, the woman took pains to put our Mexican housekeeper in her place, lectured me for being too lenient with the hired help, then asked me to help her maid get a visa. I declined and never saw her again but unfortunately met many more women like her. Great for fictional character development, not so great for Mexico’s social stratification.

Little customs, like tipping the attendant at the Pemex station or kid who wheeled my grocery cart to the car, took some getting used to. Was this a cultural norm or ripping off a clueless gringo? I found myself assessing many probably innocent encounters.

The traffic terrified me at first, too. Being able to get around by myself was essential and I was determined that the city streets would not defeat me. A major victory came on the day I decided to take the kids to the zoo to see the pandas. I initially didn’t realize that you can’t drive into the zoo itself. We finally parked somewhere in Chapultepec Park and walked, which turned out to be the exactly right thing to do. We saw the pandas and headed into the Zona Rosa for lunch. I parked on the street near the fancy San Angel antiques market. A man with a red rag popped out and assured me he’d keep the car safe. We walked a bit, discovered VIPs and its famously undrinkable coffee. When we got back to the car, I found that I’d left it unlocked! But the man was there and nothing bad had happened to either us or the car. I knew then that Mexico was going to be a good experience.

Being Catholic helped and opened doors that might have been otherwise closed. I loved the way Mexico celebrates the rhythm of the church calendar, the glory of the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the floral vendors in front of the big cemetery on the rim of Chapultepec Park. I was very involved in the English-speaking church, Saint Patrick’s, but also attended the local church in the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood.

My Spanish was non-existent when we moved to Mexico but having to fix up our house forced me to learn rapidly. One of the first things I did was to sit down and write out numbers up to 100 so I would understand prices. Not only did I have to negotiate for cleaning and gardening services but painting, custom curtains, plumbing—you name it. The Newcomer’s Club and weekly immersion lessons saved me!

The children’s school was another reason to learn the language. The children attended the American school, which meant half their lessons were in English and half in Spanish. We got a tutor to help the kids and I took lessons, too. The school’s administration and most teachers were Mexican and many preferred to hold parent-teacher sessions in Spanish.

The security situation in Mexico City was a low-simmering and ever-present concern. We had a hard and fast rule for the kids: no talking getting into or out of the car. This is when it is most easy to be distracted. We had some close calls; would-be robbers were scared off by our dogs, our car suffered minor vandalism, and I was followed around a store. But I think being very vigilant helped us avoid any real trouble.

I had several defining moments in Mexico but the one I recall most clearly was when I was driving back from the big mall in the Santa Fe suburb. I’d had a run-in with a snarky salesgirl in Liverpool. She’d taken something I’d tried on, five minutes later didn’t know where it was, and bottom line, I walked out of the store empty-handed. This was a common occurrence, that and being unable to complete a purchase because the person with the key to the cash register wasn’t there, or the cash register didn’t have change. Using a credit card was generally out of the question; every time I did the credit card company would put a hold on the card. I called them weekly to explain that I lived in Mexico—please see the mailing address—but it never mattered.

So I’m driving out of the mall and the afternoon sky darkens to lead. Sheets of water pour down, deafening me as the rainstorm pounds on the roof of the car. I’m already frustrated and angry and now I’m scared, too. I begin to cry in the car while repeating my mantra, “This city will not defeat me.” I pull up at a red light and there’s this Madonna-looking girl standing in the median, with a thin rebozo over her head, carrying a baby.

Now I generally did not give to street beggars–warnings had gone out advising not to give because beggars are an organized syndicate or in league with criminals who will approach the other side of the car to rob you. Yet today, as it’s slashing rain and I’m sobbing, I realize that my life is pretty good after all. I roll down the window and give her 200 pesos.

If I could do my Mexico experience all over again, I’d travel more. I never made it to Guadalajara or Copper Canyon or Baja. I also would buy more Otomi embroideries and painted alebrijas.

But with my books, my life is now inextricably linked to Mexico. I know I’ll visit many more times.

I owe Mexico a debt of gratitude because I doubt my writing career would have come together the way it has without those high/low, sweet/salt years of experience. It took me about five years to distill it all into my first novel, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, a Cinderella story set against the backdrop of cartel drug smuggling and Mexican presidential elections. Next came the Detective Emilia Cruz series which in 2016 was optioned for television by a major US network. I don’t know if the series will actually come about but if it does, I hope it is as authentic as I have tried to make my books.

Thanks so much for hosting me. Readers are invited to join me at any of the links below:

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Carmen Amato (also known as me) writes romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco. She can take the heat. Can you?
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“Danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away.” — Kirkus Reviews