After years spent searching for her perfect overseas retirement destination—a quest that had her visiting Ecuador, Belize, and Mexico— CheryLynn Ferrari, 63, found exactly what she was looking for.
“Now I live in San Nicolás de Ibarra, a small town near Lake Chapala, in Mexico. The people here are amazing. I wanted to lower my expenses and improve my lifestyle. And U.S. politics had become unbearable. I have been reading International Living for a long time. In fact, I first read about the Lake Chapala area in the magazine about a decade ago, I think,” says CheryLynn. “It was time to do it.”
CheryLynn’s persistence paid off. “I made more friends here in less than six months than I had back in Florida. It’s a much friendlier atmosphere, and my friends are both locals and expats. I am thrilled with my new life,” CheryLynn says.
After visiting the area and getting to know the people in the Chapala and Ajijic communities, she was convinced she had found her new home. Just as CheryLynn was about to return to Florida from her visit, she saw a note on a local bulletin board, advertising a house for rent. It sounded perfect, but she didn’t have time to see it before she left.
“When I returned to Florida, I contacted the owner and asked one of my newly found friends in Mexico to take a look at the place for me,” CheryLynn says.
It all looked good, so she sent a deposit via email. (It’s a fairly common way of engaging a rental. It’s also common for veteran expats to help new arrivals.)
I’ve never been this busy in my life, and I love it.
CheryLynn quickly began unhitching from her Florida life. She obtained her Mexican residence visa, sold most of her possessions, loaded her van with her most important stuff, and drove to her new home in Mexico.
“I’ve never been this busy in my life, and I love it,” says CheryLynn. “Many days include invites from friends to shop, see a movie, dine out, or plan a trip to another town for something special. I also volunteer at local critter shelters, where I take photos of the fur-babies to promote adoptions. Each day brings new surprises and adventures.”
CheryLynn says there are more fun things to do than she can possibly get to in any given week. In fact, she says she has to schedule days to stay home and relax.
“Some days I have planned activities. Like Tuesdays at the American Legion for a card game, or Thursday evenings for live music and open mic by old hippies like myself. One morning a week I shop at the mercado (open market), where I get veggies, fruit, meat, and delightful items from the dairy store. Other days are set aside for my painting and writing. Oh, and I just saw a beautiful parade in our little town, complete with beautiful women on horseback wearing long colorful dresses, and cowboys on dancing horses.
“I know that friends and family back in Florida worry about me. But the truth is, I couldn’t feel safer. All of us here chuckle at the notion of any serious crime in our area,” says CheryLynn. “We all watch out for each other. Life here is actually quite wonderful, but I still have a few challenges. The primary one is learning Spanish. I am improving, but it can be frustrating. Fortunately, the locals are quite patient,” she says.
“It’s a gradual process, but worth it. My expenses come to between $1,500 and $1,800 a month. Medical care is ridiculously cheap, and the quality is excellent. Doctors even make house calls.”
The small towns of Ajijic and Chapala are nearby and have a number of doctor’s offices, as well as at least four clinics. CheryLynn says that a normal visit to the doctor will cost between $20 and $50, depending on the specialty.
Mexican pharmacies are numerous, much more so than north of the border. Some are small, mom-and-pop operations and others are major chains that offer free doctor consultations at an adjoining office. Nearly all common medications can be purchased without a prescription, and the cost is normally only about 25% to 30% of the cost in the States.
Dental care is also very professional and inexpensive. Fillings, for example, may cost as little as $30.
For major medical needs, Guadalajara is less than an hour away and hosts more than 10 hospitals, most with bilingual doctors and First-World medical care.
CheryLynn has some advice for those others, men and especially women, who are considering a similar move.
“Plan a visit. I fell in love with my new home the first day. Join expat Facebook groups and ask questions and make contacts. Go on Google Earth and zoom into the neighborhoods before you even get there. I practically knew my way around when I arrived. Oh, and it’s never too soon to start learning the language.”