A recent comment that I received is the perfect opener to this post:
It takes a lot of courage to embark on a new life in a foreign country
This is where I have to reiterate something I have said many, many, many times. Mexico was the least brave choice I could have made. I moved to a developed, modern country that I can drive to from my home country and in which I speak the language. A brave choice would have been something like moving to Cambodia. Mexico was a comfortable choice.
I get asked how I picked Mérida and, really, was there any other option at this time in Mexico’s history? Yucatán is by far the most secure and prosperous state in the country, as evidenced by the mass exodus of Mexicans to Mérida and the environs. Mérida is also safe from earthquakes and direct impact of hurricanes.
Mérida’s only real negative aspect is the heat, which even the locals complain about and which is laughably news here, but is something a healthy person can adjust to. Accepting the heat (and the humidity) by giving in to a local schedule of staying out of the sun for the bulk of daytime hours, sleeping in a hammock, supplementing natural ventilation and shade with fans, wearing breathable clothing to prevent chaffing and absorb sweat (rather than making the mistake of wearing as little as possible) all build resiliency to the climate. I used to have to do 12-hour shifts and sleep out in minus 40 weather. The skills to survive that transfer to this climate as well — if you can’t beat it, you might as well embrace it.
Mérida is well connected to the rest of Mexico and the world by an international airport and the Yucatán has great roads (outside of Progreso) to explore a state filled with cultural and historic riches beyond all imagining. And it is quite a modern city that offers all of the services that someone who has spent most of her life living on the edge of modern civilisation might crave. I’ve spoken with Mexicans from other regions about wanting to move to another city in a few years, just to see what else is out there, and I keep being told the same thing over and over again — I’m already where I would have ended up. Well, that won’t stop me from going exploring, but it’s certainly something to consider.
So often when I talk about my pleasure at having access to services like fast, reliable, and affordable internet or Uber or an international chain restaurant, I get a reaction of derision and a haughty, “I came here for the simple life,” as though that makes their life here more noble. You know what? You don’t have to come to Mexico for the “simple life.” You can have the simple life in the Gatineau Hills or southern Saskatchewan or the Yukon or even a Texan beach. I have done my bit of living with no services, having to haul water and chop wood and make everything from scratch. The “simple life” is an enormous amount of work and the ease of urban life was for the first time appealing. But after a decade on the road, I simply cannot afford to return to an urban life in a Canadian city that can offer even a fraction of what Mérida offers while having such a high standard of living. And that has nothing to do with my having taken my decade off — if I had remained in my government position, I would still be making almost exactly what I was making 10 years ago, but, according to a recent rental ad, my rent would have doubled! I would not have been able to continue living in such a centrally located urban neighbourhood if I wanted to keep up a similar standard of living.
Looking at friends of comparable age, it seems that we have generally done best when we have given up on the life we were raised for because we accepted that that world we were prepared for no longer exists. Those of us who have outrun the steadying decline into — and normalising of — genteel poverty are those who have managed to continue earning a Canadian-level wage while moving to places with much lower costs of living. But ultimately, for all our adventuring, we still crave the comforts of modernity, like nights cuddled on the couch with the dog in a beautiful home while watching Netflix and waiting for your UberEats driver to come with a sushi meal. It’s sadly funny that the people who defined having arrived in life by having access to such comforts tell us that we can only have those things if we follow a very specific path — any other and you do not deserve comfort. Ha!
So, really, in terms of choosing Mexico, Mérida makes the most sense for me at this time in my life with my need for a bit of stability to focus on growing my business. The location of my home within Mérida is also excellent as Mérida isn’t a huge city, but she’s not easy to get around in.
The next post will talk more in depth about my neighbourhood, but I will say generally that I am very well situated right near a major north-south road. Mérida is a city with a strong car culture, which is the most negative thing I have to say about living here. Public transportation is inadequate and the road infrastructure can’t keep up with the population growth. Going just a few kilometres in Mérida is an ordeal, especially in a vehicle without air conditioning that doesn’t fit in underground parking structures. Being so centrally located, I spend less time getting places and taking Ubers makes financial sense. It also means that outside of the dead heat of the day, I can walk almost anywhere I want to. I’m not doing as many 6-10KM roundtrip walks as I’d expected, but within a radius of 4KM roundtrip, I have 99% of what I need and I take advantage of that. It’s funny how getting on a bus or in an Uber or driving to go somewhere feels like work most days, but being able to walk 2KM there doesn’t.
So the longer I live here, the more activities I add to my schedule, the more friends I make, and the more businesses I start to frequent regularly, the happier I am living where I do in Mérida. Next up, I’ll explain why my neighbourhood is such a good fit for me.