Living in Mexico: A Survival Guide

I now live in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, since July, but before here, I lived in Mexico for a year and a half, and published a fair bunch there, and am headed back to live there again in October, as my devotion to Mexico has won and I have decided, of all the world, to make it our permanent residence and base for Enlightened Globetrekker. Amamos Mexico. It did us right. And I hate the media and public Mexican trash talk more than anything. Life in Mexico can be amazing. If you approach it the right way. Here is a survival guide on how to make the most of living in Mexico, or at least… HOW TO SURVIVE. 🙂

Mexican boy

Whatever the reason for you living in Mexico, or thinking about living in Mexico, this guide will help. Teenager, retiree, diver, surfer, mommy, twenty-something, hippy, construction worker, European, family of a deportee. Or any traveler to any part of this beautiful planet, this applies to you. Humanity. If you follow these steps to make the most of your time abroad, it will be one of the most amazing things you ever did for yourself.

I am a cultural anthropologist. A writer. A world traveler. A mommy. A teacher. A professor. A dreamer. A happiness-finder and outdoor adventurer and respectful human being. And this is how I survived Mexico. And this is how I survive the Marshall Islands. And this is how I survive life.


1. I abandoned my materialistic philosophy. Had to. Wanted to. Upon moving there, one of my goals was this exact thing. And the second my foot stepped off the plane I made a vow to abandon this idea that things and people are judged by materialism and to try to erase it from my mind. This was the launch of beginning to see the world in a whole new light and not clouded by a materialistic philosophy. Real Mexico will never provide the comforts and luxuries that we are used to in the US. And the beautiful thing is that it doesnt claim to, or necessarily ever want to. So do yourself a favor and leave your materialism behind because it will get you nowhere here. And if it does happen to get you somewhere, that will not be a place of truth for really ‘living’ there.

2. I kept an open mind. No judgment. Of anything. There is a lot of weird shit to see and do there. And its pretty easy to race to a judgment about how those things are crazy, unsafe, unsanitary, or stupid. But do yourself a favor and dont. Because its not fair. And because for every unrefrigerated chicken there is a life lesson to be learned. For every hot dog slice on a pizza and family on a moped, there is a lesson. Spend more time trying to figure out that life lesson than judging like an ignorant American. Keep an open mind.

3. I embraced everything. I tried every food, talked to every person, and embraced the hell out of the opportunity. I never once took it for granted and said ‘i hate mexico,’  ‘if only they had..,’ no. if you wish it was different then go home. If you accept it for what it is and seek out the beauty and freedom and embrace these unique opportunities, then you will survive and thrive farther than you can even dream.

4. I worked with Mexicans. I taught at a school as a full-time faculty member. Just like everyone else there. Except I was the only white person. With blonde hair. Sticking out like a sore thumb. But I did it. I challenged myself to learn, grow, adapt, and excel teaching at a spanish Mexican school. This is immersion to the fullest. I mingled everyday and had professional expectations, conferences, and was responsible for rearing future generation Mexicans. A heavy weight for a blonde American 😉  And walking home from school everyday through town I was stared into the ground by tourists not believing I was lucky enough to live here. I mean.. who lives here? Its for vacation. And same with the locals. Not believing that I lived and worked here. The uniform shirt was a dead giveaway and I think it gave me respectable status.

5. I adventured everyday. My daughter and I up at the crack to go conquer some new world, fulfil another dream, and live out another adventure. My adventure bag was been packed since we got there. It never got a chance to get unpacked. I had it down to a science. Sunscreen, snorkels, masks, water shoes, water bottles, camera, sunglasses. ready for anything. Climbing ancient ruins, jumping and swimming in new cenotes, free diving, snorkeling turtle pathways, kayaking, horse back riding, scuba diving, beachcombing, camping, boating, biking, dreamcatcher shopping, or just plain happy hour drinking. on the beach. while having a sandcastle contest with local policia who should be manning the taxi stand but are instead loving life too much to be bothered and enjoy a faceoff with a 6 year old in a mermaid sandcastle contest. Every day is an adventure, Everyday the sun is shining. And when its not you are thankful for the clouds and rain. Everyday a new adventure awaits, a new country, new people, new places, new food, new random conditions and amazing paradise adventures await. Dont sit around on wifi. Dont lay around and get high all day or mope about missing McDonalds. Get off your ass and go adventure Mexico.

6. I ate street tacos. I hear many people are scared of these things. What a shame. Because herein lies the heartbeat of Mexico. Like in America, its Chevy, a damn car. Heartbeat of America. In Mexico its the food. Tortillas, empanadas, burritos, enchiladas. Its all the same thing. Tortillas in various form, all greasy and delicious. All local, and all better than the fancy steakhouses lit up brightly for the tourists too scared to venture onto the side street. Do yourself a favor and eat the street tacos. To fulfil a physical need, but also a psychological one as well. Eating street tacos is the rite of passage to becoming a legit Mexican traveler and more open minded human being, and are an immense part of Mexican culture. Go ahead, see what they’re all about. I promise they wont kill you.

7. I had Mexican friends. Yes. Mainly from work. And then all of my daughter’s friends. And my best friend there too. They showed us a different way of life. A different culture, activities, and perspective on the world. I got the inside scoop. If you dont do this you dont really live in Mexico. Because the people are the life. Open your mind. Open your heart. Open your tortilla, and fill it all with some amazing Mexican friends who will turn your value system upside down and show you a different life that exists a country away.

8. I took advantage of the freedom. Mexico offers a level of freedom that hardly even exists in the US even behind the scenes. I wore flip flops and a bikini everyday. Never heels or makeup. I could walk down the street with a beer. I could ride public transportation barefoot. I could grocery shop in a bikini and I could even swim at the beach naked if I so chose (Tulum). I could ride an ATV down the street with traffic, sleep on the side of the road, and bring drinks from the gas station into a restaurant with me. Everything is chill. Mexicans choose their battles. And does it really matter? Its deeper than just rules. It is the beauty of self regulation. And right choices. The freedom to think, and believe, and do, and achieve, whatever you want, without being herded and molded and restricted, that is so liberating. D yourself a favor and feel this freedom too. Lick it, love it. It empowers the mind, body, and soul. And you will never forget that time you lived actually how you wanted. Walking through town barefoot, with a beer, no makeup, and no one to tell you you are wrong, but with everyone to tell you that you are beautiful.

9. I learned the language. Not really fluently. And definitely not perfect, like my 6 year old daughter (jealous), but I was open to learning what I could and ended up being able to communicate with everyone. I didnt hold up a wall to learning and adapting to the ways of life there. And when you understand the concepts of the local language, you thereby understand so much more about the culture. And you earn respect as well. Even if the product isnt great. But for caring, respecting, and trying. If you’re living in Mexico, you need to speak Spanish.

10. I stayed positive. Through all the trials and tribulations, which there were. I always stayed positive. My horchata was always half full.

11. I stayed strong. Similar to #10 yet different. I not only stayed strong in Mexico, but I grew strong there. The place takes strong to a whole new level. And I survived. I sort of feel that I have stood the test of time with this one. Sometimes I was not sure I would make it out of the pen, but I always did. And as an offset, things in my life there have been and will soon be again more amazing than I ever could have imagined. Its not all glory. Some guts. But I am proud of those guts I suffered to get to this state of Mexican glory. It is an amazing place that has the ability to humble you to the basement and watch how you crawl, all with the mastermind plan that the process will place gratitude and humility into your heart like never before, where it will stay for the rest of your life. The hard is hard, but the lessons and the good are far beyond excellent.

12. I sought out life lessons. Everyday I made sure to live consciously in order to gain the necessary life lessons that I was supposed to learn that day. Every good, every bad. Every challenge, every palm leaf, bike ride, bead of sweat, cockroach, magical cenote, beach cabana, coconut, sun ray, rain drop, grain of sand, sunrise, sunset, new friendship, and old memory. It all happened for a reason. Every day was a life lesson. Which I wrote about and shared. Thankful to be out on this road living this life having these lessons so that I can send them all home.

And maybe change your home. Or neighborhood, or town, or family, too. Because life lessons arent just found in Mexico. Sometimes it takes Mexico to show us that lessons lie in everyday life. In the beauty of flowers and children and tears. But, even though they exist, most of us dont tap into these lessons because we are too busy. Or too tired. Or just dont care. Well I cared. and I came to live these lessons and see for myself. And if you have been reading along with me, thank you, and I hope you have learned something alongside me.

So I actually mean ‘How did I survive before Mexico?’ Because living there for a year and a half was the best gift I have ever given myself, and my daughter. I not only survived, but I thrived and thrived and thrived. If you follow all of these steps, I promise you will survive Mexico just fine too. Its not that bad really.

Its amazing. 

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mexico dust

You will notice a common theme running through the places we live through Enlightened Globetrekker. They are developing nations. They still hold the truths to human worth and value where the perspectives and priorities are on point. I refuse to fill my days with stress and values that I just dont believe in anymore. And so I will live where my dreams can be reality, where I am free to be happy with little in order to stay grounded, where I can share in my daughter’s beautiful childhood, and where our adventures, minds, and hearts can reach the stars.

Follow us now in the Marshall Islands on facebook: The Enlightened Globetrekker

Viva Mexico.


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Tina May 31, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Not to scare you….Just thought I should share this in case you had not seen it. Good Luck on your new adventure

Tavo May 31, 2014 at 8:21 pm

LOVE to read all your stories ……….. i am trying at my old age to start a life in the Philippines, hope i could make it ….. thank you for teach me that it can be done ….. safe trip and keep enjoying life …….. 🙂

Kathi May 31, 2014 at 9:24 pm

So very proud of you Woman! I choose to stay here in Mexico and love each and every moment. Keep adventuring with you very lucky daughter.

Ricardp June 1, 2014 at 11:48 am

Ojala nos compartieras tambien fotos con mexicanos 🙂 suerte en tu próximo destino

TerriLee Bell June 1, 2014 at 4:35 pm

I have found in my six months in Mexico that everything you say here is true! I have loved my time in Mexico and intend to stay here for as long as I can.

Buddy June 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Thank you for your very insightful and encouraging post! I am preparing myself for just such an adventure in the not too distant future. Your words give me both hope and ideas toward that goal!
I wish you continued success in your adventures, please keep sharing them with us!

Buddy De

Cara June 3, 2014 at 3:50 am

So happy to see you and River! Beautiful. Proud of you both. Love you.

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