Recap from the last post: Days 2,3,4 - We made it to Laredo and felt butterflies in our stomachs since we'd cross the Mexican border the next morning.
This is where it's gonna get real. Are we really doing this? It was the night before the border crossing and we were tired, hungry, and nervous with excitement! Ironic - every day you hear about Mexican's trying to cross the border into the U.S., and we're going in the opposite direction! There was no turning back now. We knew in our hearts that we were doing the right thing - and we were ready to LIVE THE DREAM!!!
We were at La Quinta in Laredo - La Quinta's in the States allow dogs, so it was pretty easy along the way to find places to stay, which I mapped out ahead of time.
day 5 . december 11 2016
BOOOOOMMMM!!! What the hell was that?! It was the middle of the night. Terror ran through my veins. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. Was that a gunshot? I heard Laredo's a tough town. Hmmm, there're NO LIGHTS! I loudly whispered 'Todd!', 'Todd!', 'Todd!' to wake him as he hadn't heard the noise! It was 3am. We cautiously headed to the front desk with our iphone flashlights - a transformer blew. Phew - my heart was still beating a million miles a minute. There's no use trying to sleep now. We planned on waking at 4 anyway to get an early start. Everyone's advice was to go to the border AFTER sunrise in Laredo - but we left in the blackness of the early morning at 4:30am. We wanted to get an early start and beat the crowds.
It took about 15 minutes to find the border crossing. A Mexican guard with a flashlight waved us through - no car search! Awesome, that was easy! Next was the check-in building. After driving around in circles, we finally found the building - It was NOT easy to find, especially in the dark. I could be wrong, but I don't think there were signs of where to go. The parking lot was packed, muddy and armed guards were running around - seriously, they weren't standing around, they were running around - which made me nervous. There may have been lights but I don't remember lights - it was dark, I remember the scary darkness (granted I admit I'm still afraid of the dark, so it made things feel eery). We finally found a parking spot and left the dogs in the car - I did NOT want to leave them.
There was UTTER CHAOS inside the building. We found the first and second lines and were through within half an hour. The next line was for the car sticker (you can get it in the states, but when Todd went to the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to get it, there was a line and he was told you can get it at the border, so he decided not to wait). The car sticker area was NOT UTTER CHAOS, it was MUCH WORSE - like a Disney World line at the Twilight Zone of Terror, weaving and winding and weaving and winding with no end in site! Good thing we arrived early. Wonder what it would have been like after sunrise! A guy next to us told us that this is the worst time of the year to cross the border to Mexico - the Mexicans in the U.S. go home to Mexico for Christmas in December, which is one of their biggest holidays. Even the government shuts down for two weeks.
While waiting in that long Disney-like line, I left three times to check on the dogs and sit with them in the car for awhile. They seemed perfectly fine, but it made me feel better (and maybe I needed to be near their calm, loving energy). I don't remember what time the sun broke in the horizon, but it seemed like hours - when it did finally rise, I breathed a sigh of relief as the whole atmosphere didn't seem as intimidating.
After waiting FIIIIVVVE FRICKEN' HOURS, we received our car sticker! Moral of the story - NEEEEVVER drive to Mexico in December! But if you must, be sure to get the car sticker in the U.S. or Canada. That being said, other people have said they went at that time of the year and had no problem at the Columbia Bridge (the newer crossing near Laredo). I don't know, I wouldn't chance it ever again. We wanted to cross at the Columbia Bridge crossing, but the information we found said that that crossing was closed for some unknown reason.
The next step was to wait in a small car line to leave the border area. A guard checked our car sticker, which was now proudly attached to our front window. Once we left the border crossing, the realization hit me - we were now on Mexican land. I felt ecstatic and sad all at the same time. Sad that we were leaving our home country - ecstatic to start our new life.
FIRST photo taken in Mexico!
Here's the toll road - smooth, light traffic. It's still a little gloomy and the weather wasn't good the whole trip so far. But after 1/2 hour - waaait for it... aaannnnd TAADAAA! HELLO GORGEOUS SUN! Cue Celine Dion singin' MY HEART WILL GO ON!!! (not sure why I thought of that song - it was the first song that came to mind). I guess because I felt my heart had the warm fuzzies now that I could see and feel the WARM SUNNNN!) Taking off the coats! Woop!!
We're SINGING, we're DANCIN' in our car seats, YIIIPPPEEEE! This is pretty darn gorgeous.
Uhmmm, where's the car around this guy?
For maneuvering through Mexico, we had the car's navigation (which wasn't up-to-date), a Garmin (Remember those? We updated it before the trip and added Mexico, however, when we got in Mexico, there were no roads - the screen looked like mountains), and we had iPhone google maps (the most up-to-date). We relied on the iPhone map and the car navigation screen to get a bigger picture. I also knew the roads we were taking ahead of time. You want to take as many toll roads as you can, which was most of the journey via the path we took to Vallarta - unless you get lost.
Speaking of.... somehow we veered off the Toll Road onto another Toll Road that turned into a smaller road. We ended up in a small town with dirt roads. We checked the map and found the toll road where we needed to be, so we headed in that general direction and hoped we could find it - as none of the maps were clear about whether there would be an entrance ramp to the toll road, plus there were lots of mountains and windy roads, so it also wasn't clear which was the best road to find our way.
After an hour detour, we were back on the toll road!
We arrived at the Hilton in San Luis Potosi at around 5pm - it was a much longer day than anticipated. Look how dirty our car is, happy we are, and hungry Asha is (lickin' her chops). The Hilton in Mexico ALLOWS DOGS! YAYYYY! Definitely make your reservations ahead of time once you get to Mexico. I made a reservation the previous day just to be sure.
Looove the character at this hotel and was sooo joyful to be here! Even the dogs seemed happier at this hotel than any other and jumped around when we arrived in our spacious elegant room! We had dinner that night and breakfast the next morning at the hotel - the food was incredible. I highly recommend the Hilton in San Luis Potosi!
Day 6 . December 12 2016 . LAST DAY
The last day of the journey! It was still surreal that we were moving to Puerto Vallarta! The morning started out with curvy roads in the mountains.
Back on the toll road.
Blue agave fields that will some day be a shot of tequila.
Cows in open fields, looove. We're noticing that there's a little more green in the terrain. We were four hours from Guadalajara (a big city, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco) when I drove for the FIRST TIME! (Todd prefers to drive, and I prefer to be a snoring passenger.)
I was driving through Guadalajara so there are no photos of the city.
Green mountains after the city.
Eventually there'll be a toll road all the way from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta, shortening the 4-5 hours down to 2 hours. For now there's a partial toll road and also winding roads in the mountains.
HUGE PALM TREES - We must be getting close! (Vallarta is a mountainous tropical climate on the ocean.)
SIGN TO PUERTO VALLARTA! This made me tear up a little - our new home, almost there!
It's been 6 days since we left cold Chicago...
WE MADE IT! OUR NEW HOME IN PARADISE!
We love the positive hustle bustle of this small city. It has good energy and we found out later that there're ley lines in Vallarta (positive energy - possibly magnetic, possibly magical). That may explain why we fell in love with Puerto Vallarta and knew we wanted to live there after just four days. And it may explain why tourist after tourist comes here and immediately falls in love with the place.
Our property manager met us at the house we rented and the landlord arrived shortly thereafter with our keys.
Driving to our new home in Mexico was quite the adventure. We loved it - even with the mishaps!
The first night in our new home was a different story - for me. We planned to stay in our empty home instead of a hotel, even though it would be totally empty.
At dusk we took the dogs for a walk. Not fifty feet from our house, a loose pitbull appeared out of nowhere. Kai freaked out and started growling (fortunately the pitbull was friendly) - I tripped on my skirt when Kai pulled on the leash and fell on my hand. My hand was swollen, bruised and bleeding and I didn't bring medication. Oh wait! I had a care package for the dogs! (I had thought of them but not us - jajaaa!) I pulled out their Calendula and it helped relieve the pain and swelling.
We had a blow-up mattress, one blanket and two pillows that first night. The evenings in December are pretty chilly (upper 50's/low 60's Fahrenheit) - the blanket wasn't big enough, my hand was injured, the house was dusty and empty and through my salty tears I thought we'd made a BIIIG mistake! What are we doing in Mexico? I don't like it! Let's go back to Chicago! This was the first time I felt regret about moving to Mexico.
The next day, the sun rose and the house warmed up. I felt a little better about living in Mexico. In the morning we went to Walmart to buy cleaning supplies and cleaned the dust in the house before our scheduled shipment arrived in the afternoon. Our things were supposed to arrive that day, but we heard that 'Mexico time' usually meant manana (tomorrow or the next day or the next), so we didn't have high hopes.
Like clockwork in the early afternoon, our shipment arrived!!! YES! I highly recommend our movers and posted their information on my FREE STUFF page (fyi, they have been doing this for almost twenty years and are from the U.S.). Being around familiar things felt like HOME! Ahhhh.
I admit, I still had moments of sadness (probably normal with a big move like this - and I'm no stranger to moving - over 20 times since I was 18 years old and from coast to coast) at the realization that we now lived in Mexico - I missed my family and friends, missed the familiarity of knowing where to find things (such as Japanese rice), and missed being able to walk anywhere and understand what people were saying. After about two weeks, that feeling went away (well 85% of the time). Family and friends can visit! We can visit family and friends! We'll figure out where to shop for food, glassware, furniture, etc.! We can learn Spanish! We were looking forward to meeting people from around the world. We live in PARADISE! Right!?
october 15, 2018
It's hard to believe it's been almost two years since the road trip adventure to our new home. Do we still love it? Do we regret it? We're asked those questions all the time. WE LOOOOOVE IT! Don't get me wrong, there's no perfect place. There're definitely trials and tribulations with living in Mexico that I'll share in later posts.
Here are a few keynotes since our arrival in December of 2016
Purchased an Artisan Chocolate Shop and an Artisan Ice Cream Shop: Were on House Hunters International: Interviewed for International Living, Expat Entrepreneurs in Mexico, Barry Kessler's Puerto Vallarta Podcast, and Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine: Family & Friends have visited (some who have never traveled out of the U.S. & some who have never vacationed in Mexico): Visited Family & Friends: Met soooo many amazing new friends: Todd and I see each other throughout the day - which is a very good thing (versus when we lived in the states and only saw each other at night after we were exhausted from work): I have Vitamin D in my body (versus below the charts in Chicago): We no longer live life to work and look forward to vacation - We live life to ENJOY EACH DAY in a place where we can be outside all year, meet interesting, positive people and do and learn interesting things (and I get to eat our very own natural Belgian chocolate every day that Todd lovingly makes, which has spoiled me to no end!)
Do I think it makes a difference where you live? HELL YES!
We often said in the past that we didn't have much of a life other than work. We rarely met new friends. In the past two years we've met more friends than we have in the last 50-some years of our lives. The majority of people here are friendly and in a good mood - whether locals, ex-pats, or tourists.
Our two greyhounds Asha and Kai are doing awesome - they're 11 and 12 years old now! I'll share the nitty gritty details about daily life in Mexico and life as a business owner in Mexico in future articles. In the meantime, let me know if you have questions. There were many good people who helped us get here. The least I can do is repay the favor.
And reminder, if you need a mover to Mexico, CLICK HERE.