Frankly, most “how to live in Mexico” books — from Ken Luboff’s Live Well in Mexico: How to Relocate, Retire, and Increase Your Standard of Living, John Howells and Don Merwin’s Choose Mexico, 8th: Travel, Investment, and Living Opportunities for Every Budget, and Mexico “Mike” Nelson’s Live Better South of the Border — spout the same line. Even the most recent version of Carl Franz’ The People’s Guide to Mexico — 30th Anniversary Edition, geared more to the long-term tourist, has become as tired as tie-dyed t-shirts and bellbottoms. All of these books proclaim Mexican living as better and less costly — but none of them really describe how to make that lifestyle a reality.
The latest — Don Adams’ Head for Mexico: The Renegade Guide stands out from the rest of the herd. Adams, a Texas-born Vietnam vet who whiled away his working years as a truck driver, insurance adjuster and teacher, actually lived full-time in Mexico for more than five years before setting out to write his book. He still lives in Mexico, and he’s here for the long haul. And his experience is not limited to a single area or transient accommodations.
Respect for Mexico, its customs and its laws and a solid reality check for would-be expatriates are the polestar themes in this book.
From the pre-planning stages while still “NoB”. (The author’s term for North of the Border) to crossing over to “SoB” (South of the Border), Adams covers it all, giving cookbook directions, references, and abundant doses of good humor mixed in with lively anecdotes. The book is replete with resources for Canadians as well as Americans.
From lawyers, guns and money to hired help and fruit drinks and even death, there isn’t an aspect of living in Mexico which isn’t covered in chapters starting with the immigration process and leading the reader through housing, moving, driving, insurance, utilities, eating, communications, pets, medical care, teaching English, learning Spanish, and even sex. Matters as simple as ordering an ordinary comida corrida and paying for it and shopping at a tianguis are described in delightfully colorful detail.
The author’s been taken for a chump a time or two, and he comes clean with solid advice on how not to let that happen a second time. He’s no Pollyanna, but he chalks every episode up to a learning experience. Even his most truly embarrassing moments.
While the thrust of Head for Mexico is how to live inexpensively in Mexico, Adams has been careful not to present it as a guide to life on the cheap. There are no promises about living like a hacendado on an average Social Security check here, but solid information and strategies for making limited funds stretch toward dignified and comfortable lifestyles. Good Old Boy charm and a healthy respect for a broad range of lifestyles get this author through finding fixer-upper rentals, emergency veterinary care, and town parades.
Only a man very secure in his skin — or desperate for social approval — would wear a flimsy lavender nightgown with a red sash draped on his shoulder, an itchy homemade beard of fake hair glued to a piece of cardboard and a shiny gold crown while riding in the bed of a pickup truck. But Don Adams did one mid-December day in San Antonio Tlayacapán, and he describes his outing in a way that makes perfect sense. It was a celebration in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The audience for Head to Mexico extends beyond simply those contemplating a move to Mexico: those who’ve lived here since the days of Porfirio Diaz as well as the armchair tourist will find a refreshing take on one man’s integration into another culture. It’s an excellent resource as well as a warmly generous slice of everyday lives in Mexico.
Head for Mexico: The Renegade Guide
By Don Adams. 351 pages.
Published by Trafford Publishing Co., 2003. $23.95 USD, (from Amazon.com or the publisher) 351 pages; perfect bound; ISBN 1-55369-562-3; US$23.95, C$34.00, EUR22.10, £15.30
Editor’s note: Some of the material in the book is now out of date, but it’s a great read for its cultural insights.