Midlife Mavericks – Women Reinventing their Lives in Mexico

articles Books & Authors Living, Working, Retiring

Reviewed by Alan Cogan

Cogan’s Reviews

A Mexico book by Karen Blue

Here’s an interesting collection of stories of nineteen women who came on their own to Mexico in recent years to settle in the Lake Chapala area. The book consists of eighteen interviews plus the story of the author herself. The women range in age from their 40’s to their 80’s. Their backgrounds and experiences and approaches to life are as varied as you can imagine.

Some had good careers going for them or others were homemakers most of their lives. Some came to escape broken marriages. Some came simply because they had been here on a vacation and wanted to come back. Some came because they wanted adventure or escape. Some have had terrible experiences here and have since left Mexico. Most are still here and express contentment with the place. Each woman has a “nickname”, although for anyone who lives here in Ajijic, it’s possible to identify at least a few of them.

Blue herself is typical of her interviewees. Tired of the rat-race in Silicon Valley she read an article about the Lake Chapala area and came to check out the place. Bingo! One look and a visit to a retirement seminar in Guadalajara was all it took. She sold her house in California and came here, despite objections from her children and her best friend. She has since found lots to do…including writing this book.

I particularly enjoyed Blue’s comments about Ajijic when she first arrived: “Contrasts assaulted me from every direction. A sombrero’d man, holding a cellular phone to his ear, delivered milk on a donkey. Young Mexican boys with buckets of dirty water washed a Mercedes and a horse, side by side.”

At the other extreme is “Sharon” from Alberta who drove down here alone towing a 17-foot trailer. She even took the long route – still alone – via the Baja Peninsula. She had worked for 20 years in an Alberta hospital and, after the death of her mother, found she had itchy feet. Her only previous visit to Mexico had been a three-week archeological trip that left her with a desire to return.

Some have had rather harrowing experiences. For this reader, the story of “Halsie” was the worst. She became involved with a crooked contractor over the building of her house and ended up with a place that leaked badly in the rainy season and threatened to collapse and took forever to build and cost more than originally budgeted. Yet she seems to have put all the horrors behind her. Listen to “Halsie” today: “I have my dream house. My garden is magnificent. The higher altitude has improved my health. My roof no longer leaks. My retirement and disability dollars go a hell of a lot further here than in California. I’ve made wonderful friends. And I’ve got some interesting new neighbors.”

I rather liked “Virginia” who, through her working years managed to fake her age. When she took “early retirement” she was actually 73 years old! She’s still teaching English as a Second Language somewhere in the village. She’s the kind of woman who goes on 12,000 mile driving trips when the fancy takes her. “B.J.” is another active 70 year old who drove here alone with a U-haul filled with her belongings. “Carol” 68, is yet another traveller. She has made a round-the-world trip alone and at least ten extensive trips within Mexico in recent years.

I thought that it was particularly useful the way that Blue questions each one about living expenses. She doesn’t hesitate to ask about rents and household budgets and to get some inkling of the other person’s income, whether it be Social Security or a pension or investments or whatever. There are also useful comments on the IMSS, the Mexican medical system. For any woman contemplating a move here it’s all good data.

There are a lot of hints and tips dispensed along the way in these interviews. I was rather fond of the list offered by “Britt” of people who should never come here:-

  • People who look at a dirty diaper in the street and say the town is filthy.
  • People who can’t stop and smell the roses.
  • People who want everything to be like it is in the States or in Canada.
  • People who don’t appreciate different cultures.
  • Nasty people. They give the rest of us a bad name.
  • And: Women looking for a man shouldn’t come down. If you don’t like yourself, you can’t live alone. This is an adventure. Be adventurous.

“Chaz” expresses similar sentiments about moving to Mexico. “Don’t come here expecting a 180 degree change in your life. You’re still bringing yourself with you.”

My only caveat with this useful book is that it seems initially designed to appeal only to women when there are lots of men who could learn a lot from it if they knew more about it. I don’t mean about women but, rather, about Mexico. As one who has written articles about travelling and living in Mexico, hardly a week goes by without e-mail queries arriving from various parts of the U.S. and Canada. People have read my articles and they have questions. The questions are invariably about finding houses, about rentals, about living expenses, about safety and security, etc., etc.. About all the aspects that are discussed at length here. From now on when I receive such queries I’m going to recommend “Midlife Mavericks” simply because it contains so much valuable information about day-to-day living in this country for people of any sex.

In my humble O: It’s an extremely useful volume for anyone contemplating moving here.

Midlife Mavericks – Women reinventing their lives in Mexico
By Karen Blue


Available from Amazon Books: Paperback

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Published or Updated on: October 1, 2000 by Alan Cogan © 2000
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