Saturday, January 18, 2014

Decisions, Decisions!! And the Winner Is......

The first big decision is do I disclose our choice before I talk about our week or do I talk about our week then disclose at the end.  Nah... I'm not that mean! Lol

So DRUM ROLL ......  Our choice is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!!

This location was not even on our consideration list when we began our "country shopping" journey. The five we initially chose because of our research were Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, and possibly Spain.

Just like many, we had eliminated Mexico because of all the media hype of the drug wars that you get lambasted with in the US. However, we had vacationed here year after year because we loved what quality of life it gave us.  But vacationing and living are way different aspects. 

It was not until we were in Tamarindo, Costa Rica that we redefined our new criteria, based on our new found experiences, causing us to reevaluate our choices.  And, part of that was because we had begun to use Puerto Vallarta as our benchmark for critiquing each location. 

By that time we knew, without a doubt, we wanted to be on a Pacific beach somewhere with it's stunning sunsets. We knew we needed warmth, not "eternal spring", year round.  We knew we needed a lively town with good entertainment and restaurant choices of all kinds but definitely good live music. We knew we needed to be able to rent within decent walking distance to take advantage of what the location would offer.  We knew we needed lush greenery and blooming flowers in the landscape plus the diversity of mountains or large green hills within our eyesight.

Please note this link with incredible 2013 weather data for PV.

So based on these new defined criteria, we removed Uruguay but added Nicaragua and Mexico to our list. So then it became 6 countries. We removed Uruguay because of its "real" winters where it can get as cold as high 30s, low 40s in their winter. We added Nicaragua because of a long day trip we made while living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. We fell in love with Granada and the countryside and knew we had to go back for more. We added Puerto Vallarta because, as I said, we began using it as our benchmark. But, I also did way more research on Mexico's crime and found that, in fact, it's very safe!

I am including a link to actual statistics so you can see exactly what I'm talking about.

Actually, everywhere we've been there have been horror stories about crime.  But, when you got right down to it, just like in the US or Canada, you can find crime anywhere. You can look at where the highest murder rates in the US are but most of us don't avoid those cities because the truth is that the crime happens mostly between people who know each and in neighborhoods we wouldn't enter in the first place. We would be vigilant and avoid them. Are we still vigilant here? Absolutely!  There are still pick pockets and thieves just like anywhere else in this world. 

Puerto Vallarta meets ALL of our criteria!! And, at an achievable lower cost of living, as evidenced in my budget analysis published earlier this week. This is also an area where you could really shave your cost of living further if your lifestyle is more subdued than ours and still not need a car because of the excellent local transportation system up and down the Bay of Banderas. 

Many, many choices of easily accessible smaller towns and villages that could satisfy almost anyone's style of living.  Bucerias, La Cruz, Sayulita, Mismaloya, Boca, Yelapa to name a few other locations along the Bay. And, there are plenty of other choices all over this beautiful country that we haven't even seen but may explore at a later date. For now though, we are extremely pleased with our choice!

And, you certainly could spend way more than we do if your budget allowed because those choices are here, too. There is such a huge diversity here within a fairly small area that can fit into anyone's budget. And, the miles and miles of gorgeous sand beaches, warmth, and sunsets are FREE!

The "other" things that played a part in our decision was just the overall abundance of good choices in almost every aspect of living from many good hospitals in this area with excellent healthcare costs, to the ability of buying daily items in larger quantities at an excellent price and quality thus reducing our overall spending (i.e. Costco), to more shopping choices of everything at every price point, to a large international airport with easy access to the states and our families, and in reverse, for them to be able to visit us. And, there's an excellent infrastructure to support the population. This hasn't always been the case where we've been.

And, I can't forget to talk about culture. PV and the immediate surrounding areas have plenty of local, old Mexico culture and architecture. We are really enjoying being a part of that. Just as in every location and country we've been to, this is truly important to us. 

Living here allows us to live a similar standard of living that we had at home in the states at a much lower cost of living in a paradise location. It allows us not to have to give up or settle for lower standards or do without all together because it's just not available as had been the case in some of our locations.

And, because we've travelled and lived in many places now, made the adjustments and learned to live with much less and with things because "that's just the way it is", it makes us appreciate what we have here so much more!! And, for that we are grateful!  When we hear people here complaining, we just roll our eyes and smile that inward knowing smile you have when you know life's tougher somewhere else and this is a piece of cake.

We weren't looking to lower our standards. We were looking to find a good quality of living and all that it encompasses for us at a lower cost of living in a warmer climate. Ultimately, giving us a higher quality of living overall. And, for us, Puerto Vallarta gives us just that. 

I would be remiss if I didn't reveal our "runner up" countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua!  They are both gorgeous and lush. They both offer most of what our criteria was. And, without a doubt we could and would live in both countries without hesitation!

We've given up our thoughts of living in Spain because we realize it's just too far and too expensive for our family and us to commute. We still plan on vacationing in other exotic places just like everyone else takes a vacation. Even when living in paradise, it's nice to get away!

We have met wonderful people everywhere we've been and for that we have enriched our lives immensely!  We have met people everywhere that have found their nirvana and we are thrilled for them!  Everyone has different goals and aspirations and that's what makes diversity such a beautiful thing. There is no one size fits all. What's most important is that everyone make their dream come true, reach for the stars and do what it takes to make it happen, each in our own way. No right, no wrong, no judgment. 

As always, if anyone wants to ask further questions, I'm always available at 

Now, on to our week...

It was a busy one with me starting my Spanish lessons and Mike continuing his. So on MTW, we only have afternoons open to do things. 

Monday evening we went with friends, Mitch and Stephanie, to see Dame Edna's full show (she only MC'd the Christmas show we went to). What a great time!  And, to add to our pleasure, Mike and I were the lucky ones chosen to help make her show by being called up on stage. Suffice it to say, it was a good thing I had had a few drinks!  Anyway, I partook with some hip action dancing for Mike's and everyone else's pleasure. All part of the fun!

The pictures speak for themselves! LOL
The Dame with Stephanie & Mitch.

Tuesday afternoon, we went up to the Galaria Mall looking for a memory foam bed topper since Costco didn't have any. Still didn't find one but explored the big department store, Liverpool, and found the movie theatre. 

From there we decided to go to Sam's. We've never been fans of the store but decided we needed to check it out. They wouldn't let us in even for a test without completely signing up. So we did. After walking the whole store and not finding it to our liking, we asked for our money back and to cancel the membership, which they did do after returning everything we were going to buy. However, the exercise was very time consuming and tiring. 

Because we had nothing that we were lugging around, when we got back to Old Town, we decided to attend the International Friendship Club's open house. We had been considering joining because of the great cause it supports - Cleft Palate disfigurement. This organization has been part of the community since 1987 and does many things to raise money for many causes. It was a terrific event and we enjoyed meeting many new people and are looking forward to participating and giving back to our new found home. 

Looking up the hill behind the courtyard where the reception was held.

A very good attendance especially when there's free food & drink!

Wonderful local musical talent.
It was also enlightening as we knew no one there but as I stood in line for a glass of wine, I heard this lady say "I know you! You're the lady that was dancing on stage last night!"  I about died!  I started to introduce myself but she started laughing and said "oh, I definitely already know your name." It's a small world once again. 

Wednesday afternoon Mike and I decided to go to the movies and see The Hobbit. It's one of the things we've missed allot. The movie was in English with Spanish subtitles. Great for me to practice my Spanish. Admission was inexpensive at  $5 for both of us, but snacks were only a little less than in the states.  

Thursday we took the bus again uptown to the Mega store, which is like a Walmart. We bought groceries but were still looking for that bed topper. All they had was an egg foam one so we decided to wait to see if we missed them in Costco. We also wanted to compare this store with the others we've been to. Nice store with better options for household goods. 

That evening we went down to the sea Monkey to have our $1 margaritas and watch the sunset. We really needed them that night, as we've been having a few issues with our landlord. There are several matters in the apartment that are broken. He's been telling us since we got here that they will be fixed "soon". One full month of nothing done is NOT soon. So we haven't paid this months rent for leverage.

Anyway, things really came to a boil for me when our potable water bottle spigot cracked and we woke up to water all over the floors Wednesday morning. Then when we put a new bottle on the new spigot Thursday just before we were planning on going down for sunset, it wasn't working either and water leaked all over the place again!!  Arggggg!!

At least we made it to the sea Monkey for that drink and enjoyed the sunset!  A great way to decompress.

From there, we met up with new friends, Jerry and Cathy, who were treating us to a wonderful dinner at No Way Jose, for sharing all of our new found expat knowledge. We had a great time and a good meal. Plus night caps at Swedes.  We finally got home at about 12:30am.

A beautiful presentation of our meals!

Mike, Me, Jerry & Cathy.

Our plan had been to take the bus to Sayulita, about an hours drive north, for their first annual Film, Music & art festival but after being out so late the night before those plans got sacked. So after a very leisurely morning, we headed by bus up to Costco to see if we could find the bed topper. Nope, but we did get a few more groceries that only Costco carries and a beach umbrella, so it wasn't a total loss. 

Today we finally got a chance to meet with the guy that arranged for our lease. He finally gets the picture of what we've been complaining about and he knows we're not paying our rent until we see a few things actually done. However, I'm so over this, that if we find a new apartment this coming week, we'll walk away from here early. The owner broke the lease, we didn't. 

We have plans to look at several apartments next week, so stay tuned and see what we end up doing. We won't rush our decision unless we find what we're looking for.  Certainly not going to cut off our nose to spite ourselves.  This apartment is just fine for the short term.  What gets our goat is paying the high season price for a property that isn't worth it because of its condition. 

Our new mission for the immediate future, besides continuing to have a great time here, is to begin putting all the pieces together for actually living here - find a long term apartment, find medical insurance, and begin the residency process. We've actually done some of the leg work already because I have to admit that when Mike and I got off the plane, we knew we were "home". We just wanted to wait a full month so that our decision had more validity with proof of our expenses. 

We've decided that we will probably stay here for our full 180 day visa timeframe and then head to family and friends in Connecticut then back west to Spokane for more family and friends. Then by August 1st back to PV with hopes of spending a month in Europe this fall when the weather is at it's worst here. 

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