Why We Moved to Mexico…
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It all started (queue story voice) one cold, wintery night in Brussels, Belgium in November 2017.
Paul and I are lounging on the couch in our cozy studio waiting on news from his uncle and cousin who are supposed to arrive by plane tonight (but didn’t due to flight delays). The gas fire is toasting our kitty, Yoda, who is stretched out in front of the dancing flames when we begin to talk about the future.
“What are we going to do? I’ll be finished with school, and I don’t want to stay in Europe and work for an institution,” I said. Paul fidgets while I eagerly wait for his response in silence. We both agree we don’t want to settle down in France or in the U.S, and not being married, it certainly complicates the situation (visas, etc).
“Where to Next?”
“Why don’t we make a list of countries that can host us, then?” With a burst of curiosity that I know all too well, I search for pen and paper.
“What about Japan? Japan would be amazing.” “Yeah!” Paul shouts from the kitchen. “But what about quarantine time for Yoda?” Oh. Yikes. Six months? “No way, we can’t do that. Plus, Japan is pretty expensive!”
“Let’s do island life for a while. What do you think? Island life would be so cool.” I check for Fiji. Nope. French Polynesia? Nope. Each has pretty strict pet immigration guidelines.
“How about this: Let’s make a list of countries that can host us all (as French and US citizens, plus easily accommodate Yoda) for the longest period possible without any crazy visas.”
So I proceed to make a list with three columns. Countries that accept me up to six months visa-free, countries that accept Paul for up to six months, and countries that are fairly easy for Yoda to immigrate to (aka, no quarantine protocols).
Within ten minutes, the task is done. I present the results to Paul, pointing at only three countries on the list which satisfy all our requirements. They are:
And as you can very well see by the title of this article, we chose Mexico. But wait! Was it really that simple?
Yes, and no.
Paul, still unconvinced, looks at me blankly. I on the other hand immediately fell in love with the idea of Mexico. It was undeniable after that moment that we’d end up anywhere else! I believed in it so strongly, without knowing where we would go or what we would do.
That same night I began searching for “Mexican coastal towns” and found a small community-driven pueblo known as San Pancho.
After reading about it, the urge to go grew stronger and I may or may not have hinted at the idea to Paul at every chance I could. For example, for the first time ever, while playing with Paul’s guitar I just happened to notice the small print which is visible on the inside of the guitar. There, in tiny writing, underneath the “Baby Taylor” marking, was written, “Made in Mexico.”
Did I use that as a sign from the universe that we should move to Mexico? You betcha I did!
When Did We Move to Mexico?
With a little more research and more persuading, the idea to move to Mexico was finally flourishing from a dream into a goal.
So we packed up our apartment in Brussels and drove down to spend our last month in Europe with Paul’s family in Ardèche, France. The month flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to leave Europe.
First, we were going to India for the wedding of an old friend Paul and I met 7 years ago at college. After a few more weeks back in France, we were off to the U.S. to see my family before heading to Mexico.
Our flight departed on Earth Day – April 22nd, 2018
This time moving abroad didn’t feel so far (at least for me) since Mexico is just a short 4-5 hour flight from home. It was both Paul and I’s first time in Mexico and I couldn’t wait to meet the little town of San Pancho, a place we read so much about!
Why Did We Move to Mexico?
Visas and the sunny weather might be why we moved to Mexico, but San Pancho is what made us stay.
We flew into San Pancho’s nearest airport in Puerto Vallarta – a metropolitan coastal city about an hour south of the town. When we arrived, the airport staff were so welcoming and offered us free margaritas. They also thought Paul and I were honeymooners, until we said, “Nope! We’re moving to San Pancho, even though this is our first time in Mexico.”
Many people asked, “Why San Pancho?”
So what made us choose San Pancho? Well, from the few blogs that I previously wrote about it, we discovered Entreamigos.
The Heart of San Pancho – Entreamigos
Entreamigos is a community center that leads by example. Their three foundational pillars of education, environment and community create opportunities for children and adults to learn, create, and share among each other.
Immediately when I read about them, I felt drawn to their work. And since it is a local non-governmental organization (NGO), it connected with my humanitarian background.
Being able to freelance and work independently is also what allows Paul and me to travel and live abroad.
It’s also for this reason that I was able to volunteer at Entreamigos to gain experience with a local organization and to participate in a beautiful, active community without having to worry about finding a job.
Plus, actually working in Mexico would’ve meant visa applications and lots of paperwork. Volunteering is the best way for us to participate in the community!
How Did We Move to Mexico & Why Are We Still Here?
Moving to Mexico, at first, was just a temporary move. After all, we only have only six months at a time on our tourist visas.
So when the time came to exit, we went back to our homes for a while (U.S. and France) so that we could come back and renew our tourist visas.
Our apartment lease was ending a few weeks after we got back in Mexico, so we had to decide whether or not to stay in San Pancho or see if elsewhere in Mexico suited us. We went to visit the Yucatan Penisula, some 2000 km away from San Pancho. We thought we would love it over there, and we did, but not as much as we love living in San Pancho. 🙂
San Pancho has its ups and downs like any other place, but it’s a very special town where people from all over the world come to learn, heal, grow and discover.
So, we are approaching our 1 year anniversary since moving to Mexico. We came because of easy visas and warm weather, we stayed because of the community, the culture, and of course, the cerveza y tacos!
Besides the diversity and rich sense of community here, San Pancho has so much to offer. Did I mention we have the best sunsets over the Pacific ocean? And the beautiful beach? The jungle hikes, local parks, and artisanal market? The tastiest churros and the freshest chocolate/cacao bar?
But all of that will be for another post, of course. I’m just getting started. 🙂
Hi Bri, thank you for your post. I’m in Playa Del Carmen right now, and it’s considerably more expensive than I realized. I’ve been looking at San Pancho and thinking of moving there. How can I find an apartment? Do you have any tips? Also, how can I find a cheap hotel for a week while I look for apartments. I looked on Booking, but unfortunately everything was so expensive. I’d love any help, thank you.
Hi Keely! Yess, San Pancho is getting really expensive. You might look into the San Pancho Hostel that’s near the front of town or post on the SP Facebook group for 1br studios (or even a house to share, if that’s an option). Let me know if you have any more questions!
My wife and I and our two young children (4 and 1.5) are looking to live abroad in Mexico for a year (maybe more). I’m a Musician and Music teacher in the Bay Area, California and my wife is a Science teacher. We are fortunate to be able take a year sabattical from work and do some remote work.
We’ve been looking between Baja – Sea of Cortez side and Nayarit. Everything about San Pancho sounds like what we’re looking for – community oriented, eco minded, mix of expats and Mexicans, by the beach with culture (music festival, circus school for kids!). It also sounds quieter than nearby Sayulita on average (true?)
I’m curious about Arbol de Nios- the local Montessori school – how big is it and what are the ages of the children? Is it all expats or mixed?
Groceries – do you have to drive to PV for them? Farmers market? mini mart?
How’s the water – is there a relatively calm part of the ocean for young kids? Any cenotes or snorkeling in the area?
Anything else to share about living in San Pancho with young kids? Be amazing to connect with a family there with young kids if you’re willing to connect us.
Thanks for any info you can share and thanks for your awesome blog!
Hey Adam! Wow — awesome to hear bout your plans for Mexico. Your family sounds lovely and interesting. San Pancho would be the perfect place for what you’re looking for! Definitely quieter than Sayulita. I actually answer these questions in my ultimate guide to San Pancho so maybe you haven’t peeped through tha, yet! It’s alllll there. But happy to briefly answer here, too. The Montessori school, from what I remember, is mixed with locals and children of expats. Not sure of the ages. I can vouch for the circus school, as I trained there myself and the work they do is just amazing. Groceries, there’s no big supermarket so the mini markets it is. There’s also the fresh market on Tuesdays on the plaza near the beach. The water isn’t calm like in Sayulita. San Pancho is known for its bigger waves for surfers. And unfortunately, no cenotes on this side of the country! For snorkeling, head to the islands just off the Bay of Banderas. If you’d like to connect with other expats with kids, I’d recommend posting in the Facebook group for San Pancho. It’s called San Pancho Communidad Participativa. There’s loads of like-minded families there. You will have an incredible time! We miss living in San Pancho very much. If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for in this complete guide to San Pancho, feel free to get in touch again. All the best! x Bri
Mary Jane Rockwell says
jWe just spent 8 days in La Paz. The people were a so gracious even though we speak very limited Spanish. We are going to put our house up for sale in about 10 days. I found San Pancho on the internet and liked every thing that was about it, but we are 75 and 77 years old. I even found a house for sale that has an elevator…gads! So, now my husband is worried about the humidity being too high and the rule of being so many clicks from the ocean. Can anyone give us honest info on the humidity and the distance from the U.S. border and beaches. I want to make friends where ever I live.
Hi Mary Jane 😊 thanks for writing! How wonderful that you enjoyed La Paz. You would definitely love San Pancho! Here is my complete guide to San Pancho that may help a bit more. The humidity is fairly heavy in San Pancho during the summer months, particularly from June-October (rainy season). We drove from San Pancho all the way to Tennessee, crossing Laredo, Texas. You can read about our Mexico-US border crossing here. As far as beaches go, San Pancho has a great beach and it’s easily within walking distance to most of the homes in San Pancho. We lived at the back of the town once and it took only 20 minutes walking to get to the beach. In other apartments we lived there, it only took 8-10 minutes, which was nice! The expat community in San Pancho is also the best in the area, in my opinion! Hope all that helps! x Bri
Margaret @ Casa PAW says
Hi Mary Jane,
I have a home in San Pancho which is a new casa for me. I have visited SP 6x over the past 5 months. I am blessed, as it’s s a hop, skip and a jump to PVR; for me it’s a 2 1/2 hour Southwest Airlines flight. I will tell you that I spent a lot of time in SP this past summer 2021, and May – September is extremely humid, and it rained a lot at night. The thunder and lightning storms are magnificent! I am on the beach, and the waves are ferociously crashing all night during the storms. I happen to love it!! I also went in October and it was less humid, and again in mid-November, and the weather was glorious!! The humidity is far less now, but still a wee bit. I believe the high season has now begun – some businesses that were closed or limited hours are now fully open – for instance, La Patrona Polo Club is now open, polo is being played, dinner is being served. San Pancho is spectacular; it’s large enough to discover new things but small enough that you’ll get to know locals and you will have a great community feeling there. Also, keep in mind that Mandarina – which is about 15 minutes north is a stunning 800 acre preserve which is developing, but the hotel The One and Only Mandarina is now open, and it’s absolutely spectacular and a must see. The equestrian center Mandarina Experiences is open for horse rides, polo, etc. The restaurant inside the hotel called Alma is a great place to get lunch, but reservations are definitely needed, as it’s a private gated development. There is so much to do around San Pancho, it’s truly a beautiful place to visit, and stay for a long while if possible!
Hello Margaret! It sounds like you’ve had wonderful adventures and experiences in San Pancho! I remember those crazy summer storms. Happy to hear SP is keeping its small-town charm while offering so much to do and see! Thanks so much for writing and commenting 🙂 xx
Christian Robeson says
We love that little town and would move there in a heartbeat. The way things are going in the US right now may push us in that direction. We even looked at houses when we were there in 2017.
It’s definitely become a popular destination for real estate. Right now SP is like what Sayulita was like back in the 90’s – lots of people moving in! I hope you get the chance to go back!
I’m a separated husband and want to go to a place where I can live my life around beautiful sand and people. To retire. Any suggestions for a 53 yr old kid?
Hey Dario! Thanks for writing. Well, from what you said, I think you would love either San Pancho or Lo de Marcos. Both are down-to-earth and lovely. SP is livelier and more diverse with many activities while LDM is a bit quieter. I’d suggest visiting both! They are only about 10-minutes from each other : )
Hey Dario. Russ here in Chicago
Wondering did you make the move
Alan Goldstein says
It only took me one visit to San Pancho and I knew I wanted to retire there. We bought a house there and visit often. We hope to live there full time in a few years.
San Pancho is what everyone calls it but the official name is San Francisco Nayarit Mexico and that is how it appears on maps.
Aww, I wonder if we ever passed each other. Paul and I would love to have a tiny home there to keep in touch with the beautiful community. xx
I will be visiting San Pancho for the month of August to test the waters. I have a million questions about living there, but none of them matter more than whether or not the Internet is reliable. I currently live in Mexico in SMA and there’s great connection. But I miss the beach :). Thanks in advance.
Hey Jennifer! The internet in San Pancho is not the best, but you can upgrade it to Sayulita satellite. It’s expensive, though. Some of our friends living there now have it and it works fairly well. It still probably won’t match the speeds you can get in the city. I think the situation is getting better and more access is being provided, but it takes a while! I think visiting in person in August is a great idea to test the connection (and the waters). 😉 Hope you have a great time! x
Now I want to come visit! Love your stories!
Awwww that would be amazing!!!! Please do xoxo Thanks cc!!!
Steve's Cell says
Lovely story. I met Paul and Brittany the day they arrived at the PV airport!
So glad they are here.
That moment on the beach we realized it was you, a couple months later! Haha 🙂 Thanks, Steve!
Asriel Saporta says
So happy to find another nice blog about our beautiful San Pancho. We have a similar story, and ended up buying land and building a home in San Pancho that we spend our every vacation from our US lives. Being in real estate and construction of course was a plus. We now help people who might have the same goals as us.
That’s wonderful! We will know who to reach out to in the future then haha. Thanks, Asriel!