Why Ajijic? Cost of Living

Another reason for choosing Ajijic: the low cost of living.

Our final list of candidates included both Sayulita, on the Pacific coast north of Puerta Vallarta, and San Miguel de Allende, a couple hours north of Mexico City. But our research indicated that the cost of living in Ajijic was lower than either of those locations. We’ve seen 4 bedroom houses for rent in Ajijic for under $800 USD per month, while we couldn’t touch that in other locations for less than $1500 USD.

Ajijic is also a walkable town, with great public transportation, meaning we don’t need to purchase a vehicle. And school tuition is less in Ajijic than either of the alternative locations. It all added up to a place where we could actually live on our budget, with a little left over.

Why Ajijic? Weather

Next on why we chose Ajijic: the weather.

While we can’t speak from experience, we’re told that the weather in Ajijic is like spring all year round. Lows in the 50s, highs in the 70s to low 80s. Lake Chapala is on the high plateau of central Mexico, at about the same elevation as Denver, a mile high. Plus, it’s surrounded by mountains.

From the Wikipedia entry for Ajijic:

The Chapala Lake basin has a year-round average temperature of about 72 °F (22 °C). Due to Ajijic’s tropical latitude, the sun is warm year round; due to its relatively high elevation, it is seldom unpleasantly hot or humid. The rainy season begins in June and lasts until October with an average rainfall of approximately 34 inches (860 mm). Even during the rainy season, precipitation generally occurs during the evening or at night.

December and January are the coolest months and May is the hottest, just before the onset of the rainy season. Overall, there is very little temperature variation year round: daytime highs in January are around 75 °F (24 °C); daytime highs in May are around 80 °F (27 °C) to 90 °F (32 °C).

Sounds good to us.

Update on 17 July 2016:

After being here for a week, I can say that the weather is pretty incredible. There’s a steady light breeze of cool air blowing through the house when the windows are open. The sun is definitely hot, being almost directly overhead in early afternoon—at over 5,000 ft elevation, I can feel the UV rays on my scalp. But move into the shade, and immediately the breeze cools you off.

We’re told it’s the rainy season, but it has only rained overnight. Even so, it doesn’t feel humid. It feels pleasant all day long.

Why Ajijic? Proximity

This is the first of a series of posts talking about why we chose to move to Ajijic. First up: the location.

When we were planning to move to Iquitos, we began bracing ourselves for the travel. The quickest path from PDX to Iquitos was 3 flights taking nearly 20 hours. The cheaper tickets had longer layovers, pushing it to 24 hours or more. And cheaper still wasn’t cheap, with round trip airfare running $1,400 each. We were going to be spending over $10,000 on airfare alone over the course of the year.

Mexico, as it turns out, is much closer. Flights to Guadalajara are more frequent, quicker, and far less expensive. I can have breakfast with the family, hop on a flight and be into my office in time to tell the staff good night. Round trip tickets can be found for a touch over $500. Best of all, Alaska Airlines flies to GDL, making it relatively easy for me to maintain my status in their mileage plan.

Plus, Alaska doesn’t penalize you for booking one-way. A round trip ticket costs the same as two one-way legs. So we bought four one-way tickets to GDL for the whole family for under $1,000.

Share Our Adventure!

We’ve decided to spend a year living in Ajijic, Mexico, on the shores of Lake Chapala. We want our kids (age 7 & 11) to experience immersion in another culture, and this is where we felt led to live. Larry will telecommute to his job, the kids will attend a bilingual school, and Angela will hang out and work on her Spanish.

Our family is excited, and we’d like to share that with you! Here you can read our story, and some of the reasons we chose Ajijic. In this blog we’ll share our discoveries of life in Mexico, and we welcome you to join us in this unfolding adventure together.


Headed to Mexico

Well, it’s really happening. We’re moving to Mexico!

I just bought 4 one-way tickets to Guadalajara, and we’ve reserved a house through Airbnb for the first 3 weeks. That should give us enough time to scout Ajijic and find a place we can afford with a 12-month lease. We don’t know which school the kids will be in, and once we enroll them we’d like to find someplace walking distance.

We’ll be leaving life as we know it on July 12.

Iquitos Scouting Trip

Angela and I are back from our scouting trip to Iquitos. The trip was a success, in that we discovered this situation won’t work for us. Angela isn’t prepared to live in the more primitive conditions, and the school isn’t going to work for our kids. But the clear showstopper was simply network speed: the Internet wasn’t nearly fast enough for me to work remotely. As the largest city in the world without roadway access—you get there by air or boat—there is no natural path to lay phone wire or fiber optic cable. So all telecommunications are by satellite or microwave, meaning that there is a severe bandwidth constraint in the city. The mobile phone companies all had “4G LTE” plastered everywhere, but I could never get better than 3G on my phone. And the fastest wired Internet speed I tested was 700kbps, or about 15% of what I need to work remotely.

We loved the team at People of Peru Project, and support them wholeheartedly. We were all disappointed that we won’t be joining them for the year. But God has a plan for us, and I’m excited to see where He’s going to lead.

Working on Spanish

My Spanish continues to improve, bit by bit. Last month I spent an evening at Campestre Hispana, or Spanish Campmeeting at Oregon Conferece. I really enjoyed singing contemporary worship songs in Spanish, with the words up on the screen. My brain mostly processed whether I should know the word or not, not what each word actually meant. But it was really powerful to experience that, singing with hundreds of other worshipers who serve the same God.

Last Sabbath I visited Vancouver Spanish church. This was definitely a more intimidating experience, because there were only maybe a hundred people at the service, and there was no way to hide my poor Spanish. But they were very gracious and showed great hospitality. I found I could follow the general flow of the various presenters at Sabbath School and church, and was able to find a few of the scripture references as they were announced.

There were several kids there who I know from school, classmates of my kids. It was fun going up to them during the greeting time and seeing their shocked look as I said, “Feliz Sábado!” (happy Sabbath).

I left church with my head hurting. But here’s my new mantra: Si mi cerebro no duele, entonces no estoy intentando lo suficiente. If my head doesn’t hurt, I’m not trying hard enough.

Ready to Scout Iquitos

I just bought our tickets for Angela and I to visit Iquitos this November. This is a scouting trip, to better understand our living situation and arrange for Angela’s volunteer activities. The only showstopper that we can think of is Internet access: if I can’t get reliable high-speed Internet access there, then I can’t do my job, which means that location is out. In that case, we’ll head back to Lima early and see if we can’t find somewhere for Angela to volunteer there.

Learning Spanish

Once we seriously started looking at moving to Latin America, I started learning Spanish. Before I started, the only Spanish I knew came from Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Taco Bell commercials. “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!”

It’s been about a year now that I’ve been studying. I’ve been using the free Duolingo app for iOS, which game-ifies the learning process. A couple of weeks ago, I found that I could read the Spanish page in the Gleaner, albiet v-e-r-y slowly. On the whole page, I only had to look up four or five words. So while I still have a lot to learn, I feel pretty good about my progress.

Then last Tuesday I went to a Spanish conversation group at the library. Yikes, I know nothing. I have a ton of work to do to tune my ear to hear it. The teacher asked if it would help for her to speak more slowly, but that wouldn’t do any good. I’m just way too slow. I picked up about 1 word out of 10, but I’m sure I know far more vocab than that. I just need to tune my ear to understanding.

About half an hour into it, I quit trying, and just let it wash over me. By the end, I was actually picking up bits and pieces. But my brain was fried. After supper, I found myself playing with a Rubik’s cube just to balance my brain.

Man, I’ve got a lot of work to do in 10 months. I need to build a baseline in Spanish just as a starting point to actually learn it while we’re in Peru.

Moving Overseas

Let’s kick this blog off. We’re moving overseas! It looks like we’ll be headed to Iquitos, Peru, to help out at a girls home with the People of Peru Project. I’m so excited, and I think my family is finally warming to the idea. We’re still over a year away from our target departure date, but we’ve got a lot of preparation to do. The thing requiring the most time: learning Spanish.