As many of you my followers and subscribers may know, I am undertaking a series of trips to and around Mexico to determine the best location for my #BLAXIT. I am traveling all around this incredibly beautiful country to find a relocation home as I pursue an authentic, unapologetic, and free existence in this world. I will chronicle all my stops here in this blog.
I am evaluating each place I visit to determine whether it is somewhere I can settle for at least 6 to 18 months after my BLAXIT from the United States of America (aka “Murica”).
Originally I thought 12 months to start but I am thinking a shorter stint in a place initially may be best. As I always say “you are not a tree”, if a place doesn’t work for me I am pre-emptively giving myself the room and option to move to another destination.
I will be evaluating places on the following 10 factors.
- Short distance to the nearest International Airport; and direct flight to Washington, DC area or South Florida airport in the US available.
- The temperature and climate is stable. It is not excessively hot or cold majority of months of the year. Low to No Hurricanes or earthquakes risk
- Fresh Fruit and vegetables are easy to access and find.
- Cost of Living is low. Average 1-2 BR Rent falls between $400 -$1000 per month in secure building, 5–10-minute walk to the beach, downtown, gym, pool, ocean view (if in beach town), A/C, very hot bath water (smile), washer/dryer/dishwasher in unit)
- Stable Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
- Creature comforts like Walmart, Costco, Starbucks present or nearby
- Uber is an option
- Neighborhoods are walkable and safe for walking alone
- There is a black expat community accessible to me
- It Feels Like Home
Some of these factors I have noted may be of zero importance to many but they are of critical importance to me so as I travel this is the lens I will apply to each town or city.
The cities/towns I have or will visit in Mexico are:
Playa del Carmen
San Miguel de Allende
In future blog posts I will share my impressions of the following cities:
· San Miguel de Allende
After my visits are complete, I will share which town, if any, I selected as my relocation destination.
I have devised a Five Point Rating scale that I will apply to the towns I visit going forward.
5 – Perfect (all of the factors are present)
4 – Damn Near Perfect (8 or more factors are present)
3 – Almost Perfect (7 or more factors are present)
2 – Probably Not (6 factors or less are present)
1 – Hell No (3 factors or less are present)
Here are my ratings of the Mexican cities I have already visited based on this rating scale:
Playa del Carmen 2
Puerto Vallarta 4
I will be remote working throughout, I mean somebody’s got to pay for this stuff, right? I am visiting these towns and cities to get a sense of the feel and rhythm of each place. Along the way, I will collect information about each city, what makes each place interesting and unique. But most importantly I will be allowing myself to absorb how each place makes me feel.
If you have been following me you know that I am in relentless pursuit of my personal freedom. I have explained all the reasons why in prior post but if you are new (welcome) please check out my first post “America: I am breaking up with you” and “America is a Gilded Cage.”
I want to preface my comments by stating that these are my opinion and views. Other bloggers and residents of a town or city, may differ from me on many things so keep in mind that these are just my views. My trips are being financed by me. I am not being sponsored by any person or entity and therefore there is no one or entity influencing the views shared here.
I visited Ajijic, on Lake Chapala from January 24-31, 2021. The town of Ajijic is located on Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Lake Chapala is the largest natural lake in Mexico. There are multiple lake-front and lake-side communities around Lake Chapala and Ajijic is one of most popular (and affluent). The lake is surrounded by picturesque mountains and sierras. Multiple species of birds live in and on the lake. You can easily spot hummingbirds flitting about in the morning and throughout the day and Great Egrets and Pelicans chilling on the lake.
In addition to Ajijic, there are several towns and cities along the coast of the Lake including San Antonio, Jocotepec, La Palma, Tecomatlan, and several others. However, the town most popular with Westerners is Ajijic, which is where I stayed during my visit. My view of the Lake Chapala area is completely based on my stay in Ajijic so for those considering the Lake Chapala region as a relocation destination, please keep this in mind.
The town of Ajijic is popular with the Western ex-pat community comprised primarily of older White Americans and Canadian citizens who have retired to the Lake Chapala area in significant numbers. What attracts many ex-pats to the Lake Chapala area is the weather. It is often coined as “the eternal spring.” Temperatures generally hover between 75-80 during the day and in the 50s at night. Because of the mild climate, Ajijic has attracted a large number of retirees and it is estimated that over 30,000 foreign residents now reside there and the largest concentration of ex-pats are located in the state of Jalisco and specifically in Ajijic, on Lake Chapala.
For more on the history of Lake Chapala, check out this link.
The closest airport to Lake Chapala is Guadalajara. As I shared in my blog post about Guadalajara, the GDL international airport does not have direct flights to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or the Washington, DC area, but there are multiple direct flights between GDL and major US cities like Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. So flying through one of those cities I can get directly to South Florida or the DC area in 6-8 hours depending on the route. The GDL airport is about a 45-minute drive from Lake Chapala. I paid a private driver $500 pesos to drive me there for an early am flight. I probably could’ve used Uber and paid less but due to the time of departure (3:00 am to catch a 6:00 am flight), a private driver was most convenient for me.
During my stay in Ajijic, I was a five-minute walk from Ajijic Centro at an Airbnb. You can check out a brief video Airbnb tour by visiting my Youtube Channel. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!
Lake Chapala and Ajijic in particular has a very suburban feel to it. While it is a Mexican Town, it is clearly been colonialized or gentrified (you pick which term suits you best). Of all the places I have visited including tourist centers, it felt the least “Mexican” to me in terms of the quality of the Mexican food, and just the feel of the place.
The Ajijic Malecon is beautiful. Although it was taped off and supposedly “closed” I noted that many of the locals were going around the tape and still walking along the lake sooooo I did the same. It is a pretty promenade and a nice place to just sit and take in the Lake. The lake itself is not particularly pretty like Bacalar. It is clearly polluted and I don’t think people swim in it and I do hope fish that is served to humans is not caught from it. But it is nice to sit and look at the various birds. I spotted a Pelican and several Great Egrets on the lake during my stay.
The age demographic of ex-pats in Lake Chapala skews older. And by older I mean that the median age is probably closer to 70 years old. While there are people moving there who are younger (50’s and 60’s) a majority of the ex-pats I saw were, white and close to age 70 or older.
What I loved
The biggest appeal of Lake Chapala is the climate. The average temperature while I was in Lake Chapala was about 75 degrees. Over the course of the year the temperatures in Lake Chapala is usually from 42°F to 88°F and is rarely below 35°F or above 93°F. The warmest weather is from Late April to early June. It truly is eternally Spring there. It was sunny with almost clear blue skies every day that I was there. There was never a drop of rain and while on certain days it was warmer than others, it was never hot. I was told that in the summer months it is warmer but it is rare for the temperatures to go above 90 degree or for it to get colder at night than in the 50’ to 60’s.
There is little history of hurricanes in Lake Chapala but there are tremors infrequently felt there as it is in Jalisco.
Proximity to Guadalajara and Creature Comforts
Another appeal of Ajijic and the entire Lake Chapala region is its proximity to Guadalajara (GDL) which puts its close to Costco and Home Depot but you do have to drive to the GDL area to get to those. Though there is not a Starbucks in Lake Chapala there are multiple American-style coffee shops and Walmart, Office Depot, and lots of grocery stores. Because it’s close to Guadalajara, access to the artisan wares Tlaquepaque is known for is just 40 minutes away. I found the gift shops in Ajijic to be overpriced so it would be advisable to drive to the GDL area to purchase artisan wares at better prices.
Ajijic is easy to navigate and transportation is relatively affordable.
Ajijic is easy to navigate on foot though the sidewalks are uneven, and the streets in Ajijic are primarily cobblestone and treacherous to the ankles! Comfortable shoes are a must in Lake Chapala. I stuck to my Crocs Flip Flops and Nike Air Maxes while there. Nothing else made sense. I took an Uber to Lake Chapala from GDL and I was told Uber operates in Lake Chapala but I didn’t have cause to take one while there as everywhere I went was walkable. The one time I wanted to call an Uber the service was so bad in the area I couldn’t use the app (see my comments on WIFI below).
I paid about $470 pesos for an Uber transfer from GDL to Lake Chapala (45-minute drive). I thought it was pretty reasonable considering the distance. A similar transfer the DC area from DC to BWI cost on average $65-70 USD so much higher in comparison.
Affordable food and access to fresh vegetables
There was easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Ajijic at small grocery stores in the Centro area. There was also easy access to supermarkets like Soriana and Walmart. Ubereats also works in Lake Chapala.
See below (Things I didn’t Love) for my comments on restaurant options.
Minimal Mosquitoes and other biting insects
That being said, I did not experience a SINGLE bite of any kind in Lake Chapala. I was told during the period when it rains in the summer, mosquitos do come out. But there was no need for me to tap my arsenal of mosquito repellent while there. I still recommend bringing some if you are there during rainy season.
An errant small lizard did run across the wall of my Airbnb and scare the mess out of me but I choose to believe that was an isolated incident (smile).
Spanish Fluency is Not Required
I could get by in Lake Chapala with minimal Spanish. Because of the number of Ex-pats many people there speak English. While I would still learn Spanish, getting by day to day would be easier than say Guadalajara.
Black Expat Community
There is group of black women who have retired to Lake Chapala and they are FANTASTIC. They have a group on Facebook called Sistahs of Lake Chapala. If you are interested in moving to the “Lakeside” as a black woman, I would tell you to join that group right away. They have set up a wonderful support system for each other and black visitors to the area. For obvious reasons many of the expats including the members of the group are staying in to ride out the pandemic so there was not an opportunity to meet many of them besides one of my favorite black sister expats — the fantastic Queen D. Michele aka @Considerations2020 on Instagram. You can check out my YouTube channel to view My Conversation with Queen D. Michele.
The reality is that the black ex-pat presence in Lake Chapala is small. Depending on one’s sensibilities the absence of Melanin could be a significant challenge but it is something to be aware of if having access to a black ex-pat community is important for you. I don’t think I saw a single black male for the entire time I was in the Lake Chapala area so that is another thing to be aware of.
Safety was not a Major Concern
Ajijic is considered a relatively safe town and I found that to be true. I walked several places alone at night from dinner in Centro and I never felt unsafe. I will note that everyone had a lot of security around their homes. Most ex-pats in Ajijic live behind high walls with cameras, floodlights, etc or they live in gated communities. They live among but apart from the locals. I found that telling and interesting, to say the least.
What I don’t love
Dining was just Blah
Centro Ajijic has MANY restaurant options, especially dine-in options. But the quantity did not reflect quality in my experience. I simply was not impressed with the dining options in Centro Ajijic. Now to be fair, many, many restaurants were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, the food I ate in Ajijic was consistently bad to just ok. I did not have a single memorable meal while I was there. Not one. Much of the food tasted very “Americanized” and the offerings and quality in terms of Mexican food were disappointing. Most of the time when I asked about restaurants what folks mentioned to me were often Italian or steakhouses. I didn’t come to Mexico to eat Italian or steak so I opted to try some small places in the Centro and on the Lakefront and they just weren’t very good. I did find an Argentinean restaurant that was decent, not great. I just did not have a memorably great meal in Lake Chapala as I have had in just about every other town I have visited so far.
Wi-Fi Reception was Abysmal
Besides Tulum, I experienced the MOST frustration with WIFI in Ajijic. It is the only place where my workday was actually disrupted due to the poor reception that not only impacted WIFI but my phone service as well. My Airbnb host told me that WIFI is an issue in the area generally. I am not sure whether that is true, but I will tell you, the reception was very problematic for the entire week there.
Crowds despite COVID-19
While there are definitely COVID-19 restrictions in place and ex-pats in the area are taking them quite seriously, I noticed significant crowds of local Mexicans on Sunday when I arrived and on Saturday the following weekend. Many of them seemed to be less inclined to wear masks or to not crowd into restaurants and bars. Lake Chapala is clearly a weekend destination for middle and upper-middle-class Mexicans and who can blame them. It’s a beautiful part of their country and they do come and spend time there on the weekends. However, the streets are narrow, and many of the restaurants are small. The gathering of people in such close quarters gave me pause and I retreated away from Centro Ajijic back to my Airbnb to avoid the crowds.
Ajijic feels very familiar but not in a good way
I am bald, black, and beautiful, and, I draw attention everywhere I go but Lake Chapala was the one place where I was stared at and not in a welcoming way by some, not all, White ex-pats. On the other hand, local Mexican people were just as welcoming and kind as they have been everywhere else I have been in Mexico. I also met ex-pats who live in Ajijic who were wonderfully welcoming and kind. But the staring really gave me pause.
Rating Score: 2
Overall, I have to honestly say I did not like Ajijic very much and it is not a place I would consider for relocation. Would I come back for a weekend? Yes. I met some really cool and nice people there and so I would come back if only to hang out for a weekend but I do not think I would be happy living there.
Ajijic is on the average side for rent in Mexico. I researched the cost of living in Ajijic and it is Medium. Ajijic rent is 76% lower than the city I live in currently in the United States. You can review the cost of living by checking out Numbeo and Expatistan.
The Single Girl Factor. The Single Girl Factor is my evaluation of my dating prospects in a city based on my use of online dating apps while traveling. There is nothing scientific about it. I simply utilize dating apps in the area and see how many matches or hits or solicitations I receive.
Applying the Single Girl Factor, I do not think I could enjoy being single in Ajijic. The demographics would not work in my favor. I would have to travel to GDL or vice versa if I wanted to actively date.
My Next Mexican City review will be about my visit to Oaxaca City in Oaxaca State. Stay Tuned!