How to Move Abroad – Part II
This is a follow-up post to the article I wrote for Flexjobs.com, How to Move Abroad and Take Your Job With You.
I am writing this post from the patio of the Casita I am renting with my wife in Ajijic Mexico.
Why are we doing this?
The cost of health insurance, the unstable situation in Washington D.C. related to health insurance, and because we can.
My wife and I are over 60 years of age, self-employed and neither of us is eligible for Medicare yet.
I will cover technology, transportation and this time, the community in this post.
This part of an ongoing series. Please check out the How to Move Abroad and Take Your Job With You Series Page.
Basically, this boils down to 2 types of technologies: mobile phone and Internet connectivity.
I am a long-time AT&T wireless customer, and as a former Lucent employee (the first tech startup I worked for was acquired by Lucent), I still have a hefty discount on any AT&T plan. Rather than buy a separate data plan for Mexico, I upgraded to an unlimited data plan which includes all of Mexico. I will revert back to my original data plan after we return in a couple of weeks.
This has allowed me to take calls seamlessly. Calling U.S. telephone numbers, on the other hand, has been … interesting. If I dial from the keypad to the U.S. based number, it will not work. If I take the same number and enter it into my iPhone Contacts app and dial from there – it works. Very odd, but it works.
It has been very convenient to have access to data of all of my favorite apps on my iPhone. This was in sharp contrast to when I was in Cuenca, Ecuador, where I had only 3G access and the carrier changed every few blocks I walked.
Basically, I had all of the services I would want on my trusty iPhone 6s.
I have had yet another very interesting experience with the Internet in Ajijic.
I admit I am spoiled. I have Google Fiber installed in my condominium in Austin, Texas. Then again how do you define high-speed Internet access?
Ajijic is no different than the previous locations I have traveled to, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Cuenca, Ecuador, the Internet connectivity is years behind what we have in the U.S. To be technical it is VDSL which is a technology I worked with about 15 years ago. It allows Internet traffic to travel over old copper wiring that has been in place for years.
When I arrived at the casita we are renting, I tested the upload and download speeds and what I found was the download speeds of about 4Mb/sec was acceptable but the upload speeds of .2 Mb/sec was abysmal. This will not support a video Skype call and barely a Skype audio call. I am testing to see if it will support a Zoom.us call.
These types of speeds are acceptable for most of your basic Internet functions but they are unacceptable when you want to have a high-quality video call.
My next option to explore is run the video calls over my cell phone connection. AT&T does not let me create a hotspot and share my Internet connection with other devices. Skype will not connect my iPhone – Zoom will – but I have not completely tested that yet.
The concept of working virtual when you move abroad only works if you have a high-speed Internet connection.
Ajijic is very easy to get to from the U.S. compared to the other cities that we are exploring.
Ajijic is a 25-minute taxi ride from the Guadalajara airport. There are many flights from all over the U.S. We had a lot of choices of direct flights from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport to Guadalajara that were all quite reasonably priced.
Ajijic is very walkable if you do not mind walking on cobblestone streets. Taxis and buses are quite accessible and affordable. We have found many expats who live here do own automobiles. However, we have also met many who quite happily live automobile-free which is something we are looking for.
This is one feature that draws many to this community. Expats either want easy ways to travel home to visit family or to return to the U.S. for healthcare.
When you move abroad, transportation back to your home country is absolutely critical.
Ajijic is a much smaller city, than San Miguel de Allende and Cuenca. Only about 15,000 people live here. According to Wikipedia, there are about 1,000 full-time residents and 700 snowbirds who come for the winter months. It is not an international tourist destination and, therefore, most of the tourists are local or are people exploring the area for retirement. The “feel” of the city is very different than San Miguel de Allende or Cuenca. It feels like a community (including the locals) seem to have embraced the expats and what they bring to the community.
The region supports a healthy expat community which varies from 10,000 to 25,000 but many are snowbirds and only live in the region during the winter. Depending on who you listen to there are anywhere between 500,000 to 1 million expats living in Mexico.
Expats in Ajijic and the surrounding towns make up a larger portion of the population than the other locations we visited and, therefore, they have created a community within a community. Plus, best I can tell, the expats coming here in large part cannot afford to build million dollar villas but rather have much more modest abodes. These homes are still quite opulent when compared to the locals abodes but nothing like I experienced in places like San Miguel de Allende where multimillion-dollar compounds were not unusual.
We will be traveling to Boquete Panama early in 2018.
I also want to do a column on finances when you move abroad but continuing to do work back in the U.S.
I would really appreciate any comments on whether you find this useful.
To read the rest check out How to Move Abroad and Take Your Job With You Series Page.Marc Miller