Queen Michele was only 52 and living in Atlanta, Georgia when she retired from teaching school for 27 years. Once she realized that she wouldn’t be able to live comfortably in the United States with her meager pension, she got to work researching affordable places to retire. That’s when she discovered Ajijic.
What’s unique about Michele’s story is that she is a single woman and made the move alone, never having been to Mexico before.
Says Michele, “I’m finding that more and more single women are doing the same thing I did, and even more are considering it. This is what inspired me to write a book about my experience moving to Mexico. Once I had proved to myself that I could write, I saw how I could help women do what I did, adding lots of useful information.”
In December 2017, with her packed suitcases and Mexican permanent residency card in hand, she headed to Lakeside on a one-way ticket.
Not wanting to waste any time, she immediately began making friends, which was her intention.
Says Michele, “I arrived and got busy immersing myself in the community.”
The first friend she made was at a bus stop. The next she met in the plaza, and others at a meet & greet and on hikes with Ajijic’s hiking group.
“One month after landing, I was celebrating my 54th birthday on the rooftop patio of El Barco Restaurant with 30 of my new friends.”
Age-wise, her new friends run the gamut, with only a handful being around her age.
“In 20 years I’ll be 75,” she says. “At Lakeside I’m hanging out with 75-year-olds, which would have been unheard in the U.S.
“When I started hiking with the hiking group, there were folks 10, 15, 20 years my senior who were killing me while trekking up and down those paths and boulders. These folks continue to inspire me.”
Michele managed to locate two Lakeside residents to help her publish her 114-page book, “Considerations: A guide for moving abroad.” Each of the book’s ten chapters covers a different “consideration,” such as “consider healthcare” and “consider finances.”
“If I had a big enough pension,” she says, “I probably wouldn’t have moved to Mexico. Having lived in Detroit, Las Vegas and Atlanta, I didn’t consider living anywhere else in the U.S. since nowhere seemed to be affordable.
“Now that I’m at Lakeside I’m happy to be here. I love the active expat community and the fact that I can live on around US$1,100 a month. That would have just covered my rent in Atlanta.”
That fact that she can afford to live on so little by U.S. standards is why Michele has been featured twice on Jerry Brown Travels – the popular YouTube channel run by locals Jerry and Lori Brown – after she had been living at Lakeside for only four months.
“The first segment of my interview received over 34,600 views,” says Michele, “which is apparently the highest in their channel’s history.”
Michele makes her yearly trek to the United States from mid-April to June, to visit family, with stops in Detroit, Las Vegas, Salem (Oregon) and Atlanta.
“When I told my kids I was considering a move to Mexico, they encouraged me to do it. They know I’m a free spirit, and are proud of what I’ve done. My mother, on the other hand, was dealing with major health issues and didn’t know I moved for almost a year. I thought it best to hold off telling her. Once she recovered, she got a Facebook account, at 82 years old, and I then had to come clean.”
She continues: “When a friend of mine from Atlanta reminds me that I’m surrounded by white gringos, I tell her that here at Lakeside we’re all on the same page. We’ve settled here for a better life, and one that doesn’t come with a high price tag. I don’t see any racism here, and if I do, it’s certainly not as blatant as in the U.S.”
Deeply imbedded in her new community, Michele has a long list of activities that keeps her engaged, including various meditation groups and a class at a local church on creative aging. She will be giving a talk during a book launch in February, and books will be available for purchase.
“Since moving to Lakeside I feel as though I’ve awakened,” she says. “I’ve found my purpose coming here and want to continue writing. I’m thinking that my next book will be on ‘conscious living’. Who knows, maybe I’ll teach a course on that topic one day – after I’ve written the book.”