Author Archives: Melissa

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is a lovely city of about 200,000 full-time residents in the high desert of central Mexico. (Sorry, folks, nowhere near a beach!) It’s nestled in the mountains and averages about 75 degrees year round. It’s also the place Jay and I want to start our travel adventures.

Why SMA?

  • First, climate. I live in the foothills of the Cascades; I need to ease into this warm, sunny thing. (LOL, as I told friends about our plans, every one said, “You know it’s sunny there, right?” Yes, I know.)
  • Second, I have a friend who owns a condo there. She told me enough about it to convince me that it’s the kind of place I would like.
  • Third, the locals are supposedly really welcoming, but there’s still a large population of ex-pats. We’re NOT moving to Mexico to hang out with Americans, but as we get our feet under us in our first foreign country, we will feel better if there are people we can ask for help. (And that ex-pat community has also been very welcoming!)
  • Fourth, fast internet. SMA has what we need to work reliably.

All that sounded good on paper, but we hadn’t actually BEEN to SMA. I, in fact, hadn’t even been to Mexico before! So we sent the dogs to “camp” for a week, and we took a vacation in SMA to check it out.

We took a red-eye from Seattle in order to arrive in Queretaro, the closest city, during the day. Queretaro is a modern city of 5 million people, but we didn’t realize that on the way in. We skirted the city and saw only a run-down industrial area. Jay was concerned when he saw it, thinking that was what SMA would be like.

He was wrong.

SMA is an UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2013 Conde Nast Traveler selected SMA as the “Number 1 City in the World.” It’s a colonial city thriving with art and culture. And it’s breath-taking. I’m going to stop rambling and just post some pictures from our vacation. Enjoy!

View from the AirBNB we called home.

The jacaranda tress were in bloom everywhere!

Our accommodations were stunning.

Our lovely patio

The streets are charming. This is right down the road from where we stayed.

El centro — the downtown area.

Walking toward the jardin

La parroquia — the church at the heart of the town

Dinner at a rooftop restaurant in el centro

La parroquia at night from the rooftop restaurant

 

Can’t help it — this cracked us up.

After spending some time in SMA, our verdict is that the city is perfect for us. We absolutely can’t wait to move there for a few months!

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Before we move: Researching the options

Our hope is to move to Mexico — specifically to San Miguel de Allende. (More on that choice in a separate post.) The current US government administration *cough* seems determined to screw that up, though, so we’re creating a back-up plan. The goal isn’t just “Mexico.” It’s to move somewhere different and immerse ourselves in a different culture (for a few months at a time).

Moving to a new country requires a LOT of research and preparation. My first step was to create a spreadsheet where I could collect the information I was gathering. The high-level subjects I’m researching are:

  • Visa
  • Moving
  • Vehicles
  • Finance (banking)
  • Health
  • Pets
  • Housing
  • Phones
  • Internet
  • Taxes
  • Receiving packages/mail after moving
  • Miscellaneous

We have TONS of subcategories under each of those. I have great resources, though, so I’m actually pretty relaxed about the whole thing. There are several groups on FaceBook devoted to moving to Mexico, and the people have been really helpful.

Interestingly, my husband has been super chill about the whole thing. He’s… change averse… and so I thought this process would freak him out. However he has turned it over to me, and as long as I can answer his questions, he is happy.

We are, of course, doing more than amassing research. We have gotten our passports up-to-date. We have started the visa process for Canada (Nova Scotia — our back-up location), and we have a trip planned to San Miguel de Allende in March. Oh, and we’re studying Spanish.

We’re also working on a plan for getting rid of all our STUFF. We purchased a new car, got rid of Jay’s Prius, and will rehome my Outback next month. *sob* We’re going to buy a small trailer and whatever we can fit in it is ALL we’re taking with us!

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Before we move: Remodeling the house

We own just shy of 10 acres, about 40% cleared and fenced for horses, 60% heavily wooded. The house is ~2400 square feet, and there’s a barn and graveled dry lot.

That was our house when we moved in, back in 2004. I’d post a pic now, but I’m not ready. We have to do a LOT of work to get it ready to sell. I’ll post pics when it’s done though!

Remodeling the house to sell is a necessity, if we want top dollar. In order to do it, though, we have to get a loan against the equity in the house. A big loan — bigger than we want to afford long-term, which means once we pulled the trigger, the sale was a done deal. We couldn’t change our minds and keep the house.

We pulled the trigger in December, built an exhaustive list (with the help of our realtor), and hired our long-term contractor, Todd, to do the work. He started the work this month, with a goal of getting it on the market April 1. There’s a lot to do!

One of the biggest impacts of pulling this trigger was that Jay and I (and the dogs) had to move to a rental house. Could we have stayed? Sure, but it would have been hard on everyone, especially the dogs, and it would have slowed Todd down considerably. We want fast, so we moved out.

We lucked into a 6-month lease on an adorable house in Fall City, about 30 minutes away. The owner of the rental house is in college, and it just looking for someone to rent while she’s out of the state. We are hoping to be heading to Mexico by the end of May, so this was perfect. The rental house is small, but it has an awesome yard for the dogs, so we’ll make it work.

Jay and I have loved living in Duvall, and we love this house. Over the years we’ve made improvements that made it comfortable and OURS. We always knew, though, that we couldn’t grow old here. There’s too much upkeep, and the plethora of stairs make it a house for young people. I thought I would be more sad about letting it go, but the push into the rental house was so quick and busy that I didn’t have to miss the old house.

If there’s any regret, it’s that we didn’t get a chance to finish the remodel in a way that WE would have wanted. This last push will make big changes, specifically with the purpose of selling it, not to make us happy.

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Ending 2016 and looking forward

[Note to readers: I got very, very behind on updating this blog. I missed some very important events that I am going back and documenting now — and setting the dates back as well. I’m actually writing this post at the end of March, 2017. ]

This has been a long year, and I will not be sad to see it end. If I could figure out how to kick it in the ass on the way out, I’d be standing at the ready. Of course, I think I’d be in a long line. This hasn’t been a good year for very many people, I don’t think.

In January of this year, I had three dogs and three horses. Now I have two dogs — one new — and one horse. Sort of.

We lost Miss Guin back in January. My darling mare. She had an incredible retirement, and it was her time, so although it was sad, it was understandable.

I didn’t lose Mr. Blue — not in the permanent sense. Instead I gifted him to Heidi, the young woman who has adored him for many, many years. He’s in a good place with someone who loves him.

Rosa is our “sort of” horse. She’s an interesting story. We got her a couple of years ago with the plan to let her grow up, and then get her trained and rehomed. Unfortunately, she got hurt just a day or so after we got her. Turns out that injury is going to prevent her from being ridden.

We sent her for training back in April. By the end of June, he trainer had to throw in the towel. The lasting pain in that injury made Rosa potentially explosive and unsafe to ride. We are paying her board and looking for a permanent companion home for her.

We lost my curly boys, Pax and River, back in July and March respectively. The pain of that loss still hits me, still brings me to tears. Pax was an old man, yes, but River was not. River was lost much, much too soon.

Miss Pflouff, I’m happy to say, is still with us. She turned 8 this year. She has some issues with her shoulders, but she’s still trucking right along. We adore her.

And of course, there’s our newest boy, Mr. Polo. He has settled in and become a much loved member of our family. We missed having a curly boy.

I started a new job back in June, and it has gone incredibly well! I honestly couldn’t have asked for better. It turned out to be a blessing not to get the management position. I’ve excelled in the position they gave me, and I have terrific (new) leadership.

I’ve spent the last couple of months heads down on a big project that rolled out at the beginning of December. It went FABULOUSLY, and I’ve gotten nothing but congratulations since then. I really, really love working for this company!

The big news is what’s coming in 2017. Jay and I have decided to move… to Mexico.

Okay, sort of. We realized that he and I are BOTH working remotely, and that we’re tied only to US time zones. So we’ve decided to sell our house here, and “snowbird” outside of the country. We’re not moving permanently (or even officially, really). We’re going to keep an address here — just not a big house and 10 acres — and we’re going to pop back and forth, living in different places south of the border for 6 months or maybe up to a year at a time.

We want to travel and explore the world, but we don’t want to be TOURISTS. We want to immerse ourselves in other cultures. I’ve been planning to quit work in a few years and explore by boat, but we realized that since we’re both remote workers, we don’t have to wait.

We can’t do the boat thing right now because we need fast, reliable internet for our jobs. So we have to move and live on land, but that’s okay. This will be a good opportunity for up to get a jump start on what we want to do in retirement — and hopefully by selling the house, we can even save some money!

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Introducing: Polo!

[Note to readers: I got very, very behind on updating this blog. I missed some very important events that I am going back and documenting now — and setting the dates back as well. I’m actually writing this post at the end of March, 2017. ]

And then this happened!

Introducing Bright Explorer Tornado Beta, the son of International Champion and World Dog Show Champion Roughyeds Poseidon. His call name is Polo, and he’s a 16-month-old curly coated retriever, who joined our family yesterday.

Polo has been living with a field trainer, but he wasn’t maintaining his weight there. Unfortunately, his owner has intact females and lacks the facilities to keep everyone separated. So Polo has come to live with me (and remaining intact, so his very desirable genes won’t be lost).

He’s performance bred, so we’re going to try out lots of fun activities. I’ve been really grieving the loss of my curly boys, so I’m super excited to have him and ever-so-grateful to Kari Swarztrauber for giving us this wonderful opportunity.

Jay and I left bright and early yesterday morning to drive the 250 miles to southern Washington to pick up Polo. The drive down was gorgeous and stress-free, and then we had a TERRIFIC time meeting Kari, Polo, and Kari’s lovely curly ladies. (And we had THE most delicious lunch. Kari grew everything herself, and it was marvelous. Her garden is just fabulous.)

Mr. Polo was sweet but reserved. Once we got in the car to drive home, he was pretty certain he had been dognapped! Jay sat in the back seat with him, which was good. It gave him a chance to start to trust one of us. We carefully regimented a procedure for opening and closing doors, putting on his leash, etc., since we didn’t want to risk his bolting away. He was obviously stressed and scared, but still very kind and biddable.

We stopped several times, giving him a chance to potty and decompress a bit, but 250 miles is a long time in the car. He didn’t sleep… laid down only off and on, and only for a minute or two at a time. For the last 100 miles, he was DONE. He wanted out.

When we got home, we put Pflouff on leash, intending to introduce them out on the driveway. NOPE. Polo was done. He growled and made it clear that he couldn’t handle more of that tonight. So we didn’t push it. Poor Miss Pflouff had to spend the night upstairs.

We took Polo down to the basement (where our bedroom is). Jay set up a crate for him, thinking he might be more comfortable there. He hasn’t set foot in it, though. He got on the bed and settled in Jay’s spot. I scooted over to the dog bed, so he could be between us without being “forced” to snuggle. He was still up and down a lot throughout the night, but he didn’t get off the bed, and he eventually fell asleep.

This morning, he was MUCH better. He played eagerly with us, both with and without toys. We played tug, and we threw a ball. Oh, and of course, we introduced him to Pflouff. It took a little while, because it took her time to understand that she needed to be calm and gentle, but now they are living together free and relaxed.

We’re going to be pretty low key and relaxed for a while to give him a chance to destress and adjust. He has a lot of exploring to do, and we want him to bond with us. Right now, Jay is his preferred dognapper. But as I write this, Jay is doing the grocery shopping, and Polo is lying on the floor at my feet.

We love him dearly and are so grateful to have him here.

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