Getting close: We leave July 28

We leave for Mexico in just over a week.

Oh my God.

We leave for Mexico in just over a week.

We’re making a final push to get rid of our stuff — and we’re doing well. We’re donating most of it, but a few “specialty” items, like my saddle, my dog grooming table, and Jay’s games, we’re taking the time to sell or rehome.

A friend’s son has been helping us move stuff. We’ve been loading it in the trailer, and then driving it to the donation sites. This gives me practice driving the trailer. I can tell you that driving a loaded trailer is MUCH easier than driving an empty one. I can also tell you that backing up sucks worms.

I have a motley to-do list for this week:

  • Sell my saddle, our pull-out sofa, and my Earth boxes
  • Wash and repair my teddy bear
  • Check on Rosa (my retired mustang mare)
  • Pick up my new eyeglasses
  • Meet my girlfriends for a final lunch
  • Make all final purchases and ensure they’ll be delivered somewhere we can get them
  • Box and inventory everything we’re taking with us
  • Return work equipment I don’t use
  • Stop all services at this house

Next Thursday, we send the dogs to the kennel overnight, and we pack the trailer. Friday morning the movers come at 8, followed by the maids at 9, and the carpet cleaners at noon. We hope to be on the road by the middle of the afternoon.

Wish us luck!

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Moving to Mexico: Visas

One of the questions we’re asked is how long we’ll be in Mexico. Honestly, we don’t know. Our plan is for this to be the FIRST stop on our travels, not our final destination. We want to remain flexible, but right now, we anticipate being in San Miguel de Allende for a year — longer than we plan to stay in other countries. Why? Because we want to take the time to learn the language before we move on.

When Americans go to Mexico, they are required to get a visa. That visa determines how long they can stay and what kind of activities they can do while there (i.e., earn money!). There are several types of visas. At a high level:

Visitor visa

This visa is granted at the border when you come in and is for tourists and business people who will be in the country six months or less. It cannot be renewed, per se. You have to leave the country when it expires. You can, however, come back right away for another six months.

This, obviously, is the easiest visa to get. Note that although it can be issued for six month, it doesn’t have to be. It’s up to the person processing the application at the border. You cannot legally work in Mexico with this visa.

Temporary residence visa

This is the visa that Jay and I got. This visa is for people who want to stay longer than six months, but less than four years. This visa is initially issued for one year, but it can be renewed (without leaving the country) up to three additional years.

Some temporary visas allow the holder to work in Mexico, others do not. A key requirement for this visa, though, is that you have to prove you have sufficient funds to live here and/or a steady source of income. Our visa does not allow us to work in Mexico (for a Mexican company), but we are allowed to work remotely for our US-based job.

You have to apply for this visa at a consulate in your country of origin. You could not, in other words, come to Mexico for a vacation and turn your visitor visa into a temporary residence visa. Once you start the process in your home country, you do a second part at the border, and then the final process is done via Immigration in the Mexican city you’re residing in.

Once you enter Mexico with a temporary visa, you cannot leave until the visa process is final –which takes about seven weeks. If you do, the visa is void, and you have to start over at the consulate in your country of origin! After the visa is finalized, though, you can go in and out of the country as often as you like.

Permanent residence visa

This visa is for people who plan to reside in Mexico indefinitely or who eventually wish to become Mexican citizens. You don’t have to be a temporary resident first; you can jump right to permanent resident status if you meet the criteria.

There are pros and cons to the decision of temporary vs. permanent residency — it’s a subject worth far more discussion than this short post. If you’re interested in learning more about the different visas and their requirements, just Google. There are tons of pages out there with in-depth information. Just be sure to check the date, because the information changes occasionally. The best source is always the official source. We used the consulate in Seattle as our official source:

https://consulmex2.sre.gob.mx/seattle/index.php/es/english/visa-requirements

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Working the checklist: Bought a trailer

Spent yesterday in Marysville buying a cargo trailer. It’s 5′ x 10′ — a couple of feet longer than we had originally planned. When we drive to Mexico, this is what we’ll transport all of our belongings in. The car is solely for people and beasties. So stuff either fits in the trailer, or it has to go!

As the main driver in the family, I drove home from the dealer. This was my first time pulling a trailer. (Nope, I’ve never pulled a horse trailer.)

I pulled the new trailer from the lot in Marysville all the way to our house in Fall City, which on a Saturday afternoon ensured I got lots of practice with starts, stops, merging, changing lanes, curves, straights, and TRAFFIC. (Also bumps. Lots of bumps.) It was an entirely successful trip, though, and I got lots of practice going forward.

I got a little practice backing up. Before we even left the dealer, we pulled into an empty area, and Jay taught me the principles of backing up and turning the trailer while in reverse. On the way home, we stopped at Safeway, and while he ran inside to grab a few things, I practiced parking (and using reverse to straighten the trailer between the lines.

When we got home, we decided to pull into the driveway, then back it into a spot at the front of the property. I nailed it on the first try. (Jay was very impressed. He was impressed by how well I had parked it at Safeway too, though that took me more than one shot.)

I’ll get more practice over the next month as we use the trailer to transport a bunch of stuff from the house to whatever charity ends up with it.

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Changing our address and forwarding our mail

As of June 28, we will no longer have the address we’ve had for nearly 14 years. We’re in a rental house right now, but in six weeks, we won’t have that address either.

So what to do with mail and all those other things that require an address?

The plan has always been to keep a Washington state address. We want a small (cheap!) home base here that will function as our permanent residence. Even so, though, it is, at most a physical address for those few situations that require one. We don’t plan to use it as a mailing address.

Our solution is to use a mail forwarding service for our mail. That name is kind of a misnomer, though. They won’t actually be forwarding the bulk of our mail. They will scan our first class mail, and we will look at it online and tell them what to do with it. Really, really neat service.

We drove out to Ballard yesterday and got that set up. On the way back, we ended up smack dab in the middle of Seattle Solstice Naked Bicycle Ride. Wish I had taken pictures, but honestly, I was annoyed because they seriously futzed up traffic.

In the upcoming weeks, I need to do a lot of address changes, including forwarding our mail at the post office, updating our voter registration, changing addresses at work, updating credit cards, and changing our drivers licenses. Jay can update his license online, but I’m going to go in for mine. I want to change from a regular license to an Enhanced Drivers License (which Jay already has). That will get us back and forth over the border more quickly.

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We got an offer on the house!

It’s official: We got an offer on the house last night — May 28.

This sale was not without drama. Stepping out and looking at the situation objectively, we went into the situation wearing rose-colored glasses. Both financially and to meet our travel plans, we needed an immediate sale. Since the Seattle housing market is so hot, I believed we would get that immediate sale, and so I didn’t really make a Plan B.

Last week, after missing our May 20 departure date and as we approached one month on the market, our realtor pushed to drop the price. This annoyed me for several reasons, not the least of which was that we had gotten ZERO push-back on the price of the house. The push-back was about distance from town, not price, something we couldn’t fix.

Jay and I talked, and we talked about what would happen if the house didn’t sell. What finally sunk in was that by doing this huge remodel, we had thrown ourselves from having a mortgage and no other debt to being BURIED in debt. If we didn’t sell SOON we would have to move back in. Could we afford it? Yes, but it would take all of our monthly income just to cover the debt and expenses — with nothing left for unexpected things, and that’s not a comfortable way to live.

The problem was lowering the price would eat the profit we were counting on — so much so that even going to Mexico was at risk. Basically, we were looking at drowning in debt or being broke. Not a great choice.

We lowered the price.

I wasn’t happy. This wasn’t what I had planned. I wasn’t trying to bankrupt my family. I didn’t want to give up our home and get nothing for it.

“Let’s pull it off the market,” I told Jay. “I want to go home. We’ll try again in a few years when we have more equity and have paid down some of the debt.”

He agreed. But it was Sunday evening, and we didn’t want to both our realtor at home. “Call him in the morning.”

We didn’t get a chance. That was yesterday, and last night he called us with an offer. Jay crunched the numbers. We could make it to Mexico. We would be close to broke, but debt-free, and we would be in a country where we could probably bank a lot of savings.

We accepted the offer. If all goes well, the house closes on June 28, and we leave for Mexico on July 28.

It’s… bittersweet. After deciding to go home, I was sorry to get the offer. (I know that sounds weird.) The excitement has gone out of the plan, at least for now. But Mexico will enable us to rebuild our safety net, and “debt-free” is very enticing.

There’s much to do, but I’m pretty sure we just overcame the biggest hurdle standing between us and our life of travel.

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