Sitting on the bus, my wife, Hillary, and I were not entirely sure where we were going. Not knowing exactly where this bus was headed, to say we were nervous in this moment would be an understatement.
I doubt the person that helped us find our way thought twice about what they were doing. They saw a couple that looked lost in a foreign country and they acted from their heart.
That was one of our first experiences in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was our first glimpse into the kindness of the people that call this port town on the Pacific coast home.
The thing about kindness is that it can be hard to define or put your finger on, but you know it when you feel it.
We felt it when a stranger helped us find our destination. We felt it when taxi drivers wanted to strike up friendly conversations. We felt it when neighbors said buenos dias (good morning) to us.
With the current exchange rate being very favorable, Americans can live like kings in Mexico. In our experience, the cost of living in Puerto Vallarta is about half as much as that of Dallas, Texas. In fact, for less than $900 per month, you can rent a two-bedroom apartment steps away from the ocean. However, in our opinion, the decision to move to Mexico should not be based on the low cost of living alone.
Paradoxically, we found that although we had more disposable income, we live more modestly in Puerto Vallarta than we did in Dallas.
The atmosphere and culture of Puerto Vallarta does not lend itself to “keeping up with the Joneses.”
In the U.S., there are people with huge houses, the newest technologically advanced contraption, and all of the latest, trendy designer clothes. It is near impossible to notwant these things when you are immersed in a culture and way of life such as this. In Mexico, people have nice things, but you do not see people driving brand-new cars, wearing different shoes every other day, or showing off their latest gadget.
The people of Mexico live simple lives. They live in houses that are not large. They drive cars that are not new. Some people even use, wait for it…flip phones.
Yet, the most interesting aspect of the whole situation is that they all seem so dang happy. I mean, I have never been around so many carefree, smiling, joyful people in my life.
People here prefer things to be “tranquillo,” or calm. They are not in a hurry. The perception that money is wealth simply does not exist. They find wealth through a multitude of other outlets…wealth through relationships with family and the healthiness and well-being of loved ones.
Often in the States, we build our image and our self-worth through this conglomerate of stuff we own. The neighborhoods we live in, the cars we drive, the phones we use—these are the things that socially define us.
In Mexico, we found that “community” replaces consumerism.
Community is saying buenos dias to your neighbors or people on the streets. Community is buying your food from a local market. Community is having genuine conversations with complete strangers. Community is depending on one another.
When you are part of a community that does not place a high value on things but rather relationships, you learn to do the same. You learn to start valuing your neighbors and your connections with others.
Like many others, we moved to Puerto Vallarta to get out of the rat race, to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, and to pursue our dreams. We knew we would love the beach, mountains, and food. What we did not realize is just how much we would love the people and how much we would learn from them.
If you are looking for a simpler life, a life that values community and emphasizes people over objects, the rich culture of Mexico just may be your heaven on earth.