Life in Mexico: Three-Month Update

 

How has it already been three months? I couldn't be happier with my new life in Mexico!

Image Credit and Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette

It’s been just over a year since Taylor and I decided we wanted try out life in Mexico.

We were eating tapas at a little restaurant in Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood. Not long after the waiter poured our second glasses of wine, our talk turned to the future.

“Well, what about Mexico?” I suggested. “It’s just an idea, but I think we’d like it there.”

More talk. More tinto.

My casual suggestion soon became concrete. After two years in Madrid, it was time to try something new. Mexico fit all our criteria for a new home.

In mid-October, we flew from Detroit to Mexico City. A three-hour bus ride later, we were in Querétaro.

Considering our departure date, I suppose this could almost be a four-month update. However, I’ll keep the title as is since the first of February marked our third month in our house.

Even though we decided to move to Mexico more than a year ago, it didn’t become real until we moved into our house here. That was definitely my “oh-shit-we’re-really-doing-this” moment.

I couldn't be happier with life in Mexico.

Our New Home

I won’t say it was easy to find an apartment in Querétaro, but I’ll acknowledge that we found our place relatively quickly.

In the months since I posted about my experience apartment hunting in Querétaro, I’ve received several emails from people interested in living here but having trouble finding long-term accommodation.

The bartender—who connected us with our now-landlord—told us his search for an apartment in the city center lasted an entire year.

Yikes!

I wish I could offer more practical advice about apartment hunting in Querétaro, but the truth is we just got lucky. Talk to as many people as possible, maybe you’ll get lucky too.

I’m in love with our apartment house (Our 45 square meters in Madrid was an apartment. This new place feels like a palace).

Buying stuff for our home has been an adventure in and of itself. Although Taylor and I have lived together since 2015, this is the first place we’ve furnished together.

The day we moved in, all we had were our suitcases and an air mattress we’d ordered from Amazon. Siting in our empty house was a bit overwhelming, and I worried we’d bit off more than we could chew.

Bit by bit, we made a home.

First, a living room set. Then, an actual mattress. Later, a dining room table.

I still don’t think stuff can make you happy, but picking it out with someone you love sure is fun.

I couldn't be happier with life in Mexico!
How Instagram worthy is our house?!

WiFi, Work and Finding Routine

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge of our first few months in Mexico was getting WiFi installed.

Our work online requires a fast internet connection, and only one provider offered coverage in our area at the speeds we need. We signed a contract with them but were never given an installation date. Instead, we were told to wait.

So, we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I ended up flying back to Michigan the week before Thanksgiving, in part to see family and in part to work. Taylor, the saint that he is, stayed and went to the provider’s office every single day in hopes of speeding up the installation process.

In the end, it took almost an entire month to get our WiFi installed.

We’ve finally got it, and we’re grateful to be working. Since we both teach English for Chinese companies, Taylor and I work on a Beijing schedule.

What does that mean?

Well, we wake up at 3:30 a.m. and start teaching at 4 a.m. I finish at 8 a.m., and Taylor usually works until at least 9 a.m.

For now, I don’t really mind the hours. I’m good at going to bed early, so waking up that early doesn’t make me want to die. If I’m tired, sometimes I’ll take a little nap after I finish teaching.

While my teaching routine is pretty set, I’m still figuring out how to make the most out of the rest of my day.

It can be difficult to resist the lure of Netflix and Instagram, but I feel my best when I get in a workout after breakfast and spend the afternoon writing, reading and exploring the city.

I couldn't be happier with life in Mexico!
This is where you can find me Monday through Friday at 4 a.m.!

Making Friends and Hosting Family

Now that I have a place to live and WiFi with which to work, I can focus on building a social life in Querétaro.

At the end of January, I hosted the first meeting for the Querétaro chapter of Not Your Mother’s Book Club. I enjoyed my book club in Madrid so much that I decided to do the same thing in Mexico.

Myself included, nine women showed up to the inaugural meeting, which was just perfect because I only had seating for that many in my living room.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout. The group is a mix of ages, nationalities and occupations. Everyone is relatively new to Querétaro and eager to make friends.

I’m looking forward to our next meeting, which is at the end of February. We’ll be discussing “The Power” by Naomi Alderman.

It’s been fun meeting new people and equally fun sharing my new city with loved ones.

My parents came to visit in January. Not only did we discover some great places to drink wine in Querétaro, but we also visited two neighboring cities: Bernal and San Miguel de Allende.

Last week, my aunt came to Querétaro. We capped off her time in Mexico with a few days in Mexico City that included a day trip to Teotihuacan.

Next week, my cousin and her boyfriend are coming. I can’t wait to take them to the brewery in nearby Hércules.

In May, my sister is coming! Wow, we really need a bed for the guestroom.

I couldn't be happier with life in Mexico!
I’ll never get tired of sharing the cities I love with the people I love.

Life in Mexico

Madrid will always have a special place in my heart, but I could’t be happier with our decision to move to Mexico. So far, it has been the perfect fit for us.

In the next few months, I’m looking forward to another trip to Mexico City, two weeks in the Yucatan and some hiking the the Sierra Gorda.

I want to continue sharing my experiences in Mexico and would love to hear what you’re interested in knowing more about. When my house is a little bit more settled, I’m considering doing a home tour. I also plan on tracking and documenting my living expenses.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

The other day this blog’s tagline caught my eye: Because life isn’t meant to be lived in one place. When I picked that out, I was fresh off my first backpacking trip and about to move to Spain for the first time.

A lot has changed since I started this blog, but my desire to not only see but really know the world hasn’t. 

I was happy in Madrid. I was comfortable there. It would have been easy to continue living in Spain.

But, sometimes you’ve got to try something new. There’s no way of knowing if that new thing will make you happy but finding out sure is exciting.

Adventure will never seek us out. If we want it, we’ve gotta go after it. 

 

The Ups and Downs of Learning Spanish

This post originally appeared on Medium.

My journey to learn Spanish hasn't been easy, but it's definitely been worth it.

Image Credit: Unsplash Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette

I took my first Spanish class in fourth grade.

Okay, it wasn’t actually a Spanish class. It was Spanish club.

The mom of one of the other children at my elementary suggested an after school group for kids interested in learning a new language.

Great idea! But, we only met once.

I guess it’s not that big of a deal that Spanish club fell through. Thanks to awesome mid-90s PC games, I already knew colors, numbers, etc.

Even if I live to be 100 years old, I’ll never forget the days of the week song which was sung by a guitar-playing mouse à la Speedy Gonzalez.

My journey to learn Spanish hasn't been easy, but it's definitely been worth it.
Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash

Stop Grammar Time

At ninth grade orientation, I enrolled in Spanish 1. Spoiler Alert: I went on to take Spanish 2, 3 and 4.

I got an A in all of them, but to be honest, I never really tried.

I didn’t have to.

Like is unfortunately the experience of many people studying a second language, my classmates and I never actually spoke Spanish.

Weird, right?

We watched an entire Spanish soap opera series, discussed influential Hispanic artists and conjugated verbs like it was our job.

However, the closest we ever got to speaking was reading scripted conversations.

Pssst, camerero. Me gustaría pedir otra cerveza.

My journey to learn Spanish hasn't been easy, but it's definitely been worth it.
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

The Universe Knows Best (or something)

After high school, I forgot about Spanish for awhile. Despite my cousin’s best efforts to make me choose otherwise, I majored in political science.

Just before graduation, I decided I wanted to be an au pair.

When I put together a profile on Au Pair World, I said I was open to pretty much any country in Western Europe.

France. Germany. Italy. I would have been happy anywhere.

In the end though, I chose a family from Spain.

With four months until I was set to depart for Madrid, I decided to brush up on my Spanish. I began taking classes on Italki.

Italki is an online education platform that connects language students and teachers. I enlisted the help of Rocío.

When I landed in Madrid in September 2014, I though I was prepared but quickly realized how much I had to learn. Between living with my Spanish host family and a month-long language course, I improved.

My journey to learn Spanish hasn't been easy, but it's definitely been worth it.
Photo by Alberto Restifo on Unsplash

Back to Reality

I returned to the United States in November 2014 with a newfound passion for Spanish.

I continued taking online classes with Rocío and applied for a program that would allow me to return to Spain the following September.

Despite being accepted into the program and getting placed in my first-choice city (Madrid), my studies dropped off. Busy with work and training for a marathon, I figured I could pick things up again when I got back to Spain.

That didn’t really happen though.

When I finally returned to Madrid in September 2015, I found myself avoiding Spanish.

To put it simply, I didn’t want to speak Spanish because I was too scared of making mistakes. I feared being exposed as a less-than-perfect speaker.

Looking back, I know how totally ridiculous that is. Even children know they’re going to fall of their bikes sometimes.

Making mistakes is how we learn.

Near the end of my first year, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t anywhere near the level I wanted to be and rededicated myself to learning Spanish.

I started taking classes on Italki again and attending language exchanges.

In addition, I listened to Spanish podcasts, watch Spanish television series and, even, reread the Harry Potter series (in Spanish).

When I left Spain in June 2016, I was pleased with my progress but knew I still had a ways to go.

Fortunately, my boyfriend and I had plans to move to Mexico.

My journey to learn Spanish hasn't been easy, but it's definitely been worth it.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

My Current Language Goals

I’ve been living in Mexico for almost three months now.

It’s been the perfect move on many fronts, but I’m especially pleased with how many more opportunities I have to speak Spanish. In Madrid, people would recognize me as a foreigner and immediately switch to English regardless of how their level of English compared to my Spanish.

Earlier this week, I decided it’s time to put my years of on again off again Spanish skills to the test.

In July, I will be taking the C1 DELE. It’s an official test certifying I possess an advanced level of Spanish.

After taking a practice test online today, I feel like it’s definitely something I can do, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the oral portion freaks me out a bit.

I have six months though, and I’m actually looking forward to the review/study process.

If you’ve ever taken an advanced level language proficiency test, please send any tips or tricks my way!

My journey to learn Spanish hasn't been easy, but it's definitely been worth it.
Photo by Obed Hernández on Unsplash

A Few Final Thoughts

As this 1,000-some-word post displays, my language learning journey has been a long one.

There have been ups and downs (a lot of downs).

But to anyone studying a language (or considering doing so), every inch of progress has been rewarding.

My greatest strides have come when I made learning a part of my every day life. When you make learning fun, it doesn’t feel like learning.

In today’s scared-AF-of-anything-different world, learning a language is more important than ever.

Even if you’re fortunate enough to be a native English speaker, I encourage you to study a second language.

Not only are there personal benefits like improved memory and delayed onset of Alzheimer’s, but it’s a unique opportunity to understand another culture through language.

It’s not too late to tack on another new year’s resolution. If you’re considering studying a second language, go for it.

I’m sure glad I did.

A Love Letter to My Backpack

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Dear Backpack (or “This F*cking Thing” which I so rudely called you when we were sprinting to catch that train in San Sebastián. You’re not the one who’d woken up with a sangria hangover),

A love letter to my backpack, which made me the traveler I am today.

Image Credit: Chad Madden (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

Love at First Sight

I’ll never forget the moment we met.

Before my post-graduation trip to Europe, I spent months looking for a backpack online. Researching for just the right size and style.

How many liters? Top or front loading? Color? Brand?

When you came out of that big, brown Amazon box, I knew it was meant to be. With your smooth zippers and “Hoodoo Red” exterior, you were beautiful.

More importantly though, your durability was obvious. My flimsy JanSport had nothing on you.

I could (and still) foresee us having many adventures together.

A love letter to my backpack, which made me the traveler I am today.
Image Credit: Holly Mandarich

The Ultimate Travel Buddy

I’m not the only person with whom you’ve seen the world. You also spent a month in Europe with that girl from my book club.

I was nervous to let you go but knew you were up to the task.

Kelly didn’t believe you could hold everything she needed for five weeks abroad, but that was nothing. Earlier that year, you’d carried three months worth of clothes when we went to Madrid!

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

In your case, it’s the 46-liter Porter style from Osprey. God bless your padded shoulder straps and front panel organization.

It never fails to put smile on my face when I think about all the money we’ve saved on baggage fees. You’re the maximum carry-on size.

Suck on that, Ryanair.

A love letter to my backpack, which made me the traveler I am today.
A quick pic before we boarded our flight to Mexico City!

Perfect in Every Way

Do you remember the first hostel we ever stayed in? It was the Flying Pig in Amsterdam.

We were in line to check in behind some travelers with the biggest backpacks I’d ever seen. You and a pal could have fit inside one of them!

They say size matters, and while it definitely does, bigger is not always better.

Before we met, I was a serial over-packer. Spring break my sophomore year, the airline almost charged me extra for the 50-lb duffel I’d packed for one week in Florida!

Your 46 liters have changed me.

When I learned how to pack light, I realized how little I actually need to be happy. I relish the simplicity. It’s so liberating to narrow down all my belongings to a single backpack — one I can manage to carry without wanting to die.

The only thing you could never possibly hold is all them memories we’ve made.

A love letter to my backpack, which made me the traveler I am today.
Image Credit: Lukas Robertson

All Our Adventures

From Madrid to Mexico and all those cities in between, you’ve been a constant in my life as a traveler. It’s hard to believe there was ever a time I used a rolling suitcase.

You’ve opened my eyes to the wonders of backpacking. Because of you, I’ve learned that travel is more than just a vacation. It’s a means of education.

With you by my side (or on my back), I’ve learned how to be independent. I embrace spontaneity and seek adventure.

The day we met, my life changed forever.

For everything we’ve seen and done, I’ll always be grateful to you. The best way I can think to honor you is by hitting the road again.

How does South America sound?

Love your backpacker,

Alex