Starting Over From Scratch in Mexico

I never knew that I was a slave to my belongings until I got rid of 99% of them. Once I was free of them, I turned my focus to replacing them with amazing experiences instead.

Like most people, my wife and I had spent our entire adult lives working to “get ahead”. Getting ahead translated to moving up the ladder and making more money. As we both progressed through our respective career tracks, we used the increased earnings to buy a bigger house and nicer cars. A bigger house is useless if it is empty, so we spent even more money to furnish and decorate it to our liking. We spent money on better clothes, cell phones, and computers too.  Actually, we were very happy with the lifestyle that we had created. That is until I had an epiphany about two years before retiring from law enforcement.

It happened one night when I was exploring the options of a life after retirement. In crunching the numbers, I realized that one or both of us would have to continue to work to keep us in the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed. After all, we still had to pay the mortgage, car payments, and other expenses. That is when I became painfully aware that we had become slaves to our belongings. When I looked around at my friends and coworkers, I saw that we were not alone.

Over the years, my wife and I had talked quite a bit about retiring in Mexico because we always loved vacationing there so much. The cost of living is substantially less in Mexico, so we decided that moving to Mexico could be the key to breaking out of our self made prison. We knew the only way to make it work financially was to liquidate our assets in the U.S. and to live debt free. We did not even want to keep a storage shed because that would mean we would have a monthly fee. We then either sold, discarded, gave away, or donated 99% of our belongings.

In the end, we were left with four suitcases full of clothes and two cardboard boxes that contained pictures, college degrees, and keepsakes. We left the boxes with my wife’s mother and headed to Mexico with the four suitcases. It was so liberating to not have any bills or financial responsibilities for the first time since childhood.


Our four suitcases packed into a tiny rental car in Akumal, Mexico

So, How is it Going?

We have been in Mexico for over nine months and we could not be happier. We bought a very modest car and ended up buying the fully furnished condo we were renting. We used the money from the sale of our belongings in the United States to pay off both.

We have been committed to living only within our means and never incurring any debt again. We now enjoy a better lifestyle than we had in the United States, although we have a lot less stuff now. We travel extensively around the Riviera Maya and are very active. The best part is we do it for a fraction of what our lifestyle used to cost in the United States.

So when I ask myself if we made the right decision, I always answer, “Absolutely!”

By the way, neither of us miss any of the “stuff” we got rid of.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

32 Comments on "Starting Over From Scratch in Mexico"

  1. Michael Bruno | May 16, 2016 at 5:11 pm |

    Another very well written article. The key comment is “no debt”. Being debt free creates such a feeling of freedom. My wife and I have lived this way for years; even when we were still in the states. We did not dispose of quite as much “stuff” as you did but we skinnied down by two thirds. Like you, we are very comfortable down here. If something is essential but we didn’t bring it, we find a replacement down here. There have been very few “essentials”.

    • QRoo Paul | May 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm |

      Michael, thank you for taking the time to read the blog and comment. You are correct, the key is being 100% debt free. I am glad that the Mexican experience is working out so well for you and your wife. 🙂

  2. Johnny Clark | May 17, 2016 at 7:07 am |

    My wife and I did the same thing 5 years ago and now live in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca. The debt free part is so liberating and there is definitely no pressure to keep up with the Jones’s. We are now using the Mexican health insurance and are very pleased with it. I agree completely with the “absolutely” statement!

    • QRoo Paul | May 17, 2016 at 8:48 am |

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is so encouraging to hear that you are happy with the Mexican health insurance. So far we have been happy with the quality and price of healthcare in our area.

  3. Hi Paul, We retired early in Mexico and built a home in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca 10 years ago. You can read about our experiences on our blog if you like. Also have a Facebook page. We call it Sun Surf Palm Trees and Puppies! Look forward to following your adventures.

    • QRoo Paul | May 17, 2016 at 8:48 am |

      Hi Maura. Thanks for reading the blog. I will check out your site and FB page.

  4. Judy Vanderveer | May 17, 2016 at 12:06 pm |

    Thank you for the write. I moved to Cozumel 6 months ago. My husband can not let go of his STUFF. So I moved alone. Loving Cozumel and this has also improved my health considerably. Thank you again for your write, I am sending it to my husband..
    Loving Cozumel.

    • QRoo Paul | May 17, 2016 at 3:56 pm |

      I hope it helps him decide to come down. Getting rid of your things is not easy, but it is rewarding. My wife did well until it came to getting rid of shoes. On the last day, she still had too many shoes and I did not want to pay the airline more for an overweight bag. She reluctantly donated all but a few. I asked her yesterday if she regretted doing that and she said, ‘No, I would not have been able to wear most of them here anyway.”

  5. Bob Greenop | May 17, 2016 at 12:48 pm |

    We are in the process. My partner has sold her house and auctioned off the contents and I will be doing the same in the next 4 months. We have worked our whole lives to accumulate this ‘stuff’ and it is hard to let go. This gives us encouragement !
    We are going this Sunday and planning to open accounts as we have purchased our home. We don’t have visas yet ! Are you 100% on not being able to open accounts until we make the move permanently Thanks

    • QRoo Paul | May 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm |

      I think you will both love Mexico. As for the accounts, we could not find a single bank who would allow us to open a bank with a temporary or permanent visa; in fact, it was the first question they asked us when we inquired about an account. We even tried to use the paperwork that it was being processed and they still said no. If you plan on getting a temporary or permanent resident visa, you have to start that process in your home country at the Mexican Consulate and you finish the process here in Mexico.

  6. Jason Pryde | May 17, 2016 at 5:06 pm |

    I moved to San Jose Del Cabo three and a half years ago….My Wife passed away and we had bought a condo down here ten years ago and paid cash for it. I had to take a little slap in the face in the states and filed for bankruptcy and let a house go to foreclosure. I Craig’s list and what didn’t fit in my car didn’t come with me. I am in fact 100% debt free. I was on blood pressure meds in the states but now I am off them as my blood pressure is normal. People don’t realize how immaterial material things are until you go with out them………Live like a king on $1500.00 a month. That would have gotten me through a week back home.

    • QRoo Paul | May 17, 2016 at 9:57 pm |

      I am sorry to hear about the death of your wife and the problems with the bankruptcy; that is a lot to go through. However, I am glad to hear that moving to Mexico has turned out well for you. I have met several expats who have told me that their health has never been better since moving to Mexico. Also, thanks for sharing what it costs to a month to live in your area. That is something everyone who wants to move here wants to know.

  7. Not just for couples, either. We’ve packed up to 11 of us and ALL our remaining possessions into a 15-passenger van so we can travel NAm rather than live spaciously in a house in BC from whence we’ve come. Our large family has been in Mexico for much of the time since 2012, traveling & road schooling…currently on a sailboat on the Gulf of California.

    No regrets of leaving that other life behind. And happy we walked thru our fears and did it without waiting for the “empty nest”.

    Living NOW!

    PS I love to encourage families in particular that they can live a life of freedom, too. Always available to chat if somebody wants more info on how we do it.

    • QRoo Paul | May 18, 2016 at 9:25 am |

      What a great story. I checked out your blog, I like it. I will be following your adventures.

  8. My wife and I are planning to stay in Isla Mujeres for half the year every year, after we retire. She is eligible to an early retirement this November 2016 and me in about 2 years. We have been married for 30 years and we never really accumulated material things. No car, no house so moving to Mexico is not going to be a traumatic event. All I care is we have one lap-top computer & internet service and we are set. 🙂

    • QRoo Paul | May 25, 2016 at 6:16 pm |

      Sounds like you two will do just fine down here. The Internet is faster and more reliable than I thought it would be. We have Telmex.

  9. Stace Hewitt | July 10, 2016 at 12:48 pm |

    New to reading your blog — luv it. I made the move, as a single woman from Marin County, CA back in January 2010 to Lake Chapala, Jalisco (land of mariachis, charros and tequila). Drove down with a 2003 sedan with my worldly possessions — did meet friends in San Antonio, TX to caravan through Mexico. Basically, computer, clothes, keepsake jewelry, books, pictures, some household utensils…not much really, but don’t miss what was left behind — mostly given away as no one was buying much during 2008-2009. Only wish I had a newer car or money to buy one…but will figure that out. Live on my social security (took early retirement at 62) and my thriving house/pet sitting business. Come on up and visit sometime…luv to show you my slice of paradise.

    • Qroo Paul | July 10, 2016 at 7:16 pm |

      Thanks for reading the blog and thank you so much for sharing your story. I have never seen that part of Mexico, although the photos that I have seen look amazing. If I ever get over that way, I will send you a message 🙂

  10. Lucy Garza Trujillo Westbrook | July 15, 2016 at 7:47 am |

    Thank you for all your helpful hints. My husband has never seen me so stuck to my tablet. Just sold our two cars and will be in our QRoo home in 3 weeks! Any suggestions about buying a car in Mexico? We will be in Cozumel so Playa is just a quick hop! Also, love your tip about the exchange rate stock market game. I’ve been trying to play everyday. Thank you again!

    • Qroo Paul | July 15, 2016 at 8:07 am |

      Thanks for reading the blog and welcome to QRoo! I am working on a blog about buying a car here in Mexico but I do not have it ready yet.

  11. Similar story – we sold (almost) all our stuff and bought a sailboat at ages 54 (him) and 59 (me). After a year of prepping the boat and winding down professional lives we set sail in October 2015 and are wrapping up our first year of cruising Mexico’s Pacific Coast. I echo the sentiments about getting rid of stuff – the yard sales we had at the house turned out to be fun after I let go of the emotions around getting less than ten cents on the dollar for your belongings and turned it into a game of “getting rid of stuff”‘. As in “Oh you’re interested in the silverware? How about if I give you these plates too – do we have a deal?” Not having to worry about houses, cars, and storage facilities in another country is very freeing. As I like to say, our home and everything we own is floating over at Dock 9 in La Cruz Marina (we are hunkered down for hurricane season).

    • Qroo Paul | July 28, 2016 at 5:35 pm |

      What a great story. I love hearing about how other people got rid of their stuff and started a new adventure. It is very inspirational.

  12. Four years ago I divested myself of all my “stuff” to move to the UAE for a job opportunity. Unfortunately I was automatically retired 1 year later at the age of 60. Next stop, Mazatlán. My family thought I was crazy!
    I arrived here 3 years ago with 4 suitcases, my golf clubs and my dog…all the important things in life!
    After 40 years in retail I have reinvented myself in the hospitality business and have not looked back.
    Life has never been this much fun!

  13. I could have written this! Sounds so familiar. We came down at 47 and 49. 12 years later, people up north still ask, “When are you coming home?” I am home! Ajijic, Jalisco.

  14. I did the same thing 10 years ago from Redding, California to San Carlos, Mexico. I have always wanted to live by the ocean but in California, the prices of homes made the dream an unreality. I kept a lot more of my “stuff” than you did and am still working on simplifying, but I am 100% debt free and I have a beautiful home on the water for a fraction of what California waterfront costs. I have never regretted my decision to become an expat, I even fell in love and married a Canadian man that I met in Mexico!

  15. Mike Cullen | January 5, 2017 at 11:17 am |

    Paul –

    Your Blog has rekindled a conversation my wife and have been having for a number of years. We have been visiting the Riviera Maya a couple times each year, mostly Akumal, Cozumel, and Tulum since 2000. 5 years ago we sent 5 weeks in Akumal at La Iguana on Half Moon Bay. We met and continue friendships with many folks. When we returned to Colorado we had the exact same thoughts … do we really need all this stuff? … can’t we simplify? how about selling it all and heading back to Akumal?.

    We didn’t follow our gut. Instead we went the opposite direction, moved up in house, renovated and redecorated, accumulated more stuff with each of us still wondering what we really want out of life. Like you we don’t own things, they own us.

    in 2014 we spent two months in Akumal at La Sirena on Half Moon Bay. Again, it was an eye-opening experience that had us questioning where we wanted to live. But, as usual, life after we returned put us back on the path we usually followed.

    I admire you and your wife’s commitment to change. maybe your blog and experiences will spur us on to make the change.


    • It sounds like you might ready to downsize and come down to Akumal to pursue a simpler life. By the way, we haven’t missed any of the stuff we got rid of.

  16. To the autors of this page i just foind you and wanna Say great job, im mexican a been here ffor my past 30 years of life lol, and this is the first time o have seen someone actually explaining very well how our stupid tarif systemcare works , and is stupid un every gobernment run bussines specially this one, great job i have never visited the USA but im looking fprward to it some time , i hope it existe a similar blog for travelers in the usa , good work

  17. I have been entertaining the idea of moving from the US in 2018 and probably will wait until Apri-May as this will not be moving in high season and from what I have read the selection of long term rentals will be greater and you should be able to get a better price for rent. I too will be selling many of my things and just keeping a few things as I have many items that have been packed in boxes since my last 3 moves and have never been unpacked dut to lack of space….obviously I don’t need these things for daily living. I’m curious as to whether you think that it’s better to bring you car to Mexico or wait and purchase one there. It is not like I need to have a new expensive car but it would be nice to have transportation to get around depending on where I decide to settle. Any suggestions would be great.

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