I am often approached by potential buyers with questions about our Huatulco way of life. Beyond the nuts and bolts of wanting to know how to buy property in Mexico or why the Huatulco real estate market is so hot, many are preoccupied with more everyday concerns.
As people move more and more towards deliberately creating their own lifestyle, and as retirement benefits decrease, people wonder and approach us with concrete questions nearly every day about how to design a lifestyle that can work for them in Huatulco.
How will I make a living in Huatulco?
What can I do there?
Is it legal for me to work in Mexico?
What do I do first?
How will I meet people?
Can I really make enough money?
Do I have to be rich?
Do I have to take a lot of cash?
What are the schools like?
All valid questions. However, they are not “the” question to ask yourself.
In this blog series, Huatulco Lifestyle Design, we will explore some answers to the most common questions we receive about making the decision to move, and share some of the insight we gathered from friends, expats, Huatulco home-buyers and investors from their decision-making process. The process boils down to defining what you want your life to look like on a daily basis, developing a plan and taking action right now. Read our blog post here about One Family's Life-Changing Story.
The most exhilarating part of this process is turning seemingly huge decisions into actionable steps to create a lifestyle that resonates with you.
But first, let's get back to the question.
What do you really want?
Starting from Square one, the only square that is numbered as Jerry Seinfeld points out, you must figure out what it is that you really want. You must define your priorities and how you want to live your life. It can be challenging taking apart the status quo “common sense” (that dictates life proceeds in a linear fashion: work, save, retire, enjoy.) And while this is an essential question, it is not yet “the” question.
We do not necessarily have to accept that life must be hard, resigned to a full-time 9-5 and that vacation must be short or else we won’t be able to climb the ladder (or continue the vicious circle to work more hours per week, to be on the fast track and have increasingly shorter vacations.)
But I do want to live a luxury lifestyle. How do I attain that without participating in the traditional construct?
Our expat friends came to the same conclusion. They were tired of working 60, 80+ hour weeks, tired of sending their kids to long hours of daycare, or putting off having kids because they couldn’t envision how they would possibly have time to fit them into the mix. More than anything though, they doubted the “work, save, retire” model. They felt they were sacrificing their time and questioning why they were letting themselves become so frazzled with work.
They doubted the givens in our work-obsessed culture: personal sacrifice is rewarded over personal productivity. Essentially, we are defined by our work.
We questioned how we could continue on this path… enduring an existence and circumstances that were not ideal for us. We decided to make change.
Now for the question.
Where do you feel good?
As Erin and I extensively traveled in Mexico, we immediately knew we “felt” good in Huatulco. We are attracted to the ocean, to seeing the horizon, to trees, to waterfalls… and to lots of sunlight! We wanted to put more nature in our lives. This love and search for places that feel good to us, as humans is encoded in our genes.
James Lovelock, the British chemist who concentrates his work on the study of the earth as a unified living organism, recognizes that humans feel heightened experiences in certain settings. In his favorite places, he says he experiences “a sense of presence. Not extrasensory, but something perceived by the senses that can neither be seen, heard, or felt in the usual way. It would be easy to attribute to this sensation the recognition of something sacred. A momentary contact with some entity larger and greater than the mind.” But, he goes on to explain, that our senses take in way more information than we are consciously able to process and this ambience creates the heightened feeling of presence we experience.
If our expat friends here in Huatulco have any one thing in common, it is this: we feel the power of this place.
The Science of Place
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow and professor of psychology at University of Chicago, wondered in his book that as a child, he was perplexed as to why many accomplished adults he knew couldn't seem to figure out how to live a satisfying life. He says “It was clear to me even then that the answer wasn't money or power but, somehow, the ability to control and enjoy one's experience.” Winnifred Gallagher goes on in her book, The Power of Place, to explore how this “… is increasingly bound up with the places in which we spend our lives.”
Gallagher reflects on environmental psychology and the science of place. She examines how where we live affects us and why we are drawn to certain places and surroundings. She first explains that our wellbeing is affected from the outside in. Factors such as heat and light affect our physical and mental states, all proven in scientific research. Secondly, she explains that we are also affected from the inside out. Our human environment through our relationships and physical stimulation also deeply affects us. For example, many people find cities over-stimulating. She suggests that our own best place is a place that is the right mix of these elements for our personal taste.
Why are people drawn to certain places?
What makes you a beach person, a mountain person, a desert person or a water person? Humans have specific reactions to their surroundings and specific biological needs. Light, temperature, seasons and other natural phenomena essentially define these personal needs. Everyone has distinct interactions between their outer and inner worlds. It is our personal responsibility to explore and define settings that work for us.
Why do we feel better after spending time in nature? Have you ever felt that one special place where you feel connected to the earth, where you feel a sense of calmness and belonging? Surroundings influence our moods and how we experience the world. Some people recharge in the forest, at the beach, in a library or a Gothic cathedral.
There are many ways that we can change our lives by changing the place we live. Some argue that we must persist where we are, that moving is running away. However, if we are so deeply affected by how and where we live, it seems logical we would move to a compatible place.
In her book, Gallagher puts forth the example of Van Gogh. He often described a form of depression known today as SAD (seasonal affective disorder). He searched for an environment where he would feel better. He lived in cloudy, gray, rainy Netherlands where his paintings had become dark and his inspiration waned. Van Gogh moved to the sunny and temperate south of France. During his time in France, one of his most productive, he painted his sunflower series and other vividly colored paintings.
He just felt better.
So Where is the Best Place to Live?
Of course, the answer to that is personal. Our esthetic perceptions of the world have profound biological effects on our wellbeing. When we are in our daily habits and surroundings, these outside influences can be hard to acknowledge as they are happening in our subconscious. There is a strong physiological link between environment and emotion. And it is all extremely intimate and personal.
So if you’re considering moving, think about the reasons. Open yourself to getting in touch with feelings of place that resonate with you.
Where Do I Feel Good?
Consider your chosen destination. Consider how the destination may satisfy your needs and actually make you feel excited both physically and emotionally.
Choosing to move to a new place is especially stimulating. A new place also implies new relationships. There are plenty of those in our Huatulco community and beyond. And living in Mexico opens up a whole new construct to what being social really means. You’ll see.
Indeed, the best place to live then, is the place where we feel good. Knowing that, all you have to do is design your life to live there as much as possible. In my next article in this Huatulco Lifestyle Design series, we'll look at what makes you come alive both professionally and personally.