The deafening click of golden handcuffs

I’ll just come out with it. Most of the reason you have not heard from me recently is that the financial ramifications of my move to Latin America have changed significantly. This is due in no small part to my boss’ unwillingness to take “no” for an answer. As a result, my exit seems to be following the “4-hour Workweek” formula much more closely than I had previously imagined, or even wanted.

In that book, Tim Ferris lays out his plan for separating yourself from your job in phases. The first and most critical phase is to “identify your leverage” and use it to gain the ability to work offsite. The concept basically relies on the notion that if we are left alone to get our work done–rather than sitting in seventeen mind-numbing meetings a week–we can usually wrap it up in a fraction of the time it would otherwise require. Then we simply start using that freed up time to cultivate other, more satisfying, ways to make a living. The moment I read that section I knew it applied to me, a writer of ad campaigns. However, it was also fairly obvious to me–and I’m sure to the author as well–that not every occupation works that way. In other words, it’s pretty tough to be a plumber, cop or firefighter over the Internet.

Still, I preferred to make the cleanest break possible, even if it meant cobbling together what was left of my 401(k) and living from that while I explored other writing opportunities. Then my boss went and offered me full salary and benefits to move to Mexico and remain a full time employee. The dirty sonofabitch.

As most of you know, I turned down three separate partnership opportunities to make our move to Latin America possible. I simply was no longer willing to put money in front of happiness. But with this latest proposal, I may be able to salvage a bit of both.

Living on the Baja with a First World salary is a far cry from the original sentiment I expressed when I began this blog last spring (I can almost hear Steve from Colorado sighing) but I don’t know how I can turn it down. At least for now. In other words, I was more than willing to do something impulsive, and even irresponsible, but I’m trying not to venture into full-on stupid.

I feel some guilt in all this. Here I invited you all to come along for the ride as I gave life in The States my middle finger, perhaps emboldening you to do the same one day. And instead, come January, I’m going to wind up renting a fairly sizable Mexican hacienda with a panga boat and a groundskeeper while continuing to suckle me some First World teat.

Still, the ultimate goal will be the same, I suppose: to find myself writing more art and less commerce in the very near future while broadening my view of the planet.

All that being said, Loreto is a fine place to start. Its economy took a shit a while back when Citibank decided to try turning it into Cabo. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) this caper failed miserably as America’s financial meltdown conspired with head-lopping drug cartels to pop the proverbial bubble down there. The result is a glut of empty houses that are selling for half their original prices. Many of these can also be rented while their For Sale signs fade in the Baja sunshine.

Okay, you’re still thinking about the head-loppers, aren’t you? Well don’t. From everything I can gather, most of mainland Mexico’s PR nightmares simply do not happen on the Baja. In fact, we spoke with several Mexican nationals who said they themselves came to Loreto to escape “Bad Mexico.” Even petty crime is said to happen far less often on the Peninsula.

In fact, the only real downside I can point to is the fact that they serve their fish tacos breaded. It’s kind of a nightmare.

The beach scene

The biggest knock on this place, at least from my point of view, is the beach.  It’s not great right here in Loreto.  Of course, as one property management lady put it, “If we had great beaches, we’d be Cabo.  And we don’t want to be Cabo.”  It’s a great point.  Here’s the thing, though: there is white sand to be had about an hour’s drive north in Conception Bay.  It’s borderline Caribbean looking up there.  Even better, just a 20 minute boat ride takes you to Coronado Island, just outside of Loreto Bay.  Di and I shared this entire crescent beach with a pelican and a sleeping Mexican boat captain. 

Image

We’ll be looking at rental properties today, with a goal of securing a rental agreement for our final return in early January.  We’re hoping for something with local character, but there is a fallback newer apartment,  2br, 2bath, fully furnished with swimming pool, etc, for $600/mo. 

Even if I had the money, I’m not sure I’d buy here just yet.  Although the market has been slammed, and everything is for sale, I don’t think people have yet accepted that their homes aren’t worth what they were just a year or so ago.  I can relate.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when your most prized asset is suddenly worth a fraction of itself because of some nebulous thing they call “the economy.”  My guess is it will take another year, just like it did up in the States, before homeowners are willing to shake off the denial and drop their asking prices for real. 

Greetings from Baja California Sur

I wish I had a better excuse for not writing more lately, but the fact is I just kind of lost the rhythm for a few weeks. That being said, I’m back and with stories to tell.

Diana and I landed in Loreto, Mexico, on Friday and have been busy exploring ever since.  It is much greener than I expected.  In fact, it is much greener than people who have homes here ever expected.  Apparently there has been significant rain recently, resulting in some amazing desert scenery.  Not thousands, but millions of huge saguaro cactus dot the landscape with bellies full of fresh water.  Vultures circle overhead, waiting patiently for parched cowboys to die.

As most of you know I grew up in Colorado, so take it for what it’s worth when I say that the mountains surrounding Loreto are an awesome sight.  I understand that I can’t hike up into them and catch big, fat rainbow trout, but they are every bit as dramatic from where I stand as Pikes Peak or Rabbit Ears Pass ever were.

This is the calm before the storm here in Loreto.  Many restaurants and hotels are closed until late October when tourist season officially kicks off.  Unfortunately, many more businesses will remain closed as a result of a two-tier economic downturn.  The first coincided with the U.S. recession in 2009, when guys like me suddenly lacked a pot to piss in.  The second came about a year ago when news of drug violence in Mexico-at-large created guilt by association for this quiet little village.

The malecon along the water’s edge looks like what it is: a beautifully designed and ambitious project that recently came to a screeching halt.  Here is where the grandest hotels and fanciest restaurants had the farthest to fall, and did.  Plywood guards their largest panes of glass from would-be vandals as they wait for new money, new owners, or both.

We have only scratched the surface of the housing situation, so I will withhold my first impressions until I’ve had a chance to learn more.  My guess is it starts cheap with significant room for negotiation.  Not Ecuador cheap, but cheap.

And finally, for tonight anyway, we had an opportunity to experience Mexican healthcare firsthand; something my Dad has been concerned about ever since we first sprung the news on him.  Diana had been having kidney pain for a few days prior to our arrival.  We were in the middle of renting a car when the girl behind the counter started making small talk.  Next thing we knew, she was driving us to a doctors office while our car was being prepped.

When we got to the office, the doctor was in the middle of lunch but happily set it aside and ushered us all (rental car lady too!) into the exam room.  Diana described her pain, got weighed, poked and prodded and I got a free sucker.  Ten minutes later we received two prescription drugs and a $40 peso doctor bill.

That’s somewhere in the vicinity $3.30 if you’re keeping score.