Should I stay or go? Tropical gal grumps

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I am not living the life I imagined. I think a lot of people can say that.  For some, that’s a good thing. Or, it can be not so good.

Specifically, I’m contemplating the price of “paradise”…and if I want to pay it.

Tropica is in the news as the perfect place to live, work and retire. Real estate porn – colonial houses, pools, hammocks, low cost of living are why baby boomers are pouring into town. While the press extolls the beauty and virtues Tropica I’m thinking of going in the other direction.

This morning at 8 a.m. I was in a construction bodega buying grey cement, white cement, sand, water repellant compound. I never wanted to be a general contractor and delivery woman in such a macho environment. Water pipe burst in the wall. Call a mason, have the bathroom hammered, cement dust flying. Next a plumber. Then the mason again. I think of my cousin who lives in a gorgeous Chicago flat where nothing breaks and she spends her time deciding whether to go to the Art Institute or Steppenwolf.

Tired of rust. On everything. Even stainless steel rusts in Tropica. Your fridge, stove, dishwasher are irreparably pock marked within months. The calcium in the water crusts the insides of your dishwasher, washing machine, pipes and faucets, rendering them unusable, unfixable with the need to purchase again. And again.

Tropica only knows extremes. I’m talking of paralyzing heat, burning sun and drought, which overnight turns into mold, bugs, mosquitos and puddles when the rainy season begins. Electricity goes out when it rains or the wind blows or just because.

So tired of mold. My fridge is full, with nothing to eat: flour, baking powder/soda, bags of dried fruits, spices, pasta, sugar, mustard, batteries, perfume, all medicines. Everything — got it?

Tired of mold on clothes and shoes. Just today I took a blanket to the dry cleaner to get rid of the humidity stains. Clothing faded by the sun and destroyed by the highly calcified water. The souls of shoes unglue themselves over and over.

Tired of all bugs, marauding ants, tolocs, cockroaches, scorpions, horseflies, mosquitos.

Tired of tropical stomach upsets, amoebas and parasites in the intestines. Being wormed once a year like a dog.

Not being able to have anything mailed into the country. Can you imagine life with no Amazon, no L.L. Bean, no anything. In case you didn’t get it, I’ll say it again: no one ships into Tropica.

Not being able to buy shoes in my size because Tropican feet are small. Going to the mall and finding nothing to buy. (Well, that could be a good thing…)  Not being able to cook what I want. Rather, going to the grocery and seeing what there is.

Tired of expat forums on FB with people asking questions about where to buy this and that, what this means, how to fix this. Houses are a full time occupation.

There is no perfect place.  While many dream of paradise, I’m now dreaming of the first world. A modern flat with a view.

So tell me, what do you think about your life? Do you love where you are, or are you there because it’s where you ended up? Do you want to change locales?

xo Liza

Hello my lovelies! Wanted to give you the reality of living a “glam” life in the tropics. As I’ve said before, it’s def not for sissies! I’ll keep you posted on my decision. Do comment in the box below. If you enjoy being part of our community of intelligent, witty, life loving and oh so stylish women (!) enter your email in a box up there somewhere, so you don’t miss a thing.




43 thoughts on “Should I stay or go? Tropical gal grumps

  1. I too am not living the retirement life I imagined I would, living in Suburbia or rather being stuck … Your blog is somewhat an eye opener, but surely there are some pros living in Tropica…

      1. Thank you Liza for your quick reaction and correcting my spelling mistakes… I am in the process of learning Spanish for the last couple of years in hope of spending few weeks in Mexico next winter and being understood. Learning a new language at 62 yo is a fun challenge! I’m from Canada and is it me or the winters seem more brutal every year…

  2. I would love to be retired but am not there yet. I live in suburban northeast with cold winters but there is something to be said for a winter cold enough that many other issues just take care of themselves and I have excuses to stay inside and relax. My plan/hope is to rent a place in Tropica for several weeks each summer after I retire–a different place every year and invite my grandkids to come learn a local language and a local culture and have some fun with grandma (and maybe grandma’s girlfriends and their grandkids). It’s a big dream but I’m hoping.

  3. I guess there are pros and cons to everything and everywhere. Living in the northern hemisphere in the winter season and having to shovel snow and pay ridicously high heating costs (or freeze to death) has its yuck points too. Sometimes the sun doesn’t come out for days and it’s pretty depressing. I usually travel in the winter to somewhere warmer and sunnier to avoid all this. For me it’s more important to live in a safe and clean environment, have friends and family close by, have lots of interests and culture to keep me interested and as I get older have a good family Dr and healthcare…so I stay where I am. I love your blog! Be happy wherever you end up, life’s too short!

  4. I’m starting to think I might have the best of worlds! I live in a college town at the foot of the Rockies in which I could not afford to live if it wasn’t for subsidized senior housing. My rent covers utilities and maintenance and we have a very active community food rescue program in which volunteers bring food the smaller, high-end supermarket chains would be tossing out in a day or two right to our apartment building. Together with a nearby food pantry where I can obtain free meat, I barely budget for groceries. I have Silver Sneakers through my insurance that includes a free gym membership. The best part is that I’m within 17 miles of a one-room cabin my father built in 1939 high in the Rockies. I still drive so can go there any time I want!

  5. recently moved to Pittsburgh but do not like to do things alone and am retired at 71 so how do i meet people. I worked since i was 15.Raised my 2 children by myself. Do not have a lot of money but want to enjoy life instead of being lonely. Can u help

  6. This is International Day of Happiness ~

    I am a Sixty + and totally appreciate this blog. There is no perfect place on earth to live. It would be easier in so many ways to be in US/Canada. Perhaps that is something that is considered in later years, no one perfect solution, that is for “sure”.

  7. Dear Liza, It sounds like you are so ready to make a move and hope that you can sooner than later! I do love my life in the northeast, love all the seasons and though there are some inconveniences in each, the seasons are short lived! Paradise in Tropica may be fun for a month but I can’t imagine myself living there permanently with all those issues. Be careful what you wish for right? Hope that you will find a more suitable home soon and spoil yourself with all the conveniences of modern living! Love your posts!

  8. We lived in a stateside Tropica for 10 years and had full access to basics but fled North to the more affordable 4-season South after fighting bugs and heat and mold and hurricanes (total loss of house, but insurer said it was flood not hurricane and refused to cover). We still enjoy vacationing in our Tropica and visiting friends who stayed, but have never regretted the decision to leave for one moment.

  9. Liza, I went to “Tropica” last summer by myself (I am single, 67, retired) to check out a possible semi-permanent move. I rented a house. The people, both expats and Mexicans, were lovely and welcoming. The culture is wonderful. The prices, especially for food, inexpensive compared to where I am now, in Texas. But seeing all of the effort involved in day-to-day living – paying bills in person, buying water, contending with noisy neighbors, bureaucracy, etc., made me pause.
    I realized that what was “adventure” to someone else would turn out to be a slog for me, especially since I am not married and would be far away from friends and family. My real challenge, as I now see it, is creating a full and rich life where I am, with who I am and what I have. That said, I loved your post, a great reminder that no thing or place is perfect!

    1. Judy, you got it right with: “my real challenge is creating a full and rich life where I am, with who I am and what I have.” This is what comes back to me all the time. Thank you for this.

  10. Dear Liza, have you notreif to live in tropicana and See what’s it is like(or if you like it?)
    I Would Never move to a Country that i haben’ denn.

  11. I live in Northern Florida and love it! We get a change of seasons, fall, spring and summer… no winter, no snow………. I live in an adult retirement home that has maintenance staff and my rent is subsidized so that’s a big help. We also have two busses that come to our building to take us to doctors or shopping……$5 or $6 a trip……I’m allowed to have my dog and we have woods on 3 sides of us. The only problem is that we do have bugs OUTSIDE because part of the woods is a bird sanctuary and they won’t spray it because they don’t want to hurt the birds. Other then that, this is paradise. I’m 15 blocks from the ocean, too………….I love it!

  12. I live in a sort of rural area of Southern Florida and I can identify with everything in your post. The heat and humidity cause all sorts of problems from mold to deteriorating walls, roofs, etc. It’s tough being a homeowner anywhere and if you live in an older home, it’s even tougher. I’ve lived here most of my life and plan on retiring here too. I don’t want to go back north at all. But no matter where you live, it’s never going to be like the real estate porn pics. Reality just keeps on intruding 🙂

  13. Hi Liza, you have my sympathies – after living for a dozen years (many years ago) in south Texas I know what bugs and heat and humidity feel like. Everyone has different preferences. I’ve lived in Colorado for 30 years in a small Victorian home and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Although when I moved here 30 years ago, I wasn’t thinking in terms of retirement, but I lucked out (dumb luck!!) and am in a community with a senior center that is ranked number two in the nation. Although I live in a smaller community I’m within an hour from large cities and have access to all the cultural events and venues I could want. I know many people wouldn’t like the higher altitude, the cold and snow (though it’s really not as bad as Chicago – where I was born!) but for me having four seasons is perfect and I’m grateful for my retired life here. Are you in a position to research other places (back here in the States perhaps) and maybe move back? Even if it would be a financial hardship for a while, if you’re truly unhappy with your current living situation it might be worth scrimping and saving for a bit to make a move to a more conducive area. Sit down and think about what you truly want and the pros and cons of each thing you want – you’ll be able to find a place that suits you! Good luck!

    1. Hi Donna. If you see this, I’d love to know where you are. I’m in Silverthorne. But my house has appraised a good bit and in the next two years I want to get the money out and try to downsize again, going a little lower so I’m not in a ski resort, but not leave the mountains. The Front Range is priced out for me and anyway I like smaller towns.

      I’m researching! You sound nicely contented.

  14. I recently visited San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. It is a retiree’s dream and has so much available for everyone. I love the town!!!! I don’t live there full time but visit there every year since a good friend lives there full time. Look it up and you might see that you’d like it.

  15. I think you need to move back to the first world for a trial period. Rent a place( maybe rent yours too) and see how it goes and what your feelings are after. Say 6 months that gives you enough time to find your feet. Of course the ideal scenario is to split your time between 2 places but its not always doable. I had to make some big decisions the end of last year and as a result our Gulf home has been sold. I’m still coming to terms with not having another life across the pond, the first time in 15 years.
    Life’s too short I say go try it!

    1. You are absolutely right Jo. Renting and trying out. You are an inspiration to me. You know when to move on and turn it into all positives. xo

  16. I totally understand the “should I go or should I stay” dilemma. Not long ago I read a simple but to me, profound statement… “you are only one decision away from living a different life.” I say go to Chicago, rent a condo, go to the museum and the concerts, live the life! If you want to move back to Tropica, you can. Or maybe back to another place in Mexico if the Chicago winters get too harsh.
    I live in Seattle and this has been the hardest winter yet for rain and gray. I am looking at Ajijic during the winter, but my dream is to be in two places year around. One thing about being single, ladies, we can gather up and make that decision any time we want!

    1. Oh my! I’m writing that quote and hanging it on my fridge. Thank you. It really struck a cord with me.

  17. Really food for thought here. Love your descriptions. Had to smile although the real process of going through what you are is not so funny! As an Illini, (only 2 hours South of where you were) I know first hand about that flu you mentioned in another post. I live in the country surrounded by cornfields. Not exactly the “paradise” I dreamed of, but am trying to make the best of it too. Garden space, horses, dogs, quiet and a beautiful view are some of the perks. It can get rather lonely here, but am looking to meet some new friends now that I am no longer caring for my Mom who passed on the 10th at 102 1/2 years old. Am glad I found your post!

  18. Liza,
    My ideal retirement place was an island. But, the island came with a serious downside. Medical care. Or lack thereof. Heart attack? They put you on a plane to another island. Stroke? On the plane to a different island. Need chemo? 60 mile drive away. Anything replaced, knees, hips etc? On the plane and off the island. Need to see a dermatologist? You guessed it. On the plane.

    So, I spend 4 months a year on my island. And 8 months a year in my comfortable retirement community on the east coast. This is where I know I will be spending my “really old time” assuming I get there.

    I am happy with this solution. I rent from friends on my island. And, have no maintenance issues etc. And, the retirement community is my legal residence and “forever home.” Also, no maintenance.

    We are not limited to one place. Not until our “really old time”, at least.

  19. Augggg… the constant dilemma . I left Tropicana Puerto Rico to be a yacht chef, sold my boat, bought a farm, bought breeding stock dogs , raised puppies, built the business, husband died, too many dogs, house falling apart…oh how I miss Tropicana…
    .go where you want, keep in touch with friends, rent when you want to go back.

  20. I just discovered your blog! Ten years ago my husband and I started investigating our retirement dream location. Years ago we moved to our current location, NE Ohio, do to my husband’s job. Before that we lived in Florida for 4 years. We knew Florida was not for us. I decided I couldn’t handle summer all year. We checked out many areas. Funny thing is during the time we’ve lived here this place has really IMPROVED! It took looking around for us to appreciate what we had grown used rated healthcare system, fantastic libraries, wonderful art museum lots of diversity which offers excellent restaurants very light traffic and the best neighborhood grocery store anyone could ask for. So we bought a modest condo and stayed put. We plan to head to a milder climate for a month or two during our harsh season. So for us that’s livin the dream.

    1. Hi Kathy! So glad you discovered me and welcome! Thanks for writing. I love your story…how a place grew on you and surprised you. It sounds wonderful and you are happy and at peace. Carry on!

  21. Hi Liza

    I am retired and very happy in Miami, Florida.

    My suggestion is you make a list of what would make you happy and find a place to move.

    Life is short, be happy!

    Maria E. Cervera
    Miami, Florida

  22. I understand completely. I worked in St. Eustatius for a year and 1/2. It was beautiful, the people amazing. But the water was rain water, cisterns were used in the houses. Which meant when you took a shower, you could not allow it to get in your mouth. All water had to be boiled to cook with, if you were brave enough. If not, you used bottle water. With food, you either flew to neighboring St. Martins or you bought whatever showed up in the stores. By the time the food got to the stores, it was at least a week or two old. If you wanted TV, internet, you had to buy a Direct TV out of South America. But the internet was slower than dial up. As you said, trying to buy something over the internet was extremely slow. The health care was ok, but again, if you needed anything serious, you had to be flown to receive treatment. I would not trade my time there for anything in the world, I learned so very much, it was amazing in it’s beauty.

  23. I just discovered your blog and I love it, Liza. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I lived in San Miguel de Allende for 3 years. It was more than a decade ago and I was married then. It’s drier than your part of Mexico, but all the problems except those caused by humidity applied there. After a while, things that felt so adventuresome initially turned into annoyances and worse.
    I recall talking with a long time ex pat who was just a little envious when I told her we were going back to the states. Her comment was, I imagine, right on. She said ” the ex pats who are happiest in Mexico don’t live here full time…they go back and forth”.
    After my soulmate dog was poisoned one Christmas Eve, so the house could be robbed later, sorrow was the final straw that drove us away.
    I’m single now after 40 years of marriage. Have been divorced 8 years, and although I had a wonderful life and a great marriage (till one day it wasn’t). I LOVE being single and living alone.
    One thing about your thinking…if you decided you want to stay in Mexico, San Miguel might warrant a look. Gorgeous. Good climate. And loads of older single women live there.

    1. Thank you Anya for sharing your story. I really enjoyed reading it. And also, I’m glad you found Camp Liza and that it resonates with you. That is the best compliment and it makes me feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile. For the time being, whilst my house is on the market, I am contemplating being a reverse snowbird. Keeping a little pied a terre in Merida, and doing some Air BnB’s around various parts of the U.S. to see if I can find my “place.” Doing all of this alone is quite daunting. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it. Where do you live in the U.S.?

  24. I live in Silverthorne, Colorado. It shares Summit County with 4 major ski resorts which means snow and tourists. Both by the bucket load!
    I’m thinking hard, trying to make a plan for The Next Thing and you’re right. It’s a little daunting. Just the physical moving is daunting. For my last two moves that got me here, I had help packing up and getting moved. This time I won’t.
    But more important is the fact that I just don’t know where to go! I want something that feels a little adventurous. I’m 69 and I have time for at least one more adventure. Hoping to have an epiphany this summer. Ha!
    Your Air b&b idea sounds good. That platform has the most interesting rental houses and much more offerings suitable for one.

  25. Hello Liza, I found your blog from Sixty and Me and am enjoying both. I lived in Hawaii for six years and appreciate so much of what you wrote here: bugs, no Amazon (they ship, but you can’t afford it), humidity/rust (bye bye leather shoes, hello flip flops), flying to Oahu for any significant medical, etc. Nonetheless, when we had to move, I was devastated because that place was one of my true “heart homes”. Seeking Paradise is an inside job, BUT location, in my experience, really impacts my insides—must have sun but not too much, no snow, clean skies, safe environs, social/cultural options that suit your personality, proximity to family (if that’s important—not much family so not important to me). Another writer on Sixty and Me did a piece on “simplify and focus”, which seems like a good mantra at this last third of our lives. I once lived/rented in two places, and found it not to be the simple life that it might seem on the surface, so I’m now living in an “active adult” community in Sonoma County, CA (Oakmont) and find that it suits me about 75%. I wonder if this is as good as it gets but prior experience and many past moves tells me “yes”. It was bittersweet to travel recently and realize I no longer fantasize about what it would be like to live in that place, to not be looking at real estate while on vacation. I guess I am finally home here. May you find the right place and combinations that work best for you.

    1. Hi Julie! Thanks ever so much for your thoughtful reply and comments. It was nice to hear about your life and your search. I would love to hear more about you and your life, and I hope as I post on the blog, that you keep commenting and sharing. Cheers! Liza

  26. I moved from Austin, TX to San Francisco (Marin County to be exact) awhile back and I am so happy here. I literally sold everything I had, put my dogs in my SUV, and left. Like a Gypsy. I downsized considerably to live here and it was worth it. Austin is a beautiful city, but I was so tired of the oppressive heat for 5-6 months at a time and no fall season. I also wanted a different landscape and not much beats the ocean, the Redwoods, and the mountains!

    My quality of life in Marin is so different. The weather is incredible so my dogs and I hike and walk all the time. I am still taking pics of all the fall color every day because ti’s do gorgeous. From where I live I can walk to 3 different bucolic small towns for coffee or a bite to eat, I go to happy hours with friends, lunches in Sausalito, wine tastings in Napa and Sonoma, sailing excursions on the bay, and fun days spent in San Francisco. None of this is expensive and all of the beautiful hikes and walks are completely free. Is housing here expensive? You bet it is, so unless you are wealthy be prepared to downsize..but I don’t think you’ll regret it or even miss the extra space!

    1. ooh Patty! Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds amazing! And beautiful. And inspiring. I really appreciate hearing this. Will keep you posted. Carry on!

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