Life in Paradise on a Shoestring

Episode 35 A Single Mom Lives Like A Millionaire with Becca Alvarez

October 12, 2020 Dawn Fleming Season 3 Episode 35
Life in Paradise on a Shoestring
Episode 35 A Single Mom Lives Like A Millionaire with Becca Alvarez
Show Notes Transcript

It all started when Becca Alvarez went to meet her in-laws who lived in a small Mexican village. She fell in love with the area and them.  She decided to move there with her 2 girls for a year.  After that, her contract job in Mexico ended, so they moved back to the U.S. Two job losses and a home robbery later, she sold everything but what would fit in her SUV for a second trip to Mexico. That was 10 years ago, now she has a staff of four to take care of her and her 3 girls - and lives like a Millionaire.  She made some mistakes along the way, but couldn't be happier with her life, her family and their future.

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Commercial: [00:00:29] Welcome. You are listening to the overseas life redesign podcast where you'll hear fine, relaxed, and inspirational interviews with people who are really living the dream. I'm Dawn Flemming an attorney turned alchemist and your host for the show coming to you from the tropical island paradise of East level net us Mexico. Listen to conversations with courageous souls who step out of their comfort zone and designed a new way of life. They'll share their experiences, wisdom and offer practical steps you can take to redesign your life overseas. Listen, and you'll believe if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:00:43] I am here today with Becca Alvarez, and I am super excited about this interview because we have not chatted for a while and I know you've had amazing things happen since we last spoke. Thank you so much for being with me today. Appreciate it.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:00:58] Sure. Happy to be here.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:00:59] So I know you made a big decision, a bold move a few years ago in deciding to leave Texas. You are a single mom with three daughters, I believe, as I recall you three and you decided to move to Mexico. You want to share with us why you decided to do that. 

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:01:20] Was actually 10 years ago, was in 2010. And I was working for a company that was a global company and had a global account and they needed some help in Mexico. My now ex-husband is Mexican and we have two daughters together. And this was back when the girls were two and four. And I kind of volunteered to help on this account in a different region. And that required me to travel to Mexico City and Guanajuato once a month. The girls were actually at that time one and three. And I was like, yeah, that'd be great. So on my first trip to Mexico City, you know, their paternal grandparents are in Pasquotank Michoacan, which I had never heard of before. And so on my first business trip, I had to I took a little detour from Mexico City and I went through Pottsboro for like overnight and then went on to want to it's not really on the way, but it was close enough that it's not too bad. So I got here in 2010 and I was just transported to the 16th-century colonial town. But I didn't know about Pueblo. Magical, magical that Mexico has. And I didn't really know what to expect. And I wanted to meet my ex-husband's parents, and he's the second of 10, so the first five. He and his siblings were in the US in Dallas and his younger five siblings were here in the hospital. So I wanted to meet and I knew him, you know, my brothers and sisters and law in the US and I wanted to meet those here. And so I came to meet the family. And while I was so shocked, first of all, dropping into what it was like being dropped into someplace in Europe, you just don't expect it. It's not like any of the border towns. It's not like any of the tourist towns. And it was just so beautiful and quaint. I wasn't expecting the 16th, 16th-century architecture. But then when I got to the family's house, I was not expecting third-world conditions. There were eight people living in two bedrooms that Daniel said he had built for them in two thousand the last time he had been here. And there was no running water, there was no kitchen, there was a wood fire that water was heated upon. And they cut like truly Third World. And I was just shocked. Shocked, but they had hearts of gold and I just fell in love with the family. So every month I was traveling that started in January. And every month I came down and I would swing by to see them. And get to know them, I remember going to my first Mexican wedding, which was in a Rancho, right. So a ranch wedding in Michoacan is something you've got to experience. It was crazy. And actually, somehow I was. I was the one who was supposed to do the tequila dance, which I hadn't even seen before, so, yeah, it was crazy. But I remember that day that I just had the thought when I left. I just said, you know, the girls were now two and four. And I just thought, why don't we just move down here for a year, put everything in storage. We were in Virginia at the time, put everything in storage for a year, and moved down here. I'll be so much closer to my client. And it wasn't really a true ex-pat move like where the company pays for it. I just asked them for permission. I just said, hey, I said if I move to Mexico for a year and they loved it, they're like, Oh yeah, especially because I was going to pay for it. But I just thought that my girls and their grandparents, these were their only grandchildren from the US, they were going to have a chance to see because they're their children had gone to the US illegally. So the grandchildren that were there were Americans, but they could have come back and forth alone without their parents. Right. So the girls were still so young. So I just thought, let's go do this. So we packed up and moved here for a year. It was so amazing. And I didn't know any Spanish. Right. Your divorce was not final, but we were definitely separated. We had separated when I was three months pregnant with Claire that we had a very cordial relationship. So getting the girl's passports, Daniel was in another state in the US. So that was just an affidavit that you have to you need your ex or your separate whoever their father has to sign an affidavit. You can go to the passport processing center with your children and that affidavit and you can get their passports. So and I actually don't have a divorce document that. Stipulates custody for the children because I was moving back and forth so often from different states, different countries, that when we finally did get our divorce, it was kind of ridiculous. But the judge said he didn't feel like he had jurisdiction over the children because they weren't in Washington state. Well, the most important thing in a divorce is to stipulate who has custody of the children. So technically, neither of us do. I mean, it's just not the divorce. It's really crazy. But because we have such a great relationship and there's no acrimony or anything like that. There's never been an issue, and obviously, I moved his children to his hometown. Right,

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:06:58] Right.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:06:58] So he was really supportive of that. So we came down here in Mexico. Its children start kindergarten at four years old. There are actually three years of kindergarten in Mexico, three, four, and five years old. But they consider the Segunda and settle the second and third year of Kindred's is mandatory. Right. So Anna started kindergarten here, and that was a really great experience. You know, I remember I told you this family was very poor. So I came down here and I rented this amazing villa right. With like five bedrooms. And I was just like, the whole family can live with us. It's going to be great. And his, you know, their grandmother can take care of them. And my costs were going to, you know, go way down. And I just had all these thoughts that, of course, they wouldn't want to live in poverty. Of course, they would want to just completely transform their lives. And, wow, that was such a rude awakening because I never really asked. I just said I've got a new hope for you. Yay. Right. I think I just said and, you know, I didn't really know them well. And so we just got here. I rented this big house and I just said, OK, you're going to be taking care of the grandkids and your two little granddaughters. Of course, you would want to do that right now. Of course, you guys will all not want to. Eight people live in two bedrooms anymore. You all get your own bedroom now. And I just thought that was great. But, wow, that did not go over well. They were very accustomed to what they had and they were apparently very satisfied with what they had. They were comfortable sleeping in their own bed. They were used to sleeping with two or three siblings by them, even as like in high school. All right. And they were used to not having a kitchen and not having running water. And they had never had a shower before. Right. They had bathed in a bucket, like pouring water on them. You know, it was they couldn't sleep with the lights off. They had to have the lights on because they were afraid. That didn't last very long. I mean, I was so shocked. And then I thought their grandmother was very old she's actually only nine years older than me. And she was stolen when she was fourteen. They do that at the Ranchos. A man steals the girl and then she's ruined by the family demands. He marries her. She had three miscarriages and then he started having her four children, ten consecutive children. By that, she started at seventeen. So she was really young and kind of just kicked him out every other year. But I thought again, I thought she could take care of Kami. Excuse me, not Candy. Claire, who was two years old and all she knew to do with her was just wrapped up in a rebozo like a shawl and just carry her around. She had no concept of the type of care that we would want for a two-year-old, which is doing activities or doing this or playing and puzzles, and these children and grow up with toys. Right. They don't have anything in the refrigerator. They walk down to the local little market and buy the food that they need per meal. Right, right. The concept of I mean, they do their cooking and cleaning and washing and doing all this and little children take care of themselves. They're there in the house playing in the dirt and playing with sticks. And they just make sure that they don't die. Basically, you know, grandparents that are really taking care of, you know, home and just trying to survive really don't know how to take care of their grandchildren. They often are charged with doing it, but there's no real care. Right. Which may be one of the reasons that they have children start at three years old. Kids are like that, you know.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:11:05] Yeah. Yeah.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:11:06] So so that didn't work out her taking care. 

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:11:11] Do you have to stay at the house for a little while and then it just. 

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:11:14] Yeah. Maybe a week. And they were just like, yeah, we're going to go home or we're just not. Or it was there is no big fight, there is no bill, nothing. It was just like, oh thanks for letting us visit you. And I think I had I had one sister-in-law that actually did stay with her one daughter, who is three. So she was right around the same age as my girls. So she did stay. And it was funny. I remember because I didn't speak any Spanish, she spoke no English. And we would sit down on her bed at night and we would just have these long conversations and somehow we understood each other. I can't explain it because I knew nothing and she knew nothing, but yet we were communicating and I still look back and not just think how crazy that was after they didn't want to say, I said, OK, well, I don't need this giant place. So after a month, we left the house that supposedly Pancho Villa stayed in and we moved about 15 minutes outside of town to a gated community. It was a mix of like gringos, the Mexicans, and it was very, very beautiful. But it was like a three-bedroom home. Perfect for us. Right? Me, the girls shared. And we had a guest room and I worked from home so I couldn't really work there. There was a good Internet service, so I had it. I did find a next Mexican nanny who took care of Claire and then clean the house and took care of everything. I took Anna to school and then I went to a local restaurant and I use their Internet and I worked from there until I got done with school. It too. And I went to pick her up and then we went back to the house. That was kind of our schedule all school year. Yeah. So that's what I did our first year after our first year. My company, I was like, this was just a one year type thing, my company kind of outsourced things to India and so they're like, well if you want to stay with us, you need to go back. Instead of going back to Richmond, Virginia, we want you to go to Baltimore, Maryland. I didn't really want to do that. So I found another job and we went to Nashville. Now, this is important that the little story that I'm going to talk about here because I didn't investigate anything really about crossing the border, the laws of Mexico, what's required. And I do want to say that when we first moved with the girls, I chose not to drive. I chose to leave my SUV in Dallas. So we drove from Richmond to Dallas. I left my SUV with my dad and we flew here and I just said, you know, it's so cheap, I can just hire a driver, right, to take us to town. And what we need to do is have local transportation. And once I figure out if it's safe to drive down to Michoacan and the routes and I'll meet people and I'll figure it out. So we'll go home for Christmas and then I'll bring back my SUV, which is what I did. So that first year we're here and I got a six. So you get when you come into the country as an American, you get six-month permission for your car and an app and that they are very strict about it after six months and you have to give a deposit. So it's based on the year of your car, the newness of your car. You have to give a deposit. So my car. Was probably 10 years old, and I left, let's say four hundred dollars now as an American, the way we think is when something expires, it's like over and done with. It's useless. It's just done right. So when we left the country, I knew I forfeited my four hundred dollars. I wasn't going to get it. So I didn't stop. And we just went through the border crossing and we showed our US passports and we entered the US without any issue and drove up to Dallas, drove up to Nashville where we were going to be living. But yet I had to go get everything out of storage and Richmond and bring it back. And right between there, I kind of had my 40-year mid-life crisis. And I had this all kind of like I said to your SUV, that the cobblestones roads here pretty much tear up. And I'm like, all right, train this thing in. And I got a brand new BMW x5, OK? So I traded it in. And this is like within a day or two after we cross the border. Right. So fast forward to a year later and it's now June of 2012 and the economy in the US was really bad. I lost two jobs and four and a half months never happened to me before. And I truly was like. You know, I had this huge car payment, I just got into a brand new home, I was used to, like most Americans, living paycheck to paycheck, and I had some savings and that helped me when I got laid off the first time. But then to get laid off again, that was the ending of the contract. Really. The next job was a full-time employment position that I did not expect to lose. And after three months, I did you know, they had a big layoff, bad Q2, and Europe. And so all the directors and vice presidents got laid off. And here I am. And so I'm like Tennessee unemployment's three hundred dollars a week. Not a trip to Costco. Like I'm going to I'm truly going to be on the street. And normally I'm very marketable and I have a job within a month. But, I didn't even have an interview within a month. And so it just popped into my head, where can I live on three hundred dollars a week. And here in Pasquino people live on sixty-five dollars a week. And so I said, OK, we are going back to Pottsboro. So I kept looking for a job during the month of July in 2012, but at the same time, I was planning an international move. So I sold and donated and gave everything we had away. I only took what we could put inside that SUV and what duffel bags on top of it. And that was it. And I just within three weeks shut down my life in the US completely and go back.So we get to the border and I'm ready and we're getting our permissions and I'm getting my permission for my new SUV and I'm asked, where's the Ford Explorer? And I'm like. That was I sold that I got a new car and I sold that and like a year ago, well, you still have that permission on your passport and only one car at a time can be allowed in an American passport. And I said, but that permission expired, expired within six months. And it's no good. Why is it still attached to my passport? And she said, you have to stop at the border before you leave, even if it's expired, they need to remove the sticker from your windshield and they have to process some paperwork that actually removes it from your passport. Oh, dear. You cannot enter the country in this car.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:18:53] Uh.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:18:56] Ok, well, she says, where's the paperwork for the other permission, I'm like in the glove box of the car that I traded in, I didn't even think about it, she said this is going to take you six months to deal with,

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:19:10] oh, no

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:19:11] one is in Mexico City.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:19:14] Oh.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:19:14] And I was like, OK, I have a three and five-year-old little girl in the car and everything. We own very limited funds. We've got a house in school waiting for us. And that's what I don't have six months to try to do this. So I know I sound very calm then, but I was truly panicking saying there's got to be a way around this.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:19:37] Right?

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:19:37] It's like, I'm sorry, there's not I cannot. She said, well, do you have a blood family member, a brother or sister or father or child that is willing to come here to the border with their passport and enter your car on it? Well, my brother didn't have a passport. My dad's were expired. And my sister said, hell no, I am not going to the Mexican border to help you. Now, what, seven, eight years later, she now lives in Puerto Vallarta and loves it.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:20:08] Right.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:20:08] But at this time, she was scared to death to come to Mexico because, like, no way am I coming to help you and my children. My blood children are three and five years old, so they certainly can't drive my car into the country for me. So I was like, oh, my gosh. So I went back to the other side and I went in to talk to them. And they're like, there's nothing we can do to help you. This is Mexican Edwina's. For three days I was staying at a hotel in Eagle Pass, Texas, going back and forth between the Mexican office, the US office, trying to figure out who the heck could help me. No one can help me. And finally, when I was at the border on the Mexican side. I see a group of Federales talking, and I went up to them and I told them my problem and one of them said, Do you have a passport card? Because passport cards are used for land crossings only and by boat, it's what all the truckers use who go back and forth. They don't need a passport book. It's a passport.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:21:14] Right. Right. Yeah.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:21:15] I bet if you get one of those, it's going to be issued with a different number. And you can enter this card in this car, on this card. And I said, oh, bless you. You have a crown in heaven. So we went to Houston to the major passport processing center. And of course, when I tell them the story, they'd never heard of that, but they processed it in a day for me. And I came back, entered on that and got the car in. Oh, but before that one other little story, this was a brand new lease. I had leased my BMW. Now, I do not recommend this, but you have to show when you're bringing your car in, you have to show your license, your registration, and the title of your vehicle. And if you have a lease, you don't have the title.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:22:03] That's right.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:22:04] So you have to have a letter from the company giving you permission to go into the country for I think maybe up to nine months or I didn't have that. So that was actually what they stopped me for the first time. They said, where's the letter from BMW for you to come in before they even mentioned where's the Ford Explorer? They said they're looking at all my stuff and seeing that I have all the documents to enter the country with it. I didn't have that letter, so I went to a little hotel in a tiny little dusty town, asked to use the computer, and I just forged a letter. I knew what they wanted. They wanted the van. No, and this and that. All of that. And I found a BMW logo and I made up some guy's name. And of course, it's just some Mexican Advanta who has no idea it looked official enough to him. So when I come back, I'm I'm thinking I'm golden. Right. Here's everything to get my BMW and they have all those documents. They accept them and then they go, where's the Ford Explorer? And that's what took me on that. So that was not something I could easily get out of. Right. But anyway, we did through another passport, a passport card, I was able to get the BMW. And so we are now driving in and we're good. I would like to back up, though, because the very first time I came to the country with my Ford Explorer, remember how I said for the first six months became I didn't have, but I went home. We flew home for Christmas and then came back down. I had an investigative tool when I was bringing the car in for the very first time, I didn't know you had to have permission. So I just drove in and see in America, when you're supposed to do things, Americans stop you, they stop you and say, we need this from you. We need that. You have to do this in Mexico. No, they don't. You drive through the border. No one stops me. No one even says here, stop here to get your visa. Stop here to get your vehicle emission. No, they don't. So I drove for the first time and it was on. New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve 2010, going into 2011, and just like in the US, once you get 50 kilometers or twenty-five miles into the border, there is a Border Patrol checkpoint. So they have that in Mexico, too. So I drove twenty-five miles, 50 kilometers into Mexico and I'm stopped. And they said, where's your vehicle provision? And I'm like, what? They could have actually processed it there for me right there. But they didn't. They sent me all the way back to the border now, so I went all the way back to the border. It is not easy to find that place. I don't read the signs. It's just not right there. The border for you it was I drove around and around and around and finally found it. Finally, I have my permission and I go back. So the time we're really late. Right. And I following the rules in Mexico is you should not be on the roads late at night. You need to stay on. You need to stay on toll roads and all that kind of stuff. What we were going to be saying and Aguascalientes is really nice. Cantorial hotel is a chain, but they're very, very nice, and I find myself at midnight with my babies that are to enforce this the first time we entered and I know I'm mixing up the chronological order, but at midnight on New Year's Eve and we were driving to the streets and trying to get there, and I'm definitely not on a toll road. And there are fires everywhere. Everyone outside in the street has built a little bonfire like a small little high.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:25:56] Right.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:25:56] I didn't know they did that. I'd never been here for Christmas or New Year's before. So I see all these fires on the road driving, driving through these towns. I didn't have a GPS then. I don't know how I got there. Honestly, this wasn't in my BMW is a Ford Explorer. I don't know how I got there. Seriously. We got there at like midnight, 1:00 in the morning at this hotel and I just put the girls in bed, and from there on we got to make sure I'm fine. But not investigating, bringing a car in, and where you need to go ahead of time. And then, of course, when you leave all of that, I learned the hard way. And now hopefully that will help someone because it is important when you enter, there are lots of different border crossings, right. You can enter to Los Angeles or Laredo or there's a lot of different ones. Those are the ones in Texas and they have them all on the border. You do need to find ahead of time, you know, where you need to stop to get your tourist visas. Yeah, you get those automatically when you fly. But if you're driving across, you need to stop and play on a tourist visa, and then you have to get your permission for your car. And if you follow those rules, it really OK, really,

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:27:11] If you ever have to get rid of the permission from the Explorer or if it was fine with just on the passport card, did you ever have to do that?

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:27:21] So my current passport has been replaced and it has a new number. OK, so no, because I never really figured out how to get that. What's your specific there? Right.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:27:32] Interesting.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:27:32] So I think because I have a new passport, I don't have a car on that. Yeah. And honestly, I mean at this point when. If I was wounded by someone, I would probably say the best thing is to find an international shipper and use an importer and they use an importer, find an international shipper to take all of your stuff, to fly into the country, and then buy a car locally. Because if you have a car from the US to prevent yourself from having to go back every six months to the border and getting that permission renewed while you're on a tourist visa, you can spend about three thirty-five hundred four thousand dollars to nationalize your US car. So,

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:28:19] Yeah,

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:28:19] I would just recommend buying local. I wouldn't recommend buying used local because Mexicans don't maintain their cars. So I've bought a used car and regret it greatly. But anyway, that's about getting through the border with little babies.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:28:37] Yeah. We'll be back in a moment,

 

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Dawn Fleming: [00:30:17] Welcome back to the Overseas Life Redesign podcast, thank you so much for being here, and we invite you to subscribe if you like, what you hear when we met, I guess it was about two and a half years ago. I know you were thrilled with your decision about living in Mexico and the experience of your girls. What did you want to talk about that a little bit?

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:30:40] Oh, yeah, for sure. So I think one of the great things about being a single mom if you can have a remote job working remotely from Mexico, it's kind of a no brainer because the life that I can provide my daughters here, we truly live like we're millionaires in the US. Meaning if I was in the US, even with a job making one hundred thousand or more a year, I can have a nice car and we can live in a nice place. But I don't have enough money to put my daughters in like private schools. I don't have enough money to take two, three, four vacations a year. I don't have I mean, I'm still living paycheck to paycheck, right. But here in Mexico, our life is so amazing. We live in and we also live in Michoacan, right to Michoacan's, one of the poorest states. But it's beautiful. The climate here is gorgeous. Where we live in Michoacan, it's actually seventy-four degrees year-round. So it's like living in Southern California, but it like a tenth of the cost. Right. So that the climate here is amazing. We're about seven thousand feet above sea level, so we're higher than Denver, but we've got mountains and trees and lakes and volcanoes and just a very mild climate and we love that. That's probably a principal thing. The second thing is, honestly, everyone always says, well, how do you feel safe? What is safety like for me? I feel very, very safe here. I actually feel safer here than I do in the US. So remember when we moved back to the U.S. after we had lived in Mexico for a year, our very first night where we have new suburbs in Franklin, Tennessee, all the homes are four hundred thousand dollar homes and we're renting. We get there on our very first night. Everything's inboxes. And I take the girls to have dinner and we come back and our home has been broken into now. And the only thing they took was are two little baby green turtles that we had worked so hard to bring back from Mexico. Yeah, I think it was some neighborhood kids that broke in and just took the turtles. But like, nothing like that happened in Mexico. And honestly, the children run around here like it used to be fifty years ago in the US. And I've just been so afraid with just all the child abductions and the US, I would never let my two and four-year-old play out in the yard by themselves in the US. Never, ever. I don't know any parents that would let their children play in a front yard by themselves anymore, even at five and six years old. It's just that child abductions are just horrible. I don't feel that now. I don't let I would let my two and four years old run around on the streets here in our Colonia. But honestly, there are children that do that right. And they're fine. And we've lived in a place where we had a big yard and stuff like that. Didn't have to worry about it. But I just haven't girls. Now that they're older, they walk from our neighborhood into downtown Pottsboro during the day and they take taxis by themselves to which I just, you know, I feel very safe with them here. So. Well, they're now 12 and 14. And my third daughter is Cammy and she's about to turn three.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:33:59] OK,

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:34:00] So so I love the fact that living from here. So this is actually our setup. My rent is probably around three hundred dollars a month. We have a four-bedroom home. Now, at this point, I've been able to recover in the two years since I lost everything or eight years since 2012 and didn't bring any furniture here. So we have a fully furnished home with custom-made furniture. You just show a picture from Pinterest of the piece you like and you show your carpenter and they make it for pennies on the dollar. Right. It's amazing. And I have four full-time employees.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:34:42] I have kind of like my right hand that runs everything because I do travel for my job and personally, so she does all the menu planning and grocery shopping and she does all the cooking and laundry and ironing. And then I have someone she works five days a week. Eight to four, and then I have a full-time nanny because I have a baby, right? So I've had a nanny who's an eight to five Monday through Friday because of my toddler. And then I have someone who actually cleans my house seven days a week, seven days a week. She's part-time. But since I treat her like a full-time employee, but she cleans the house top to bottom because the homes here are not like American homes. So there's a lot of outdoor spaces and the interior is getting very dusty and dirty and it's only 60 bucks a week to have her cleaned every day. Right. And she's actually really well paid. So so that and then I have ten thousand square meters, so I have about two and a half acres of yard. So I have a full-time gardener. And then he's actually the young adult son of Clementino, my right hand and very responsible. So he does all the gardening and he's kind of my house husband. So everything that breaks in the house, it's like my honey-do list, right? Everything that breaks, it needs to get fixed. He dalesman when there are issues he takes to the mechanic. Just anything I need because honestly, I have not that my job so important, but it's an intense job and I work very much eight to six and seven sometimes that sometimes because I'm going over the weekends I've got to work weekends or nights. And so I have got a pretty intense job right now and I don't have time to do anything domestic. So what I do stop working. I don't have to worry about, oh my gosh, the grocery shopping or the cleaning or the laundry or whatever, you just spend time with my children. And so that is such a gift that has moms in the US. Oh my gosh, mom's in the US. Even those that are very well paid are doing everything. They might have someone clean once a week or most twice a week, some just once a month. And they're trying to prepare the meals and shopping and laundry and yeah, everything moms are trying to do to hold together their families and homework with the kids and work their full-time job and their commute. The stress of moms in the US is insane. It's just off the charts and I have been able to reduce my stress so much. Plus, I'm not living paycheck to paycheck. My daughters can go to private school. We can take three to four vacations a year. I've got all of this domestic help that is just a lifesaver for me. So my quality of life and living here is so much better than living in the US, especially for a single mom.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:37:42] Yeah. Wow, that's quite an inspiration. I think you're going to get a lot of folks interested in that. So I guess one of the questions I have for you is might be on the minds of single moms contemplating something like this is what about your social life? Have you made friends in the community at all?

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:38:05] So in particular, there are only about three hundred ex-pats right. From the US and Canada and maybe a few Europeans. So there's not many and they're all retired. So I don't have many American friends here. Now, I would say that that was a blessing for me because I was able to immerse myself in a town where no one speaks English. You have to learn Spanish. And I remember within three weeks I could communicate with the taxi driver and tell them where I needed to go and what I needed to do. And because you learn from the Spanish speakers, like, for instance, you learn the whole vocabulary of a house from your domestic, from your maid or your cook. She holds up a fork and says the door. Right. That's how you learn. She looks at your sheets and says, these are Sabina's. Right. So it's so practical and easy to learn. Plus, you're listening to them. So you're learning from Nita's. I'm fully fluent in Spanish now, and my girls don't necessarily think my Spanish is that great, but everyone else thinks my Spanish is amazing because I've learned it from the locals here. And so I highly recommend I have never taken a class ever. I didn't learn by Duolingo or anything else. I truly learned from immersion. And now after the first year, still probably wasn't very good. But I do feel like that second year when we went back to the U.S., that kind of marinade.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:39:37] Yeah

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:39:37] And when I came back, I felt like I started learning a lot faster. So you learn the different vocabulary from the different people in your life, right? You're talking to a doctor. You've got that vocabulary. If you're talking to teachers now of the teachers in this town, speak English. So trying to communicate about my girl's school and what's going on, honestly, that's where my first friends came from. Mexican mother. From my children's school, OK, and some of them spoke some English because my girls went to private schools, so there was an education level higher of the parents and they did have some English. So that helped. There are also one or two servers in town at the restaurants that knew English who had lived in the US before. So I depended on them a lot. My first year. So you find some people that could speak a little English to help you, but really learning Spanish came to a lot faster because I didn't live in a tourist town. Yeah, right. If if you live in Puerto Vallarta, my sister still she's lived there for years now in the US and she stole her Spanish is not good at all because she has so many people, English to English yet. So here honestly, the retired community that's here of gringos, my interaction with them is to really online. So we have a community forum for Scotland Marilia that is really to help people, a lot of people who want to come to move down to this area. So there's lots of practical advice that you can get. And so we interact online. They are active in the cultural community here. And so I know that there is like a monthly cocktail party. This is all before covid, but a monthly cocktail party at the cultural events, whether it's the festival or different art events at the museum, I think there's a there's a ladies lunch every Tuesday that the gentlemen have that to where they meet. So there's definitely availability to meet in person with gringos, probably in any city you live in, in Mexico. But I just didn't choose to because we didn't really have anything in common. And they're just a world view of things is very different than mine. Plus, I've got little kids and I moved here when I was 14. Right. And they're all sixty-five and above, so I haven't really had much in common with them. So again, my message would be, if you do have children then it's probably your friends are going to come from, from their classmates, parents,

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:42:06] Parents, Are you I guess the question is, are you satisfied with that? I mean, is it something that you feel is missing or you don't mind it not having a larger social circle?

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:42:18] Well, I'm fine, but I mean, but that's me because I'm working so much and my children have children, have other people to take care of them. I really enjoy being with my children in the evenings to be with them. And so I don't really I'm not that social like I was in my thirties before I had kids. Very social. I can still go out and have coffee or beer or a drink with a friend if I wanted. But now, you know, I started several years ago, alternating Friday nights. And I take one daughter out one Friday night and the next Friday night I take the other one out just to get some one-on-one time with mom. And so we do that every Friday night. I also know that there are older I like traveling on the weekends with the girls. And so we like our especially our first year here. We used to take weekend excursions all the time to get to know our state. But just a few weeks ago, I took Claire to Mexico City for a three day weekend. I'll take one just it's kind of how I spend my money. Honestly, I like finding boutique hotels and and and we'll go stay at a favorite hotel and be pampered for the weekend. And I'll take one of the girls or both of them. And for instance, last weekend Cammy now almost three and super well behaved. So she got her first weekend with mom and really last weekend, which was awesome. So, I mean, I guess I really like spending time with my girls. And because we're such a connected society now with technology, I still have those conversations with my girlfriends in the US online social media. I use that a lot, probably if I was so connected on social media that I might miss out on my girlfriends. But I do take the time to schedule time because now phone calls are so difficult to schedule. Right. And just get on the phone with a girlfriend and talk for an hour. So I make sure that I do that, but I don't miss it locally. OK, but some people could be more social, right? I'm not saying what it for everyone right now,

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:44:17] But you could if you made the choice of where you are because of family and for certain reasons. But I guess the point is if someone really wanted that there are opportunities if you're not to work so much,

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:44:34] I just want to say almost every American community or ex-pat community in Mexico, they almost all have Facebook pages. Were you and there are lots of social things that you can do and you can participate as much as you want or as little as you want. Right. So, I think there are lots of opportunities no matter where you go to Mexico for a social opportunity.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:44:55] Well, yeah. And then the Mexicans are so social. There's always, always festivals. Right. There are always holidays and. 

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:45:03] Actors and parties. Weddings. Yes. 

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:45:06] So and they're usually very inclusive. So they just love to drag you along and.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:45:14] Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:45:17] It's a very welcoming culture, but I just love I love what you said about being able to really spend that quality time with your kids because, you know, back in the States, I mean, it's like the kid's best friends are devices. Right. And so they don't really have that connection with their parents so much. And especially single parents like you say that is so busy trying to do all of these things that that they want to do or feel they need to do. And for you to have the luxury of having a staff basically and also money left over to do date nights with your girls and. Yeah. A weekend getaways and stuff. I just think that's fabulous.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:46:04] Yeah. It's just it's an amazing quality of life. It's such a gift and it is a luxury. And that's why I feel like I live like a millionaire because. But it's because I think I really think all parents wish they had more time to spend with their children. Yeah. And I think but when you finish with dinner and now you've got to go do laundry and now you've got to go do this or that, and you kids are left by themselves to either watch television or be on their devices. But I think children, parents would love to just sit down and talk to their kids for an hour. Right. And just spend that quality time and we get that right. Whether we're watching we're doing movie night together or we're doing a game night or we're just sitting and talking or whatever, it's just that quality time that is invaluable, that is so special to me.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:46:57] And you never get it back. You know, that's the thing. You go, oh, gosh, you know, well, later, later, later. Right. And then it's pretty soon they're gone and off to college and it goes on.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:47:09] But, you know, I just want to say, as bad as covid has been and a quarantine and the lockdowns and all of this, and I think it's. Actually extremely damaging to our global society, I'm not supportive of it at all, but there have been some good things that have come out of this. And the best thing for someone like me who is always looking for a remote job is that people have had to put their workforce at home to work. And now they realize that just because they're out of sight doesn't mean they're not working. Yeah, right now, working remotely from home is not for everyone. Some people have to have that office social interaction, and that's fine. But if you would like to work from home and you have a job that would allow you to do that now, it is a much better opportunity. It's a little bit complicated when you want to say you want to work in Mexico because sometimes they're like, well, what about the laptop? Right. So I think if you currently have a job and you think that working remotely, you've been doing it through a covid and you think that your company might be open to letting you do it long term, I think just having that conversation that I've been thinking about moving to Mexico and of course, if you already had your work equipment and brought it into the country and I actually in Mexico, the Internet, a lot of people are like, what about the Internet security and all of that kind of stuff? And they really think we are in the dark ages here. But even as small as our town is, I have fiber optic and they have three different packages and our Internet. I had to bump it up right up about one hundred dollars a month now because I've got two girls doing Zoom's for school and I'm doing online work and video conferences. So I had to really bump up our package. My highest expense, because here's the other thing where we live, because it's so mild and we're never running air conditioning, we don't even have air conditioning or central heating. So my electricity bill for two months is three hundred paces. Wow. That is fifteen dollars. Yeah. Fifteen dollars for two months of electricity. Now we also have natural gas. Right. Natural gas runs your stoves as well as your water heaters. And so I would say that's probably about forty dollars a month for us. But other than that. So I've got three hundred for, for rent and I don't rent from Americans. Americans, the rent is a lot higher, so much less than in the US. But a furnished home, three-bedroom home in our town from an American is going to run, you know, five, six, five or six hundred us five or six hundred us. Right. But still my my my rent is three hundred. My food for our family is twenty-five hundred pesos. So what is that? One hundred twenty-five dollars a week. And then let me just tell you real quick for my four full-time staff, I want to tell you how much that is because people might be wondering how much does that cost? But that is two hundred and seventy-eight dollars a week for four people. Yep. And they are very well paid like one and a half times, two times other people's position. So they're very well paid and that's two seventy-eight a week for me. So um yeah. Fifteen every two fifteen dollars every two weeks for electricity and like forty a my. Yeah, I'm for gas and that's it, you know, you're talking. 

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:51:00] It's about a month or less, right? Yeah,

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:51:04] Everything we have lived here. There have been times for about a year and a half where I was working only part-time. And so it was a little rough going, but I was making only fifteen hundred dollars. A month. Fifteen hundred dollars a month. I only had one full-time person, but both girls were in private school, so. Yeah, and I could live here on fifteen hundred a month. Yeah. Wow. Not that much extra, but we're on a lot of trips to Costco. But you can survive here for sure. And then my, my first year and a half remember when we first came because I was not when we first came to the second time I was on unemployment for 18 months and living on three hundred a week, I was able to do that. So what is that? Twelve hundred lived on twelve hundred and maybe a little child support from their dad. So again, probably fifteen hundred, but the exchange rate wasn't half as did. The exchange rate now is way better. So if you can find a way when you're young, find a way to have a remote job. And then also if you do have children, I would have to say coming earlier is better. Four years old is perfect. Yes, because my daughter and I, when we were first here, was fluent and two months she stood up at four. Yeah, she stood up after two months of being in school at four years old and candor and had to give a presentation on butterflies. And she did it in Spanish. Wow. Yeah. So I know my sister. Years later she came with it. He was ten and her daughter was sixteen. The daughter, who was 16, went to a good high school, but no one spoke English and they just said learn Spanish. And she sat there for two months, didn't understand anything, and said, I'm going back to the US live with my dad. So that didn't work. And then the other school she put her 10-year-old in was kind of a lot of kids spoke English that a good English program there. So everyone wanted to speak English with her son. He never learned Spanish, Spanish. So and she hated our town. I want to be when she decided she wanted to move to Mexico because she saw how happy I was and how much she hated the US. And I don't let me forget to talk about health care here, but she came down here and lived here for four months. And our town's a very provincial town. Right? It's like 50, 60, 70 years ago. So the thinking is very provincial. It's conservative. Parents don't let their kids spend the night or do playdates. Dad very much has to make the decisions. The mom will be like, yeah, I have to get permission from my husband. I'm like, it's and the nearest Costco or Walmart is forty-five minutes away in Morelia, the capital. So my sister hated that. Right. And while she was here, she met some gringos and they had lived in Puerto Vallarta and that's the beach and she investigated. And four months she was out of here and she loves living in Puerto Vallarta and we actually work for the same company. When I got my new remote job, They let me work here in Mexico, right. For our company. Oh. And the thing is, I can still get paid on a W-2. I just use a friend's address in Texas, a state that doesn't have state tax as reported. And you keep your US bank account, you have your paychecks deposited there. And now I have now that I'm a permanent resident, which I got through my children's being dual citizens, I can have a Mexican bank account. And I just easily every Friday whenever I get my paycheck, I just do it interstate transfer. I have the money in five minutes and then I'm paying everything in pesos. Right. I can take out of the ATM. And so the change of money, I get it, I get the benefit of the exchange rate. But it's very easy getting my funds from the US into Mexico because obviously, that's a concern for people. Sure. And I did want to mention the health care piece. So health care is so expensive in the United States. And, you know, I was I didn't research it at all. But when I came here, when my girls were two and four, I found a local pediatrician that they recommended. And of course, I had had experience for four years in the US with a. The pediatrician and the evaluations were the same. The well-baby visits were the same. If they came down sick with something, it was the exact same type of visit that I had in the US. The cost was crazy different. So there are two different ways you can get a private doctor as we had. And she charges now five hundred pesos for a consult. That's twenty-five dollars. And then she gives you a receipt for your antibiotics. You buy your antibiotics, Max, you're going to pay twenty bucks and you're out the door for fifty-five dollars. OK, now that is the high end. That's. Worst case, most places in Mexico next to the pharmacy, actually have doctors that work there and those doctors charge maybe twenty-five pesos, 30 pesos at least in my town, just like a dollar or two for the consult. And some don't even charge you if you buy the meds from their pharmacy. Right. So you can truly be super sick. I mean, sinus infections and need antibiotics and all that kind of stuff. And you're out the door for like 15, 20 bucks. And so there's no need for insurance here for us. And also, I've noticed that if you did have like a broken arm or something like that, that's like and you needed a broken arm. We haven't had that that it's like Max-like. One hundred dollars. I mean, it's not that much and you just pay it out of pocket, right? And even major surgery, I know the girl's grandmother, the first year we were here had a tumor in her abdomen. It was the Ninth Ward, but it was the size of her being pregnant like eight months. It was a huge benign tumor in her abdomen. And it cost two thousand dollars for them to cut her open and take it all out and so we're back up and she didn't have any issue. Two thousand dollars. I mean, that's amazing for huge surgery. Right? Here's the kicker. Here's the kicker. With hospitals in Mexico, if you do have to have hospitalization, you have to pay the bill in full before you leave. Yeah, it's not like health care in the US where then they own you for the rest of your life as you're making payments. Right. Paying off medical bills. So what people do here, because they often don't have two thousand dollars. So the family of their grandma, the girl's grandma, all of her children just group together with their money. Everyone contributes. The kids who are in the US will send some money. They'll ask friends and family members, extended family members, hey, we're trying to get together. Forty thousand pesos. Everyone contributes so they can help that person get out of jail.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:58:37] Out of the hospital. Yeah, well, I'll tell you, Bucker, our neighbor, a few doors down, Jose in Virginia, nicest people. He's a taxi driver. She actually was doing laundry for us for a while last year before I got a washer and dryer here at the house. And their son needed some sort of abdominal surgery. And so he brought over the letter basically that said this is how much it's going to cost. And I was basically asking for money. And so we donated two thousand pesos, brought it over and up, and said, this is for your son. And yeah, that's what they were doing, was just tell you to do it here, pooling their resources. And it wasn't I don't think it was it wasn't a lot. I mean, I think it was like maybe like you say, four thousand dollars for major intestinal surgery. I think having to take out part of his colon or something like that.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:59:35] Yeah. Yeah.

 

Dawn Fleming: [00:59:37] But yeah, that was it. It was, it was would have been one hundred thousand dollars and he. Oh yeah. Yeah. Forget the peso's and just put a dollar sign next to it.

 

Becca Alvarez: [00:59:48] So that's but since we've been here, I mean honestly we've been here ten years and, and we've never had it needed major medical or anything like that. The girls have never needed anything. And so I just figure how much money I have saved, not paying deductibles and not paying co-pays. The monthly premiums are just down and coming out of your paycheck. What you have to do for it? Yeah, I haven't had any of that. So that is another huge benefit. And I felt that the quality of health care here is very good for what we've had. Now, I don't have a special needs child. I don't have where we're constantly going to the doctor or where I don't have a child going through cancer treatment or anything like that.

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:00:32] Right.

 

Becca Alvarez: [01:00:32] So but if if you have a healthy family and you're healthy and there is medical insurance, you can get here, that's probably pretty affordable. And Niger, I was going to say

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:00:44] I do have a policy and it excludes the US because I don't want to get involved with that system. Right. It's an insurance company. It gives me thirty days of coverage. If I were to travel there and something were to happen, I paid one hundred and ten dollars a month. Yeah. So worth it. Yeah. With like it's like a twenty-five hundred dollar deductible and it's half that if I use a network provider.

 

Becca Alvarez: [01:01:10] That's what you use for Mexico.

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:01:13] Yep. Yep. That's what I. And then Tom has Medicare so we just have that as a backup. If he, he would have to go back to the United States to use it. But if something major as if they were both healthy, we both take care of ourselves. We are no prescription medication. So it works for us to be able to basically self-insured instead of sending those premiums every month to the insurance company. I mean, I'm going back now. He retired in twenty thirteen at that time, our COBRA payment for we kept the insurance that he had was four hundred dollars a month. When that ended. It was right when the Affordable Care Act went into effect and the cheapest policy I could find anywhere to cover us was twelve hundred dollars a month.

 

Becca Alvarez: [01:02:06] I know now I was put. Americans are paying, they're paying so much and insurance premiums every month. It's, it's crazy. And that's one of the things that really was a driving factor for my sister, how expensive health care was. And she really wanted to get out of that. That was a big driving factor for her leaving for us. She was just so sick of the politics and how divided Americans are. And I think there's a lot of division in Mexico. We just don't sense it has. As much as it is in the U.S., so really you have to make an effort to stay involved in American politics when you're living in Mexico, you have to really want to. Otherwise, you can just block it out. You don't have to

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:02:48] In Mexico is that most people aren't really too concerned about politics. I mean, thank you. But the average person that you seem like that, that is so far away from the front of mind. Right. If it does and

 

Becca Alvarez: [01:02:48] I love that. I feel I feel I have more freedom in Mexico than I did in the U.S. when I lived. I did have to, for a job, live part-time in Mexico, excuse me, in the U.S. in Chicago in 2014. So I was there for two weeks and here for two weeks. Honestly, I had enough money to leave my children here, have them taken care of the two weeks I was there, plus take care of myself in Chicago. Right. And I felt like I was living in just a communist state. I couldn't believe it. There were cameras everywhere. Every week I received tickets in the mail for two hundred and fifty dollars because I hadn't fully stopped to turn right on a right on red. I'm like, Are you freaking kidding me? It was awful. The tickets I had, I probably paid two thousand tickets or parking tickets because this transportation situation was just awful. Every time I'm in the U.S., I get speeding tickets or the littlest ticket for anything. And here in Mexico, please just seriously don't care. I mean, there's no speeding ticket. There are no cameras. If you don't fully stop at a stop sign, there aren't even stop signs here.

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:04:19] Right.We don't even have a single stop sign in our town. You have like two lights,

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:04:24] Right?

 

Becca Alvarez: [01:04:24] So, I mean, it's a free for all, which kind of does bother you when people don't even get trained on how to drive a car here in our time. So you have to be very vigilant and careful because they just go they don't even look before going. So, yeah, but I like the fact that the police just like to stay out of our lives. The government stays out of our lives. I feel like I just am a responsible citizen and I don't have, like, Big Brother watching me. That's when I felt like in the US it's awful. And don't you feel good about like I can't wait to get home to Mexico. Yeah. Like, let me eat at my favorite restaurants and do shopping while I'm in the U.S., but I'm ready to get home.

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:05:04] Yeah, absolutely. That's funny. Well, gosh, this is just such a delightful interview. I'm so glad we were able to connect. I know you're super busy and I really appreciate you.

 

Becca Alvarez: [01:05:17] Oh, no, it's great to get together. I, I hope I didn't ramble on too long, but.

 

Dawn Fleming: [01:05:21] Oh not at all. Really good stuff. I mean, you've talked about some things that I really haven't covered before in particular. Good. The car thing. Big, big, big lesson learned. There are things people can learn from. And also, as I said, I really haven't had a chance to chat with any single parents before. So I was one of the reasons I really wanted to talk with you.

 

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