Name: Pat Cornwell
Living in: Coatepec, Mexico
When Pat Cornwell gets up, it’s not a blaring alarm clock that wakes her. And it’s not the need to hustle to a job. Rather, it’s the crow of the neighborhood roosters and the warm sun on her cheeks. With the U.S. rat race behind her, just cool Mexican breezes, lush landscapes and endless possibilities lie ahead.
Pat’s decision to start a new life began in the 1990’s, on a trip to Mexico to see friends. “On my first visit I became interested in living in Mexico someday. Adventure has always been important to me in all its many guises.”
But finding the perfect location took time. She first visited San Miguel de Allende, but due to the large expat community says she “heard mostly English in the shops, which was a disappointment.” Also, issues with the water supply there caused her to explore further south in Oaxaca. But still she didn’t find the ideal fit. “I enjoyed the friendliness of the people, but not the hot climate. And finding that all the Oaxaca forests had long ago been decimated and no longer existed taught me that I missed trees enough to prioritize them for my future home,” says Pat.
Mexico also offered Pat convenience, because it’s close to the U.S. where she has family to visit in California, Texas and the Midwest. She travels Stateside usually four or five times a year to stay in touch with her life up north.
So after her initial scouting visits, she created a list of things she couldn’t live without. And in Veracruz, she discovered she found them all. “I finally found the climate I could love and the jungle full of trees I valued. I found friendly people and very few expats, so I was able to immerse myself in the full experience of living in an exotic place.”
In 2005, Pat finally made the leap and bought an affordable three-story house in Coatepec, a small coffee-growing town about an hour west of the Gulf of Mexico. There, she says, she’s able to enjoy a slower life with less distraction. “I have time for friends, reading, gardening and health, though not in that order.”
She enjoys the local symphony every winter in the nearby city of Xalapa, as well as the beautiful museums. But perhaps what’s most important for Pat is that in Mexico, she’s never felt more vibrant. Why? Instead of having a car, Pat opts to take the town by foot, and she walks everywhere. And for longer trips, she says, taxis and buses are very convenient and inexpensive.
At first, Pat found the language barrier a challenge. But she found that many Mexicans have some English-language skills and would patiently assist her when necessary. She made friends with a local woman who makes beautiful furniture. And a local Episcopalian minister proved a valuable source of information. She says, “Even cab drivers help me and correct my pronunciation if I ask.”
Pat currently just manages her personal investments. But—mostly for tax advantages–she has already started three businesses in Coatepec with a Mexican business partner: a language school, a small retail store and a restaurant. And though she’s inspired by International Living Postcards to visit other places, she won’t be leaving Mexico anytime soon. “The longer I’m here in Mexico, the more perfectly settled and content to stay here I become.” She’s more likely, she says, to invest in another location rather than move there.
Pat’s advice for other people interested in a new life abroad is simple: “If you read a lot about the experiences of expats and talk to people who have done what you want to do, in a country you want to relocate to, you will learn that there are different ways to do it, depending on your personality and ways of doing things.
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Do your homework and research, make your written list of priorities, visit your target area for at least a month, and then rent at first until you know it is perfect for you.
“I have no regrets whatsoever, and although others see me as a frontier risk-taker, I’m not. I do my homework and make studied decisions. Except when I shoot from the hip. That works well for me, too.”
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