Lessons Learned From The Pandemic: You Really Can Live Better For Less Overseas

It took a global pandemic to prove something to me…something I already knew but for which I now have verifiable proof.

And that’s this: Life truly is richer and more affordable overseas.

You see, in February of 2020 I was fortunate enough to be whiling away some very pleasant time in both Panama City, Panama and Mexico—the vibrant and exciting Mexico City and the laidback, sundrenched city of Mérida in the Yucatán.

I was taking Ubers…$2 here, $3 there…the most expensive fare was maybe $6 in the city.

I was visiting museums. The National Palace in Mexico City, where Diego Rivera’s famous murals are displayed, is free. Admission to the museum home of Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, is just 25 pesos ($1.25) for any resident 60 or over.

In Mérida, I was dining out nearly every meal. Just 13 pesos (65 cents) is the price of a taco at Wayan’e, one of my favorite lunchtime stops. Three tacos is more than enough.

Evenings were spent nursing a cold beer or two and listening to live music (free) in a cantina like Dzalbay or in one of the many city parks.

A special splurge might be dinner with friends at one of the city’s fabulous gourmet restaurants where an exotic entrée is rarely more than $15.

My husband Dan and I have lived in Mérida off-and-on for years. Said to be the safest city in Mexico, it’s also safer than many same-sized cities in the U.S. The locals—many Maya descendants—are friendly and kind.

So we were taking some time to re-explore it…and we had plans, over the winter, to travel on to some of Mexico’s other fine cities…namely Oaxaca and Patzcuaro.

But at the beginning of March, we headed back to Nebraska for a visit with family. And we all know what happened then.

And so it came that we spent the lockdown months in the U.S.

We didn’t dine out during those months, of course. And good thing, because even our grocery bill was astronomical.

Accustomed to spending $100 or so in the supermarkets in Mexico (and far less than that when we lived in Ecuador), we now found ourselves regularly shelling out $300 or more. That was every week, mind you.

And don’t even get me started on our heating bill over the winter months. Remember the deep-freeze of late January? Yep. It was 24 degrees (F) below zero one morning when we woke up.

Gluttons for punishment, we checked the temperature in Mérida that day. It was 80 degrees and sunny.

So to say the pandemic was a wake-up call to the benefits of living overseas is like saying water is wet. Just. Too. Obvious.

There’s more to living overseas, of course, than cold beer, tacos, and sunshine—even though those benefits cannot be denied.

Shameless plug here: In our book, Live Richer, Spend Less, my co-author husband and I cover all the important considerations you need for a successful life abroad. Check it out here.

Dan and I are getting back on track now and planning our post-pandemic trajectory. We’ve already lived in seven fabulous communities in four extraordinary countries, and we’ve visited hundreds more. So we know we’re spoiled for choice.

As we explain in the book, it helps to identify your personal priorities.

We have ours.

And chances are if you’re in a cantina in Mexico when the snow starts flying you may run into us.

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