One of Chris and Rex McCaskill’s favorite things to do these days is relax on their rooftop terrace, enjoying views of the stunning surrounding countryside and the comfortable, never-too-hot climate that stays in the 70s most days.
After rewarding but long careers in the U.S., the couple (who were self-confessed workaholics) was ready to retire. Chris, 65, worked for elected officials in the field of public policy and Rex, 64, was a software developer. They chose San Miguel de Allende, a charming town in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands, moving down permanently four years ago.
A lower cost of living was one motivation for retiring in Mexico.
“In Austin, we were paying $700 a month for heat and air conditioning. We were paying property taxes of $12,000 a year and now live comfortably with taxes of $200 a year,” says Chris. “Here in San Miguel, economics and lifestyle go hand in hand. We spend money on quality of life things, not air conditioning or taxes. We can take our money from Social Security and our quality of life is pretty darn good.”
The couple live in a large home in a gated community just outside the city center. After paying for the home, they had funds left over to customize. They enclosed an outdoor area to make a large room for their quilting machine—it’s a big hobby of theirs and requires a lot of space. And they set up their rooftop terrace, where they spend a lot of time.
It’s full of plants: lemon trees, pomegranates, herbs…many ingredients that make it into their home-cooked meals. Each morning, they make a smoothie with fruits like pineapple, papaya, berries and apples, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that they get at their local farmers’ market
Chris has lost 40 pounds since they moved to San Miguel.
“It’s not due to all the walking. It’s about what we consume. We used to eat all restaurant food. Here it’s fresh,” says Chris.
“We eat less processed food. It’s easier to eat healthy here,” adds Rex.
Their home is close enough that they can take a long leisurely walk into the heart of San Miguel’s colonial centro (it’s about 25 minutes downhill to the Jardin, the main plaza in the center of town) or a quick bus or taxi ride (which they usually take back home).
“It’s nice to be in a smaller place where you can walk, take a taxi, or ride a bus,” says Rex. “Buses are a primary form of transportation. You can easily get around here without a car.”
They’ve quickly fit into the San Miguel scene and have an active social life, with friends from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life.
“We have a huge social community here,” says Rex. “Some people have multi-million dollar homes; others are living on Social Security and in apartments for $400 a month. But we all have so much in common, like an interest in culture. We’re happy to be part of it. There are well-educated folks—you can have great conversations. There’s movie night, a men’s lunch, wine tastings…
“I thought I was going to have all kinds of time when I retired. But I don’t. We go out. We walk the dogs. We have a huge circle of friends.”
“We wake up. We don’t know what we’re going to do that day. But when we go to bed we realize we’ve been busy all day long,” says Chris.
The vibrant arts scene in San Miguel was also a huge draw. “There is some great entertainment,” says Chris. “A lot of good musicians come here because they wanted to visit. And they entertain as a sideline to their trip.”
“There’s a writer’s conference, film festival, jazz festival…things like that are popping up all the time. There’s always something going on,” says Rex.
All in all, they’ve found their place.
“It does take some adjusting. You live 60 years in one culture and then four years in another,” says Chris. “People think we’re adventurous. But we’re not risk-takers. We’re just seeking a place we feel secure and comfortable.”
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