Why I Ran Away to Veracruz, Mexico as a Single Mom

My dream was always to live at the beach. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which gets plenty of ice and snow, but I always hated the cold.

In 2010, I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico. After living in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Veracruz (the first time), and Cancun over the next five years, I headed to El Salvador, where my oldest daughter was born.

My (now ex) husband was a raging alcoholic, and having a new baby in the house changed my perspective on everything. Within weeks, I packed everything I could fit into one duffel bag between the both of us, and left.

With a newborn baby in tow, I wondered if I should go back to the comfort of the U.S. But, after researching employment opportunities and rental costs, I decided to stay abroad. It was just too expensive to live in the U.S. on the money I made teaching Spanish online.

I knew that Mexico was where I could afford a comfortable life for myself and my daughter by the beach. And it was a place that felt more home to me than home at this point.

So, I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico… again.

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How Affordable is Veracruz?

How Affordable is Veracruz
Eating at the Zaragoza market in the Port of Veracruz. ©Sara Tyler

My daughter and I moved to Veracruz Port in the state of Veracruz. It provided an affordable cost of living, tropical weather, and swimmable beaches for less than $1,000 per month.

Rent

I have easily found apartment and home rentals for $200 to $400 per month within a couple of blocks of the beach in Veracruz.

Our last rental was on the high end, $400 per month, for a furnished, two-bedroom apartment, with a shared pool, internet, and water included. It was located one block from the beach in Boca del Río, Veracruz.

Where can I find that in the U.S.?

Healthcare

After rent, my next biggest concern was healthcare. In the short time I considered moving home, I checked the Obamacare website to see what health insurance would cost for us.

It was a staggering $600 a month for a healthy 30-year-old and infant with no pre-existing conditions, with a yearly deductible in the thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, Mexico provides basic healthcare for all residents (citizens or not) for free. This includes well-child checkups, vaccines, doctor’s visits, emergency care, and surgery.

For colds and other routine issues, most pharmacies have family doctors on site. The visits range from free to $2.50. Private doctors and specialist visits are between $10 to $40, and hospital bills are a fraction of what they cost in the states.

For example, my second daughter was born in a private hospital in Orizaba, Veracruz, in 2020. The total bill was less than $1,500 for all my prenatal care, laboratory tests, ultrasounds, labor (which turned out to be an emergency c-section), hospital stay, medication, and follow-up visits for both the baby and myself.

Domestic Help

One of the biggest advantages to living in Mexico as a single mom was being able to afford help. I was able to hire both part-time and full-time nannies, as well as house cleaners. This allowed me to work part-time online teaching Spanish to teenagers located in the U.S.

Where I live, part-time nannies charge about $2.50 an hour or $15 for a full day. House cleaning depends on the size of your home, but a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home costs $15 to $20. Full-time help, often childcare combined with cleaning and cooking, costs $300 to $400 per month.

Other expenses to consider:

  • High-Speed Internet (Fiber Optic, 50 MBs) $22.50 per month
  • Local cell phone plan (unlimited) $10 per month

Why Move to Veracruz?

My decision to move to Mexico over the U.S. was not only based on financial differences between the countries but also cultural. I prefer Mexican culture when it comes to family, lifestyle, and shared values.

Move to Veracruz
Carrying my daughter in a traditional wrap in the historic downtown of Veracruz. ©Sara Tyler

Mexico is a child-friendly society. You won’t have a problem bringing your child with you anywhere you go. No one will be annoyed, not in restaurants or on airplanes.

There are plenty of affordable beach towns in Mexico to choose from. But, I was drawn to Veracruz because of its central location within Mexico. It is a short bus ride from Mexico City. And I can fly to Cancun for less than $50. The bus ride down to the Guatemala border is just 13 hours.

My Neighborhood

Veracruz is the oldest city in the Americas, at over 500 years old, and the largest port in Mexico. The downtown area has colonial architecture, and many buildings are being restored. Along the beaches is a boardwalk that runs for over 10 miles. At night, the boardwalk is filled with people jogging, biking, and rollerskating.

We live amongst the locals in a working-class neighborhood. It’s Saturday, and I have already seen several parties and a quinceañera being set up in the streets. Most homes don’t have backyards, so it’s common for people to block off traffic and throw their parties right in the middle of the street. We will hear loud music playing until tomorrow morning. But nobody minds. No one gets angry, and no one ever calls the police.

The neighborhood is extremely friendly. When I go jogging in the mornings, everyone says ¨Buenos dias¨, whether they know me or not. However, most people in the neighborhood know me. I don’t know any other Americans who live here. That was a big draw to be able to immerse ourselves in the culture and the language.

School in Mexico

Mexico starts children in pre-school at three years old, with three years of school between preschool and kindergarten grades. The school system here in Mexico is very underfunded, so students only go four hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For the past two years, my daughter hasn’t gone to a physical school. Instead, I have been teaching her at home and while we travel, which is our own version of Worldschooling. It has turned out to be a blessing in disguise because she didn’t do well in school when she went. She always had dismal grades as one of the youngest in the class.

Since she has been home with me, she has learned to read and write in English and Spanish and is working on addition and subtraction with numbers up to 100. She is only five years old but will be well ahead of her peers when she starts 1st grade next week.

Daily Life in Mexico

You know the saying, ¨When in Rome…?¨ I have taken that approach to life in Veracruz. Just like the rest of this sleepy fishing town, I am not in a rush.

Living in Mexico allows me to work part-time, running my business online from wherever we have internet. I spend my mornings working online or on my computer.

I started a Nomad Publishing last year, helping travelers write and publish their experiences in bestselling collaborative and solo books. I published 3 multi-author books in the past year and worked with 40 aspiring authors. There is always new authors to speak with, chapters to edit or format, or marketing to be done.

I like to break up my work time with daily errands. My neighborhood is filled with small businesses that I visit each day, like the butcher shop, vegetable stand, and corner store. Everything is within walking distance. One of the best things about living in Mexico is the access to extremely fresh and cheap fruits and vegetables, unlike where I grew up outside Philadelphia.

I spend time with my daughter in the afternoons, something that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were working full time in the states and she was in daycare or school all day long. We go to the beach several times a week. That part never gets old!

Visiting the Cerro del Borrego in Orizaba, Veracruz
Visiting the Cerro del Borrego in Orizaba, Veracruz. ©Sara Tyler

Once the sun goes down, we head to the nearby park. All the neighborhood parks fill up around 7 p.m. because the sun is too strong for kids to play outside during the day.

And a few times a week, I drive downtown to meet with local politicians or volunteers about my annual TEDxBocadelRio events. TEDx is a grassroots initiative, created in the spirit of TED’s overall mission to research and discover “ideas worth spreading.”

My next event’s theme is “Borderless” and will explore the differences between tourism and travel, including talks on living abroad, digital nomadism, expat life, and more.

Even though we can easily meet online, Mexican culture strongly favors the personal connection of an in-person meeting. And, I tend to agree.

All in all, my life here in Mexico is slow and simple. It is not at all like the rat race I was in at home.

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