We chose to drive through Mexico because we knew we couldn’t put our dogs in the cargo compartment of a plane. At first, we thought we’d buy a big-ass vehicle like a Chevy Suburban and motel hop through Mexico. Not speaking Spanish and trying to find dog friendly motels all along our route seemed like an insurmountable task so all that was left was the even bigger-ass RV option.
I didn’t even like driving Laurie’s Quest minivan. It was too damn big for me with too many blind spots. The only two dents in the thing are, of course, attributed to me and this fact. But, if we wanted to go to Belize with our dogs, the RV seemed to be the only option.
We plotted our course based on RV parks we found in the universally accepted, although quite antiquated, go-to guide book for RVing Mexico. To fill in the gaps where there weren’t sufficient parks, gas station parking lots and Wal-Mart lots were options, but they didn’t seem very appealing. About two-thirds of the way through our travels it dawned on us that we could park in motel/hotel parking lots for as little, if not less, than RV park rates (we learned many things late in the game). As a result, we also learned that most motels would accept the dogs. Even if they weren’t welcome in the rooms, they were fine on the grounds and could sleep in the RV
This was the eye-opening experience that showed us we could have, in fact, done the trip in much less time, and likely at less cost, in a big-ass (albeit, tiny-ass compared to the RV) Chevy Suburban-type vehicle. The dogs would not have had nearly as much fun and our entire trip would have been more hurried and less adventurous, but in retrospect, it probably would have been a faster, more efficient way to go.
Should we ever decide to drive through Mexico again, we would route around all major cities at all cost. Those were our most unpleasant experiences. The altered, more suburban route would undoubtedly add days to our travel, but would spare us the stress of the big cities. If we weren’t driving a 26-foot RV towing a truck behind, the big cities would likely have been more tolerable, but still, not worth the added stress. Besides, seeing more, smaller villages would have been much better than the mayhem of Culiacan, Guadalajara, Mexico City, & Puebla. Just not our cup of tea.
Need I say it again? The roads – all of them – are terrible. This is not a complaint. It’s just that, based on numerous statements online, we underwent our journey with the expectation that the roads weren’t that bad. If you know in advance that they are, you won’t be as frustrated as we were. Expect the worst and you will be pleasantly surprised 30-40% of the time.
The people are warm, welcoming and hospitable. We only had two bad experiences and they were both with big-city cops. Food, gas, accommodations, and booze are incredibly inexpensive. We didn’t thoroughly research land and rental prices, but suspect there are plenty of deals to be found on those fronts, as well. If only we spoke Spanish. We were able to communicate, but not being able to actually converse, is enough to keep us from being able to live in Mexico. We want to be part of whatever country we settle in and conversation is a critical component. We could, and will, learn Spanish, but becoming fluent enough to be comfortable conversing will take way too much time at our age. Regardless, after spending two months in Mexico, it was hard to leave. We already miss it and we will return.
Granted, taking two months to traverse a nation en route to one’s ultimate destination is not typical. The longer travel time increased accommodation and shopping costs accordingly, but that being said, prior to crossing the border into Belize, gasoline ran us about $1,650, RV park fees/hotel rooms were about $1,300, tolls for 2 vehicles were about $465, and dining, drinking, shopping, etc. was about $3,500. So, a two-month run, with all kinds of new sights & experiences, including several weeks of “vacation” stops for about $7,000 – about what we’d spend for a typical 3+ week vacation or for just staying at home for the same two months.
And Now, Belize
Tomorrow we move into our first little rental house. We’ve been at Hanna Stables for just shy of 3 weeks. While we’re sick to death of living in this little box and very much looking forward to spreading out and settling in, we’re also sad to be leaving our temporary home here. We’ve gotten to know most of the family and the staff and get to see everyone daily.
We enjoy Santiago’s visits as he passes by checking on his guests or heading out on tours. He joined us for dinner one night and has regaled us with many interesting tales of the farm, the ranch, and his life. He loves his horses more than anything and is the consummate host when it comes to leading horseback riding tours. He likes sharing the quote: “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man” and lives it to the fullest.
We will miss seeing Santiago’s brother, Dominic, move his cows from pasture to pasture every couple of days. He doesn’t herd them, he calls them - “Come girls” - and they follow him like pets – all 145 of them. I told him that was convenient and he agreed, except, he says, when he doesn’t want them to follow him and they do anyway.
We’ve grown accustomed to the sounds of the horses as they wind down in their stables at night and start their tours in the morning. We like greeting Rudy, the patriarch of the ranch, as he makes his daily rounds in his pickup. Fortunately, we are only moving across the street and we will get to continue to enjoy everyone’s company as neighbors.
Starting January 1st, we begin to see what our day-to-day life and our monthly budget will be like here. We wear no rose colored glasses. Too many wannabe expats sell everything on a whim and move to places such as this assuming their two-week vacation is reflective of life in the long-term in these beautiful, yet radically different, environs. We shall see. It could be a life-long change or a very long vacation. We hope for the best, but wait to see how we adapt and what we can afford. Stay tuned.