‘Why We Left’: Expat book encourages women to move to Mexico

New anthology collects stories from people who dared to move south of the border, and aren't looking back

Janet Blaser moved to Mexico in 2006 and never looked back. Her book explains why. Photo: Courtesy
Janet Blaser moved to Mexico in 2006 and never looked back. Her book explains why. Photo: Courtesy

In “Why We Left,” an expat from the United States makes a strong case for moving to Mexico. Actually, she makes 27 strong cases.

The “Anthology of American Women Expats” collects testimony from 27 women “who made the move and couldn’t be happier.”

In 2006, on the verge of turning 50, author Janet Blaser left Santa Cruz, Calif., and moved to Mazatlán. She traveled solo and knew no one in her new city.

Today, she’s still in Mexico, and says “I can’t imagine ever living in the U.S. again.”

The book features a diverse group of women whose messages contain a common thread. The stress of “American life” is gone.

“I have no interest in going back to America. I left so I could recover, get back my lost energy and find myself again. And I have,” said one of the book’s contributors, cancer survivor Joanna Karlinsky.

“Why We Left,” which was published by the author on April 2, drew on her experience as a food columnist and feature writer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and a contributor to Good Times, which recently wrote about the book.

As she approached 50, her three children were grown and newspapers were shedding jobs, causing feelings of uncertainty while Santa Cruz life became increasingly expensive.

A vacation in Mazatlán led to her “aha” moment. On her third day there, she visited the city’s colorful and historic Plaza Machado, triggering a feeling of elation and enchantment.

“It was like coming home,” she says now.

She also saw an opening when she noticed no reliable English-language sources of information about Mazatlan attractions and businesses.

“That’s when it went, ‘Ding! I know how to do this,’ ” Blaser says, before starting such a magazine, which came to be called M!

For the book, Blaser found herself drawing from friends as well as expats she connected with on Facebook groups. More than two dozen essays from expats from Baja to Yucatan reveal personal stories from women who came upon a similar epiphany about the direction of their lives.

“Stress is a word not in my vocabulary,” says one contributor who moved from Florida to El Golfo de Santa Clara.

Almost all of the essays avoid the trap of painting a picture of perfect paradise. They are clear about the drawbacks: bureaucrats, corruption, insects and the water supply. Many have a hard time adjusting to living among extreme poverty.

But contributors also talk about intangible benefits of living in Mexico.

“It was like I was given the gift of new eyes,” said Nova Grahl. Lina Weissman wrote of “a sense of wonder, of challenge, of peace.”

Some essays discuss financial benefits of moving to Mexico, but Norma Schafer is “ … of the belief that that should not be the first reason you choose to live in Mexico. The first reason should be the love of the art, the history, the architecture, the culture, the food. There are so many rich traditions here that Americans have no idea about.”

Reviews on Amazon have been positive.

“The women were honest about the struggles they had to create the life they love in Mexico. All of the women told their stories from the ‘other side’ after prevailing against discrimination, income loss, relationship challenges, and just plain ol’ culture shock,” wrote one reader.

Read more excerpts at Good Times, or buy the book here.

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