I have been living in Mexico for a year and a half. In two short weeks we leave to make our way to the Marshall Islands to set up our next base camp. I have valuable insight. Life in Mexico can be amazing. If you approach it the right way. Here is a survival guide on how to make the most of living in Mexico, or at least… HOW TO SURVIVE.

Whatever the reason for you living in Mexico, or thinking about living in Mexico, this guide will work for you. Teenager, retiree, diver, surfer, mommy, twenty-something, hippy, construction worker, European, family of a deportee. If you follow these steps to make the most of your experience, it will be one of the most amazing things you ever did for yourself.

I am a cultural anthropologist. A writer. A world traveler. A mommy. A teacher. A professor. A dreamer. A happiness-finder and outdoor adventurer and respectful human being. And this is how I survived.

How I Survived Living in Mexico

1. I Abandoned my Materialistic Philosophy. Had to. Upon moving here, one of my goals was this exact thing. And the second my foot stepped off the plane, I made a vow to abandon this idea that things and people are judged by materialism and to try to erase it from my mind. This was the launch of a beginning to see the world in a whole new light and not clouded by a materialistic philosophy. Mexico will never provide the comforts and luxuries that we are used to in the US. And the beautiful thing is that it doesn’t claim to, or necessarily ever want to. So do yourself a favor and leave your materialism behind because it will get you nowhere here. And if it does happen to get you somewhere, that will not be a place of truth for really ‘living’ here.

2. I Kept an Open Mind. No judgment. Of anything. Even when required.There is lots of weird shit to see and do here. And it’s pretty easy to race to a judgment about how those things are crazy, unsafe, unsanitary, or stupid. But do yourself a favor and don’t. Because it’s not fair. And because for every unrefrigerated chicken, there is a life lesson to be learned. For every hot dog slice on a pizza and family on a moped, there is a lesson. Spend more time trying to figure out that life lesson than judging like an ignorant American. Keep an open mind.

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3. I Embraced Everything. I tried every food, talked to every person, and embraced the hell out of this opportunity. I never once took it for granted and said ‘I hate Mexico’, ‘if only they had…,’ no. If you wish it was different then go home. If you accept it for what it is and seek out the beauty and freedom and embrace these unique opportunities, then you will survive and thrive farther than you can even dream.

4. I Worked with Mexicans. I taught at a school as a full-time faculty member. Just like everyone else there. Except I was the only white person. With blonde hair. Sticking out like a sore thumb. But I did it. I challenged myself to learn, grow, adapt, and excel teaching at a spanish Mexican school. This is immersion to the fullest. I mingled everyday and had professional expectations, conferences, and was responsible for rearing future generation Mexicans. A heavy weight for a blonde American. And walking home from school everyday through town, I was stared into the ground by tourists not believing I was lucky enough to live here. I mean… who lives here? It’s for vacation. And same with the locals. Not believing that I lived and worked here. The uniform shirt was a dead giveaway and I think it gave me respectable status.

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5. I Adventured Everyday. Every damn day. My daughter and I got up at the crack to go conquer some new world, fulfill another dream, and live out another adventure. My adventure bag has been packed since we got here. It never gets a chance to get unpacked. I have it down to a science. Sunscreen, snorkels, masks, water shoes, water bottles, camera, sunglasses. Ready for anything. Climbing ancient ruins, jumping and swimming in new cenotes, free diving, snorkeling turtle pathways, kayaking, horseback riding, scuba diving, beach-combing, camping, boating, biking, dreamcatcher shopping, or just plain happy hour drinking. On the beach. While having a sandcastle contest with local policia who should be manning the taxi stand, but are instead loving life too much to be bothered and enjoy a face-off with a 6 year old in a mermaid sandcastle contest. Every day is an adventure. Everyday the sun is shining. And when it’s not, you are thankful for the clouds and rain. Everyday a new adventure awaits, a new country, new people, new places, new food, new random conditions and amazing paradise adventures await. Don’t sit around on wifi. Don’t lay around and get high all day or mope about missing McDonalds. Get off your ass and go adventure Mexico.

6. I Ate Street Tacos. I hear many people are scared of these things. What a shame. Because herein lies the heartbeat of Mexico. Like in America, it’s Chevy, a damn car. Heartbeat of America. Here, it’s the food. Tortillas, empanadas, burritos, enchiladas. It’s all the same thing. Tortillas in various form. All greasy and delicious. All local. And all better than the fancy steakhouses lit up brightly for the tourists too scared to venture onto the side-street. Do yourself a favor and eat the street tacos. To fulfill a physical need. But also a psychological one. Eating street tacos is the rite of passage to becoming a legit Mexican traveler and more open-minded human being. And they are an immense part of Mexican culture. Go ahead, see what they’re all about. I promise they won’t kill you.

7. I Made Mexican Friends. Yes. Mainly from work. And then all of my daughter’s friends. And my best friend here too. They showed us a different way of life. Different culture, activities, and perspective on the world. I got the inside scoop. If you don’t do this, you don’t really live in Mexico. Because the people are the life. Open your mind. Open your heart. Open your tortilla. And fill it all with some amazing Mexican friends who will turn your value system upside down and show you a different life that exists a country away.

8. I Took Advantage of the Freedom. Mexico offers a level of freedom that hardly even exists in the US, even behind the scenes. I wear flip flops and a bikini everyday. Never a bra. Never heels or makeup. I can walk down the street with a beer. I can ride public transportation barefoot. I can grocery shop in a bikini and I can even swim at the beach naked if I so choose. I could ride an ATV down the street with traffic, sleep on the side of the road, and bring drinks from the gas station into a restaurant with me. Everything is chill. Mexicans choose their battles. And does it really matter? It’s deeper than just rules. It’s the beauty of self-regulation. And right choices. The freedom to think, and believe, and do, and achieve, whatever you want, without being herded and molded and restricted, that is so liberating. DO yourself a favor and feel this freedom too. Lick it, love it. It empowers the mind, body, and soul. And you will never forget that time you lived actually how you wanted. Walking through town barefoot, with a beer, no bra, no makeup, and no one to tell you that you are wrong. But with everyone to tell you that you are beautiful.

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9. I Learned the Language. Not fluently. Not even great. Or perfect like my 6 year old daughter (jealous…)! But I was open to learning what I could and ended up being able to communicate with everyone. I didn’t hold up a wall to learning and adapting to the ways of life here. And when you understand the concepts of the local language, you thereby understand so much more about the culture. And you earn respect as well. Even if the product isn’t great. But for caring, respecting, and trying. If you’re living in Mexico, you need to speak Spanish.

10. I Stayed Positive. Through all the trials and tribulations, which there were. I always stayed positive. My horchata was always half full.

11. I Stayed Strong. Similar to #10 yet different. I not only stayed strong in Mexico, but I grew strong here. This place takes strong to a whole new level. And I survived. I sort of feel that I have stood the test of time with this one. Sometimes I was not sure I would make it out of the pen, but I always did. And as an offset, things in my life here have been more amazing than I ever could have imagined. It’s not all glory. Some guts. But looking back, I am proud of those guts I suffered to get to this Mexican glory. This is an amazing place that has the ability to humble you to the basement and watch how you crawl, all with the mastermind plan that the process will place gratitude and humility into your heart like never before, where it will stay for the rest of your life. The hard is hard, but the lessons and the good is far beyond excellent.

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12. I Sought Out Life Lessons. Everyday I made sure to live consciously in order to gain the necessary life lessons that I was supposed to learn that day. Every good, every bad. Every challenge, every palm leaf, bike-ride, bead of sweat, cockroach, magical cenote, beach cabana, coconut, sun ray, raindrop, grain of sand, sunrise, sunset, new friendship, and old memory. It all happened for a reason. Every day was a life lesson. Which I wrote about and shared. Thankful to be out on this road living this life having these lessons so that I can send them all home. And maybe change your home, or neighborhood, or town, or family too. Because life lessons aren’t just found in Mexico. Sometimes it takes Mexico to show us that lessons lie in everyday life. In the beauty of flowers and children and tears. But, even though they exist, most of us don’t tap into these lessons because we are too busy, or too tired, or just don’t care. Well this year and a half I cared. And I came to live these lessons and see for myself. And if you have been reading along with me, thank you, and I hope you have learned something alongside me.

So when I use the word ‘survive’ I actually mean ‘how did I survive before Mexico?’ Because living here for this year and a half has been the best gift I ever gave myself. I not only survived, but I thrived and thrived and thrived. If you follow all of these steps, I promise you will survive Mexico just fine too. It’s not that bad really. It’s amazing. And I will miss it terribly. Thank you, Mexico.

by Crystal Blue

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Crystal for allowing us to republish this article. Crystal traveled through Cozumel, Tulum and the Mayan Riviera. You can follow her next adventure to the Marshall Islands via her Facebook page: The Blonde Mexican Project.

If you want to join in and share information, stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Allyson@JaltembaBayLife.com