You don’t know what you don’t know. We’ve all heard that phrase, right? This is the golden rule for an international move. No matter how much planning and preparation you do, there are things you can’t know. After living in Mérida for more than 2 years, I want to share my experience as an Expats Reflection on Moving Internationally.
I’m an expert at planning and preparation. As a professional packer and organizer for many years in Dallas, I helped people transition from one life to another. I even did it for myself as a home tender which was a great time in my life. As a home tender, I occupied vacant houses by staging them with my personal items. This not only helped the realtor sell the house, it also alleviated some of the financial responsibilities.
Because I enjoyed it so much, I considered doing this in Mexico. I was a home tender for 7 years, so I had a lot of experience. It was a relief to the homeowner to have a professional like myself take care of their vacant properties and pay the utility bills.
Settling in after an international move
When it came time for my move to Mérida, I knew I could do it. I did it for others. Now, it was my turn. The planning and preparation were almost flawless. There were a few hiccups along the way but nothing that make a true dent in my plan. Then COVID hit and changed everything or so I thought.
As I began trying to settle into my first Airbnb (note the word “trying”), I couldn’t get comfortable. My plan was to start in the North and work my way down to Centro. Notably, this was a great plan in theory but poor in execution. Unknowingly, I removed myself from the heart of the activity in Centro. Additionally, I didn’t feel comfortable in the neighborhood. Not only did I not know where I was, I felt disoriented. Not a good feeling when you’ve just uprooted your life.
Even though I had rented this location for 2 months, I decided to move closer to Centro after only 7 days. I know enough about myself that when something doesn’t feel right, I need to do something about it. I found a wonderful little spot in a great neighborhood with an exceptional owner. It was cute, small, and just what I needed at that time. Unfortunately, it was only available for 3 weeks. Even though it was on a bus street that was dirty, busy, and loud, it helped me to find my footing, at least for a short time.
The next Airbnb was another 2-month booking that only lasted 5 weeks. It had its share of problems mainly with the manager’s lack of attention to details such as cleaning. I was beginning to have an overwhelming feeling of just wanting to get settled and began having a bit of anxiety. With an expats reflection on moving internationally, I realized I need to do something different, no matter what the cost.
The impact of COVID on an international move
It was also during this time that COVID was creeping into Mexico. I distinctly remember I was getting ready to visit my family in Dallas. My dad told me about COVID and asked about my travel plans. Not knowing the impact, I adjusted according to his suggestion and cut my stay short. I’m glad I did because just a few weeks later, Mérida shut down completely in mid-March of 2020.
My intention of getting settled was now completely disrupted by this unknown virus that would wreak havoc on the world for two more years. I spent the next few months on a downhill slide with my mental and physical health. Moving to a new country, trying to learn a new language, attempting to settle in then dealing with COVID became too much.
I know enough about myself to know that I experience situational depression and began taking anti-depressants. My energy was extremely low; some days I struggled to get out of bed. I had just begun writing articles for this site and became overly focused on work because it was a distraction. But I couldn’t deny my feeling of being unsettled was really starting to wear on me.
Thankfully, I had the help of Angel, my husband but boyfriend at the time. We met only 4 days after I arrived; both of us thinking it would only be for a few dates. But The Universe had a different plan for us and during that time we moved in together. I truly don’t know what I would have done without him. The old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comes to mind during that time.
We made the most of it and had some of the most marvelous and memorable adventures during that hard time in our lives. I’m also grateful that I listened to my intuition on my research trip in September of 2019 which told me to move as soon as possible. If it weren’t for that, I would not have been able to experience a few, short, glorious months of the magic of Mérida, pre-COVID.
Experiencing the unknowns of an international move
It was also during this time that I made some rash decisions. Wanting to settle in sooner rather than later and considering COVID was changing everything, I made the decision to sign a long-term lease. This went against my original plan to Airbnb hop for a year. However, the change in the environment was causing even more stress and anxiety.
We moved in at the beginning of June and just a few days later tropical storm Cristobal hit with a vengeance. For the next two and a half months, tried our best to keep away cockroaches, rats, and ants. Leaks in the roof, an overly involved owner, and my continued decline in health caused us to break our lease. It was a beautiful colonial house in Centro, but the issues were just too much for me to handle.
Surprisingly, our next move would lead me to feeling better, more settled, and more comfortable in my new environment. We decided to leave Centro and move to The North into a high-rise building called Buyan. Finally, after 8 months of trials, tribulations, and telenovela, this was the place where I would begin to feel more like myself.
Angel and I had explored The North on one of our frequent outings to survive COVID. He had driven me through the beautiful, clean, spacious neighborhoods. At that time, I thought, “Wow, this is REALLY far from Centro. I would never live up here.” Well, famous last words! I didn’t know how impactful an expats reflection on moving internationally would be.
Finding local resources for an international move
Buyan and The North would be my saving graces. I never thought I would live in a high rise or in The North. It was not in my plan to live anywhere other than Centro. But I realized Centro was all I knew. I didn’t know about a more modern area of Mérida. The colonial-style was part of the attraction for me. However, I learned there’s more to Mérida than meets the eye.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet an incredible realtor after making the decision to look for a long-term rental in The North. Claudia Escalante with Mayakin Master Broker felt like an old friend from the first time I met her. And, of course, she found us the perfect spot, at the perfect time, at the perfect price.
Surprisingly (or not), the townhouse we live in is incredibly like the one I had in Dallas. Similar layout, design, size, and on a corner. I felt after all the struggles I went through; The Universe finally had my back. But that’s not the happy ending.
It would take me 15 more months to finally feel settled. A variety of issues, both personal and business, cropped up; all with their lessons. I’m grateful for those because they help me grow.
As COVID began to dissipate and Mérida began to open again, I decided to launch Life in Mérida Experiences. This is a kind of tour that helps people conduct research on what it’s like to live here. I went through so many challenges that I wanted to help other people by making it easier. I love it here and want to showcase all the wonderful things about this beautiful city. Additionally, it is my intention to give helpful advice on how to navigate challenges and opportunities.
Interestingly, I began to see patterns with the clients that fell in love with the city just like I did. They made the big decision to move here and uprooted themselves from everything they knew. The feeling of wanting to get settled becomes an obsession. I recognize this because it happened to me too.
There’s no predicting what you’re going to feel like once you arrive. Everything is an unknown and it’s impossible to plan for the unknown. Going with the flow is a great concept but the execution is poor when expectations are completely different.
Dealing with stress from an international move
Then, for me, everything came to a head in January of 2022. Stress and anxiety from not feeling settled, financial challenges, and COVID issues caused a severe outbreak of hives. I was in the hospital twice and made the decision to move out of my house into a hotel for 10 days in an attempt to reduce my stress. As I began my expats reflection on moving internationally, I recognized I had stress in areas of my life I didn’t even realize.
After 2 years, I still didn’t feel settled. I had poured all of my focus and attention on Life in Mérida and SUMMUS Catering Service, a company created during COVID with Angel and our friend Chef Roman Lazaro. My life wasn’t my life. I wasn’t living the life I imagined but a life full of doing for others and not honoring myself and my process. Now, my system had to get my attention in a very pronounced way that was both painful and stressful.
After I got my hives under control, my next step was to get organized. For me, this is the best and only way to destress, feel comfortable, and be grounded. I have long promoted the concept that in order to feel good on the inside, your environment must be peaceful, calm, and organized. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true according to the concepts of Feng Shui.
I know I am meant to be in Mérida and still need to grieve some of the “old life” I left behind as well as not make comparisons. With my expats reflection on moving internationally, I understand that it’s mental, emotional, and physical… and it’s a process. I shattered my world when I moved here – now it’s time to find the pieces I want to save and allow other pieces to fit into the right places.
To top it all off, everyone experiences something slightly different. Add in environmental factors, time of year, rental location, and rental manager and it can completely unravel a person. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen more than a few times. And, obviously, it happened to me too.
Final Thoughts on An Expats Reflection on Moving Internationally
Now, after living in Mérida for a little over 2 years, I can honestly say I finally feel settled and at home. Others settle in sooner while it takes others more time, like me. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different for everyone.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen quite a few people make some big mistakes. This is another reason I began Life in Mérida Experiences. Why struggle on your own when you have someone who’s “been there and done that”? Everyone is different with different needs and wants. I utilize my moving business experience to help people find what they need to settle into a new life, sooner rather than later.
The service I provide is the service I wish I would have had when moving here. When you are ready to discuss your potential move to Mérida, I offer a 2-hour consultation for $40. I can help you make some critical decisions to begin your new life and make your international move just like I did.
Follow more of Amy Jones at Mérida Retirement Tours