Three Weeks in Guanajuato Mexico: A Preview of Life After FIRE

We wasted no time making plans to take advantage of my newfound freedom as a part-time anesthesiologist. October was busy with a couple of conferences, but when our work schedule was published, the better part of my November and beginning of December were wide open.

My wife and I had been dreaming of a Spanish immersion experience. For the last year, we had been watching Calico Spanish videos with our boys, beefing up our vocab with duoLingo, and the two of us had studied the language for at least a couple years in high school.

In our spare time, we diligently set out to find the perfect family experience. There were schools in Costa Rica; we’ve been there and loved it. We found others throughout Central and South America. These were true immersion experiences. Homestays, classes throughout the days, and a price tag to reflect the intense nature of the total immersion.

We realized that we didn’t necessarily want to be fully submerged in the waters of a foreign language. Maybe we’d be happier finding a wading pool, dipping our toes in, and proceeding further if the waters proved to be warm and piranha-free. An article from Travel & Leisure led us to the perfect wading pool in a picturesque place I’d never heard of.

 

Why Guanajuato, Mexico?

 

I’ll be honest. The middle of Mexico was not on my radar. There are no beaches, no monkeys, and the media only seems to talk about drug trafficking, tainted alcohol, and somebody’s plan for a wall.

Conversely, Costa Rica has beaches, monkeys, fewer drug issues, and even fewer wall issues.

 

costa rican squirrel monkey

adorable costa rican squirrel monkey

 

When my wife told me about the school where we could do as little or as much as we wanted, I asked where was this place… Guana what now?

Guanajuato.

Located in the central highlands at an elevation of 6,600 feet, Guanajuato is a city of about 170,000 with a large student population. It is known as the most beautiful city in Mexico, and for good reason with the colorful buildings lining the hillsides overlooking the vibrant town center. Historically, the city featured prominently in Mexico’s fight for independence, a fact highlighted by the oversized statue of Pipila, which from a distance bears a striking resemblance to that of Jebediah Springfield.

 

Pipila jebediah springfield

 

I checked the U.S. State Department’s website for any travel warnings, and the city of Guanajuato was not on their radar. That was comforting, but the fact that I was compelled to check proved that I was still a tad uneasy about our destination.

 

 

Well, that’s a relief. We almost never felt uncomfortable in our three weeks south of the border.* We were advised to avoid the tunnels at night (much of the traffic is routed beneath the city in a complex network of tunnels). The nights are a non-issue. We’ve got kids who go to bed before 8 pm. We didn’t hit the town below or above ground in the later evening hours. We found Guanujuato to be a festive city with friendly people, and quite walkable if you’ve trained on a stairmaster.

The real reason we chose Guanajuato, though, was to attend Escuela Falcon. It offered just what we were looking for, had numerous excellent reviews, and the cost of attendance is very reasonable.

 

Booking Flights and Accommodations for Guanajuato

 

I’ve been collecting and redeeming travel rewards points for a few years now. I had accumulated over 150,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and had hesitated to use them, knowing how flexible they were. I wanted to be sure I was getting a good value with them.

I learned that round-trip flights to Mexico could be booked for 35,000 United MileagePlus award miles each and that my Chase points could be converted 1:1 to United Miles.

The flights were going for about $800 apiece, but instead of spending the $3,200, I redeemed my points for miles, and paid only the taxes and fees for the international flights, saving about $3,000. I’ve heard of much better redemption ratios, but I was not unhappy getting better than 2 cents per point redeemed.

To explore Chase cards and other travel rewards credit cards, visit CardRatings to compare cards and bonus offers. You can earn enough miles for a family trip like this surprisingly quick. Some of the cards I’ve used to accumulate points in short order include:

We flew into Guanajuato International, between Leon and Guanajuato with a brief layover in Houston. A taxi ride to our apartment was about $28 US, and the Uber we later took to the airport set us back about $16 US.

Like we did when we traveled as a family to Paris and Reykjavik, we used AirBNB to book a 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with a kitchen and washing machine. We were able to find a place close to the school** with amazing views, WiFi, and most of the other comforts of home for $400 a week.

I highly recommend AirBNB, having used it around the world, and can offer you $40 off your first stay if you register via this link.

 

**By close to the school, I mean above the school. On a 2D map, it was about 1/4 mile away. In reality, it was about 200 steps downhill, and more importantly, 200 steps uphill to get home. At 6600 feet of elevation, our daily commute was a real workout! I was not surprised to have a resting heart rate of 57 when we returned home.

 

Our Daily Routine in Guanajuato

 

As the title indicates, this trip gave us a glimpse of what FIRE with kids could look like. We had three weeks to live the good life before returning to reality, but we could have easily stayed three months if my schedule allowed.

We woke up naturally between six and eight every morning. We had work to do, but it was done at a leisurely pace. The boys worked on their assigned schoolwork, Kahn Academy math, keyboarding practice, and projects my wife had assigned them.

We did some of what we normally do back home, including laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc… I did my blogging thing, and we all sat down for a breakfast of fresh fruit and scrambled eggs together nearly every single day.

We then meandered our way through alleyways and staircases down the big hill to school for a bit, and we often stuck around the historic downtown for an afternoon excursion arranged by the school.

We prepared dinner at home at least half the time, and we dined out fairly often. A sit-down dinner for our family of four usually cost us roughly $12 to $20. Our evening routine looked a lot like it does at home. Reading, reflecting, brushing teeth, etcetera.

Once the boys were down, we usually treated ourselves to a cerveza or two. The patio, with its expansive view of the city was inviting, but the crisp evening air would send us in to the sofa for reading, writing, and Netflix. We finally finished Mad Men and started Arrested Development once again. With Spanish subtitles, I like to consider that TV time to have been a form of studying. A lazy one, yes, but I didn’t learn de acuerdo to mean “OK” in the classroom; Don Draper taught me that.

 

Attending Escuela Falcon Language School

 

We attended Escuela Falcon for an hour or two from late morning to early afternoon Monday through Friday each week. We booked group classes, but the groups were quite small. As in, my wife and I were one group, and our boys were another group of their own.

We all took classes to help with vocabulary, conversation, and grammar. My wife and boys took additional classes in dance and painting that they thoroughly enjoyed. The teachers were awesome. Our language teacher was an engineer for a yogurt company taking a break from the grind. The painting teacher was a landscape architect. All were friendly and enthusiastic, making learning easy and fun.

The students were a mix of retirees from the US and Canada, college-aged students from the far east, location-independent adventurers in their thirties, and families like ours.

We wish there had been more kids, and we heard there were in the summertime, but we just missed a family with kids about the same age as ours that was coming in for several weeks just as we were leaving.

It was a bummer on the timing, but our boys did make a Spanish-speaking friend at the school. The eight-year old son of the main cook was there every afternoon, and the boys played great together in spite of the language gap. Our boys decided to leave their Plus Plus toys with him when we left. Yes, we enticed them to do so by offering to pick up another set when we got home, but it was still a cute gesture.

Every afternoon or evening, the school offered a unique experience for its students. There were guided tours of museums, Spanish language movie nights, walking tours of the city, and “intercambio” happy hours with Spanish speakers learning English and vice versa. These were all valuable to us, allowing us to get to know other students and staff members better in a casual setting, and came at no additional cost.

Our Cost of Living in Guanajuato

 

Speaking of cost, my wife and boys each completed 21 hours of instruction, and I slacked off, completed 15 hours, for a total of 78 hours of small group classes (2 pupils to 1 teacher) over three weeks.  We paid a one-time registration fee of $30 each, and $45 to $65 a week each for the classes. Altogether, our total schooling costs for the three weeks added up to about $750. Escuela Falcon offers discounts of 15% to 20% for eight-week packages. We may be back for that discount.

Meals and groceries were very affordable. A generous serving of enchiladas verde con pollo (green enchiladas with chicken) would go for $3 to $5 in a restaurant. The Negra Modelo a.k.a. cerveza might be another $1.50. Ice cream cones could be had for as little as 5 pesos (about 28 cents in 2017) for a small soft serve, to a little over $1 for a standard cone. I already miss the coconut helado, which is a flavor I’ve been known to make on my own at home because it’s hard to find stateside but is ubiquitous in Mexico.

As mentioned above, our furnished AirBNB apartment was about $400 a week, but we knew people renting smaller places for $400 a month. The vast majority of our transportation was done by foot, and the bus costs very little when we did have a reason to take it. Uber proved to be the better way to get to and from the airport, but the taxi was very reasonable, as well.

Attractions and entertainment were incredibly affordable. Museum entrance fees were in the range of $1 to $3 US. We visited a wax museum, several homes of historical figures, and not one, but two mummy museums. The history behind the mummies is fascinating; most of them come from the 19th and 20th centuries when locals couldn’t afford the perpetual burial tax and bodies were customarily exhumed.

Altogether, we spent close to $1,000 a week, but it would not be difficult to live well there on half or less if you weren’t attending school and had a long-term lease on an apartment.

 

 

Highlights from Guanajuato

 

Hidalgo Market

Food, toys, and souvenirs galore. Our boys bought Jacob’s ladders and knock-off Rubik’s cubes. The only souvenirs I brought home were pictures (shot with Olympus EM-10).

 

 

Cerro del Cubilete

For $2 US apiece, we took a bus ride an hour each way to visit a massive structure of Cristo Rey, which is visible from many towns throughout the central highlands. The mountaintop is at an elevation of 8,900 feet and the statue itself is over 80 feet tall. We happened upon an indoor / outdoor mass and three of us took communion. One of us is not quite eligible for first communion and was very unhappy.

 

 

The Beer Company

Artesenal (craft) beers from all over Mexico and around the world. We were certainly not limited to pale, fizzy lagers on this south-of-the-border trip.

 

 

Mummy Museums

These were somewhat reminiscent of the body exhibits that have been on display at various science museums, but without the careful preservation and dissection.

 

 

Don Quijote Museum

Larger than most area museums, and full of Don Quijote themed art in various mediums. The story behind the collector is compelling. Eulalio Ferrer survived an ordeal in a French refugee camp with a copy of Don Quijote, and went on to become a successful businessman in Mexico. His collection of Quijote memorabilia is now the museum, and the fictional Spaniard and his sidekick Sancho Panza are prominent figures in Guanajuato.

 

 

San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo

We took a long day trip to these nearby towns on a guided tour. The tour was completely in Spanish, and we got back much later than we had anticipated, but I can definitely see us going back to spend more time in San Miguel someday. The parks and plazas with their manicured trees were gorgeous and lively on a Saturday evening.

 

 

The School

This was, after all, the reason we chose to visit Guanajuato, and the school did not disappoint. The school’s coordinator, Ana, was great with communication before our trip and while we were there. She has family in Mexico, but grew up in California and around the U.S. She helped ensure we got everything we wanted out of our time at Escuala Falcon.

 

The Weather

We didn’t see a single cloud until day seven, and not once did we have a day that would even qualify as partly cloudy. The daytime highs were upper 60s to upper 70s Farenheit, and the overnight lows were typically in the 40s. For this Minnesotan, the weather was perfect in November.

 

 

The Views

Whether you’re in the town center looking up at the cascade of color created by the homes dotting the hillside, or looking down from our perch on the winding Panorámica, the views were simply stunning.

 

 

La Bufa Hike

We hiked to a popular overlook on La Bufa our last full day in Guanajuato. It was a bit challenging in places, but we managed pretty well. Once again, the views were stunning. We went with a few friends from school, and relaxed with a tasty meal at La Santurrona Gastropub to celebrate our accomplishment.

*We experienced our one real lowlight on this hike, too. A woman and her mother pointed us in the direction of the peak, only to return 20 to 30 minutes later to ask if we had seen the man in the blue shirt that sneaked up on them and stole a backpack. I actually had seen him, perched above the trail, apparently looking for a target. I felt terrible for the women and was reminded that there are bad people everywhere. I think traveling as a larger group kept us safe that day.

 

 

Photography

I travel with my two Olympus EM-10 bodies and a variety of fixed and zoom micro four thirds lenses. Guanajuato gave me many opportunities to have fun with them.

 

 

New friends

We met a number of very cool people doing exciting things with their lives. The type of person that attends a language school in the mountains of Mexico tends to have different qualities than the people you’ll meet at the all-inclusive in Cancun. Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, but that’s a very different and less authentic Mexican experience.

There was the gentleman my parents’ age who we struggled to keep up with on the La Bufa hike, the gal who has hiked El Camino de Santiago six times, the couple from California who sold or gave away everything to travel the world, the Canadian linguist who escaped for the winter, and the Pittsburghers who were familiar with my blog and are beginning to live out their FI dreams. All great people.

 


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I could definitely see us returning to Guanajuato for a more extended family stay as early retirees. Destinations sharing some of the same qualities (picturesque, not freezing cold, relatively inexpensive) will also be on our list of locations to explore with slow travel.

Six months ago, I had never heard of Guanajuato. Now, it’s established itself as the site of one our best family trips ever. Introduce a few monkeys, and maybe a nearby beach, and you just might have the perfect spot.

 

Have you experienced this style of slow or semi-slow travel? Any destinations you would recommend or have on your short list for the future? Let us know where and why in the comments below!

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75 comments

  • Now THAT is a life lived with wealth and wellness (subtracting, of course, the man who decided to steal the woman’s backpack. Not cool. Humans will be human.). Particularly surprised that they had more than just the mexican lager! Pretty cool.

    This is really interesting to think about what we’d do with extra time once we reached FI and part-time RE. It looks like you guys had an absolute blast!

    Two questions:
    1) Did your kids enjoy the trip as much as you anticipated?
    2) As you prepare to take these “viajes” more regularly, do you have a fixed budget on “travel spending” that you’d like to stay within each year during retirement?

    I would really love to go away for a period longer than the standard week to experience something like this. Really does sound like a blast. Thanks for the post and all of the beautiful pictures!

    • Thanks, TPP!

      Two answers:

      1) They really did. We found the one large public playground in our last week, but they were having fun and enjoying our more laid back lifestyle all along. They talked about coming back for a longer time (I think they’ve been eavesdropping!)
      2) No fixed budget, but we’d like to live more like short-term (weeks to months) renters than vacationers on these trips. It’s easy to make $5,000 last less than a week or more than a month. It depends on the location and the approach. I’m sure we might spend more than $10,000 some months and less than $5,000 other months.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

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  • This looks absolutely amazing, PoF! We have not done any slow travel, but your photos and description certainly make me want to!

    I feel like we are somewhat “slow traveling” our new home in Michigan right now. It has changed a lot since I grew up there, so we are taking the time to discover new things, walk the side streets, go to the Dunes and other local landmarks, etc. It has been a lot of fun!

    • Thank you, Mrs. AR.

      That’s what it felt like when I started my career doing exclusively locums jobs for two years. We got to explore new surroundings quite often. When babies came along, that lifestyle lost its appeal, but our kids are at an age where we’re excited to be more nomadic.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • What a wonderful adventure. Thanks for sharing. I took vicarious enjoyment!

  • Mexico Dreamer

    Enjoyed this tremendously. Thank you for posting.

  • Incredible photos man! Wow, sounds like an amazing trip.

    I’ve never done slow travel like that for vacation, but my job has sent me to some similar places like Colombia and El Salvador for more extended periods of time. I was mostly working but could still enjoy lots of extra-curriculars.

    And you know you’re becoming a big-wig blogger when you randomly meet someone in the middle of Mexico who knows about your blog. Time to get an agent and publicist!

    • That was pretty bizarre, but very cool.

      I know business travel can be a drag, but I’ll admit I’m sometimes jealous of people who have spent extensive time overseas for their jobs. It wouldn’t be so great for a family man / woman, but in my younger days, I would have loved to have had a job that sent me to far-flung spots on the globe.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • What a spectacular trip! You and your family definitely made the most of the time you had there. This makes me think my husband and I should “test out” retirement before we actually do it for real. A trial run could be an completely awesome experience, but really doesn’t come with much risk or any downsides.

    I love that beer had its own section in your post.

    • That’s exactly what this trip and a couple more that we have planned for 2018 are — trial runs for retirement. It will be much different when we have unlimited time, but a few weeks is enough to get a taste.

      I was surprised by the variety of beers now brewed in Mexico — I think that fact deserved to be prominently featured.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Your pictures!! They’re beautiful. So glad you guys had a great trip. Sounds like you have lifetime memories!

  • Sounds like a fun trip, and the pictures are awesome. I’ve spent two summers in East African and loved slow travel. It is a great way to meet other likeminded people and experience another culture. I loved Arusha, Tanzania. It’s the city most people fly into for safari, so if you stay there a few months it’s easy to hit the Serengeti (though I like the Kenya side more), has views of Kilimanjaro, and is a prefect temperature.

  • Glad you had a good time! I sometimes struggle to leave my comfort zone, but it apparently worked out well for you, so bravo. It definitely looks like a very vibrant, fun city.

  • hatton1

    Great photos. I have heard of San Miguel. I have a patient who has a second home there. Sounds like a great experience. I guess it is a deductible business expense since you did a blog post about it. Ha.

    • I hadn’t heard of San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato, but I guess these are somewhat well-kept secrets. San Miguel seemed to be the more modernized and expatriatized of the two. I can see why your patient would want to spend time there. It’s a beautiful city.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • What a great trip! The pictures look awesome – sounds like you all had a great time. (I’m sooo jealous!!) Definitely seems like a great way to “test out” the family’s ability to slow travel – I can see the MSW family doing something similar in a few years.

    I did have a question for you on the AirBNB. One thing I’d be concerned about is the potential for misrepresentation of the property – especially outside the USA. I mean, if you pay in advance, then you show up and the place is a dump or doesn’t exist or something, then wouldn’t you be stuck in a foreign country without a place to stay and no easy way to book a hotel or something? Just curious about how you manage the risk of that, ie backup plans, etc. I’ve seen many bloggers rave about the use of AirBNB for slow travel like this, but always been curious about how difficult it was to arrange an alternate if things go south. (I’ve never used AirBNB before even here in the US, which may be part of my problem!!)

    Also – how do you handle the extended time off with the kids and school? I saw the reference to Khan Academy, but just wondering how your home school district handles the extended absence. I personally wouldn’t have a problem with it with younger kids (which I think yours are?), since the pace at that age is usually pretty slow and relatively easy for a parent to cover. Older (ie high school age) kids would probably be more difficult. Just curious how you handled that aspect of it, if you had to make special arrangements with the school, etc. (Good future reference for the MSW family!!)

    • Great questions, Mr. MSW.

      I’ve used AirBNB in several different countries outside the US. The company is based here, and if you have an issue, I believe they will do what they can to rectify the situation. The only time we had an issue was in Puerto Rico. One place was not as advertised, and we were granted a partial refund plus some bonus money towards another stay. In general, we’ve been very happy with our accomodations.

      Regarding the school, at 2nd and 3rd grade, it’s not too tough to get the work done in a couple hours a day. Our principal had no problem with us pulling them out for enriching activities like this for a few weeks several times a year. I agree it would be more difficult in middle or high school. But, it could be easier. Online schooling is becoming more popular, and there’s always the homeschool / roadschool option, but for now, we’re enrolled in our local elementary school and happy with the current arrangement.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Wow, this was quite the photo essay! Amazing pictures!

    Dude, I like fizzy lager, especially on a nice sunny day 🙂

    I spent a month in Samoa in medical school. You want slooooowww travel in the form of running on island time, Samoa is your place, and boy is it tropical. It makes Hawaii look like Texas. But the people are super friendly, it’s off the tourist radar, and most of it is your quintessential paradise.

    You’ll have to send me the contact info for those Yinzers (Pittsburgers) so we can hang out!

    • I don’t know if that’s a bigger rip on Hawaii or Texas, but Samoa sounds amazing. Is that where those Girl Scout cookies ar made?

      I’m sure our new friends would love to get together over an Iron City lager sometime, but you might have to bring some to Central or South America. I don’t think they plan to spend that much time there unless they’re back to visit family.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Oh maaaan, this is such a beautiful adventure! It’s great that you got to take the boys along, too. 🙂 I love the idea of not going to super-touristy areas for travel. It makes the whole experience feel more genuine and fun.

    • Yes, you definitely get a more authentic experience when you wander a little ways off the beaten path. It wasn’t exactly the middle of nowhere — we did meet a number of Americans and Canadians — but many locals spoke very little English and good luck finding someone to take your American dollar as payment.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • I’m so glad to hear your family had a great time in Guanajuato Mexico. Having fresh fruits for breakfast sounds great. Probably you can get more fresh vegetable as well. I always dream about living in Mexico for 5 months, taste the culture, and improve my Spanish. Definitely I’ll put Guanajuato into my list. Thanks a lot for sharing, Doc!

  • Awesome pictures, and great trip report! And nice work on the travel rewards, that’s a good redemption. Either way who can complain when you’re flying for free!

    We have some slow travel coming up in Costa Rica. The plan is to do a lot of surfing, but you have me considering how we can fit in some more immersive activities 🙂

  • Love it. We only spent 1 day in Guanajuato (a day trip over there while staying 2 weeks in San Miguel de Allende). Looks like you had a great time! I’d love to go back to Guanajuato at some point too. What did your kids think of the Spanish lessons? I’d like to do that too, but not sure if my kids would be down for the more intensive Spanish language learning (they take Espanol at school and we live in an area of high Hispanic population so get the exposure constantly here).

    I like your comment re: “de acuerdo”. That’s the main phrase I learned in French while watching French shows on TV. Well, “d’accord”. AKA the only phrase I could parse from a long spoken sentence, the rest of which was gibberish.

    I’m also digging the slow travel aspect of your trip. We’re doing something similar summer of 2018. I just booked a month in an oceanfront condo on the beach in the Bahamas. There’s a half mile of undeveloped beach and just the one condo building with 20 units, so I’m expecting to have a half mile of uninhabited wilderness beach to explore with the kids. Nice and slow. 🙂 I’d love to spend a month in Guanajuato or elsewhere during the summer when it’s burning up hot here in North Carolina. Eat, walk up and down steps, go hiking, take the bus to the next town over, etc. Rinse, repeat.

    • Thanks, Justin. It’s great to hear from someone who’s been there before. I’ll be linking to your trip report in this weekend’s Sunday Best.

      It’s great that your kids are getting some foreign language exposure at school and around the town. That doesn’t happen here whatsoever. If it doesn’t come from us, our boys aren’t getting it.

      We only had a few hours in San Miguel de Allende, but we thought it was a place we could spend a lot more time, too. Also the Bahamas. They’ve got what the central highlands of Mexico do not — miles and miles of beach.

      Enjoy!
      -PoF

  • Thanks for adding a destination to my to do list. I took many 3 week vacations throughout my career. I thought it was the perfect length. The first week is needed just to let go of work. The second week I’m beginning to relax. The third week is true joy. Then I am refreshed and ready to return to work. We only did it in the summer when the kids were out of school.

    If you only take one week at a time, you never really get to recouperate from the high stress of a doctor’s job. Take bigger chunks.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • Three weeks really is a perfect length. You’re actually gone long enough to start to miss some things back home.

      Not that we were itching to come back. But you’re right about having the time to unwind and settle into a different, more relaxed routine. My one-week vacations are spent trying to optimize our time by squeezing in altogether too much into each day.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Looks like an amazing trip. Brought me back to the days when I would just sit there at the bookstore and read Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure magazines. When’s the next one?

  • Sounds like a taste of what’s to Come! Excited to see what’s next and glad to hear your test went so well.

    I feel like kids are pretty resilient. They’ll be alright.

    But the beer, really how was it? So glad you weren’t stuck drinking corona and Pacific the whole time.

    • To be honest, a majority of the beers would definitely be considered subpar or a poor example of the style in the good old U S and A, but several were quite good. La Lupulosa and Hazmela Rusa pictured above were excellent.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • That looks like an amazing trip. And the kids got some education too! I haven’t done slow travel, but it looks appealing. The photos are great! Maybe a travel blog next?

    • I could start a travel blog, but it might be best to continue sharing my travel posts right here.

      Inspiration is one of my goals, and I like to show people what can be done once you achieve financial independence. Trips like this one, for example.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Looks pretty amazing. I suspect you and your family will go back there in the near future. I will definitely need to put this place on my list of cities that we can stay for an extended period of time in the near future.

    If you end up staying for like a month or two, would that be problematic for kids’ educational progress at all?

    • Good question, Tawcan. I think if we were to disappear for more than a few weeks, it would be difficult to keep our kids enrolled in our local public elementary school. “Roadschooling” or “worldschooling” is certainly a reasonable option at these ages, though.

      I’d like to be settled in one place by high school at the latest, though. That’s our thinking now, at any rate.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Neuro-doc

    Thanks for this post: your trip sounds amazing, and will definitely be added to my bucket list.

  • You guys look so happy in the pictures! 😉
    So I’m curious how much Spanish did you grasp? Are you basically on the edge of fluent now? If so I might just make my future comments in Spanish! I’m always trying to find opportunities to use it, I don’t want to loose it.
    Glad you had fun! Can’t wait till I can do something like this #futuregoals

    • I can’t wipe that perma-smile off my plastic oval face!

      As far as the language, we’re on the verge of understanding 4% of what we hear! If we need to say something or ask something, we can kind of do that, but generally don’t understand much of anything that comes back. Fluency will take much more time and effort than we put in on this trip.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • rr

    thanks for posting. sounds like a cool trip!

    I wonder how the trend towards credit freezes will affect travel hacking since it seems to rely on cycling through the latest credit card offers that offer a generous point allowance (necessitating a credit check)? I recently did a credit freeze once some of the publicity around the data breach died down b/c I figured it would be easier to get through on Equifax’s website. Pretty easy to do, but it took me 30 mins or so to get everything wrapped up and paperwork filed with 3 credit bureaus.

    I’m definitely not going to bother unfreezing my credit at 3 places to apply for new credit cards now (especially since that would cost me $30 to unfreeze and then refreeze my credit at 3 credit reporting agencies or $60 if I do it for my wife too), even though I guess I’ll be missing out on a chance to travel for cheaper through travel hacking. I don’t care about missing out. hopefully it makes it less likely I’ll have to contend with the hassle of identify theft, even though I realize it won’t protect against other risks such as theft of my insurance info. it’s been bad enough the few times my credit card number has been compromised and I’ve had to go back and redo the setup for all my recurring charges for utilities, charitable donations, etc.

    • The Equifax mess definitely makes acquiring new credit cards on a regular basis more cumbersome, particularly for those who have chosen to freeze credit.

      In the last few years, I would guess I’ve earned $3,000 to $5,000 in free travel from bonus rewards granted when acquiring different new cards each year. Easily over $10,000 total, and that’s not including points and miles accumulated with routine spending. To me, it’s still worth it.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Gasem

    Welcome to the Zen of retirement

  • Great post. It sounds like you guys had a blast!

    I actually just got back from Mexico myself. I was in Cabo , and the resort wasn’t all inclusive so we had to go to town and eat at the local spots. It was a great experience. We also did a few hikes and took the local bus to many different areas. (It does help that we spoke the language).

    I also met a few Americans who actually decided to move down there for work, which was very interesting.

    • Cool! I’ve never been to Cabo, but I hear it’s beautiful.

      I’ve been to an all-inclusive once. It wasn’t for me. If you’re going to travel far to leave the country, you really owe it to yourself to get out into the real world.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • That looks awesome! Looking forward to more travel posts –where are you guys headed next?

    Was curious about pulling kids from school — I know that when I was in school, if we attended less than 80 percent (not sure on this number, but I know there was a rule like this) of the school year days, we couldn’t move on the to next grade/graduate. Is there a rule like this in your school district, so you try and not go over? Is it a specific type of school?

    I usually use http://www.milez.biz to figure out the cheapest redemption possible for flights. You should check them out if you haven’t already!

  • PoF, I think you are living in my alternate universe! I have been planning to go to Guanajuato for couple of years. The place seems amazing and very well visited even by locals especially San Miguel De Allende. Me uncle from Mexico City first told me about it years ago and it is one of the larger ex-pats locations. Apparently you could easily get away with speaking English there on a daily basis since most people are bilingual. My family and I went to Mexico City this past February to visit family and after staying there for 7 days we decided to go to Guanajuato and my brother in law decided to go to Veracruz. Once we made this decision my local family proceeded to tell us that the only place more dangerous than Veracruz is Iraq and Guanajuato is a distant third. Needless to say they scared me so we decide to take a day trip to Cuernavaca. It was nice but certainly no where near as nice as your pictures. I don’t completely regret our decision since we then visited the Archaeological Museum of Mexico which is nothing short of amazing. I am happy you had great trip. I am going to share this post with my wife and maybe, just maybe I can convince to go for an extended period of time to get the full immersion experience.

    • No kidding!

      Guanajuato (the city — it’s also the name of the state) seemed very safe until our very last day when we learned of the backpack nabber. But as far as the drug trade and major crime goes, there are many places in the US that I would consider more dangerous.

      Sam Miguel definitely had a more modern feel that wasn’t quite as different from America as Guanajuato seemed. We also saw more Americans and heard far more English spoken there.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Amazing! Looks like you had a wonderful experience, Doc. I too would have been skeptical of a southern vacation without big water and palm trees.

    You must be retired? A post this good must’ve taken a long time to craft. Nice job!

  • Finally got around to reading this, as I had been looking forward to it all week, and it did not disappoint. Your experience sounds absolutely amazing, from the town, to the people, the school, activities, food and of course the beer. Honestly, I am totally envious, sounds like it was just great.

    I have gotten tastes of this lifestyle during my trips to Ecuador and have loved every minute of it. Wake up to fresh baked bread and the juice of the day (maracuya, moro and guyabana were my favorites), volunteer during the day (with a nice 2 hour lunch break for the traditional almuerzos- appetizer, soup, entree, desert and fresh juice for roughly $2) and then meandering around the town in the late afternoon (and of course stopping in at my favorite coffee shop for a latte and a chocolate brownie- to catch up on work or blog).

    You should add Ecuador to your list. Ecuador is truly amazing and one of the places that I have fallen in love with. Thanks for sharing about your time in Mexico, its definitely given me some Friday motivation!

    • Ecuador sounds awesome, and it’s our planned destination this coming spring. We visited once several years ago, but spent most of our short time there island hopping among the Galapagos. It was an amazing trip!

      Best,
      -PoF

  • HarjotSingh

    Nice! And congratulations.
    We’re used to 2 week vacations. The best ones are when we come back and I have forgotten some passwords for work – I cover many sites (or early dementia setting in). We’re going to Mexico City in a few days.
    In Mexico, if you needed Pesos, what was the best place to go to? We’re taking some, but just in case. And CDMX, I heard, is where credit cards are accepted widely.

    • Two weeks is a nice amount of time, too. I hope you have that much time in Mexico City — I’ve heard that parts of the city are beautiful and vibrant. We went to CI Bank, which we were told had the best exchange rates. I used a cash machine once (at Banorte) but the fees between their bank and mine were excessive. It was more efficient to exchanges USD for Pesos than to use an ATM.

      Bien viaje!
      -PoF

  • Liz

    Enjoyed your photos and story. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great time in Hawaii! We had the pleasure of hearing a reggae band Friday night, from Detroit Lakes, MN (Rootz Within), and learned they travel to the Big Island for the winter. Hope we’ll get to see them when we are there . Small world

  • The trip sounded awesome! Do you plan to continue to improve your Spanish back in the U.S. and make a return trip to Mexico? Your kids are going to dominate Spanish class when they hit high school.

    • We would really like to, but we’ve been either too busy or too lazy to do much in the couple weeks that we’ve been back now. We do have more plans to visit Spanish speaking countries, though. It’s a start.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Fascinating trip report PoF! I love all the great pictures you took!

    A language school like that is an interesting idea. Unlike other language learning experiences it seems like you weren’t in a English-language-bubble.

    So now are you ready for more Spanish language excursions?

    • Gracias, Mr. Tako.

      I expect we will continue to immerse ourselves until we become more comfortable with the language. After I fully retire, we’ll be able to disappear for months instead of weeks, which will make it easier to be more fully committed.

      Salud!
      -PoF

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  • How we got through that without a single nightmare or request to sleep in Mom & Dad’s bed is beyond me.

    Cheers! (and thanks for the RSF feature!!)
    -PoF

  • Wow! What a cool trip! Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been pretty nervous about traveling with a kid. So I really enjoy hearing about other’s experience. Sounds like a very neat trip!

  • I’ve been learning Spanish with DuoLingo for a few weeks and I feel vindicated. Mrs. Grumby is fluent and occasionally chuckles at my pronunciations, but it’s a helpful app.

    I really like the idea of this type of immersion. Thanks for providing so much great detail. I’m jumping out of the healthcare frying pan into FIRE in about 4 months and look forward to putting this on the list of post-retirement activities.

  • Wow, that’s an awesome preview. I’d love to do that someday. 6 months sounds perfect right about now. The Pacific Northwest is so cold and rainy until July…

  • (Oops, my name is Amy!)

    My husband and I loved San Miguel de Allende so much, we returned last October for our second time in a year. With so many expats in residence there, we found more social, cultural and culinary adventures than we could squeeze into our trip. That means we haven’t explored outside SMA but your terrific post renews my interest in checking out Guanajuato next time.

    A heads up for the frugal, slow traveler. Consider house(pet) sitting. In Mexico, we noticed most people adopted multiple dogs from the streets. Their owners need someone to live in their home when they travel. It will be trickier with kids, but far from impossible. Tim and I are at the beach in San Diego right now (Christmas week) watching 2 sweet cats. Life is off-the-hook amazing since our entire week will cost less than $400, including airfare and groceries.

    No money is exchanged other than an annual nominal fee to access a matching website.

    It’s not ideal if you want long touring days, but it can’t be beat if living like a local is up your alley.

    Feel free to reach out if I can help!

    ¡Feliz Navidad!

    • Awesome tip, Amy. I’ve read a few articles that have me intrigued on house / pet sitting and also home swapping, which is another way to do something similar if you’re OK with people staying in your home while you’re away.

      Great to hear from someone who is actually doing it. San Diego and San Migual are both places I’d like to spend more time.

      ¡Feliz Navidad! to you and yours!
      -PoF

  • My husband and I loved San Miguel de Allende so much, we returned last October for our second time in a year. With so many expats, we found more social, cultural and culinary adventures than we could squeeze into our trip. That meant we haven’t explored outside SMA but your terrific post renews my interest in checking out Guanajuato next time.

    A heads up for the frugal, slow traveler. Consider house(pet) sitting. In Mexico, we noticed most people adopted multiple dogs from the streets. Their owners need someone to live in their home when they travel. It will be trickier with kids, but far from impossible. Tim and I are at the beach in San Diego right now (Christmas week) watching 2 sweet cats. Life is off-the-hook amazing since our entire week will cost less than $400, including airfare and groceries.

    No money is exchanged other than an annual nominal fee to access a matching website.

    It’s not ideal if you want long touring days, but it can’t be beat if living like a local is up your alley.

    Feel free to reach out if I can help!

    ¡Feliz Navidad!

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