When life hands you lemons, add tequila and salt and make a margarita, right? Life is far too short for boring old lemonade. This is kind of why we moved to Mexico, I suppose. Life handed us a whole visa nightmare, so instead of going with the grain, we jumped ship and decided to move to Mexico!
You might have read my recent life update, where I revealed we were about to have a big change in our lives. Well this was it: we moved to Mexico! Baby Archer and I flew from the UK to Puerto Vallarta a week ago today to join his daddy, and since that time we have had an adventure adjusting to life on the sun-soaked Pacific coast.
I have a confession…
I chose Sayulita, the place we are now living, on Instagram. Although I don’t remember who shared the photo, as soon as I saw those pretty coloured flags hanging over the cobbled street I knew where I wanted to go. You might think it a bit crazy, moving to a new place in a new country all because you saw a pretty picture on Instagram. But life CAN be a bit crazy, and I just think, “why the hell not!?”
So we booked a flight, packed our bags (which took a while as I had no idea what to pack to move a baby to Mexico), and here we are! And yes, it is as amazing as I had hoped, and the very first picture I took was under those pretty coloured flags I had seen on Instagram.
I won’t lie: I was apprehensive about the move. Having a new baby is daunting at the best of times, and I was comfortable and secure with my life in the UK. I had a good group of friends with babies who I met up with regularly, I went to groups and classes with Archer, and my parents and family played a huge part in Archer’s everyday life and this was important to me. In addition to those things we had the security of the NHS, and I had health visitors, community centres, and feeding experts on hand to help me whenever I needed it. In Mexico I wouldn’t have any of these things, and it was a big sacrifice to make.
Why we decided to move
As I have written about before, Uriel and I came to a bit of a crossroads in our life when his tourist visa for the UK ran out and we began the process to adjust his status to resident. We saw an immigration lawyer who gave us two options: either let the tourist visa run out and apply for a visa based on the fact he had a baby and wife in the country, or leave the country and file for a spousal visa. The first option was risky, as it meant there was a chance he would be denied, for whatever reason, and this could mean even bigger problems, so we decided to go down the conventional route.
The main obstacle here was that we had a new baby, and I needed to have six months worth of proof that I was earning over a certain amount per year. This would have been fine normally, but I had just had a baby, and had been living in the states previously where I couldn’t work due to going through the visa process over there. They would accept a payslip from an employer stating an annual salary however, even if you haven’t been working for them for six months, and so there was a way around that. So we decided we would do what we needed to do. I would get a job, even though Archer was only three months old, and Uriel would go back to the states. The lawyer said it could take between one and six months once we had filed the paperwork, and that didn’t include the time it would take for me to find a flexible job around my baby, and to get the paperwork completed.
The week before Uriel was due to fly to California, I was sitting on my bed watching him and Archer. It broke my heart to think of how long they would be apart for. It was such a special time in our lives, and a time we would never get back. Before long Archer would be at school, living his own life, and this precious time where it was just us and our new baby would be over.
I decided then and there that we were doing the wrong thing in separating our little family.
We knew that one day we would have to go through the visa process, but hopefully by then I would be able to show my earnings (from my freelance work, blog, and writing) and wouldn’t have to leave Archer at such a young age. In a few years he would understand why his Dad was away from him for a while, and be able to Skype him and actually have a conversation! We decided we needed to find a country to live in where we could be together and enjoy this time without any complicated visa processes or separation.
Mexico was a no brainer for us as Uriel is actually Mexican by blood. He is from California, but his parents were both born in Mexico, meaning Archer is also part Mexican. This became a special trip therefore, as we were able to allow Archer to experience Mexico and be absorbed in the language, food, and culture from a young age. Prior to us moving, Uriel went to the embassy in California and was able to get his Mexican passport too, meaning that he is able to work.
Flying solo with a baby
My biggest concern was not actually the moving part.
I’d been to Mexico before about ten years ago and travelled around a little, and so I felt excited about the prospect of being back in a country I knew I loved. My friends seemed perplexed that I was moving with only two suitcases (one of them very small) and hardly any of my baby stuff, and yet this didn’t bother me either. The thing I was most nervous about was the prospect of an 11.5 hour flight on my own with a 5 month old baby.
I was able to book a direct flight with Tui, who fly direct (in the summertime only) from Manchester to Puerto Vallarta for around £300 return. This was by far the best deal and most direct flight. This made me feel less anxious as I couldn’t deal with the thought of a layover as well (they can be stressful enough at times). I really didn’t need to worry about Archer on the flight – he was amazing! He seemed to really enjoy the time with me, being held for so long, and lapped up all the attention from fellow flyers. His happy personality meant that he was quite a hit and had cuddles with lots of strangers!
My friends bought me a really clever little strap for keeping baby close whilst on your lap but so you can have your hands free. This came in really handy at mealtimes and when he was awake or when I just needed a break. I’ll write a post about my flight as I learnt a lot of tips and tricks, as well as knowing the things I took that worked really well and what didn’t. I must add that I thought Tui were really good, from checking-in to on-board, and really put me at ease. They cater towards families so there were quite a few babies on board, and the air stewardesses went the extra mile in making sure that we were all comfortable and happy.
Adjusting to Mexican life
Arriving to Mexico the first thing we noticed was the heat. It hits like a wave when you step off the plane, and I was instantly concerned about Archer. I had heard from a friend that your breastmilk adapts to the climate in giving baby what he needs (so clever!) and so because Archer is breastfed it made it easy to keep him hydrated. I also ditched the sippy cup pretty quickly and instead carried a bottle of cooled boiled water from when we arrived so that he could get enough in-between feeds.
The first few mornings here we woke up at 4am, and couldn’t go back to sleep. I would feed Archer, unpack, and cuddle, until the sun rose around 7:30am and we would head to the beach. Being up at that time – strolling through the empty streets, seeing people heading to work, sweeping pavements and opening shop windows – it made me realise what a truly lovely time of day it is. One I never really saw much of on my travels before Archer (too many Margaritas the night before).
On the beach, surfers were already dotted in a line along the surf break. Wives, children, friends, watched from the sand, coffees in hands. Archer loves the beach already. He digs his tiny toes into the sand with such determination.
We discovered a great breakfast spot just off the beach, one of many in Sayulita, and headed here for homemade bagels and more coffee. People always want to hold Archer, lighting up with his happy face and sweet nature. He certainly loves the fuss he gets wherever he goes, which is easy for me as I know he will enjoy being out and about if he is surrounded by people. Although just occasionally he cries and reaches back for me, and I secretly love it.
Our new life in Sayulita
I was so pleased that Sayulita exceeded my expectations, and is such a child friendly place. We have felt at home here from the day we arrived, and really enjoyed exploring. I’ve quickly realised that travelling with a baby isn’t isn’t just logistically different, but that your whole style of travel changes. We can’t really spend much time pottering around in the middle of the day as it is just far too hot, and so we either do most of our exploring in the morning or evening. This means we have hardly even scratched the surface of Sayulita after a week of being here, whereas normally I would could draw a map of the town by heart after just a couple of days of being in a new place.
I am also seriously missing being able to lie on the beach. We go to the beach most days, but only in the mornings or evenings and not to sunbathe. And don’t get me started on night life! I’ll let you in on a little secret: I haven’t even had a margarita since arriving to Mexico – oh how I’ve changed! But seriously, whilst we might occasionally miss these things, travelling with a baby is amazing. As well as the quality time we spend together, it is fascinating seeing a new place through their eyes. He lights up when he sees the colourful murals or shops, loves the sounds and textures of the beach, and listens to the foreign voices around him intently.
It’s also given us a new slow paced way of exploring, and I’m really enjoying it!
Another major hurdle is that I just started to wean Archer before I left, so that is something I am learning everyday here in Mexico. I just spent an entire afternoon walking around town in search of a bucket to sterilise his things in (you can’t get a lot of things here in Sayulita!) But now we are getting into the swing of it I’m actually really excited about all the new foods he will be able to try.
So that’s our story about how and why we moved to Mexico! Expect to see lots of Mexico posts on the blog as we get to know it, and advice as we learn how to travel with a baby.