Reasons for Leaving

On early mornings such as these in snow-covered Taos, NM, when the temperature outside hovers in the low 20s and my bedroom thermostat reads 60, I think a lot about my great-grandmother, Helen Reid David Black, and the reasons she left Scotland for South Africa in the 1880s.

Taos's first snowstorm this week -- view from my bedroom window
Taos’s first snowstorm this week — the view from my bedroom window

I never knew Helen, of course; in fact, no one in the family did because she and her husband Will died young and far away, leaving behind an orphaned son (my grandfather, who was sent off to an orphanage in Edinburgh and later broke out of that orphanage and stowed away on a ship to New York; he had his reasons too). But I’ve spent years imagining (and writing about) Helen’s life. I’ve tried, imaginatively, to walk in her shoes.

I’m sure she and Will, as newlyweds, had a number of personal reasons for leaving their charming little village, Kirriemuir (which I’ve visited), in Scotland’s eastern midlands — among them economic opportunity and adventure. But for Helen, I’m convinced, the weather played a large part in her wanting to go. She hated Scotland’s cold.

I know this, deep down, to be true. I know it in my bone marrow, in my DNA. Of all Helen’s descendants, I feel I’m most like her – at least in this respect: I can’t bear cold weather, and I will go to great lengths to escape it. I’m also sure that Helen loved living in Africa for many of the same reasons I did – one of those reasons being: it’s not cold there.

The view from my living room window
The view from my living room window

Countless Americans are, like me, the children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren of immigrants. Our forebears had reasons for leaving their home countries in search of a better, safer, happier life; and most of them found what they were hoping for here, in their “Promised Land.” But now many in my generation, with traces of those ancestors’ restlessness still in their blood, are looking elsewhere to spend their retirement years. We have our reasons.

I’ve just stumbled upon a recent study, titled “Expats: Expectations and Reality,” published in Best Places in the World to Retire, in which 400 American expats were asked their reasons for moving abroad. I was heartened that this study’s results showed the six top reasons to be my main reasons as well:

  1. Lower cost of living – 86.6%
  2. A simpler, less stressful life – 82%
  3. Better weather – 73.8%
  4. A less materialistic, or more meaningful life – 55.6%
  5. A more romantic, exotic, or adventurous life – 42.4%
  6. To be more engaged in charitable activities/help others – 31.4%

So as I sit here on a cold November Taos morning, bundled in my quilt-covered bed, with this MacBook Air perched on my lap and icy-cold hands trying to type, I feel less alone. The American expat community – especially that made up of retirees — is large and growing. Right now, though, if I were to reconfigure my own list of reasons for hoping to retire in Mexico soon, I’d move “Better Weather” to Number One, from Number Three. I’m sure my great-grandmother Helen would agree.

Taos snow -- view of patio


14 thoughts on “Reasons for Leaving”

  1. Well, I certainly agree as I try to gird myself against the coming east coast winter. Taos was bad enough in winter, but last winter here was painful – sky always white, no color anywhere, temps never above the 20s — a very late spring…. geesh! I must be nuts – at least about the weather. Will write soon. xo

  2. Hi Bonnie, I couldn’t agree with you more as I pack to fly to my daughter and her family for Thanksgiving in Chicago which is also covered in snow! ‘Better weather’ should be number one!! Your pictures make me feel so cold and remind me that it’s only a matter of time before we will see snow here on the East Coast.
    All the best to you in your new Mexican home. You are so brave to spread your wings and ‘fly’ on to a new life! Much happiness. Pam Butler

    1. Thank you for your good wishes, Pam! I hope you have a wonderful time with family in Chicago for Thanksgiving (despite the cold and snow :). If I am brave, I think I inherited my bravery from my great-grandmother Helen. She led the way! — BB

  3. I can vouch for your love of sun, Bonnie. But despite loving warm weather, you sure have been a trooper, plowing through weather from blizzard to blue sky with me on our regular walks through Kit Carson Park. Many times, with high winds and falling snow, we’ve been the only two people the whole time we were there. You’re no pansy!

  4. I’ve been wondering, Bonnie, what is the healthcare system like in Mexico? I’m aware Medicare is not without its problems, but I do not know if Mexico has any form of national care and whether, as a visitor, you would be able to avail yourself of what is offered. I know some countries offer government care for all, including visitors, but I know so little about Mexico.

    1. I’m not an expert on this, Sara, but I believe there is. I plan to look into it when I get there. I do know that doctor visits and hospital stays are a small fraction of what their equivalent would be in the States.

  5. Bonnie, I love reading about your adventures…keep them coming so I can make it through another Chicago winter! Hoping it’s my last gray and cold season as I search for a warm and lovely place to retire. Best to you!

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