YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and from where did you move?
Allison: December 29, 2010 from Carrollton, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
YL: Why did you move?
Allison: My husband Todd and I wanted to live in Mexico to get out of the rat race and live a quality life. We just needed to find the right place within Mexico and Merida was the best fit.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Allison: It was always Mexico for us because of the proximity to home, the low cost of living, the warm climate and people and the same time zones for Todd’s work. We thought we would end up in a beach town, but Merida was just so beautiful and bustling and seems to attract the kind of people that we want to have in our lives so we bypassed the beach stipulation for a cultural mecca.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
Allison:We rented for 6 months and assumed that we would buy a finished and furnished house right away. We couldn’t find the right space in the right place for the right price so we looked at ruins, found one, finished it and moved in after 1.5 years of renting. We love our house and our neighborhood and are so glad we got to know the city better before jumping into a purchase, no matter what we said in House Hunters International!
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?
Allison: Now I own a store called El Estudio! with my American friend and partner, Julie. I fully intended to stay retired, but lack of purpose started gnawing at me. Don’t get me wrong – even though I was retired, I didn’t hate the idea of starting a business in Mexico. You couldn’t have paid me enough to start a business in the States and there is no way I would have believed anyone who told me that one day I would own and love retail, but I do! We sell home décor and fun stuff from Central Mexico, which is a blast to shop for and really hard to find in the Yucatan. Actually, it was my quest to find such items for my new house last year that led to the conversation with Julie about pseudo-importing the Mexican artesanias from the center of Mexico and filling a niche by turning it into a business.
YL: What are the most interesting things about living here for you?
Allison:For me, it is a tie between the following 8 things:
- I like the type of expats who are drawn to this area versus people who move to the true gringo gulches in Mexico
- The Yucatecan / Mayan people are nice enough to put up with us
- I have learned to do many things differently than I would in the States
- For me, NAPS are a priority and here, siestas are real!
- Visiting Beaches, cenotes, ruins, haciendas are more interesting than movies or the mall at home
- I appreciate how Mexico approaches laws... what is absolutely not tolerated versus what is completely tolerated with $200 pesos and a smile
- Staying healthy seems to be addressed in a natural/homeopathic way first and then pharmaceutically second. Either way, care for an illness or injury is so affordable!
- Starting a business doesn’t break the bank. Lots of entrepreneurs can make money without “working for the hombre”
YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Allison: The list includes the answers to the previous question plus the fact that we own everything we have here outright, as most people here do. I think this is why the economy is booming in Mexico – can’t love that enough. Oh yeah, and the margaritas are always good!
YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Allison: Inexpensive micro brews and Todd’s homemade Pale Ale. I wish some friends and family were a little closer too. But mostly it’s the beer...
YL: What don’t you miss from your "former life"?
Allison: That list is much longer than the others! Here’s a few: commuting, going to the gym to stay fit, working for the hombre, owing somebody money all the time, general complexity and cost of just living.
YL: What is your favorite local food?
Allison: Cochinita pibil wins.
YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Allison: Christmas is a blast, but I think Carnaval takes it.
YL:Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Allison: El Estudio! of course! Also Sotuta de Peon, Uxmal and Cuzama are faves. I have been hacienda hopping with friends looking for best spa/best restaurant/best pool time, etc. so when guests come I can be the expert on which hacienda best suits their personalities!
YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Allison: John Gray’s on Paseo Montejo because it’s new and fun and John and his girlfriend are also new and fun, plus the food is top notch and he is always coming up with really deliciously interesting cocktails!
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Allison: Most tourists can’t appreciate cocina economicas and cantinas the way we do. Some of the best places to eat and drink here aren’t very sexy!
YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Allison: I feel guilty for saying that we spend most of our time with expats. Luckily, some of our friends are dating or are married to some terrific locals that we are getting to know better and they are very fun and informative!
YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here? How is it different from doing the same thing in your country of origin?
Allison: Other than the immigration red tape, both set-up and ongoing costs are low and easy. For our store, we were supposed to get a lease and set up before we could get our business license... talk about backwards! I never could have afforded the build-out of a retail space in the States or the cost of importing Mexican handicrafts into Dallas. Customs and insurance would have killed me!
YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Allison: I made a ton of money at my old job, but it drained my soul so it’s a wash – less cash, more happiness. I am thankful that my husband is a partner in an internet company making American dollars and we are spending pesos and still saving for “real” retirement.
YL: Are your work habits different here?
Allison: I start at 10am. So yeah! I always get enough sleep and am therefore generally pleasant. Also, no one scorns me when I drink on the job, which of course is minimal, but still... I work next to Hennessy’s, our local Irish pub, so cut me some slack!
YL: Did you speak Spanish when you moved here? Where did you learn Spanish (if you did)? Is the language barrier a problem for you in your daily life?
Allison: Not enough to get by even with my Rosetta Stone in tow. I am currently taking private lessons with Julissa Garcia who teaches the Warren Hardy method of adult English speakers who want to learn Mexican Spanish. Not understanding what’s going on around you can be limiting and humbling, but I am getting the hang of it all now and that is helping my business as far as goodwill with customers and vendors alike. I am grateful that the studying is paying off!
YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Allison: Cuguama is a 40-ounce bottle of beer that you can recycle! I learned that from multiple sources!
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Allison: Not yet. They just changed the rules again, so I don’t know how I want to proceed.
YL: Have you traveled much within Mexico? If so, where and what has been your favorite location to visit? What did you see there that you liked so much?
Allison: Of course we have spent a bunch of time in the Riviera Maya and Campeche. We road tripped to Calakmul which was amazing. And Julie and I fly to Jalisco quite a bit to buy for the store. Great shopping in Guadalajara!!
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Allison: I feel like we are treated well except for when I am clearly getting made fun of for my attempts at Spanish. We have felt very welcome overall.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Allison: Awesome! I wouldn’t have established a business and bought a home here if I didn't think it was stable and on the upswing!
YL: What are some changes you are hoping for in the city in which you live? Do you see any progress towards these changes?
Allison: I would love that speed train to be completed to the coast. I wish lanes in streets would be repainted so there would be less confusion with lane changing! It can be dangerous sometimes, but I’m not so sure it’s a priority for the city of Merida.
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
Allison: Try not to run El Estudio! into the ground and assume we fill out the remaining 4 years of our 5 year plan to stay here once we finished our house. NOT that we plan on leaving, but we will see what the future brings to Merida!
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Allison:: RENT FIRST! Ignore the House Hunters International impulses! I know all of my realtor friends could kill me for saying that, but it is really important to figure out which part of town feels right and to discover what you can or can’t live without in a house before you buy one.
YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Allison: Gracias, amigos!
YL: If there is anything else you would like to add for our readers (people interested in or considering moving to the Yucatan, former Yucatecans, people planning to visit for an extended tour…), please add them here:
Allison:Buy your home décor and fun stuff here at www.elestudio41.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/elestudio41. Thanks!
Henry 8 years ago
Plan to move to Merida in a couple of years. What bank do you use ?
Luis 10 years ago
Allison the shop look amazing, I will visit it when I travel downthere. Tell me what do you like to do when not working? What would be the 3 best things to do in Merida ? How difficult is to get all the permits to establish a formal business?
Allison 10 years ago
Hola again! Just wanted to thank everyone for their comments and to answer Tommy's question...Mexico does not require an expat with my visa to leave-there are people who live here a long time by constantly leaving, returning and renewing tourist visas. Todd and I always said that we would stay in Merida at least 5 years and see how it goes - needless to say, we love it so much we keep resetting the clock!
Tommy Lovelace 10 years ago
Allison, you said something about your " remaining 4 years of our 5 year plan to stay here." Are you facing any tough immigration laws if you want to live there the rest of your lives? Will you be required to leave? Some countries require that you exit the country then re-enter to obtain a new visa. Is that the same with Mexico?
Lucretia Castillo-Rosales 10 years ago
Lucretia Castillo-Rosales from Ft. Worth, Tx- My husband and I bought a Villa near Xcanatun about 6 months ago. I am retired and love the life we are now living here in the Yucatan. This was a great interview and will certainly check out your store. I am always looking for unusual items for my home.
Donna 10 years ago
Fantastic article. As an expat that lives in Merida, her comments and advice are spot-on! I have met many expats that bought a house without thought. Allison is correct in her advice about renting for 6 months. Get to know the city and the best area to buy first!
Also, love her store. Allison and Julie are quite convivial and the store has some great selections!
Dee from Texas 10 years ago
Great interview. Allison---very envious. You make me want to return for another visit. I love Merida.
Tucker & Ellen 10 years ago
We met Allison when we were there in March and she was so nice and friendly. We followed the House Hunters International and bought after vacationing in Merida for 2 weeks. We do not regret it except for the fact that a loud bar opened up behind us. We thought it was just another abandoned building.
Ana 10 years ago
We are coming back to Merida by next week. We will be stopping by your store for sure :)
John Venator 10 years ago
We are coming to an event in Merida on July 3rd which starts at 8:30 pm
Where is your store and do you stay open in the evening so we might come and see it. We are Mexican folk art collectors. You can see our home Casa de losVenados on our website www.casadelosvenados.org. Please get in touch with us!
Elizabeth 10 years ago
Allison, Julie, and El Estudio are all a wonderful asset to the community. El Estudio has awesome handicrafts and the store is reflective of Julie and Allisons vibrant personality. Well done, girls!
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