Why we like having three places to call home during our retirement

My husband Barry and I are fortunate to have three places we call home: the two story apartment we rent out in the humid coastal region of Eureka, the ‘Victorian seaport’ on the north coast of the California; the 200-year-old adobe house we own in Guanajuato, a beautiful UNESCO-listed city in the colonial highlands of Mexico; and our motorhome, in which we spend so much time, we consider it our third home.

From these different perches we can enjoy not only different landscapes, but also different climates, altitudes, languages, cultures, friends, cuisine, architecture and history.

Garage Eureka (Photo credit: Barry Evans)

In Eureka, Barry and I paddle around Humboldt Bay, him in his kayak and I on my paddle board, watching the seals, our local sea lion hanging out on one of the docks and the egrets in the cypress trees. In Guanajuato we explore the pedestrian labyrinth callejones and hiking the trails above the city; and in our van, we tour our favorite coastal areas, from Mendocino County to southern Oregon, or east to the Trinidad Alps and the Marble Mountains Desert.

While we don’t work full time, we’re not really retired either. We both write and teach on topics we love, which luckily we can do anywhere. Barry is a science writer and opinion columnist, while I write and lecture on leadership, travel, expatriate life and wellness.

We love variety, stimulation, contrasts and beauty, but our lifestyle is no accident; it requires strategy and planning. Here’s what makes him successful.

Living Room In Our Eureka, CA Apartment
Salon Eureka (Photo credit: Barry Evans)

1. We both praise And Own

Home ownership is a lot of work, and we don’t want too many responsibilities. One house is enough, so we rent our low-maintenance Eureka apartment and leave the work to our landlord. Fortunately, we can manage financially without subletting our apartment when we are in Mexico, although we have occasionally made some friends sit at home. We rent out our Mexican house when we are away, which helps cover expenses.

Dining room and kitchen in our Eureka apartment
Eureka Kitchen (Photo credit: Barry Evans)

2. We have created systems to manage logistics

In Eureka and Mexico, we pay most bills electronically from our US and Mexican bank accounts. In Mexico the water bill has to be paid in person, so when I’m in town I go to the water office and pay the to anticipate which covers the rest of the year. I also pay the annual property tax in person.

For added security, we have two locks in our Eureka apartment – one for the basement, which is mainly storage space and a garage, and one for the upstairs, where we actually live. Our house in Guanajuato is very secure and we had no problems with theft. But even if a thief did manage to get in, what would he take? Lamps? The microwave? We do not keep valuables there when we are away.

View from the kitchen window
Guanajuato House (Photo credit: Louisa Rogers)

3. We hire loyal and reliable people to help us

And we build long-term relationships with them. In Guanajuato, our cleaner and plant whisperer, Lidia, detects issues as soon as they arise and reports them to Mario, our bilingual rental manager. If there’s a problem in the house (and with an old house, maintenance issues arise!) Mario will call Juan, our skilled and versatile on-call handyman. Mario pays Juan and Lidia with the deposit we give him. He also meets the hosts who rent our house and hands them the keys.

Juan built a few cupboards for us where we keep food, clothes, toiletries, the printer, and whatever else we don’t want to carry back and forth. Neither Juan nor Lidia have email, but we keep in touch when we are out of town via WhatsApp.

We try to help our workers whenever we can. Last year Lidia’s son-in-law and her two grandchildren had a serious car accident and, along with his other household clients, we helped financially pay the medical bills. We recognize that by sheer luck we were born into very different circumstances. We greatly appreciate her services, and losing her would make life very difficult for us. At the start of Covid, when she reduced her client list, we are so grateful that she continues to clean our house.

In Eureka, we have been using the same mechanic for 20 years. He has moved several times, but we have an independent relationship with him. Even though Barry is pretty adept with car repairs, we would be lost without our mechanic to help us with our motorhome.

Sala (living room) and patio of our house in Guanajuato
Guanajuato House (Photo credit: Barry Evans)

4. We build strong alliances with our neighbors and friends

When there is a problem and we are not there, our friends step in. For example, in Eureka one winter, during heavy winter rains, our neighbors moved our basement furniture to protect it. A friend who works in a bookstore one block away checks our mail once a week.

Recently, Juan sent me a WhatsApp message asking for a loan to buy his wife’s rheumatoid arthritis medicine. Since, like most Mexican workers, he does not have a bank account and does not use Paypal, the only way to give him cash is to have it handed over directly by someone. So we asked Tom, a friend from Texas who lives in full. time in Guanajuato and also knows Juan, to face him money. We paid Tom a few weeks later when we flew to Mexico.

In Guanajuato, neighborhood relations are particularly important because most of the houses are Colindario, meaning connected – adobe townhouses. During the rainy season, thick walls absorb moisture and can cause leaks between houses, leading to tension with neighbors. To maintain good relations with our Mexican neighbor, a divorcee who lives alone, I take care to “court” her. I knock on her door the day after we arrive to say hello, so she won’t be worried about unexpected noises, and let her know whenever we are away for a significant amount of time. These simple acts generate goodwill.

Authors Van
Barry evans

Where to keep our van during the winter when we are away has been a constant challenge. Over the past five years, we have kept it in four places: a van / RV storage space that has closed; in the garage of a deceased acquaintance; on the property of a friend who later decided he wanted to grow a garden; and currently on friends property.

Close-up view of the authors van.
Barry evans

5. It keeps us flexible and adaptable

And we recognize that our way of life is a work in progress and continues to evolve. Where we store our van isn’t the only thing that keeps changing. We went through several rental managers, contractors and house cleaners. Last year VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), the house rental agency where we listed our house, pulled out of Guanajuato, so we chose to list our house on Tripadvisor and we can list it on Airbnb.

When we bought our home in Guanajuato in 2005, I was so enamored of our charming, pedestrian-friendly town that I felt ready to move in within an hour! But since then my leadership training and coaching business has grown. I found it deeply fulfilling and I didn’t want to give it up. Plus, we like to live near the ocean part of the year. Will we still love this lifestyle in 16 years? Who knows? We’re having too much fun to think about it.

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