I’ve been putting off this blog post for a month now, and even now staring at the screen from my Airbnb in Juhu, Mumbai, I don’t really know how to start telling you all about this. But, since my flight out of India is Tuesday and I really am moving, I can’t put it off any longer.
I have been in India since 2012 and now we are moving out of India. We being Ben and I and OF COURSE our pets: Shanti, Omni, and KitKat. Ben has been here for a couple years more than I have, having lived in Kerala before he moved to Goa (where I met him).
While we are moving, we will still be in India a lot, at least four times a year! Ben has work here still and my blog as you know is a lot of India content, and that will not change.
We spent our last night with friends at Thalassa, which is basically where we met in 2012.
Okay, I’ll try to start from the beginning. First off, why we decided to move.
I wrote about this a little bit in this Ask Me Anything article where I talked about why we had been in India so long and if we would ever move – plus, where we might move if we did. We love Goa. I am not exaggerating when I say that last 6 years have been a vacation with basically no responsibilities. The thing is, we could stay like this forever – just working from home, going to the beach, hanging with friends, partying, and living the Goa life. Our friends here are amazing and the local people who “help us” with things here like our housekeeper, driver, security, and more have become like family. We all cried when we said goodbye! I really cannot even write what I’m going to miss because I’ve already cried enough! Basically, I’m going to miss everyone there and my whole Goa life which has just been like being in the best dream ever. The people, the food, the vibe, our house, the monkeys and jungle, and beach – it’s all perfect. But like an Instagram photo, there is always more behind that.
Sonu, Leena, Sunni, Ben, Me, Kala, Nitesh, Ryance – some of our friends we will miss so much! This was right before we hopped in the car and left.
and of course Azad!
There are some small things about Goa that we don’t love but overall, it’s paradise and that is why we stayed so long. Goa isn’t like the rest of India. Goa might as well be an island!
Living in Goa is almost like not living a real life. We are so far removed from the Western world; the news, the politics, the fashion, the trends back home… We really are in a bubble in Goa. And, this bubble stays the same every single year. Most foreigners stay in Goa just six months then leave before the heat comes and the monsoon, but we lived here year-round. Monsoons can get quite boring as basically every nice restaurant is closed and most of our friends would go off traveling. Then season would start back up, the same parties, the same dinners, the same beach days. They are amazing days, don’t get me wrong – but it got to a point where we were like, should we try something else?
In a bigger picture, as foreigners, there are some things that are more difficult for us. For example, we cannot buy land or a house. We don’t have businesses here so we don’t even have bank cards and even paying our bills is a pain in the butt. We don’t speak the local language or Hindi which isn’t usually a problem, but would have been helpful when you’ve got a long-term rental house and need work done, and have business to do. In the long run, we do want to buy or build a home, have kids, and all that jazz. In Goa, if you have kids here they go to a foreigner school and then once they are 9 or so, you send them to a boarding school for like 9 months of the year. It works for some people and who knows what the future brings, but to me, it is a very foreign idea.
Then there’s family. Ben is lucky to be able to take a direct 8-hour flight from Mumbai to his family in London or Vienna but for me, it usually took 35 hours or more to go from Goa > Mumbai > London > NYC > Ohio. It was also expensive to take that journey and I only visited home once a year. Each year, it got harder as I realized I had less in common with my friends who all had kids I barely know and still see each other all the time. We talked less and less online and I didn’t even know where some of my closest friends were working. My brother and his wife had a baby and I really want to be around to see him grow up. It’s also little things like as a silly example when I went to Vegas and all the girls are singing along in the club I didn’t know a single song – and hadn’t been in a club in 3 years. I’ve changed a lot (and I mean, maybe a bad example because I have no desire to go clubbing anymore or know all the words of a rap song, but basically just feel out of the loop when I go home). I’m from such a small town and have had the same best friends since I was 3. Their parents are all like second parents to me. I haven’t had Christmas in the USA in 6 years and have missed some of my closest friends wedding, and even funerals of family.
I have met Ben’s friends loads of times in London, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and India and know them and their kids so well. They are such cool, funny people and it makes me kind of sad that Ben doesn’t know my friends in that way and some of my best friends haven’t even met him. He’s been to Ohio just twice. Plus, I have really cool funny friends, too (haha), that I think Ben would love to get to know. This is just because it’s so far away and expensive to go. I also have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Ben’s family while he’s not gotten to know mine very well. I think he’s met my brother just once for a 4-day vacation in Nashville. So, of course being closer to home is a bonus for me.
Obviously, there are also small things in Goa that are annoying as well, but not enough to move: the long 4-5 month monsoons with nothing to do an rain and clouds all day, getting pulled over and having to pay fake fines to police (which weirdly this year started to give me anxiety), the power outages (before we left, while Ben was in LA we had one for 3 days/nights – it was so hot I had to sleep in a hammock outside with the mosquitos). We lost our vaccinated dog, Huck, to rabies and there are so many strays where we live we cannot walk our dogs. We aren’t crazy about the trance music scene, and it does get boring eating at the same 15 restaurants all the time. I don’t write this to complain, because Goa will always be my second home but these are just some tiny reasons added on to the fact we are we kind of felt ready to move.
Even getting our animals out of India, was so typical India, we got scammed completely and lost a lot of money. We later found a great company in Mumbai, hence why we are here now. I’ll be writing all about taking our animals out of India in a later article because wow – it’s a HUGE undertaking.
India can be a hard place to be. When we travel to Mumbai or Chennai or wherever, outside of Goa, we are reminded that WOW India can be a ball-ache. I mean, I love India as you know but if you’ve come here as a traveler and encountered the hard things about India then you know what it must be like to stay here 6 years. Some things that are charming become not so much… I won’t go into the issues that we have in Goa but the little things can add up to make your day too annoying where you have to ask “why are we going through this?” when we realize that our friends at home in the USA and UK are not.
Overall, living in India can be hard at first, but once you’ve been here a while, know the right people, have local friends and know the prices of things you really can sort of live like a local and not get scammed and such. Plus, in Goa, most people speak English and are very laid-back.
I guess the main reason we are leaving is just to try something new – because we are actually going to start over in a new country (where guess what, we don’t speak the language and they don’t speak English). I know that the grass is always greener but we figure, Goa will always be there and we can always go back.
The steps we started taking to move and deciding where to go
We started to think about moving more seriously about a year ago. Truthfully, I was ready to move somewhere new about two years ago but Ben wasn’t. This last year, he did a lot of work in India outside of Goa and finally said “okay, I’m done – I want to go somewhere else”. Once we were both on the same page it started to become “where can we actually move without being married?”
Not being married is one issue but the second is that I work for myself so can’t even get sponsorship from a company for a work visa. Ben’s job is based in California but in the USA it’s hard to get a work visa.
We both wanted a new country and neither of us really wanted the USA (unless we were richer and could afford California) and Ben thinks England is too cold. Either way, we can only stay in each other’s home countries for 3 months. And it turns out, getting married to come to America is a HUGE hassle. Just look what my friend Anna had to go through – to get her green card they took her passport for a YEAR and she was stuck in the USA.
We thought about Europe but with Brexit, we wondered, can we both stay, unmarried with Ben being British? Visas would be hard nearly anywhere in the EU but they do allow some kind of domestic partnership we would qualify for possibly. But, after Brexit, would we be able to build a house or buy a house without issue? It was all kind of an unknown.
Ben had worked with a Mexican company on a project in India, and the people he was in contact with, Enrique and Monica, were living in Merida, in the state of Yucatan. They said it’s awesome you’ve got to come see it. It’s the most cultural city in Mexico and the safest, plus just 30 minutes from the city center to the Gulf coast and 3 hours to places like Tulum and Cancun on the Caribbean coast. Plus, the food.
That is why we went to Merida last fall just after my trip to Rajasthan. You might have noticed I didn’t post much from that trip or “do” much. That is because we were house-hunting every day and I didn’t want to tell anyone in case it didn’t happen (we didn’t end up finding a house). It was a BUSY trip but we loved the place. We dreamed of buying a house 15 minutes north of the city between the city and the beach. It is a “real” city with places like McDonalds and Walmart which to us was like “holy shit we can buy lightbulbs and cheese in the same shop!”
There are also cheap quick flights from Merida and Cancun (even cheaper) to USA and Europe. When I looked from Cincinnati to Cancun it was $300 round-trip. I was paying around $1400 from India each time.
In Mexico, you can come for 6 months at a time, back to back, as a tourist. You can buy land as a tourist. You can pay for things online without a Mexican bank card (like bills). Plus, you can buy a brand new 3 BR house there with a pool for $80,000. It’s beautiful, the people are awesome, it’s safe, it’s clean, it has stores, you can walk the dogs here without issues, and there is so much around Merida to travel and see.
Merida has some downsides for us like we speak no Spanish and literally couldn’t even order Pizza Hut on the phone without them using Google Translate on the other side of the phone. We HAVE to learn Spanish ASAP. I speak some elementary but we need to be fluent. Scams are real in Merida, too. They are sadly mostly done by expat “realtors” who rip people off and we’ve heard some horror stories.
In the rural areas, it might not be Goa jungle but they do have jaguars, pythons, crocodiles, and more all across the state of Yucatan.
We don’t know Mexico at all. Ben had some work in Chalacatepec on the west coast (real cowboy country) 5 years ago and I went with him. We went to Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta too, which were pretty touristy. Merida is not a tourist town at all, that’s for sure! It’s also not totally Mexican – it’s got all Mayan culture, Mayan people, and some people still speak Mayan. You don’t get normal Mexican food, you get Mayan food. The Mayan ruins are all around the state, along with awesome cenotes (underground lagoons), pink lakes, and lakes filled with flamingos!
So, we are moving to Merida, Mexico!
We came back from Merida in November I think and both of us thought we should try not to travel too much and really enjoy Goa since it was going to be our last season. Other than working with Telunas Resort in Indonesia, and a quick trip to Malaysia, we didn’t travel much at all. I was kind of worried about the blog taking a hit since I was being a little boring but I posted a lot of images and articles about Goa and people seemed to not mind!
I did have to go to the USA in February to get my visa renewed and see my newborn nephew – and just before I left, we went ahead and booked our flights to Mexico for May 22. We booked with Air France for us and the dogs and last month that all fell through and we had to re-book with Air Canada. I cannot stress how much insanity comes with taking 3 pets from India to Mexico. Like I said, I’ll write about it more but wow, the paperwork and bureaucracy is pretty wild. Ben and I cannot even fly together. He has to come two days after me.
The thing we had to do for the move was pretty easy, but somehow took ages!
- Find out if we needed visas – we didn’t
- Buy a house – we went and didn’t find one
- Rent somewhere – I did this via Airbnb and we took a 3-month rental in town for around $1,000 a month which in Merida gets you a really nice place with a pool and a walled-in garden for the dogs. It was not available until June 1st so we are renting another place for a week until we can move in which also looks amazing. I’ll share it all once I reach!
- Find a flight that is NOT a codeshare (meaning it’s one airline only the whole way) from India to Cancun – this was the hardest part which I’ll explain in the upcoming article on the dogs after we reach Mexico
- Find someone to pick us up with our dogs at the airport since our stuff and the crates won’t fit in a rental car – we hired a girl I found in an expat Facebook group to drive us in a big van from Cancun to Merida 3 hours.
- Pack – I took some things like all those amazing rugs I got in Jaipur and a lot of clothes home when I visited the USA in Feb and the rest we fit in 4 pieces of luggage to take to Merida. I have 3 and Ben has one. The includes a huge king size duvet and two pillows. Ben literally packed like we are going on vacation because that’s all he owns.
- Figure out a car in Merida – we can’t buy one as foreigners on a tourist visa we don’t think, so instead, I booked a rental car for the first month. There are all these car rentals for $1/day which according to my friend Hannah’s blog is real if you can turn down all the insurance. For this, I applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card which gives you $75,000 in car insurance and added Ben as a registered user of my account so he has a credit card in his name, too, so no fees for an “added driver”. It was $17 for a month. Let’s see if it’s real when I get there! They sent the credit cards to India. They came with the Priority Pass which means free lounge access for us both in airports around the world, too!
- Be legit – we want to be “legit” in Mexico and get our residency visas and proper paperwork which we will start doing once we arrive.
- Clean up our house in Goa (aka hire someone to clean it up)
- Cars for the drive to Mumbai – the dog crates are huge so needed to have two cars, we had Babu our friend and driver (and his friend who we know well) take one car with me, Shanti, and KitKat, then Ben and Azad (our good friend from Kerala who has worked for Ben for years) and Omni went in the Bolero, which is Ben’s work car.
When it’s all in bullet points like this, it seems like it was an easy breezy thing to do but actually, it’s a lot of work and it was pretty stressful at times planning this move.
All of our luggage for the move! 4 large pieces of luggage and 2 carry-ons
Where I am now and the plan
The two weeks before we left is when it all started to come together – getting the packing done, cleaning out 5 years of junk from the house, and finalized our pets shots with our local vet.
We also had a puppy we were caring for (who has an owner but we just loved him so much) and took him to be neutered. He is staying with his owner but is an outside dog. It was hard to leave him, but he is being taken care of.
Ben was in LA for work so I admit, I was a little stressed putting it all together. When he came back we had just 2 full days to see friends and say bye, and for Ben to go through my piles of his stuff to see what he wanted to take and throw out or give away.
The ONLY flight we could do was an Air Canada from Mumbai to Toronto (a long flight for dogs, 15 hours) then a layover there and onward to Cancun. So, we said our goodbyes on Thursday and drove 12 hours to Mumbai getting in here at 5 AM. We have a great Airbnb in Juhu that is pet-friendly and under 6,000 INR per night.
Shanti was freaking out and laying only right on top of me – and kitkat was down at my feet in a carrier. I took him out to clean up his pee pads and they were totally non-absorbent and it got all over me… Comfy smelly ride to Mumbai lol
Roadside stops along the highway to Mumbai… I had to pee behind a bridge but at least I had this view
Friday, we were running around ALL day with the dogs doing their quarantine inspections and getting all their export paperwork and health certificates from government vets finished. That was on no sleep, and we were exhausted.
They only let one dog on the plane at a time on such a long flight and don’t do that route daily, so I go with Shanti (checked in the back of the plane) on Tuesday and Ben will come on Thursday with Omni (checked) and the cat as a carry-on.
Our Airbnb in Juhu – great if you have dogs (here is the link) it has this huge balcony and is walkable to a lot of restaurants and such
Can you guess which bag is Ben’s?
That’s where I am now – looking out over the balcony, enjoying Mumbai this weekend and just trying to believe that I’m really moving from India after all this time. Mumbai is an amazing city as well so we’ll be out and about until we leave.
What it means for the blog
Honestly, things aren’t going to change that much. I plan to come back to Goa in November to visit and check out new places that have opened (and update my Ebook). I’ll go on a trip somewhere new in India as well (thinking Calcutta, Sikkim, Darjeeling) and write new blog posts.
I’ve never written just about India and usually do just one big India trip each year, spending most of my time in Goa. I don’t think you’ll even notice much of a change on the blog.
One thing that will change is my This is India stories will stop. I had considered doing a This is Mexico series, but honestly it’s so normal life in Merida that I don’t think it would be interesting enough – not crazy stories like India! We’ll see.
After I get settled in Merida, I’m sure I’ll want to travel more in Mexico and around Central and South America, so expect new content from there! I haven’t explored at all in these areas, so I’m really excited about that after spending so much time writing about Asia.
I am a little worried that some of you only like my India content and might not want to stay along as a reader with me in Mexico, but I really hope that you do! Plus, I’ll be back in India in just 6 months :) Thank you for taking the time to read this WAY TOO LONG of a post. 3,500 words later, I should end it!
I’ve been off social media this week since I was moving and hadn’t shared the news yet, but if you check my Instagram stories now you’ll see live what we’re up to in Bombay! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about the move – tell me what you think!
Leaving India is really hard and a little more emotional than we thought it’d be plus traveling with the pets is really stressful so I’ll do my best to keep you updated on social media next week.