December 18, 2018

Why We Left the US and Moved to Mexico


I am so excited to share my story and although I’m sure this post might stir up some debate, I know many of you will share my feelings and hopefully gain some new perspective on a country that is so often portrayed in a false light.

The story begins with van life, which my husband and I did for 7 months in San Francisco. Shortly after getting married, we decided we were ready for a change and since San Francisco was always my husband’s favorite city (though not mine, to be honest!) we decided to give it a shot. But the “dream” of living in the Bay Area also meant paying thousands of dollars a month for rent, something we weren’t so comfortable doing with our freelance income. So we decided to dive into #vanlife, a.k.a. the modern “American Dream”.

What we quickly came to discover was this supposed dream lifestyle was not at all what made us thrive. So I did what I always like to do when I need to get away and clear my head, I traveled to another country 😉 A few months into van life while buried in stress and dissatisfaction, I decided to book a flight to Mexico with one of my best friends for a week of what I thought would be just fun. We traveled around the country taking in the culture and ended our trip in Mexico City, which is the place I first thought, “Wow, I could live here”.

I had fallen in love with Mexico City but the problem was my husband hadn’t gone with me on the trip. Now I had to go back and tell him the news that I think we should move to a city he’s never even been to (you can imagine how that went). Thankfully, he decided to give it a shot and come out with me for a week, where we experienced what life would be like. After just a few days, he began to see the same things I saw and started saying himself, “We need to move here!”

We discovered Mexico to be a country filled with culture, art, incredible food and people. Since we are city people we knew we wanted to be in a big metropolitan area, and Mexico City is hands down my favorite city I’ve ever traveled to. It’s extremely lush and green with beautiful architecture and so much diversity. The craziest part of all? We could spend less living in a nice apartment in Mexico City than we were spending living in a van in California! At that point, we knew the move was a no-brainer.

A few months later, we flew back out to Mexico City and signed a lease on an apartment. We have been living here for two weeks, and it’s been amazing! We live just a couple blocks away from a huge park, a fresh market, and all the restaurants and cafes we could ever want. In a short amount of time, we’ve already made great friends who truly want us to feel welcome and at home. Not to mention all the beautiful places across the country we have the opportunity to explore from small mountain towns to incredible beaches.


Despite all of this, the perception Americans have towards Mexico is largely negative. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared the news with someone and they’ve responded by saying, “Mexico City, really? It’s so big! You better be careful!”

I’m used to it by now, but it will always frustrate me knowing that the places I’ve felt the most unsafe of the 40 countries I’ve traveled have all been in the United States. Living in San Francisco for seven months was an uncomfortable experience for me as I was exposed to a level of homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction like nowhere else I’ve ever been. I constantly worried about my safety walking around alone, and there are so many places in San Francisco I couldn’t go at night by myself. You know how many times I’ve felt unsafe in Mexico City? Zero.

In my travels, I’ve come to realize that the illusion that the United States is the “best country in the world” simply isn’t true. Although we may be first-world economically, we’re 4th world when it comes to humanity. We are a country that prioritizes profit over people and status over relationships. That might look pretty on the outside, but when you take a deeper look you start to see things are not so pretty after all.

Even though Mexico is an incredible country filled with rich history, culture, and so much color, our media only portrays it as a dangerous place. Although that may be true for some areas, the fact is that nowhere is 100% safe and our perception has more to do with what the media has made us believe rather than what’s actually true.

As much as I would love everyone to just believe these things, you’ll only truly know by experiencing them yourself. I encourage anyone reading this to explore Mexico and go into it with an open mind and to not just go to the tourist areas. Visit the places where you’ll encounter the real Mexico, where you’ll experience the culture for all it has to offer.

Eat the food, learn about their traditions, and befriend locals. Dance the night away and try some mezcal. Open yourself up to the abundance of generosity and hospitality that’s hard to find in the U.S. Only then will you understand why I left the US and moved to Mexico. In the end, you might just want to do the same thing yourself 🙂

meet the writer

I'm Donna Irene.


A photographer, writer, and educator with a passion for helping people quit the hustle and live filled with purpose. When I picked up
a camera over 10 years ago, I had no idea it would take me around the world getting to photograph for everything from fortune 500
companies, brands, and people like you.

And now that I've been to 40+ countries and counting, I want to
use my talents to inspire others to use their creativity to make the world better. Follow along for resources on authentic travel experiences, sustainability, and building a business with intention.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Kenia says:

    Great read! My husband and I want to move out there one day (:

  2. azizsolotraveler says:

    Love these places as a moroccan, really helpful check out the <a href=" ” target=”_blank”>Moroccans food

  3. Annie says:

    Mexico is a very misunderstood country, especially for people who never been there, too many negative things to say to a very beautiful, full
    Of culture and nice people. I enjoy going to Mexico and visiting different areas…. People need to be more open minded, need to see and visit a place before saying anything negative about it.

What people are saying...


Photographer, educator, environmentalist, and dog mom. I've turned a passion for photography into my dream job and I want to
teach you how you can do the same!

Hi! I'm Donna.