Excerpt for How to Not Run Away to Mexico by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

How to Not Run Away to Mexico

Jennifer Robin Lee

Published by Jennifer Robin Lee at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 Jennifer Robin Lee. All Rights Reserved.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please visit http://jenniferrobinlee.com/ to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

This book is a work of non-fiction. Unless otherwise noted, the author and the publisher make no explicit guarantees as to the accuracy of the information contained in this book and in some cases, names of people and places have been altered to protect their privacy.

ISBN: 9781311412546

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid.

Cover Art Credit: Jennifer Robin Lee

Photo Credits: Jennifer Robin Lee

Jennifer Robin Lee - rev. date 20/05/2018

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: ¿Tiene dinero?...Do you have money?

Chapter 2: ¿Hablas español?... Speak Spanish?

Chapter 3: ¿Quieres conducir aquí?... Want to drive here?

Chapter 4: ¿Tienes seguro?... Have insurance?

Chapter 5: ¿Tienes esposo?... Have a spouse?

Chapter 6: ¿Tienes tus papeles listos?... Papers ready?

Chapter 7: ¿Tienes hijos?... Do you have kids?

Chapter 8: ¿Quien es tu familia?... Who is your family?

Chapter 9: ¿Estas preparado?... Are you prepared?

Chapter 10: ¿Cuándo vuelves?... When are you returning?

Chapter 11: ¡Estoy listo!... I’m ready!

Chapter 12: Comentarios Finales… Final Comments



A shake down by thugs at the Mexico-US border was not what I envisioned that morning. I had just returned from Mexico City and was trying to cross over into the United States with my Audi. I had finally received official permission to remove my car from Mexico.

Armed with my paperwork in hand, my goal was to have my import sticker removed from my windshield before crossing over into the US. With two babies in tow, I was sitting inside my car, parked outside the Aduana customs office in Laredo, Mexico.

I was totally freaking out! My heart was racing. This scary looking dude was outside my passenger window, knocking on the glass.

“Give me $20,” he said.

All his front teeth were capped with gold. He was extorting me for the last bit of pesos I had. It was enough to increase my heart rate by about 20 beats.

I consider myself to be a polite Canadian, so I pressed on my passenger window button, just to lower the window enough to have a polite discussion.

It went all the way down, then all the way up, before going all the way down again until I could manoeuvre it to the safest smidge of an opening. I was afraid that this scary-looking guy might stick his demanding body parts inside my car.

My girls, strapped safely in their car seats, had their eyes wide open. They didn’t make a peep. Even they could sense the imminent danger.

I gave the guy a polite “wait-a-moment” finger and replied with a friendly smile and an “un momentito”.

As he backed away from my car, he stayed close. He stayed near the front end of my Audi. His partner sat inside their sun-beat, worn out Chevy that was parked in front of me.

Although I now felt a little safer with his distance, I was still scared.

“Breathe. Breathe.” I said to myself.

I took a deep breath to help my brain adjust and think what I ought to do. I just wanted to get out of my car safely and protect my family. They were all I had.

In my mind, I went over the things I had to accomplish before leaving Mexico. I had to get inside the Aduana office to surrender our tourist Visas. I also had to arrange for my TIPS, my temporary import sticker, to be removed from my windshield.

Reaching into my jeans, I found only 40 pesos, worth about $3 Canadian dollars.

I wrapped my purse over my shoulder and chest and prepared to exit my vehicle. It was a race to remove my little girls from their car seats. As I was grabbing my baby, he started towards me.

Indescribable, I don’t know what hit me in that moment.

Straightaway, I went into tough-woman mode, mother bear style. A protective instinct had suddenly come over me. I did exactly what I needed to, so I could get out unscathed.

Handing him the money from my sweaty hand, I barked, “Here’s 40 pesos. That’s all I have left.”

He didn’t buy it. “Come on lady, give me $20 bucks.”

“Listen man, you don’t want to mess with me. I just drove straight through the night from DF and I haven’t slept all night.”

He had a shocked look on his face and was instantly taken aback. Maybe he’d never had a woman from Canada drop a minor threat on him?

But he continued, “$20 bucks lady. I helped you find this place.”

I gave him the most serious look I could, and stared with my meanest laser focus look, directly into his eyes. “That’s all you’re getting from me. Appreciate it man. Stop complaining. Adios.”

I walked away swiftly, hardly taking in a full breath until I had hit the front doors of the Mexican customs and immigration building.

For me, it was not a complete surprise to have this happen. I was in an extremely vulnerable position. All of this was the result of a five-year personal ordeal. A mixture of bad choices and unforeseen adventures had brought me to that point.

All because I had thought it would be fine bringing my Audi and all of my treasured possessions into Mexico.

You may be wondering why I ever moved back. Let me tell you.

Chapter 1: ¿Tiene dinero?...Do you have money?

To the best of my shaky recollection over the past two decades, the first time I lived in Mexico went something like this…

In 1994, I first landed in Monterrey, Coahuila to work with the Mexican National Circus at a fair in Saltillo. It probably sounds surprising, but yes, I ran away to join the circus!

It was a poor decision. I should have never gone there to do any kind of work. I didn’t have a valid working permit.

My choice was based on the advice given to me by my cousin. She said I could come and earn a great living as a circus performer. She was dating a clown at the time and her offer of employment sounded appealing.

When my aunt Yvonne found out I was going to fly down and join my cousin’s sister and her Canadian friend, she begged me not to go. In fact, she tried everything to stop me, including blocking the doorway so I couldn’t leave.

She reminded me that I was only 17 years old. She insisted that I couldn’t leave the country on my own. She pointed out that I had my whole future ahead of me, because I’d just finished high school. She said that it was too dangerous in Mexico, even though she had never been there.

Because of my determination, she believed I was joining a Mexican prostitution ring, and was scared that I would never come back.

I had to see for myself.

Sneaking out the door and hopping onto a plane, I managed to escape before my aunt could continue trying to reason with me.

One day I was working in retail at a mall in Canada, and the next, I was a showgirl in an animal-free Mexican circus.

Little did I know that I was a naïve fool to believe that I could earn an income so easily in Mexico. First, it was illegal without the work permit. Second, the money was peanuts compared to what I was used to earning as a top-commission salesperson. Third, where was a career in the circus going to take me in the long run?

Little did I know that Mexicans held the view that their jobs deserved protection from outsiders, and that Mexicans should have the first rights to work at any job within Mexico.

Unless every step has been taken to find a Mexican to fill the position, and the Mexican company has received approval to hire a foreigner, anyone who has come to work in Mexico is viewed as a threat to the general populace.

Totally uninformed, I showed up at the airport in Monterrey, with my hair dyed blond. I stood out like an albino.

As I stepped into the customs area, I immediately attracted the attention of the immigration authorities at the airport.

Too young to be travelling without family, I’d arrived with my cousin’s friend, a few years older than me. After she’d pressed the button to either pass or stop at the customs checkpoint, her lucky colour turned out to be the red stop light. Consequently, she was pulled aside.

Her luggage was searched at great length while I sat on a baggage table watching Mexican customs throw her packed possessions all over an inspection table. I was lucky. I got the green light.

The authorities were probably thinking; what on earth would a young teenager be doing in a place like Monterrey? Tourists don’t visit industrial cities like Monterrey. They visit places like Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta.

After our release at customs, we met up with my cousin and hopped in our ride. Our drive was for hours through Monterrey, onto Saltillo.

Passing by kilometres of makeshift shacks with corrugated metal roofs along the autopista, it was a long grueling ride. With a sense of wonder and shock, I took it all in. It was my first view of the real Mexico.

As we drove on, I started to get a little uneasy. A gnawing feeling deep in my stomach was telling me that I’d made the wrong choice coming to work in Mexico. I sensed that working there was not going to be as easy as my cousin had led me to believe.

The situation continued to become increasingly uncomfortable. On reaching our new abode, I felt sweaty and uncomfortable in the heat. We checked into what seemed like a 2-star hotel, built in the 1960’s. We took the elevator up and opened the door with a key.

I was unsure about whether I could tolerate the temporary living conditions. I unpacked my luggage and settled in. My cousin told us to get organized and moving, as we had to get over to the circus tent to start practice.

We left our room and headed down the 13-story building to the lobby. My senses were brought alive upon the sighting of all the bullfighters congregating in the lobby. Clad in tight, colourful and intricate outfits, it was amazing. They were there to compete in the bull-ring during the two weeks our traveling fair was parked in Saltillo. I decided that I could tolerate the hotel after all. There was eye candy galore.

Hopping in our ride, we drove down a busy and industrial road, not far from the fair grounds. Arriving at our circus tent, I was taken into another dimension of reality. Lined up in a circle around the perimeter of the big-top were a dozen or so RVs and motor homes.

Many of the families that worked in the circus lived in these fragile, completely stuffed-full, metal boxes on wheels. For months, even years at a time, they travelled by caravan from city to city.

I stood there, feeling like a fish out of water. We were waiting for the other girls to appear so we could begin practicing our showgirl routines. Then I noticed that there were a lot of serious-looking men who didn’t belong, asking questions.

Somehow, they had gained access into the big canvas tent and people were shouting to my cousin to come talk to them.

Three officials in plain clothes had showed up and flashed their ID cards. I had absolutely no idea what they were doing there.

Why was there so much drama?

“Relax,” my cousin said under her breath. I didn’t know who she was trying to calm down, herself or me. As moved away to sit in the bleachers, I laid low as she weaved one of her elaborate stories. This time it was interesting to watch her speak Spanish.

I had no idea what she was talking about, but she was pointing at me casually, saying my name, smiling, and explaining. I knew she was pulling wool over their eyes and trying to get out of some sort of situation.

Later, after they’d reluctantly departed, she shared that they were from customs and immigration. They had arrived to make sure her friend and I were not there to work at the circus. For some reason, they’d received a “tip” that we’d come to work in Mexico.

Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t have filled out the “yes, here for business” part on my tourist visa form. Mistake!

During the rest of my time at the circus, “working”, I was perpetually stressed out. Although I was somehow able to manage getting through two to three circus performances a day without being detected by the authorities, it certainly wasn’t a fun working vacation.

Nor was eating bacon-wrapped hotdogs everyday. My cousin had barely paid me, if she paid me at all. Not only that, the dust and sweltering heat almost killed me. I had no respite without air conditioning. The circus tent seemed to contain all the hot air it possibly could.

After tolerating these living conditions and my cousin’s empty promises that she’d pay me, I decided I’d had enough. One afternoon, I decided to take off and return to Canada.

Working at the circus just wasn’t my style. I had concluded at this juncture that living on the edge in Mexico was not for me.

I grew up believing that honesty is essential. While we all tell little white lies from time to time, mostly to protect ourselves or to avoid hurting others, I never wanted to get into trouble with the authorities in Mexico.

All that kept replaying in my head was a story about an uncle of mine who had moved to Mexico when he was young and ended up in a Mexican jail. It wasn’t the type of experience I wanted. I didn’t want to attract any attention, at all. Even if this kind of decision doesn’t land you in jail, you might be banned from ever coming back to Mexico. That would be a tragedy.

The fact is, so many people come to Mexico every year to live. Flocking to touristy areas, ready to take up teaching English, selling real estate, or opening a scuba shop, they believe they can just start raking in the money.

Then reality sets in. They discover they cannot undertake any work or business activities without jumping through hoops and obtaining the permission required. Unrealistic about how to support their new Mexican lifestyle over the long-term, they give up and return home.

Most people would move to Mexico in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, they’re stuck wondering how they’d support their lifestyle and pay the bills.

That’s the first piece of the puzzle that most people worry about. Sometimes they believe they can just pick up their existing career and transplant it into Mexico. Not as easily accomplished as it’s thought to be.

Transitioning into the same type of work you’re accustomed to is not an easy feat in Mexico. Neither is replacing your last job’s income. Surely, there are exceptions. You’ve probably heard the success stories of people who opened a business or started working for a great company that hires foreigners. However, these kinds of scenarios don’t apply to most people. Often, people learn that without money and contacts, it’s a labyrinth of confusion and long waits.

With the Internet, there are obviously more possibilities. You can develop an online income. A remote business can pay you regardless of where you live or travel. This is the approach many people who need to generate an ongoing income take. It will keep you out of trouble with the authorities in Mexico.

So much has changed in the past decade, so much that literally anyone with access to a computer and the Internet can earn a living. It may take time to find a fit with a company and get used to the work hours and digital team, but this approach pays dividends if done right.

Remember, if you earn so much as a peso in Mexico, you need a permit, or a permanent residency visa to make an income legally.

Later, I’ll explain how I’ve created remote work for myself. How I’ve set up an online business in such a simple way. I never have to worry about Mexican taxes, business banking accounts or any of the permits. I just open my laptop and work.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve learned so much over the past two decades. With all my experiences in Mexico, good and bad, I hope I can save you time in trying to figure it out on your own. Wouldn’t that be great?

After you read through my story, feel free to click on the links at the end of the book so you can access some of the materials you may need. You too can choose exactly how you’d like to create a fulfilling life in Mexico.

But first, let’s talk Spanish. Shall we?

Chapter 2: ¿Hablas español?... Speak Spanish?

When I moved to Mexico the second time, my cousin gave me another piece of advice: never stop or pull over for the police.

Although I’d never want to try that in Canada, I decided to test it out in Mexico one afternoon.

I had just left Mexico City and was on the autopista to Leon, Guanajuato when I saw the red and blue flashing lights behind me.

There really was no reason to pull over.

I wasn’t speeding.

As well, I had noticed on occasion that the police in Mexico usually drive around with their emergency lights on. It seemed normal and made sense that they were just ensuring that all those who were on the road knew of their police presence.

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