The courtyard at Lifepath Center, San Miguel de Allende, home of the SMA Meditation Community
We're in a cozy one bedroom apartment whose best feature is a sunny and peaceful studio just off the bedroom, with enough room for the two of us to do yoga and meditate, for a massage table for Erin, and for a small desk for our laptop. The place is owned by a wonderfully laid-back Canadian fellow who's lived here for decades. There are only 8 apartments in the complex, occupied by an interesting mix of gringos and Mexicans, many of whom have been here for a long time.
Our rent is $325 a month plus utilities, for a humbly but fully furnished place. We've spent a couple hundred dollars fixing the place up and it's been well worth it. With that kind of rent we simply won't worry about taking taxis (at 25 pesos or about $2 a pop) or the local bus (5 pesos) whenever we need to. Electricity for this place runs about 50 pesos a month, gas around $30, wireless internet and basic cable are included in the rent, and our land line runs us about $18 a month. We'll go through more gas for a couple of months in January and February when it's cold, but other than that no heating or cooling needed (or possible!).
With no car and no need or desire for one, no health insurance premiums and great health care available out-of-pocket for a tiny fraction of U.S costs, and food of stunning freshness and quality at one third to one half of U.S. costs we clearly can and will live well here for less than half of what we were spending to survive in one of the lowest cost parts of the U.S.
Our place is hidden away behind a high steel gate and is down a one-way street from the busy main road. There are the usual Mexican village and city sounds but also long stretches of quiet. About the only major "sonic risk" is that we're only one long block from the San Antonio church, which hosts occasional fiestas (the most famous of which is El Dia de los Locos: http://www.redguide.com/article/mexico/zocalo/going-loco-in-the-zocalo), during which the cohetes are sure to be blasting from pre-dawn till late at night. Oh well, at least most noise in Mexico is happy noise, and as more than one expat has pointed out things will be plenty quiet when you're six feet under, so enjoy.
I don't think I'll be able to resist posting at some length about the food scene in this neighborhood, which is truly astonishing. If we limit ourselves to just places that are within a 10 minute walk from us there are at least 50 or 60 worthy options, from a dozen excellent taco stands (including a half-dozen or so tacos al pastor specialists), superb hardwood-roasted chicken, tapas, Argentinian steakhouses, gorditas, tamales, comida corrida places offering set price (usually 40-45 pesos or about $3-3.50) complete meals, two first-rate cheese stores, a world-class French bakery and even a very good Chinese restaurant.
We're also a short walk from the lovely Juarez park, and from there steep cobble stoned streets lead up to the best overlook of the city. El Jardin, the focal point of centro is 15 minutes away, while the Lifepath Center where the meditation community that is central to our lives here meets is less than a 10 minute walk. It should go without saying that tiendas selling fresh fruit and vegetables are everywhere.
Hopefully you can see why I chose Duane Elgin's well known definition of Voluntary Simplicity as this post's title. In our case (as for so many other people in this economy) the simplicity of means we must live within isn't entirely voluntary, but given those constraints life here promises to be inwardly (and outwardly) rich in ways that simply wouldn't be possible in any place we know of back home.