Many people dream of going to a far away place, to a different life. Some go to escape the reality of their life in America. Some go for adventure. Some dream of finding a magical hideaway and starting a new life.

Others are more concrete.  They want to go where their dollars will go further. They want the ideal retirement location.

Either way, leaving your own country isn't a slam-dunk.

Leaving may be psychologically harder than you expect. I offer myself as a case in point. 

  At different times, I've lived in Paris, Mallorca, and Rome. These are fabled places that virtually everyone wants to visit.  In each place, I had an odd feeling that something was missing. So I returned to the United States. I've never regretted the time I spent abroad. I've never regretted coming back.

In October 1962 I was living in Paris. I had not gone there to experience the Cuban Missile Crisis in French. Fresh out of college, I had made a pact with a friend. We would apply to the Sorbonne and follow the path of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, and MacLeish to Paris. We'd read those nasty Henry Miller and Genet books. We'd get deep, experienced, and foreign really fast. Our brilliant contingency plan: If we failed to get in the Sorbonne, we'd join the Army.

I was 21 years old and wanted to start a novel.

Suddenly, the world was ending and it wasn't going to be with a whimper, as poet T.S. Eliot said it would.

Uniformed troops equipped with sub-machine guns were conspicuously visible at French government buildings. The International Herald Tribune chronicled the rising tension between the United States and the former Soviet Union. I started to wonder where Paris was on the Soviet target list and if I would be like one of those civilian figures in world war two newsreels, running from the ICBMs as if they were German dive-bombers.

A few years later, I was living on the island of Majorca when the Strategic Air Command lost a B-52 with several nuclear bombs on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Ironically, it was only a few weeks after the release of Thunderball, an early James Bond epic centered on the theft of nuclear weapons from a submerged bomber. The Spanish government censored the bomb story and all English publications disappeared for a few weeks. I learned of the lost bombs over dinner with an acquaintance that reported for Reuters. Again, there was an odd sense of disconnection, that my real life was somewhere else.

Later, I went to live in Rome where I had an apartment near the Piazza del Popolo. I walked the dog to the Borghese Gardens in the morning. Perhaps it was the dog, but I felt more comfortable in Italy. I wrote a travel piece on how the French would treat an American like a human being, provided a dog accompanied him. It might also have been the fact that I was making some money tutoring Italian doctors in conversational English. Even so, I had a recurrent feeling that I wasn't living in my real life.

So I came back.

Would that happen again now that I'm 'older and wiser'? I don't know.

My suggestion: if the idea of retiring to Mexico appeals to you--- and hundreds of reader e-mails are a strong indication that it appeals to lots of people--- you've got a start. But it's only a start. The more you prepare for the move, the greater your flexibility, the more open your embrace of Mexican culture, the more likely the move will succeed.

Sidebar:  Information Sources

Start with freelancer and ghost writer Scott Michael Long's "Helpful Hints for Living Happily in Mexico". The text includes URLs to a variety of other sources. If you read to the bottom, you'll also find URLs to other articles he has written about Mexico.

Another site with information for retirees, including an offer for a book about living on $1,100 a month, is the Mexico Adventure site.

The best way to prepare is to read books by other people who've moved to Mexico.

"Living Overseas--- Mexico", Robert Johnston, Living Overseas Books, pb, 1999, $16.95. The book is particularly good for people who are thinking of starting a business in Mexico. It includes stories about people who have done it.

"Live Better South of the Border in Mexico", 'Mexico' Mike Nelson, Fulcrum Publishing, pb, 2000, $16.95) A nice, irreverent tone in this book and the most information on finding AA meetings in Mexico. In addition to general information, he has specifics on locations from Baja to the Yucatan.

"Live Well in Mexico: How to Relocate, Retire, and Increase Your Standard of Living" Ken Luboff , John Muir Publications, pb, 1999, $15.95. Luboff's book covers nearly as many locations as Nelson's.

"Mexico's Lake Chapala and Ajijic", Teresa A. Kendrick, Mexico Travelers Information, pb, 2000, $21.95.  Some of this book can be found on the web .

"The Insider's Guide to San Miguel", Archie Dean, published by the author, pb, 2000, $18 if order from his website.