Serious Photographer Gives Workshops in Mexico January 26
Serious Photographer Gives Workshops in Mexico
Text copyright 2007 Julia Taylor
Photos copyright 2007 Jill Flyer
“Looking for adventure?
Come photograph Mexico, the land of color and beauty, of fiestas, parades, markets and muchas margaritas! And… have the time of your life!
Let us show you a Mexico far from the typical tourist cities and resort towns.”
–Jill Flyer, owner of Mexploration S.A. de C.V.
Creative expression and retirement in Mexico go together like salsa and tacos – – neither one is very good without the other. Jill Flyer’s early retirement in Mexico will be an inspiration to you as you plan your own transition to Mexico.
Before Jill Retired in Mexico:
Jill was in commercial real estate for about 15 years then worked for a wireless communication company doing real estate related jobs for another eight. She has always been interested in photography and during the late 80’s and 90’s she was also actively developing her skills as a photographer. She worked in a kitchen darkroom at her home and studied advanced printing techniques at the Evanston Art Center, near Chicago. She was selected for many shows in the U.S., most importantly, one judged by the curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. As part of her enjoyment of photography she also traveled several times to Mexico and South America.
Then it happened; she was downsized. When she tried to get back into commercial real estate she found that after being out of the business for so long it was too hard to get a toe-hold again. What did she do? Well naturally, she took a trip to Mexico.
Retirement in Mexico Looked Good to Jill:
She was in Ajijic visiting an acquaintance and under no time constraints when Maria di Paola, the owner of GalerÃa di Paola in Ajijic asked if she could mat and frame eight of her photos for an upcoming show of women artists and photographers. Jill accepted and wound up staying in Ajijic almost a month during which time she started to make some friends. Jill considered her finances and decided that while she didn’t have enough money to live in Chicago, she thought she could live in Mexico until her pension became available.
She drove to Ajijic in July 2003 and quickly found a small rental house near the plaza. Since then she has moved further and further out of town and now lives in a more rural setting although, “there are all sorts of houses going up, so my tranquil life will end soon. But, in the meantime, I was able to negotiate a 5 year lease on a fairly nice house with a low rental rate. I also got a puppy from the animal shelter and she has become truly the joy of my life. I jokingly tell my friends that I have become the kind of person-animal-lover that I used to laugh at.” Jill’s Spanish has been improving over the 5 years since she moved to Mexico, though she would still like to learn more.
The Harsh Realities of Retirement in Mexico Turn into Opportunities for People like you and I to take one of her Workshops:
Jill says, “My plan was to have an easy, tranquil life, only work a bit as needed, and do tons of photography. But nothing turned out quite that way.”
In a nutshell, Jill didn’t have enough money – – but she’s making it anyway. In fact, her search for income has lead to the creation of a wonderful business. Jill had some experience giving photography seminars aimed at helping non-photographers think more creatively and shoot more rewarding photos. She came up with the idea of travel photography workshops. To learn about her 7-day workshops see her web site at www.mexploration.net.
In her own words:
“The great thing about these workshops is that it gives people who don’t live here an opportunity to see and experience parts of Mexican life that they would not normally see as a tourist. Most people don’t speak Spanish and certainly would not get into a car and drive to the hinterlands to see not only the small villages but also the magnificent landscapes. Most people have a fear of Mexico and would never, on their own, get out and walk in the towns and villages that we go to – so they have an opportunity to photograph unusual scenes that their friends and neighbors will ooh and aah over and experience a bit of real Mexican life. This is why this workshop is good, not only for photographers, but for the average person who just wants a different vacation and is a bit adventuresome.”I took a family (a couple plus their 12 year old child) to a local town once – the guy was extremely tall – about 6′ 5” and lean and well muscled. When I suggested that we walk down thru the town to the lake, they seemed reluctant. I finally realized that, to them, this looked like a slum, as opposed to the spruced up, charming, Americanized Ajijic village and thought it would be dangerous – I assured them it was fine and we trotted off to the lake, where the man was able to get some great pictures that he would not have been able to get otherwise.
“Also, when photographers go on ‘regular vacations’, there is always a problem with ‘keeping up’ with the crowd if you are trying to get a particular shot. At a workshop, everyone is shooting and no one is hurrying anyone along, and everyone understands that it’s necessary to wait while someone finishes their shot.
“The workshop also gives everyone a chance every day to see their work and to have a review session so that, hopefully, by the end of the week, everyone is taking better photos. The review sessions are something we all participate in as a group, so even when we are discussing someone else’s photos, it helps everyone to think in terms of what they like and don’t like in a photo.
The Positives and Negatives of Being Retired in Mexico:
Jill says that what she likes best about being retired in Mexico are the countryside, the myriad of places with gorgeous scenery, and the beautiful children to photograph. She likes the way she stands out as one of the best artists in the area and the fact that she has had several shows in Ajijic. She also likes the way that when you live in Mexico you can be friends with people of any age.
“My first year here, I knew a young musician – – a guitarist – – who suggested to me that we have some sort of event together – and so we had an Evening of Music and Photography. It would have been unheard of in the U.S. for a twenty something male to suggest to a woman old enough (and more) to be his mother to do something together. Also, last year, I went dancing a lot (salsa!) with friends and had dancing partners in their thirties – again, the important part is to dance and how well you dance, not how old you are. I’ve always been a good dancer (and have danced salsa since college) but never thought I would have the opportunity to dance again on a regular basis.”
When Jill first told me about these experiences she said that Mexico isn’t “ageist” and I asked her to elaborate on that because I have said just the opposite: that Mexico is ageist. I said this because most job descriptions in the newspaper have ages listed on them and typically people from 25 to 35 are requested. I have seen a Mexican woman in her 50s who had an extensive resume not be able to get job – – apparently because of her age. Jill replied:
“I see what you mean about the dichotomy about age – definitely a problem in the work place. But also, there is sexism in the work place too. When I finished college in the U.S., I found that they could advertise for only men for jobs – and when I came here, I found the same thing, many years later. So, that is kind of strange.
“But, I think the best things I can describe are the two things I already did write about… that people of all ages can go out and have fun and party together and dance together, no matter what their ages are – and, that does not happen in the U.S. or rarely. We had a group here that went dancing – my dancing partner was almost half my age – he had friends that came from Guadalajara who were in their twenties (!) – our whole group was a mixed bag of men and women of all different ages – with only one thing in common – we liked to dance salsa (and drink a bit!).”
I also asked Jill what it is that she doesn’t like about being retired in Mexico. She says:
“What I don’t like here is the boredom – I had initially looked forward to the peace and quiet, but now, after 4 years, I am longing for more time in a big city. Unfortunately Guadalajara is a bit too far away, especially to travel at night thru the hills, so I don’t get into Guadalajara as often as I would like. If I had more money, I would travel more – this area is within driving distance of many interesting locales and although I have traveled at bit, there are a lot of towns that I still would like to see or some I would like to re-visit.”
What can all People Who Retire in Mexico Learn from Jill?
Jill’s experience of life as a retired person in Mexico provides everyone interested in Mexico a good example of how wonderful it is to live in Mexico – – of how living in Mexico changes your life in completely unseen ways. As is true for many expatriates in Mexico Jill has been allowed to – – in fact, driven to develop her skills in some of the areas that are most rewarding to her (photography and salsa dancing). At the same time, she isn’t able to enjoy some of the things that she originally thought she would as often as she would like. Mexico is more expensive than many people think when they are making plans to retire in Mexico. If you are planning to live in Mexico, take baby steps in order to feel out the cost of living for the lifestyle level you would like to experience. I recommend that you travel in Mexico, then live for a few months at a time, then rent before you buy, as well as learn Spanish before you make a final commitment to life in Mexico. Jill’s experience also shows that if you don’t follow my advice, everything will work out fine – – with some pleasant surprises along the way.
Jill’s story shows that it’s important to know as much about Mexico as possible prior to moving. Get the nitty-gritty on life in Mexico from a woman who’s lived here for 6 years.
Include Mexico: The Trick is Living Here in your preparatory research.
And what does Jill say about my comments at the end of the interview?
“By the way, I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph. We have, unfortunately, tons of expats here (the largest expat community in the world- really!) and many more baby boomers to come. And they all come down here for the weather and the “cheap” living and haven’t the faintest idea of Mexican culture and what it means to really live here and never learn a word of Spanish. They plunk themselves in gated communities and never have any connection with the Mexicans and then wonder why the signage in the stores isn’t in English (true!)… and then they find they don’t like it here, because they never knew what to expect in the first place. But, by then, they’ve moved themselves into a $200,000 or $300,000 house (having cashed in on their stateside houses), complete with maids and gardeners (with whom they can’t communicate unless the maids or gardeners speak English!). Ah well, I could go on and on….”
Don’t be one of “those” expats.
Read Mexico: The Trick is Living Here before you come.
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