After years of living in Canada and the U.S. and traveling the world for business, Bob Bridge found his ideal retirement in Mexico: a home with an affordable view of the ocean in Ensenada, about 70 miles south of the U.S. border.
“I remembered Ensenada because we would come down here when we lived in California many years ago,” Bridge, 80, told us. “I remembered it was a seashore city and it might be an interesting place to look at for retirement. So, we did and we found that an awful lot of folks from up north had retired here. It seemed like it would qualify. We came and had a look, and it did.”
Bridge discovered that the cost-of-living in Ensenada, like most of Mexico, is very favorable for retirees.
“We’re putting aside a small surplus every month,” he said. “I get a couple of small pensions from Canada and we get Social Security from the U.S. because I worked there for about 25 years.”
Bridge was born and raised just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia in Westminster. After high school graduation, he moved east to Montreal to attend McGill University where he received a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering.
“My career started in the Canadian Air Force as a training officer,” he said. “I was teaching electronics, which helped me get a job with Hewlett-Packard in the Bay Area in their corporate training group. I traveled the world for them in a variety of jobs, including spending several years in Japan setting up a joint venture for HP.”
He left the company in the 1980s to work in the cable television business for 20 years prior to retirement, starting with a company in Bellingham, Washington. After 10 years he formed his own power-handling company, which often brought him to Mexico to work with major cable television companies in the country.
“We also traveled a lot to Latin America, Asia and Europe,” he said, “before deciding to retire in 2002. We tried Florida for a while before moving to Nova Scotia, but that was pretty chilly and expensive. So, we thought a lot about warmer climates and where our last stop was going to be. We looked at Ecuador, Belize and Mexico. Since our three kids live in the west, we decided to finally get in the same time zone by moving to Ensenada.”
Bridge has been married to his wife Barbara, 79, for nearly 60 years. They married in Montreal in 1960 while still attending university. After years of wandering the world they moved to Ensenada in 2014.
“This area attracts a lot of expats from California,” he said, “mainly because of its proximity to the state. Many visited the area when they were growing up and just decided to stay here and still have homes in California. The expat community numbers several thousand, primarily American with a handful of Canadians, Australians and Europeans.”
Ensenada is a bustling port city of over a half million people and one of Mexico’s important destinations for cruise ships and freight and container vessels from all over the world.
“The city has a very vibrant downtown area with lots of shopping and entertainment,” Bridge said. “It is full of really nice restaurants, shops and art galleries, and it has a very nice malecón and many large plazas. It’s a pretty exciting city.”
Bridge and his wife rent a two-story, three-bedroom and two-and-a-half bath home south of Ensenada in the Punta Banda area. They live in a development that was built as a resort in the 1980s, but later became involved in litigation over property rights. Many of the original owners were evicted from their homes.
“We’re renting one of those houses that was built for people who were eventually evicted,” he said. Our house is between 1500 and 2000 sq. ft. and just one row of houses from the beach. We just walk across the street and we’re on sand.”
Monthly rent for their home with a view of the Pacific Ocean is just US$800 a month. Other expenses are also easy on their pocketbook.
“We pay just US$40 for a dental check-up and cleaning and root canals have been like US$300,” Bridge said. “We also pay out-of-pocket for eye examinations and glasses because it is so inexpensive.”
As permanent residents of Mexico, the Bridges qualify for Mexican healthcare, but they continue to use Medicare in the U.S. because they are so close to San Diego. For minor medical needs they use local doctors in Ensenada.
Shopping is also inexpensive, if you stay south of the border. Bridge said they mainly use Soriana and other Mexican supermarkets for food shopping and big box stores like Costco, Office Depot and similar retailers for other needs.
“We go up to the San Diego area periodically when we’re looking for things that we just can’t find here or if we need a specialist or something like that,” he said.
Bridge likes to cook, a talent he picked up when they lived in Asia and were traveling the world.
“I like to do a lot of fancy cooking,” he said, “so we don’t go out that much. When we do, we go out to a local favorite called Junior’s Burgers, a Mexican restaurant on a hillside with a great view of the estuary and ocean. It’s very inexpensive. If you go into Ensenada, you can find a broad range of restaurants. There are Korean, Brazilian, Argentinian, Israeli and tons of sushi restaurants.”
One of the things the Bridges love about Mexico is its people and they are showing their love for them by giving back to the local community.
“Barbara spends every Saturday morning in the hills on the other side of town teaching Mexican children,” he said. “These are the children of the indigenous agricultural workers who come from Chiapas and Oaxaca to work. They often don’t speak Spanish and need help. Barbara and other expats volunteer their time and money every Saturday morning to prepare these children for school and to live in a modern society. Some of these kids have never seen a pair of scissors. It’s really a great program.”
Of course, the Ensenada cost-of-living is also high on their list of the things they love about living in Mexico.
“The cost of living is so attractive we don’t really have any financial worries living on a limited budget,” Bridge said. “In fact, we are able to put a little away each month. Even if you’re living on just Social Security, life is good here.”
And like most expats who move to Mexico, the local climate is perfect for them, especially after living in Nova Scotia.
“I would like it to be a little warmer in the winter months,” he said, “so I wouldn’t have to light up the propane heater in the living room as much. The climate here is very similar to Southern California, which means it can be cool and rainy during the winter. We can swim in the ocean during the warmer months, but the water temperature seldom gets above the low 70s F. We also have strong currents, but 90 percent of the time, it’s great. Our friends and family visit often and they love it.”