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Learn All About Living in Lake Chapala

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Main plaza of Ajijic
Credit: AlejandroLinaresGarcia | Wikimedia Commons

Michael Nuschke, a Canadian from Halifax, Nova Scotia, knows a thing or two about moving and adjusting to new places. His U.S. Air Force father moved his family at least once a year for 13 years, making adaptability a necessary survival skill for him. A professional financial planner, he now owns a business that helps aspiring expats from other countries learn all about living in Lake Chapala.

Michael Nuschke and Rhonda Newcombe at Lake Chapala, Mexico
Michael Nuschke and Rhonda Newcombe

“People who have travel in their background I think are a different lot of people than the average,” Nuschke told us. “There are many people who would never consider moving beyond their comfort zone, but the kind of people we help have traveled internationally or lived abroad, often through jobs or the military. We find these people are more open to adventure.”

By adventure, he means moving to Mexico, and specifically the Lake Chapala area.

Nuschke, 67, moved full-time to Mexico eight years ago and purchased  Focus on Mexico, an online guide to moving and retiring to Lake Chapala, which offers both online and in-person information on day-to-day living at lakeside.

The Lake Chapala-based entrepreneur was born in Valdosta, Georgia and graduated from high school in New Jersey before heading north to Montreal to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from McGill University in 1976.

“I wanted to do something interesting and experience the adventure of a different culture and different language,” he said.

After university, he left Montreal for Vermont for a few years before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1980, initially as a stockbroker and later as a licensed financial planner. Marriage and children followed as he settled for years in the Maritime province. But a trip to Guadalajara to see his brother changed his life.

“My older brother decided to go to medical school in Guadalajara, which was a stepping stone into the medical profession for many Americans,” he said. “So, another brother and my father and I decided to visit him in Mexico, which turned into a nine-day tour of the country, ending at Lake Chapala. During that trip, the hook was set and I found my way back to the lake.

He went home and convinced his company, Canadian International Consultants, to train him as an expat financial consultant for Mexico.

“The company would fly me to Mexico City and Guadalajara and then on to lakeside to conduct seminars for mostly Canadians who were thinking about becoming expats in Mexico. During one of those trips I came across Focus on Mexico, which was started nearly three decades ago by a Canadian couple who moved to Lake Chapala to start an educational program for people who were interested in moving to Mexico.”

walkway lake Chapala
Credits: Peter Llewellyn | Adobe Stock images

It did not take long before he became one of their speakers, providing expert financial advice on retiring in Mexico. Now remarried, Nuschke rented a house lakeside but continued to shuttle back and forth between Halifax and Mexico.

“We finally decided that we were spending more time in Mexico than Halifax, so it was time to buy a house, which we did about eight years ago,” Nuschke said.

While working with Focus on Mexico, Nuschke realized its business potential and purchased the company in 2015.

“Literally thousands of people have come through this program and, interestingly, about 30 percent of them bought a house during the program,” Nuschke explained. “As a financial planner, I found that amazing. I usually recommend that they rent for a period of time to see if they like living in Mexico, but I found that’s not how people think. For many, it’s like making a mark, a commitment to living here.”

Nuschke said about three-quarters or more of the people who have been through the Focus on Mexico program have traveled internationally, a common thread through those who opt to live at Lake Chapala.

“The top reasons they are interested in Lake Chapala are climate, cost of living, culture, the Mexican people and a sense of adventure,” he said. “The people I see are more open to adventure, more open-minded and interesting people. They have a sense of adventure, and that’s why I think they are attracted to living here.”

Because of the pandemic, the program has moved online, which is working out well for Nuschke. The online version of his program is called “The Move2Mexico Roadmap,” which divides the process of moving to Mexico into nine key steps.

“We take people through this roadmap so they can develop their own action plan as they go through the program,” he said. “We now do two Zoom calls a week, each an hour long. Then we have learning guides with each of those nine steps that provide additional information and bonus material. The cost is US$490.”

Nuschke is hoping that the six-day live program can be resumed this fall, if Covid cooperates. When they can restart the live program, the cost will be US$790.

“People stay in a hotel and we take them out for excursions and tours, as well as bring in expert speakers during the mornings,” Nuschke said. “It’s the ultimate ‘due diligence’ program for aspiring expats.”

Based on his success with Focus on Mexico programs, he is considering expanding his offering to other cities, with an initial focus on Puerto Vallarta, an expat magnet about a five hour drive west of Guadalajara on the Bay of Banderas.

“We would like to begin a similar program in Puerto Vallarta, but need to find someone we can work with there who could take on an organizational role for the program,” he said. “If we can locate someone to work with us on the project, and if it is successful, we would consider expanding to other areas of Mexico.”

Jacaranda tree in Ajijic, Mexico
Credit: Judy King

Nuschke lives in San Antonio Tlayacapan, located between Chapala and Ajijic. He said Ajijic, a popular place for many expats, is getting a bit crowded these days, so many newcomers are exploring areas farther out and coming in to Ajijic mainly for social events and restaurants.

Lake Chapala is an easy sell for Nuschke. He ticked off all the reasons why he so enthusiastically promotes his new adopted home.

“Clearly the weather,” he said. “We have one of the best climates in the world. I will be playing tennis later today, while in Nova Scotia, they are battling sub-zero weather. Of course, we are also well known for our low cost of living lakeside. Because of the climate, no heating or air-conditioning is required and the cost of housing is substantially lower than the U.S. or Canada, although housing prices have been steadily increasing.”

Nuschke does offer a caveat when it comes to cost of living at Lake Chapala. Because expats can do so many things cheaper, they actually might find that how much they spend is going up for a number of activities. Although overall costs are at least 50 percent cheaper, he said, people often end up doing more things and buying more things, which dilute the cost savings. His advice is to scale your lifestyle to your budget, as you would in your home country.

As any good sales person knows, you have to believe in your product or service to make people want it. He does, in spades.

“Every time I come back to lakeside, I fall in love again. When you come over the hill from Guadalajara, you see a beautiful lake that looks like a sea because it is so large. Sloping to the lake is a Sierra Madre mountain range, which protects the area from strong northerly winds and separates the lakeside communities from the Guadalajara metropolitan area. The views are spectacular. That’s why we love it here.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Great story, wonderfully told. Focus has been the gold standard for Mexico living tours. The online program is well worth the modest investment.

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