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They Followed the Sun to a New Life in Puerto Vallarta

Malecón Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Credit: Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board

When you think of sun-blessed cities, Kansas City does not readily come to mind. So, when sun-seekers Cathy Rice and Jerry Foote were deciding upon a place to retire, they followed the sun to a new life in Puerto Vallarta.

“The sun shines all the time in Vallarta,” Rice said. “So much sunshine and beautiful weather year-round. Even on those few cloudy days, it’s just a little reprieve and a day to rest. We just love it.”

Cathy Rice and Jerry Foote in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Cathy Rice and Jerry Foote

The couple had been visiting Vallarta for over 20 years before finally deciding to make the international resort city on the Bay of Banderas their new home.

“I knew we were going to end up here the first year we visited Puerto Vallarta in 1995,” Foote said. “We were just comfortable here. It’s like we found a new home.”

Foote, 72, was born and raised in Ransom, Kansas, a small town in the western part of the state, but lived his life in Kansas City. He tried three universities before finally dropping out of the University of Kansas in Lawrence when he could not decide on a major, although he accumulated many credits in engineering, mathematics and psychology.

His first job was working for Farmland Foods in Kansas City, soon followed by joining his dad in opening several businesses, including a hardware store. After 10 years in that business he finally found his passion: real estate.

Rice, who is 70, was born in Denver, Colorado, but raised in Derby, Kansas. After high school, she met and married a military man and spent the next 24 years living at U.S. Air Force bases around the world, but the marriage ended.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas and then went on to get her master’s degree in nonprofit organization management at Regis College in Denver. She met Foote while working for the Kansas University Medical Center as the assistant administrator for the department of neurology.

“After 18 years in that job, I went on to become the chief executive officer of the International Essential Tremor Foundation in Kansas City until I took retirement in Puerto Vallarta,” she said.

The couple had not spent any time in Mexico except for a brief vacation by Foote to Cancún.

Puerto Vallarta street view
Credit: Stan Shebs | Wikimedia Commons

“I didn’t really feel like I was in Mexico,” he said. “It was too ‘Americanized.’ Cathy and I went to Puerto Vallarta on vacation in 1995 and were impressed by not only the sun, sea and mountains, but also the genuine Mexican feel to the city.”

“We had a friend who had gotten married in Vallarta and had a wonderful experience,” Rice said, “so she recommended that Jerry and I try it. We had been dating for less than a year at that time so we rented a video on Puerto Vallarta and really liked what we saw. We visited every year and in 2015 got married at the Marriott and then flew home to sell our house and everything else.”

Rice told us that it was difficult deciding what to bring with them to Puerto Vallarta.

“What do you do with those things that people have given you over the years that you really don’t think you can part with,” she said. “A good friend of mine suggested that I make three piles: this has to go, this is a maybe and this is a stay at home until I can figure out what to do with it. In the end, we moved with just six suitcases after selling our home, our cars and most of our possessions.”

They moved into a charming 1,800 sq. ft. two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in an eight-unit building in the 5 de Diciembre Colonia, less than a block from the north end of the Malecón. Rent is about US$1,300 a month.

“We really fell in love with this area,” Foote said. “It’s outside the Zona Romantica and Centro areas where all the hustle and bustle are, but is still very centrally located, and just one block from the water. We keep our slider open year-round and get a nice sea breeze to keep things cool.”

Their downtown location makes it easy to walk to nearby shopping, nightlife and gyms for their daily workouts, and also eliminates the need to have a car.

city view
Credits: Christopher Howey | Adobe Stock images

“Uber comes to our front door and there is a taxi stand right around the corner,” Foote said. “We also like to ride the bus, which is very inexpensive and can take you anywhere you want to go, including all the way out to Boca de Tomatlán. If we want to take a few days and go farther out, rental cars are not that expensive. We rented an SUV to drive to Barra de Navidad for several days and, including insurance, it cost about US$50 a day. But when we travel throughout Mexico, we most often take an ETN bus, which is first class.”

The couple has toured Copper Canyon, San Miguel de Allende and Querétaro and plan on visiting many more Mexican cities in their years ahead.

During tourist high season from November through March they stay quite busy with Vallarta’s many activities for expats.

“We’re looking forward to summer because we’re exhausted,” Rice said. “Just last week we were at a fund raiser for the women’s shelter and attended a dinner for the spay and neuter clinic. There is always something going on!”

One of the couple’s key concerns before moving to Puerto Vallarta was healthcare in retirement. They have been generally pleased with the quality and availability of local healthcare services and have purchased Mexican health insurance in addition to their U.S. Medicare with supplemental insurance. They also have medical evacuation insurance in the event of an emergency that cannot be handled locally.

Loving Puerto Vallarta is easy for most people, and for Rice and Foote, it is all about the sunshine.

“Coming from Kansas City, we love the sun,” Rice said. “The ever-present sun, the mountains and the bay are an unbeatable combination for us. We can also walk everywhere and live both comfortably and inexpensively.”

But the friendliness of the Mexican people made the biggest difference in their choice of Puerto Vallarta as the place to retire.

“I think the Mexican people are the most wonderful people in the world,” Rice said. “They don’t care whether you’re a gringo, they just love people.”

Her husband agrees: “You walk down the street and everyone says, ‘Hola, Buenos Dias!.’ And when our landlord comes over, the first thing he says is, “How are you?” There is always a greeting, a hug, a kiss on the cheek. And then you get down to business.”