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  • Writer's pictureJoey McCune

Our Expat Journey

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Why did we make this move?

My beloved husband, Mitch and I lived a wonderful life in Seattle. We had a pretty dreamy situation, a gorgeous view home near the beach and a weekend place at a lake. We owned a few investment properties. Mitch was an award winning contractor, written up in magazines and I am honored to run a top producing, award winning real estate office in Seattle. I additionally ran a successful sound healing business that was growing rapidly.

Our kids are grown, for the most part graduated from college (Our son, Jackson, graduates in the spring) and are both successful adults. We have 3 rescue dogs and life was good.

A lot of people ask us why we chose to move to the jungle in Mexico, especially when life was so seemingly perfect?

Well, life is not always what it looks like on the outside.

We may have had the list checked off but

we were not very happy.

Like all parents, we wanted to provide a solid home to our kids and support them and guide them to be successful, professional , happy adults.

We worked hard. Very hard. Too hard.

The kids became adults and we had a beautiful realization that if you are not happy, it is up to you to do something about it. We felt we had accommodated the expectations of being parents and it was time to make the change for ourselves. Along with that desire, we have grown spiritually as a couple. We both felt that what we were doing in the world was not in our highest and best use. We felt strongly about being in service to others, spiritually, and wanted to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint and be an example to others, as we felt we were not living and making the best choices in that regard.

At the time, my sound healing business was rapidly growing and I felt strongly called to follow that path and truly share the magic of such a special experience on a larger scale. I am fortunate that my husband joins me in this dream. One person can make a difference, but two together, can be even more impactful. We have always been a team.

So—with the kids grown and our financial responsibilities ending we made our decision. As you can imagine, it is a BIG decision to decide to move out of your comfort zone. It is a BIG decision to move internationally. It is not an easy decision and many questions need to be answered yet many questions are left unanswered because you are also making this move on faith and trust.

Let me be clear, we are not retired. We do not receive a pension, we only have what we have in our bank accounts and we must make it work financially --- we must trust that this transition will work. I am sure people have done this on a much larger budget than what we are doing it on.

Again, we decided to make some changes and doing this

on a shoestring was part of it.

Faith and trust are a big part of a move like this. Leaving behind the comfort of a career and 20 years of steady clients and income, changing family dynamics, and changing your lifestyle is quite significant. For example, I know the kids love to visit us here in Mexico and they do love it here, but Seattle is their “home”. I had to release my emotional tie to them not feeling like my home is “HOME” any longer. That is hard for a mother bear like me. My kids are all I have in the world.

I also had to have the tough discussion that we were not going to be able to support them (the kids) financially as we are leaving a lifestyle that produced much more financial stability. This was a decision that was not made lightly.

We asked the Universe to guide us and if the doors opened for us, we would walk through them.

We put Mitch’s business on the market and “if” it sold which is rare to sell a business like his, then we would see that it was a sign. Simultaneously, we decided to put our beloved home on the market and if we were able to sell it then it was another sign. At the same time, politically, we were not happy to see which direction things were headed, our new President was just elected. We were disappointed on the stance for a greener world and climate change, etc.

Climate change is a very large part of why we wanted to make a change --- doing what we can as our tiny part in the problem.

Well --- the kids were in agreement,

they said, "Live your dream, we are proud of you!"

They also said, they knew we worked hard all the time and it was time to do something for ourselves. We are lucky that they were so accepting.

Mitch’s company sold and so did our home, in 3 weeks! Life was lining up and there was no backing out now! The Universe had spoken loud and clear.

What was it like emotionally?

What others do not mention or tell you during these times is about the emotional exhaustion of packing up your life. I raised my children in that beautiful home. We lived there for many years and made many memories and needed to get rid of much of what we owned. It was the beginning of our cleansing process.

I am not sure many people could do what we did.

Photos, kids awards, clay figurines they made when they were little, a library of special books, … you must purge pretty thoroughly to move internationally.

We are fortunate that we kept a very small home in Seattle that had been a rental prior. We use it as storage, Airbnb it when we are not there and stay there when we are in town. I come back every few months to see clients and oversee things. It is very expensive for us to do this and I hope we can continue as it gives me some sense of comfort knowing I am able to keep a few special items.

At any rate, we left 4200 square feet and moved into the 1000 square foot rental. We shipped what we could to Mexico, but with the humidity and lack of storage we were forced to pair-down hugely what could be shipped and there wasn’t much space to store anything in Seattle.

I had to say goodbye to many wonderful items and memories. No more ski gear, no more climbing gear, no more hiking gear, no 7 different sets of 12 place settings for dinner parties (this is true! My God! I had so many sets of dishes for different types of dinner parties! I loved all of them but you just cannot keep them).

We got rid of clothes, dishes, furniture, books, sports gear, china, crystal, jewelry, paintings and art work, household goods, dog beds, dog clothes, kids clothes, kids toys, patio furniture, sheets, towels… the list goes on and on. It took months.

The funny thing is--- my God it felt good! After the initial emotional part of the cleanse, it felt amazing to get rid of it. I either sold it, consigned it, donated or gifted all the items. It was a massive purge.

We even sold our cars! It was a major moment of finality to see Mitch’s Ford and my Range Rover leave the house. It was a final testament that we were making a huge change as both of those automobiles represented the Contractor and the Realtor duo.

We looked at each other,

I guess there is


(on a positive note—no more payments either)!

Hahahahaha and on a serious note--- we were really doing this!

I remember thinking, I need to buy all the cute decorated napkins and my special hand soap I always get at Met Market and stock up to take to Mexico. I better stock up on my special shampoo and conditioner because I won’t be able to get it once we move.

I kept thinking like this because I was afraid to let go. It’s very easy to be afraid of change.

Well--- I have nowhere to store all those cute napkins now, I am mad that I bought such expensive shampoo and conditioner and the soap was ruined in the heat (it changed color and affected the scent).

You see—we lived a life of excess. I see it now. I am disappointed with myself because it’s actually really gross! I didn’t need all of those clothes, I didn’t need all of those dishes! I didn’t need anything that I got rid of.

I will tell you what Mexico taught us right off the bat--- living simply is beautiful. You just don’t need stuff! You also realize that you can’t find what you used to need in America, but the beautiful part is that you realize you never needed it in the first place!

What is it like living off-grid?

In this move, it was important to us that we live off-grid.

We were tired of being consumers. In fact, we don’t even do Christmas gifts. It’s true, we do not do a formal exchange and we haven’t for many years. We are disgusted by the gross consumerism and America, let me tell you displays the grossest form of consumerism there is! Once you leave, you can really see it!

One of the things we rapidly discovered since our arrival here living off-grid in Mexico is how closely we are tied to our environment and its resources. Nowhere before, has it ever been so obvious that our behavior and consumption habits directly impact our living situation and wellbeing. One of the advantages is that you quickly become aware of how precious resources are.

Prior to moving, we simply didn’t run out of utilities!

…Thoughtlessly waste a little water or electricity back home and it didn’t feel like it mattered too much. We were blissfully removed from the source, willfully unaware that what is output at the faucet or the switch has to be input somewhere.

Turn the faucet on or flip a switch, there was always more to be had. It was so easy and living off-grid has taught us it was too easy.

We were spoiled and we took advantage of far more than we should. It is easy to compensate for wastefulness by throwing money at it. I am not talking about consciously buying your way out of it, I am talking about how we operate in everyday life. If we forget to turn a light off or leave the television running while we aren’t using it the only penalty is a financial one. Without thinking, the meter sells us a little more of what seems to be an endless supply.

Here, living off-grid, if we use too much electricity from the solar system, the batteries will only give you what has been stored, you have no more electricity to use. We use all LED lights and we watch the power usage of anything we plug-in.

We are fortunate that we have an endless well at our home, however the water must be pumped to a cistern and that requires electricity which as you can see, is precious.

We have to time when to water the garden, clean the pool, do the laundry or fill the cistern. Sometimes, believe it or not, the skies are grey and we are not able to fill our batteries fully. When this happens, we don’t have as much electricity to use.

It is a balancing act, a dance if you will, and it makes you appreciate your precious resources just that much more.

Air conditioning is a splurge. It’s very hot here and we are thankful to have a/c in our bedrooms. We do not have it in the main part of the house. Instead we have ceiling fans. Is it perfect, no… but we survive. If we need a/c, then we need to go without something else.

We have to time when the pool pump is on each day. We have to have a special pump for our water softening system that uses the least amount of energy. We wash our clothes and hang dry.

If you generate trash, you have to find a way to dispose of it. There is no garbage service here. There is no dump. No one comes by and removes it from our home and therefore our mind. We have to burn it, compost it or recycle it and we transport it ourselves. We have also become aware of how horribly over packaged everything is.

Living off-grid reminds you how small actions have big consequences.

When you do laundry, you hang everything out to dry. If it starts to rain (which it may, all of a sudden) then you must rush over and save the laundry. There are some days, due to humidity, that the laundry does not dry for 3-4 days. Damp is the new dry.

One of the great side effects of living off-grid is how aware we have become of how many things we thought we simply couldn’t live without, soon wind up needing to be hauled away or given away. We appreciate the awareness that everything we thoughtlessly used to do has consequences somewhere else. The thing that most brings it home is discarded plastic coming in with the waves. Walk on the beach and you can see how years of people carelessly disposing of anything plastic in the ocean or on its beaches has consequences – even on a faraway little beach paradise in Mexico.

We are forced to sort our garbage, compost food for the garden, recycle what we can (recycling is new here so it is difficult to find places to take things). Mitch located a metal company that will take metal from us, so we were lucky to find a place to dispose of an old metal broken barbeque that was left by prior owners. There is a new recycle spot but no one is there 98% of the time. It can be frustrating in Mexico but we are somehow making it work and finding solutions.

We brought our Nespresso, espresso machines, with us. Mitch has a large one and I have a small one. Coffee snobs from Seattle, of course. Well--- we realize that our coffee pods are terrible for the environment even though they say they aren’t.

We are now using them up and going to make French press as soon as the pods are done. There will be zero waste with French press, and the grounds are great for the gardens. By the way, this is another example of me buying a ton of coffee pods so that we would not run out and because I knew they are difficult to find in Mexico. Fast forward—disposing of them is an issue and not environmentally friendly after all. So now, we must deal with this bad purchase choice and make changes where necessary.

We are still trying to figure out razors--- disposing of them is obviously not environmentally friendly. There are so many small things to be aware of that you rarely take notice to when you aren’t forced to think about it.

We do NOT buy plastic water bottles. Instead we re-use glass ones. We do not use straws.

Unfortunately, electric cars are not here in Mexico yet. We are not able to make a lot of changes with that part at this time, but we do try and carpool and make as many limited trips into town as possible. Hopefully someday we can have an electric car here. Jet Blue is carbon neutral—it is our hope that other airlines follow suit. Unfortunately, we fly to Seattle a few times a year.

Living in a dense jungle the air is clean and fresh. It literally feels like the lungs of the earth surround us and give us vitality. We must work hard to protect this beautiful, life giving resource, as well as our Earth. Mitch and I are trying to do our part. We are not perfect, far from it, but we strive to protect our planet and work hard to correct ourselves where we can.

We chose Mexico after considering Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. We chose Mexico for its infrastructure, number of expat communities, proximity to the US (our future grandchildren). The other countries were romantic to us and we had to really consider all options. I really loved Costa Rica but in the end we settled on Mexico.

Tulum in particular offers a special holistic community that is hard to find. If my sound healing business is to take off, we need to have a community that would be like minded (yoga heavy) and that travelers would arrive and be interested in. Tulum is a special place. It offers a great vibe and although not a perfect place, we realize nowhere is, we feel it offers a great opportunity to build what we feel we are here to create.

Are we ever moving back?

Well, we do not know.

It is still too new to tell but the plan is to stay here for a while. I am not sure we will want to move back. For what it is worth, we prefer the weather, the cost of living, the cost of healthcare, and the simplicity of life. We feel healthier and happier right now, but things could obviously change at some point.

When we have grandkids someday—we are 3.5 hours away right now via plane. Who knows where the kids will end up, so it is hard to say. We may move to be closer to them at that point but we are building a life here and the plan is to stay long term.

Many of you have asked what sound healing is?

Great question and I will try and answer this as simply as possible.

Sound healing is an ancient practice using waves of vibration that promote healing. You may have heard of Tibetan singing bowls? They are metal bowls that the Tibetan monks play. They are tapped and encircled with a mallet and the sounds are hauntingly beautiful. The vibrations are considered to be healing. Tibetan Singing Bowls have been used for centuries for healing and meditation purposes. It is believed that the sounds generated by the bowls are a type of energy medicine that promote healing.

Our bodies are made up of 60% water. The brain and heart of 73% water. The lungs are 83% water. The skin contains 60% water, muscles and kidneys are 79% and even bones are 31% water! It has been proven scientifically that water can be changed through vibration. Dr. Masaru Emoto was a Japanese pseudoscientist who proved that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. Dr. Emoto proved that positive words and emotions, classical music and positive prayer directed at the water produce beautiful crystals, while negative words and emotions and crude music, such as heavy metal, produce ugly crystals. Water is a very special chemical. He did this by showing the vibration of the words and photographed how it restructured the waters molecular structure. For example: he photographed water after saying “I love you” to it and it looked like a gorgeous snowflake. The same water when told, “I hate you” changed structure through this vibration into a blob. This was proven over and over again. That is a simplified example, but it shows my point. If our bodies are made up of so much water—how can the molecular structure not be changed through healing vibrations?

Healing with sound vibration is believed to date back to ancient Greece, when it was used in an attempt to cure mental disorders.

Resonating structures (sound temples) were built by the Egyptians to amplify the therapeutic effects of sound during religious ceremonies. These structures did not include just the temples, but also the pyramids, the King’s chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza was designed to reverberate in order to increase the sound energy from ritualistic chants.

The use of sound as a healing modality dates back to prehistoric times, when shaman chanted and drummed to heal people.

In the ancient mystery schools of Greece, India, Egypt and other centers of knowledge, the use of sound and music for healing was a highly developed sacred science.

There are many ancient forms of sound healing from many countries and continents that date back thousands of years.

What is a Sound Temple?

A Sound Temple is a sacred space built to accompany the acoustics of sound for healing purposes.

What instruments are included in a Sound Bath?

I work with crystal singing bowls and metal singing bowls as well as gongs and a few other artisan instruments. I mainly focus on the crystal alchemy bowls and gongs.

Crystal bowls are used to help to balance the chakra system.

These singing bowls have been used for meditation, music, relaxation, personal well-being, healing energy and chakra cleansing. Bowls are tuned to the chakra notes: all seven chakras a, b, c, d, e, f & g.

Crystal singing bowls are used by a wide range of professionals, including health professionals, school teachers, musicians and spiritual teachers.

Crystals are known to have specific healing modalities. The different healing crystals are fused with pure quartz crystal creating very specific singing bowls that all offer different healing tones and abilities.

As a sound practitioner, I offer “sound baths” to my clients (called sound bathers). Sometimes I do one-on-one sound baths and sometimes I do group sound baths.

What is a Sound Bath?

A sound bath is a relaxation technique and meditative experience whereby participants 'bathe' in the sound waves produced by the human voice as well as instruments such as chimes, gongs, drums and singing bowls. A Sound Bath or a Sound Massage is a fully clothed, relaxing and blissful experience where you bathe in the healing sound waves, No Baths involved!

We have built a Sound Temple in the jungle at our home here in Mexico. We also have a little store and a tea house. The experience is magical.

The Sound Temple was designed to enhance the acoustics offered by these special instruments. There are only a few sound temples in the world specifically designed for only sound healing use. This will be the only one in Mexico. The setting is very special and we are very excited! Mitch has done a beautiful job of designing and constructing it.

I must give him kudos—we have moved to a foreign country with little to no Spanish spoken, prior. Mitch ran an entire construction crew of Mayans who only spoke Mayan and Spanish. We had no choice but to learn a new language quickly and to instruct through hard work and leading by example.

Do I believe I am a Healer?

I believe I set the space for healing to occur. I believe in the energy of these sacred instruments and with the right intent this sacred setting can be a magical place of transformation.

A true healer sets the space for others to do their own work.

I feel it is my dharma, my path, to create this space and share this beautiful experience, doing my part to be in service to others.

Mitch and I are deeply spiritual on our life journey. We have forged a path spiritually together. It is a large part of who we are individually and as a couple. I would hope this is not a surprise to any of you and that we are examples of our beliefs.

So--- the circle is complete.

We made the decision to do this. We sold everything, we are living off-grid, we are learning every day how to be better stewards of our planet. We live with nature and we respect it. We strive to constantly improve.

We are grateful for this experience and we are thankful that we found such an idyllic location.

We have put our hearts and energy into building a very special place.

It is all very exciting.

We have put it “all on the line” so to speak, so you can imagine, we feel very strongly about what we are doing. We put our trust and faith into this move and we put our heart and soul into the build-out and creation.

Over the years Mitch and I have created many things together. We have built businesses, renovated homes, flipped properties and opened and closed many doors together. We feel this is what it was all for.

Some may call us crazy. Maybe we are! It is a little scary--- No! It is a LOT scary, but we trust this is our purpose.

So, two years later, here we are… !

Our dream and vision have become a reality.

Our hearts are full and our arms are open to all who feel called to participate.

Joey McCune, a free spirited Seattle Realtor turned Energy Practitioner, has traveled the world in her studies of deeply rooted spiritual traditions and rituals in many forms. She is a Sound Healer/Weaver, Gong Master, a Master Reiki Practitioner, and works with Shamanic Energy, and now lives and practices in Tulum, MX.

Her work with clients focuses on achieving a sense of balance, wellness and soul fulfillment and utilizes a combination of crystals, color theory, chakra systems, sacred geometry and Sound Healing principles.

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