S5-EP11: Expat Bonnie Lee Black on the Pros (& Very Few Cons) of Retiring to San Miguel de Allende

Mar 17, 2023


Host Debbie Weil talks to Bonnie Lee Black, an author and blogger who retired in her 70s to affordable and magical San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.



Debbie Weil talks to Bonnie Lee Black, an author and blogger who retired in her 70s to affordable and magical San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.

SMA, as it’s called, has become a haven for expat retirees, especially single older women. It has been named (three times in a row) the Best Small City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler.  And it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Debbie and her husband Sam spent three weeks there in February ’23  and were charmed by the Spanish colonial architecture, the cobblestone streets, the tiny shops, the rooftop restaurants, the perfect weather, and of course the pink wedding cake cathedral, referred to as the Parroquia, in the main square.

While they are not seriously considering retiring there, Debbie was intrigued by Bonnie’s blog and her experiences as a permanente (permanent resident). Bonnie’s blog post titled Watch Your Step (about the dangerously uneven sidewalks) caught Debbie’s attention so she reached out to invite her onto the podcast. They subsequently became friends.

Bonnie has been a professional writer and editor for more than 40 years (she’s the author of five books), was an  educator in the U.S., and now writes a popular weekly blog, the WOW Factor.

Bonnie gives Debbie an insider’s perspective on living full time in this beautiful place. First among the many pros is the low cost of living, making SMA affordable for single women living on a fixed income. And then there’s the weather (yes, hard to overstate how perfect it is), the absence of ageism, the kindness of the people, the endless number of volunteer opportunities and classes to take and more. 

And she shares the one con for older retirees that Debbie noticed immediately upon arriving: those sidewalks.

Bonnie also interviewed Debbie  as part of her series on WOW (wise older women).


Mentioned in this episode or useful:


San Miguel de Allende


Recommended books about SMA


Selected WOW Factor blog posts:

Get the inside skinny on every episode of [B]OLDER

Subscribe to Debbie’s newsletter for the inside story about every episode. You will also get her 34-page writing guide: https://bitly.com/debbie-free-guide.


Request from Debbie:

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please take a moment to leave a short review on Apple Podcasts. It really makes a difference in attracting new listeners.  


Connect with Debbie:


Our Media Partners:

  • CoGenerate (formerly Encore.org)
  • MEA and with thanks to Chip Conley
  • Next For Me (former media partner and in memory of Jeff Tidwell)

Support this podcast:


Connect with us:

Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."