Nice Things People Are Saying

“Golson combines wry humor with personal experience in this highly entertaining and informative account of life on Mexico’s Pacific coast. His descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells and rhythms of daily village life and insights into Mexican culture and customs are among the best I’ve ever read. Though not specifically a how-to retirement guide, the book is packed with invaluable, neighbor to neighbor tips. Unlike the usual dry, factual, sleep-inducing retirement guides, I enjoyed this one cover to cover. If Gringos In Paradise doesn’t give you the Mexico itch, check your vital signs!”

– Carl Franz, author of The People’s Guide to Mexico

“I love risk-takers and Barry Golson is one of them. Consider this: Most Americans don’t travel outside the U.S. and fewer than 23 per cent even have passports! But where does it say in the manual you can’t broaden your horizons? Golson is a perfect and literal example of someone who’s done just that. For all the rest of you, he’s also proof that if you define a goal as a dream with a deadline, there’s no end to what you can accomplish — and experience.”

– Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor, NBC Today Show

“Not just a useful tale of house-building in the Mexican tropics, but a funny, touching story of how both men and women can be re-invigorated by the challenge of change in their lives.”– Karen Blue, author of Midlife Mavericks: Women Reinventing Their Lives in Mexico

“This is a great personal story about the choices the boomer generation now faces and about opting for a vigorous life change in the power years.”

– Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., author of The Power Years: A User’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life“As all wise expats know, paradise isn’t a place — it’s a state of mind. Golson’s book tells about building a retirement house in Mexico, but between the lines it’s really about the harder job of building a new life. I won’t be surprised if Gringos in Paradise becomes the newest bona fide Boomer Bible.”

– James Morgan, author of Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream

REVIEW: San Franciso Chronicle
- Peter Lewis
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Gringos in Paradise: An American Couple Builds Their Retirement Dream House in a Seaside Village in Mexico
By Barry Golson

It’s about as welcome as hearing the phone ring in the wee hours of the night. You’re in your late 50s and you suddenly find yourself without a job. No headhunter wants your scalp, but the bill collectors soon will.Such was Barry Golson’s predicament. He had toiled for 35 years in the upper echelons of publishing, a former executive editor of Playboy and TV Guide. Then he got his walking papers. Neither he nor his wife, Thia, had pensions, and their savings had experienced structural damage from paying for their sons’ college tuitions and from the comfortable life they had become accustomed to. They were by no means destitute, but they didn’t have the financial wherewithal to kick back and take early retirement either. Or did they? Well, no. Their decision to move to Mexico’s Pacific coast would not free them from the need to generate income. Still, as the flow from north to south of the border testifies, a decent life in Mexico can be had for considerably less outlay than in Manhattan, and, anyway, they want to live in Mexico, not off it. They want to be humble participants in their chosen community, the onetime sleepy fishing village of Sayulita. “Gringos in Paradise” is a chronicle of the Golsons firmly planting their feet on Sayulita soil. It is not a fruity narrative recounting the many comedies of error that attend moving to a foreign land; it is more leathery by half, though not without charm nor descriptive power. The Golsons moved to Mexico with the best of intentions. They would behave as good guests in their new land. They would not haggle, like the worst kind of presumptuous gringo, over the price of every purchase. That even in their diminished state, their relatively privileged circumstances demanded modesty. They would live within the law, not in defiance or exploitation of it. It is difficult, though, to fully immerse yourself in a place when language is an issue. Most of their socializing the first year will be with other members of the expatriated community. And since they wish to set up house as quickly as possible, before the well runs dry, they will have to do some fancy dancing to get around the law that forbids non-Mexicans from buying land within 50 kilometers of a coastline. And to get all the necessary permits may require the strategic placement of a few 1,000 peso notes. The best of intentions gang aft aglee.

On the other hand, they are generous and seemingly without a cynical bone between them.That basic goodness prompts Golson to sally forth against the noxious stereotypes harbored in the United States toward Mexicans as lazy, corrupt, prone to violence and the scam. His overarching experience is one of amiability, creativity, honesty, openhandedness and a zest for life. Generalizations, pro or con, are still generalizations. More telling are the brisk portraits of Mexican men and women with whom he has daily contact: the woman who makes his torta, the men building his house, the guides he hires and his neighbors — an ingenious, knowing, helpful lot, each with distinct personalities.

Golson could have dug deeper into the indigenous displacement by this expat invasion of Sayulita. “Gentrification is in full, artificial-flower bloom,” he writes, and “perched upon steep hills ringing the town, is a profusion of homes.” It would be interesting to know how many of the local Mexican community live in those perches and how they feel about it. The Golsons sense little resentment or envy in the air, but their own perch, the building and appointing of which is the book’s pivot, cost them plenty — indeed, it takes their every dime — and they don’t have an ocean view. Getting the house built is an education, and excruciating fun, leastwise at the reader’s remove. The Golsons gradually delaminate as one thing after another slows its progress, but that gives them time to provide a detailed tour of artisan workshops where they purchase furnishings. It also provides Golson, being out and about so much, a chance to display his artful hand at describing the landscape.

Once they can move in comes the bitter laugh of irony, now that the money’s gone: “It is looking as if we will have to migrate back to the States for a time and somehow earn enough dollars to be able to afford to return to Mexico. How very Mexican of us.” Hand it to Golson. He’s not reaching for the gas pipe. He’s hitting the road again, with the Baby Boomer’s lament, “work till you die,” on his lips.

Peter Lewis is a writer at the American Geographical Society.

©2006 San Francisco Chronicle From the Review in AARP Magazine online (AARP.ORG) “…Slowly, the notion that [Golson] and [his wife ] Thia might reinvent their lives began to coalesce. Gringos in Paradise is the author’s moving, often hilarious account of making that dream happen, describing the year that he and Thia spent building their home and settling into their new lives. Golson’s immersion in the local culture is absolute, and his and his wife’s openness toward it is inspiring. They endure a steep learning curve about how things are done (or not) in town—garbage collection happens whenever, for instance, with no real certainty; and yes, small payoffs must be made to local authorities to avoid being hassled. They endure most of it with a great deal of patience and humor as well as respect for local customs, however odd they might occasionally seem. And in the end they are rewarded with a stunning home and gorgeous swimming pool, and best of all, a genuine sense of community in Sayulita.

On the surface, this is a narrative about building a dream house in Mexico, but it’s also a story of marriage, friendship, adventure, and education at midlife. Gringos in Paradise is well-written and exceedingly entertaining, full of rich anecdotes and plainspoken advice. Above all, it’s proof that reinventing your life in retirement is anything but a crazy idea.”

Carmela Ciuraru

Ciraru is a writer and editor in New York City. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, ArtNews, The Washington Post, and other publications, and edited six anthologies of poetry.


    Barnes & Noble “Discover Great Writers”

  • From Our Editors
  • The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
    Shortly after traveling through Mexico on a magazine assignment to interview American expats enjoying retirement south of the border — at attractive prices — Golson and his wife, Thia, joined them. Enchanted by the coastal village of Sayulita, with a lively native population and an equally colorful array of transplantted gringos, they bought a plot of land and set about building their dream house.It was then that they learned that mañana means more than just “tomorrow.” It’s a way of life, a gentle reminder of the wisdom of accepting what you cannot change; notably the comic, Byzantine, and often illogical Mexican bureaucracy that governs every stage of the building process. As the house comes together, Barry and Thia’s marriage frays at the edges. Every detail of their home must be crafted by artisans in accordance with their specifications, and to Thia’s despair, Barry develops a passion for monograms. But once particulars like stairways to nowhere are ironed out, the Golsons find that the true wonder of their adventure has come from their immersion in village life and the lasting friendships they’ve forged with their neighbors — people far different from those they’d known in New York, for whom mañana is a horrifying thought. Immensely entertaining and truly informative, Gringos in Paradise is a read that’s almost as satisfying as being there. (Spring 2007 Selection)

    From The Critics

    Publishers Weekly

    After a career in publishing (as executive editor of Playboy and TV Guide), Golson decided it was time to plan for retirement. With a modest nest egg and an urge for sunshine and adventure, he and his wife traveled Mexico researching American retirees for an AARP article that eventually won a Lowell Thomas award and became the seed for this funny and practical book. On impulse, Golson and his wife also bought land in their favorite spot, the Mexican seaside village of Sayulita. Returning to build their home, they realized their cliffside property was impractical; with the remainder of their savings, they bought more land and started their dream house. As with most home-building sagas, they faced obstacles (permit hassles, contractors who backed out) and made errors (the staircase didn’t reach the roof) but, magically, the house was ready when the extended family arrived for Thanksgiving. In the end, the house-building process became their vehicle for cultural transplantation; by the time their home was finished, the Golsons knew a lot more about Mexican village life and felt totally comfortable with their new neighbors. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

    Customer Reviews

    Number of reviews: 6 Average Rating: Customer Rating for this product is 5 out of 5

    Showing 1-5 Next>

    A reviewer, someone who loves travel in Mexico, 11/16/2006 Customer Rating for this product is 5 out of 5

    A real Mexico adventure.

    Gringos in Paradise is a wonderful story of meeting life’s challanges head on and succeeding. It is also a funny and insightful story of a couple’s relationship with mutual love and support. It certainly paints a picture of Mexico that reveals the charms and strengths of the Mexican people.

    A reviewer, a world traveler who loves Mexico, 11/09/2006 Customer Rating for this product is 5 out of 5

    A wonderful vist to Mexico

    Even if you don’t plan to retire in Mexico, the book is a great read. It took a lot of guts for the author to turn his dream house into a reality, and along the way he learned all sorts of lessons about the Mexican people and life in Mexico that make the country seem delightful, even if there are some bumps along the way. And with a little Web searching you can find that the house is for rent for part of the year. You can literally live this dream, too!

    Also recommended: Lonely Planet Mexico

    A reviewer, ready to retire from Alexandria, Va, 11/07/2006 Customer Rating for this product is 5 out of 5

    very enjoyable book to read

    Gringos gives the reader a good insight into Mexico and the Mexican people. It’s easy to read and it is always nice to have a story that is told with a good sense of humor. I enjoyed it as did my wife and our friends.

    Mady Brown, writing a cookbook., 11/06/2006 Customer Rating for this product is 5 out of 5

    The book is more than about building a house in a foreign land.

    I read ‘Gringoes in Paradise’ in Florence, Italy but as I got closer to the end of the book I was ready to get on a plane to Sayulita, Mexico and track down the Golsons and their Casa Gala. The book is more than about building a house in a foreign land. It showed that we Baby Boomers can live without all the extras that we’ve become used to and we can live life with humor, sensitivity and humanity in another land if we have the courage to take the leap. The richness of the Golson’s long term marriage makes it all possible and Mr. Golson’s warm amd accessible writing brings it home to the reader.

    Also recommended: Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris Sea and Sardinia by D.H. Lawrence A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

    A reviewer, Thinking about retiring, East Coast, 11/04/2006 Customer Rating for this product is 5 out of 5