A book review: Travis Scott Luther’s “The Fun Side of the Wall”

If you’re a numbers cruncher and relish poring over statistical data, Travis Scott Luther’s “The Fun Side of the Wall” will indulge you. If you dig the exponential bombardment of academic logic to support the whys and wherefores of a social hypothesis, his book will cloy you. But if your curiosity urges you to skip the stats percentages and just dive right into the rationale, this book is for you, too.

Fast forward straight to the point, Luther’s book explains why populations of US baby boomer retirees live in Mexico.

His masteral thesis at the Sociology Department of the University of Colorado Denver formed the foundation for shaping a rigorous academic investigation into why baby boomers leave the US to retire in Mexico. His paper jumpstarted some eight years of research, and produced relevant material derived from a plethora of surveys and interviews. Though his documented results are informative, they are not all surprising, for there are pre-determined reasons for any migration, of the old or young. Compelling, however, are the overlays of explanations and sentiments evolved from individuals’ stories laid out in the book. Most, if not all, peak to the very same conclusion of contentment in or appreciation for an engaged community, even over economic or financial gain. Yoking the expats to the Mexican communities is a vibrancy gleaned from active participation in a culture that has welcomed them with respect.

Due to the number of resources, organizations or studies Travis cited as origin for his data, the resonant alliterations of motivating factors for baby boomer migration can be dizzyingly circular. Understandable, however, for the author’s intent is obviously to substantiate his prognosis of migratory movements among baby boomers in the US, and dispel misconceptions about Mexico and living in its enclaves.

Survey results are largely analogous, but if you’re one who enjoys the nitty gritty of the psychology, economics and sociology behind human choices, you would find Luther’s book a stimulating read. The author elaborates in detail the varied circumstances and nuances that influence the baby boomers’ decision to retire in Mexico. For one, Mexico’s proximity to the States matters significantly, especially if the retirees desire to stay connected with family and friends in the US. Other cardinal factors figure as well, as climate, economics, the proclivity for community and the enjoyment of culture. Yet, if cost of living in the US was the primary consideration for US retirees leaving their country, it didn’t emerge as the immediate, underlying rationale for staying in Mexico. From all of the authors’ stories and interviews, what surfaced as the impetus for US expats’ choice to stay in Mexico was their deeply seeded appreciation for the community and culture that had embraced them. What cannot be discounted is that these US retirees in Mexico live in the company of other US expatriates, and though diversified in backgrounds, they generally share a better than average educational and economic status. Also of remarkable interest is Luther’s finding that US baby boomers in Mexico retire around five years earlier than their counterparts in the States.

Luther’s research does not discuss US baby boomers who retire in other countries. However, one can easily deduce that the very same reasons, preferences and inclinations dominate the pattern for emigration among retirees anywhere – could be within the country, or to places outside the US. The author has expressed a desire to expand his research to US baby boomers who retire in other countries.

Travis Luther claims that his book, despite what its “come on” title implies, is not a promotion of migration to Mexico. Rather, his intrigue of US baby boomers opting to live in established communities in Mexico has led him to explore what baby boomers are and are not, what they like and don’t like, what keeps them going, what they most value in life –- and what in Mexico hits the mark for them.

[Travis Scott Luther, author of “The Fun Side of the Wall”, is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and academician.}

Linda P. Jacob

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