WHAT WOULD MAKE SOMEONE leave their familiar home, friends, and routine behind and retire to New Mexico? Is it the state’s relaxed and affordable lifestyle? (Yes!) Our beautiful natural environment? (Yes!) Our bounty of arts and culture? (Double yes!)

With 40 percent of Americans planning to relocate to a different city or region in retirement, according to a Nationwide Retirement Institute survey, New Mexico has become one of the most popular states for seniors to live their best lives. The Land of Enchantment ranks ninth in the country for inbound moves, with 21 percent of transplants citing retirement as the reason, according to a 2023 United Van Lines National Movers Study.

We talked with four couples who recently put down roots here in order to take advantage of all the state has to offer.

Karen Edwards and Randy Madigan spent several years through-hiking major trails in the United States and abroad before deciding to retire in Silver City. Photograph courtesy of Randy Madigan and Karen Edwards.


Karen Edwards and Randy Madigan met after a mutual friend introduced them in 2015. Both had spent several years through-hiking major trails in the United States and abroad, becoming part of a tight-knit community of outdoor enthusiasts. Edwards, a retired health-care professional and self-described tumbleweed whose trail name is Tie, was managing a hiker hostel in Hot Springs, North Carolina, along the Appalachian Trail, when Madigan passed through in 2015. A retired anthropologist and amateur photographer, he returned the next year to be her assistant—with ulterior motives.

“I convinced her it would be fun for her to retire and gad about with me,” says Madigan, aka Solo, who had been traveling the country for three years living in a converted van. They spent the next four years hopscotching the country together. “Then Covid-19 hit and exacerbated all the little things in our lifestyle,” he says. “Everything needed reservations, and many areas and amenities were closed.”

They had a decision to make: Where should they settle down? Madigan, originally from Alaska, had visited Silver City since the early 1970s for his anthropology work. His experiences there, including watching the small mining town’s evolution into a regional arts and culture hub—what he calls “Santa Fe without the fame”—played a big role in choosing it. Access to the outdoors and hiking opportunities were vital to them both.

Silver City’s walkable downtown is easy to explore. Photograph by NMTD.

The lack of humidity, proximity to the Gila Wilderness, and the low cost of living were also factors. Once Edwards saw Silver City, she agreed. “I liked the big art community, the nice small university that provides culture, and the underlying friendliness,” she says. “Plus, it’s on the Continental Divide Trail, and we have many friends who walk that. Many things said yes.”

They bought a 420-square-foot house with a separate photography studio in August 2021. Madigan’s cancer diagnosis a few months later meant hanging up the van keys. Now, as their needs have changed, the couple says they’re discovering even more layers of Silver City.

Both participate in classes and excursions with Western Institute of Lifelong Learning, and Edwards plays pickleball. They’ve also plugged into volunteer activities and frequently attend events at the restored Art Deco–style Silco Theater.

“We live right in town—it’s a five-to-eight-minute walk everywhere,” Edwards says. “We like to be home to look at the sky day and night.”

Musicians Cleve and Mary Hattersley found a welcoming community in Las Cruces. Photograph courtesy of Cleve and Mary Hattersley.


When Cleve and Mary Hattersley met in the 1970s, Austin, Texas, was a town of about 250,000 people. By 2020, rapid growth had transformed the quiet college town into a metropolitan area of two million. Increased traffic, construction, and state politics convinced them to trade their lives as part of the well-established Austin music scene for a new home in Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico.

Cleve, a guitarist and singer, and Mary, a fiddle player, are members of the seventies progressive country band Greezy Wheels, who are in the Austin Music Hall of Fame and known for their gigs at the Armadillo World Headquarters. Cleve also managed the gubernatorial campaigns of close friend and fellow musician Kinky Friedman.

As they started looking for an affordable retirement spot where they could pursue their music, Las Cruces surfaced as an option. Mary had grown up there, and one of their daughters lived in the state’s second-largest city. “We’d been going for years,” says Cleve, a writer and radio host. “New Mexico’s liberal politics and legalizing recreational marijuana was a contributing factor too.”

Murals abound in Las Cruces. Photograph by NMTD.

Still, it took a full year to make the move. Their older home needed some renovations before going on the market. They purchased a Las Cruces townhouse in 2021 and, with the help of family, packed up their own moving truck. During their first week in town, they met a fellow musician and quickly became regular performers at what Cleve calls “salons” of poets, musicians, and authors at Downtown Blues Coffee. He also continues to write and, with the local sheriff, he hosts The Cop and the Con radio show on KTAL-101.5 FM on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.

One aspect of the relocation that took Cleve by surprise was adjusting to Las Cruces’s 3,900-foot altitude. He cautions those coming from sea level to New Mexico’s higher elevations to take it slow. He has COPD and needed almost 18 months to get comfortable breathing the thinner air.

“We saw New Mexico as a haven,” he says. “Every time we come back over the border, we start breathing again.”

The Hattersleys say that New Mexico has been more than they expected. “In Austin, our social life was shrinking because it would take an hour to get anywhere and an hour back,” Cleve says. “That closes you in.” In addition to finding their niche in Las Cruces’s burgeoning music scene, the Hattersleys invite writers, artists, and interesting folks for dinner “summits” over Indian cuisine and flowing conversation to create connections. After 50 years of marriage and performing together, they aren’t slowing down, either. Greezy Wheels will be hitting the road this summer.

Kevin and Lynn Gorski built their new home in Mountainair. Photograph courtesy of Kevin and Lynn Gorski.


Saying goodbye to suburban Chicago took Kevin and Lynn Gorski 15 years.

The Gorskis would visit the Southwest a few times a year to see Lynn’s parents in Arizona. Then, in 2009, they heard a radio ad for a conservation-forward development in Mountainair and liked the idea of being surrounded by nature. They checked it out on one of their trips out west and purchased a 20-acre plot. “We fell in love with it—to the shock of family and friends,” Lynn says. “The hardest part of the whole process was telling everyone. They thought we were crazy!”

Still in their prime working years, they frequently returned to Mountainair and attended annual community meetings to connect with their new neighbors. They also subscribed to New Mexico Magazine to learn more about the state’s culture.

Lynn had taken early retirement from her IT job during the pandemic, while Kevin waited until just before their departure to close his carpentry business. Part of their preparations to relocate included selling their Chicago home. In a stroke of serendipity, their daughter and her growing family bought it—sooner than anyone anticipated. Three generations and two big dogs shared the house for almost a year.

They bid farewell to the Midwest in January 2023, when the couple moved into a rental house in their development while their custom-designed home was being built. On Christmas Day 2023, the Gorskis moved in. Kevin is still putting finishing touches on the interior. He’s also got plenty of space for his woodworking tools and a studio for his new pottery hobby.

Guests dine in Mountainair's historic Shaffer Hotel. Photograph by NMTD.

For Lynn, having nurtured connections over many years meant that arriving permanently in New Mexico was like a homecoming. It also helped them quickly find doctors, dentists, and other service providers, one of their primary concerns.

“We made friends even before we got here and have many new ones since,” she says. “I’ve also started volunteering for the Manzano Mountain Art Council, and people there love to chat!”

Kevin’s favorite part of their new life is the wide-open landscapes and the mountains. “Looking out on the Manzanos covered in snow—it’s just beautiful, and something that we didn’t have in Chicago,” he says. “There’s so much history here, too, and not just a matter of sightseeing. We love taking the back roads and learning about the area. Every town and community has its own culture.”

A trip to Sandía Peak helped Texans Laura Furman and Joel Barna realize that Albuquerque might be the perfect retirement spot. Photograph courtesy of Laura Furman and Joel Barna.


A few days after Joel Barna officially retired from nonprofit fundraising in 2021, he and his wife, Laura Furman, visited two sets of friends in Albuquerque. During that four-day visit, they drove to Sandía Crest, marveling at the temperature difference between the 10,000-foot peak and the city below.

As summer monsoon clouds chased them along the drive back to central Texas, Barna turned to Furman and said, “We could live here,” solidifying their decision to pack up. By 2022, they’d purchased a home in a North Valley neighborhood near the Río Grande Nature Center and, more importantly, their friends.

“We found a nice adobe, and we love our neighbors,” says Furman, a writer and retired English professor at the University of Texas at Austin. However, renovations to their older home took several months before they finally headed west.

Outdoor activities are important to Barna and Furman, who enjoy walking the acequias near their home. Photograph courtesy of Free ABQ Images.

Outdoor activities are important to Barna and Furman, who enjoy walking the acequias near their home. Furman, who volunteers at the Río Grande Nature Center, does miss easy access to year-round swimming in natural ponds and lakes. They also love classical music and museums, supporting the musical ensemble Chatter and frequenting the Albuquerque Museum. Mesa Provisions is a favorite restaurant. “Everything we want is close by,” she says.

With their interest in art and culture, Santa Fe might have been an obvious choice, but proximity to their friends and more health-care options in the Duke City ultimately swayed them.

“We’ve met really nice people, made new friends, kept the old ones, and feel like we haven’t lost everyone, there are so many people who come to New Mexico,” Furman adds. “Santa Fe is still a wonderful, close resource for more art, music, and restaurants. We’re just happy here and feel at home.”


Considering retiring to New Mexico? Here are some things to think about.


Access to medical providers and facilities is important in retirement. “Confirm before moving in retirement that your new location has a nearby hospital and that there are available providers if you require specialist care,” suggests the Motley Fool, a financial website.


Like snow? Prefer the heat? From the dry desert warmth of Las Cruces to the wintry seasons of Santa Fe and Taos, the Land of Enchantment has a climate to suit everyone.


Consider the distance to family and friends and how easy travel will be for you and them. “We were used to driving a lot in Texas,” says Laura Furman. “So Albuquerque is a great relief.”


Do you love museums, music, theater, and other cultural activities? Research the availability of these amenities before you move.

Outdoor recreation

New Mexico boasts more than 10 million acres of national park and forest land, as well as 35 state parks. An astounding 70 percent of the state’s population lives within 40 miles of pristine, uncrowded recreation areas.


New Mexico’s cost of living is 5 percent lower than the national average, with housing prices and property taxes among the lowest in the country. (Note that New Mexico taxes personal income, unlike some other states.) “A low cost of living was important to us,” says Karen Edwards. “Some people prefer more shopping, restaurants, and bigger homes, but the small-town nature of Silver City suits us fine.”