Mexico

Beyond the Hotel Zone of Cancun

Cancun, Mexico – Beyond The Hotel Zone

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 17 Comments

Cancun, Mexico. To the vast majority of U.S. travelers, it is a tropical paradise more well-known than Cabo or Mazatlan or even Puerto Vallerta. Movie stars, Spring Break parties, MTV’s Real World, close proximity to Tulum, the surrounding Maya ruins, beach clubs, turquoise waters and white sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see coupled with more 5-star resorts than Las Vegas, Nevada make this one of the ultimate all-inclusive beach destinations on the planet. And Mexico promotes it as such, with the vast majority of its tourist income coming from this singular city. Read More

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Modern Mexico: The Real Story

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 12 Comments

If you turn on the news from anywhere in the United States you’ll only ever hear one story about Mexico: that it’s a dangerous place full of thieving Mexicans, dangerous criminals, bloodthirsty cartels and random acts of violence. You’ll only ever see Mexico mentioned when it’s in relation to some horrific cartel-on-cartel battle.

I am constantly fielding emails from people asking me about the violence in Mexico. Is it safe? Can I bring my family there? Am I going to be kidnapped? Are the cartels going to kill me?

Washington D.C. has a 31.4 in 100,000 murder rate as of 2010. That means 31.4 people in 100,000 are dying from a violent crime or murder. Cancun, Mexico, on the other hand, only has a 2 in 100,000 rate. Mexico City is a 9, which is exactly the same as New York City. On the international scale that governments use to define “dangerous”, the vast majority of Mexican cities and the country as a whole are as safe (if not safer than) the United States.

Ciudad de Juarez, the center of the cartel action, had a rate of 250 in 100,000 as of 2010. Juarez is without a doubt a dangerous place. It is one city.

Washington D.C. is without a doubt a dangerous place when compared to others. It is one city.

Neither of these cities define the rest of their respective countries.

Just because Washington D.C. has a high murder rate doesn’t make the rest of the United States a dangerous place to live or travel. And just because Juarez and the surrounding area has a high murder rate doesn’t make the rest of Mexico a dangerous place to live or travel.

The modern Mexico is a country that is slowly gaining traction and moving into the developed world. The economy is getting better, although the wages still aren’t what they could be. Thankfully, the Internet has allowed many educated Mexicans the opportunity to find work online via both English and Spanish channels, and that freedom and extra money is starting to be seen as young adults and professionals are beginning to fill the general population.

There is high speed Internet in every corner of the country. Massive plazas dot the landscape throughout all the major cities. Every major international car dealership is here. There are numerous international chain stores and restaurants. You can buy an iPad or computer anywhere. And just as there are back-wood valleys and places where rednecks and hillbillies live in places like Arkansas and South Carolina in the United States, there are plenty of undeveloped sections of the country where the Mexican equivalent lives. Simply, and without much in the way of modern amenities.

The modern Mexico is a country of great opportunity for the expat. The cost of living is extremely low, yet you can have every modern creature comfort you want, in every city. You can go from living in the mountains in places like San Cristobal or Oaxaca, or you can live on the beach in a place like Playa del Carmen or Mazitlan. Mexico City is the exact same as New York City in terms of crime rates, size, global banking opportunities, international corporation headquarters, universities, living conditions and beyond…but it only costs $12,000 to $15,000 a year to live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle compared to the $50,000 a year you need to live in NYC.

Modern Mexico is not a place to be feared. The chances of you having something happen to you are the same as they would be living and traveling around the United States. People fire guns all the time in L.A. Gangs exist. Just as they do in NYC. And Mexico City. You could point your finger at any given city or country and find something that’s “not safe” about it. The key is knowing how much is propaganda and how much is actual truth.

Mazatlan

The unfortunate reality is that most Americans have grown up thinking of Mexicans in only one light: they are the garbage-truck drivers, the landscapers and yard workers, the street cleaners, janitors, farm hands and maids of the United States. They do all the jobs that the white, entitled U.S. citizens don’t want to do for themselves because “the pay isn’t enough” or because it’s a low-skill, manual labor job. The news in the United States only ever talks about Mexicans as they are involved in violent crime or cartels and drugs. As a result, the average U.S. citizen thinks that Mexico is a den of thieves, a country of starving natives who are willing to do anything for a dollar, who are born-and-bred criminals and manual laborers. They don’t know any better because they’ve been raised on a drip-feed of just how dangerous South of the Border is. It’s ignorance by simple lack of education, no different than a starving child in Africa who’s never learned how to do simple mathematics.

Yes, Jaurez and the areas north where the cartels are warring is certainly dangerous, but not because you will be singled out. It’s cartel-on-cartel violence, and the only risk would be ending up as collateral damage if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But for the ordinary, average expat choosing to head to Mazatlan for a year to live with the wife and kids or for the modern poet looking to hole up in a mountain retreat in Chiapas for six months to get some writing done…Mexico is an absolutely safe and modern place to live, with everything you could ever need with a cost of living that’s very appealing and a friendly, passionate people who are full of the Latin zest for life and fiestas.

Plus, let’s face it…everyone loves mota, tequila, tacos, quesadillas, arrachera and ceviche :)

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Puerto Morelos, Mexico

May in Mexico – A Month of Festivities

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

One of the most important aspects of the overall immersion travel experience is cultural and language immersion. And one of my favorite parts about Mexico and immersing myself in the culture here is that Mexicans love their fiestas. You can talk to any individual across the nation and you will hear the same thing: give Mexicans a reason to crack open a beer, uncork a bottle of tequila, throw some grub on the grill and take a day or two off work and there’s a universal cheer raised from the throats of all Mexicans around the world.

Initially I thought of it as somewhat of a joke when I first arrived and one of my friends (she is Mexican, from Chiapas) told me that Mexicans love fiestas so much that they will literally make days up just to have an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. Day of the Cleaning Lady, Day of the Lawnmower Dude, Day of the Window Washer…there is always a reason to have a party, and one need look no further than eyeshot for an idea of what could potentially be celebrated.

Friends on Isla Mujere

Me with some friends on Isla Mujeres, enjoying our own fiesta. Just because.

After having lived in Mexico for a year and a half now, I can firmly say that while I initially had my doubts about the validity of my friend’s statement, I now know for a fact that one of the best parts about living in Mexico is the fact that the people love to kick back and party. The end result = one of the most laid-back, relaxed places you will ever settle down as an expat / digital nomad.

The month of May is the perfect example of what I mean by that. It actually starts towards the end of April, if you want to be specific, with Dia de los Niños, or Day of the Children, which happens on April 30th. Then there’s Dia del Trabajo, or Labor Day on May 1st. That rolls right into Dia de la Santa Cruz, or Day of the Holy Cross on May 3rd. Right after that you have Cinco de Mayo on the 5th, then Mother’s Day on the 10th and Teacher’s Day on May 15th. And that’s without the local festivals that take place during the month, on top of the national festivals. For example, May 2 to May 20 is the Mexico City Festival (Festival de Mexico en el Centro Historico), which takes place in the historical district, or the May Festival (Actividades de Mayo) in Oaxaca from May 3rd to the 13th. There’s also the rest of the month to consider.

Those are just a handful of examples of things that are going on throughout the month of May all the way through the entirety of Mexico. And that’s just one month out of the year. While they may be a hard-working people, Mexicans also have a love of life that is lived out through their passion for enjoying social fiestas with friends, family and neighbors across the country. The passion that Colombians have for salsa is the passion that Mexicans have for their tequila and parties…and living here up close and personal as an expat / digital nomad is the only way to truly experience the real Mexico that exists behind the wall of misinformed.

It’s also one of those reasons I mentioned a few posts back when I talked about how my three month stay evolved into a year and a half with no permanent plans for leaving; there’s just too much going for Mexico for me to want to leave just yet. I’ve still got plenty of ground to cover in this country, and while I may jet out from time to time on business to other places for Live Like a Local immersion guides and Expat Guidebook work…I’m seeing a lifelong love affair developing with

Riviera Maya - Tulum

Riviera Maya – Tulum

Mexico. And besides, who can say no to afternoon siestas in a cabaña on the beach with ceviche,  grilled arrachera, cervezas, tequila, mota, chicas, fiestas, the spectacularviews and the never-ending festive attitude of the Latin people?

I sure can’t :) How many of you are along for the ride?

 

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With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

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Tulum, Mexico

How my three month stay in Mexico evolved into over a year and a half

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 2 Comments

…and counting.

When I first came here I had no plans other than to stay for three months, do some scuba diving, see the local haunts and then continue moving south. Originally I had thought to make my way down country by country through Central America and then down the western coast of South America, coming up the eastern coast and then zig-zagging my way back up through the center of South America. It’s still in the book, but things have certainly changed a bit since then as well.

Puerto MorelosWhen I first started I was still only doing freelancing full time and I hadn’t yet begun to build the Marginal Boundaries community. I was supporting myself purely on my contract writing and freelance work, but then I received a couple of job offers to write travel guides based on all my years of being on the road, and after that a few conversations with friends led me to realize the potential for growing something into a company and networking with other people.

In any case…I’m still here, I have a residency visa for Mexico now, I have long-term plans for a part-time base of operations here in the Riviera Maya and all of my current Live Like a Local guidebook concepts are being headquartered from here, as well as other Marginal Boundaries productions that specifically related to Mexico, both in Chiapas as well as the Riviera Maya.

As far as Cancun goes, it’s a great city for expats. It has an international airport, a cheap cost of living, modern amenities and a healthy, bustling tourist industry. I live in Centro, in a middle class area where it’s most pioneer families who came here 40 years ago when the city was being built, as well as their kids (who are my age) and their families. And while the affordability of living in Cancun is a major benefit (I pay at most $800 a month for total costs, and that’s only if I’m splurging on things with my girlfriend), it’s the Latin culture that has kept me here for so long and has me making so many plans here in Mexico.

Isla MujeresThe best way to describe what I’m talking about is to think about the concept of time here. Worldwide, Mexico is known as the “land of tomorrow” because people here are notoriously relaxed when it comes to work. And Mexicans love their festivals with a passion that cannot be described. If there is a reason for beer, tequila, dancing and festivities, that’s sufficient. There is always something going on somewhere. And with that in mind…the general vibe is one of relaxation and a “live life as it comes at you” sort of approach. Not a lot of major plans are made, and the regular people just go about their daily lives with a very nonchalant approach. As a good friend here once told me, “It was Mexico yesterday. It will be Mexico tomorrow. There’s no reason to stress about anything.” After which a joint was lit and beers were cracked open.

It’s a simple fact that time disappears here in Mexico. And throughout most of Latin America. It was the same in Colombia, as well as in Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Serbia and Turkey and every other country I’ve been in. But when people ask me one of the major reasons I choose to stay in Mexico and why that initial three months turned into a current year and a half with no clear plans to make a permanent departure, I have to answer that it’s the way time here just stops and how beneficial that is for my sanity.

When someone tells you that they’ll be there in 30 minutes, they might mean up to an hour and a half. Social gathering that starts at 9 actually means people start showing up at 10:30 or 11. It means when a restaurant says they will be open at four in the afternoon and I show up, my friend is kicked back on one of the booths enjoying a nap at 4:30 because he was tired and wanted a nap. Didn’t matter that his sign said he’d be open at 4; he was sleeping and he’d get to it when he gets to it.

Ruins of TulumIt’s something that helps you appreciate life. Learning how to slow down gives you the opportunity to enjoy the little things in life, rather than those little things racing by in forgotten moments due to your hectic, 40+ hour a week grind at a job where you never see the light of day and can only leave when your boss allows you to. And forget multiple festivities throughout the week; you get a handful of national holidays per year and that’s it.

But it’s also the people who have kept me here in Mexico longer than I had originally planned. And the country itself. I have become intoxicated with Mexico. This is a vast country of relatively undeveloped potential, with hundreds of natural parks, ecosystems, ancient races of indigenous people stretching back over the millenia far beyond the Mayans that most people are familiar with, such as the Olmec.

In short, Mexico has a lot to offer in terms of explorability, and when you combine that with affordable medical care, a cheap cost of living, modern infrastructure and a government that is very friendly to foreigners…what’s not to like?

Isla BlancaFor those of you who have been living here longer than I have, I completely understand, because what was supposed to only be three months has since turned into a year and a half and as of present I have zero plans to leave Mexico permanently anytime soon. I may skip out for a few months here and there to travel and do research in other South American countries while I write more Live Like a Local guides, but I’m also planning more adventures here in this amazing country because there’s just so much to see!

What are some of your favorite places, foods or experiences here in Mexico?

 

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Cancun and the Riviera Maya

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

So for those of you who have been following Marginal Boundaries since the beginning, you know it’s been a long, continual growth as part of our overall business plan. Part of which was eventually getting to the point where we started producing videos.

Today we launch the first of those videos, with a teaser of Cancun and the Riviera Maya at our Vimeo Channel. Clocking it at just under four minutes, it’s some footage we’ve captured over the past couple of weeks as we’ve been going about our normal routine, doing the things we do normally as part of living like a local in this part of Mexico. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be adding additional footage of Tulum, Isla Mujeres and other areas in and around Cancun for inclusion in what will eventually be a roughly 10 minute montage of things from in and around the area.

We also have an interview going live in the coming week, which will be posted at the Vimeo channel as well as over at The Expat Guidebook. I was recently interviewed by Hans from over at Cheap Cancun Rentals regarding the forthcoming Expat Guidebook, and we’ve edited down 50 minutes of interview into about 14 minutes of footage that will serve as an introduction to the book. In addition, we’ll also be releasing a stand-alone video that covers the depth of medical tourism, although we don’t have a release date for that yet. Roughly 20 minutes of our interview was discussing the topic of medical tourism in great detail, and the footage is going to be cut down to make a separate video for people.

All of these videos will be posted live at the Vimeo channel. In addition, I’ll be heading out in late March or early April (we’ve pushed back the dates a couple of weeks now) to spend 18 days shooting footage in Chiapas, Mexico for a travelogue/documentary. We’ll be sharing the trailer on our Vimeo channel, as well as starting to post a vblog and other interesting tidbits about living like a local around the world.

Stay tuned for more information!

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

Unplug from The System, cure yourself of The Greedy Bastard Syndrome, tap into your universal potential and create your own reality. Build a brand, travel the world and realize your cosmic consciousness.

Beyond Borders - The Social RevolutionGet Your Copy Today!