Quality of Life


How To Find An Apartment in Cancun

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Negotiation, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 22 Comments

I’ve been calling Cancun home since September of 2010, using it as a base of operations for other travels, such as my trip to Bogota, Colombia and my explorations in and around Mexico. In that time, I’ve learned to speak Spanish reasonably fluently, I’m a permanent resident, I got married, and we’ve kept our living expenses under $12,000 a year. That includes groceries, Internet, utilities and, most important, our apartment rental.

How do we manage to live so affordable in a city known for Spring Break, its decadence, all-inclusive resorts and vacation rentals that regularly cost foreigners and tourist visitors $3,000 a month or more? By living like a local and knowing how to navigate the minefield. Every month I receive the same question over and over from readers: “How do I find a cheap apartment in Cancun?”  Read on for the full details. All costs are valid as of 2016. Read More


Why Mexico Is Becoming a Hotter Investment Than Brazil

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

Last year, The World Bank declared the Latin American Spanish market the fastest growing market in the world. We’ve seen some of the effects already coming out of the Chilean market with their “Chilecon Valley” development frenzy going on in Santiago, spawning such programs as Start-Up Chile and online, same-day business registration taking place by behest of the Chilean government, allowing anyone, anywhere, to register a business online with the click of a button.

While the Western World is struggling to deal with their own behemoth that is the so-called “global crisis”, the Latin American and Asian markets are thriving. Brazil passed the United Kingdom in 2011 to become the world’s 6th largest economy. And this year, Mexico is making strides past Brazil in several ways. Read More


Travel Unlocks Your Destiny – Achieving Your Soul

Posted by | culture, Human Evolution, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 11 Comments

One cannot reach enlightenment trapped behind the walls of a suburban prison, locked in a cell of towering structures and constant 40-hour work week grinds and wage slavery and complete eradication of independent thought and creativity. One can only achieve their true destiny, unlock the potential of their very soul, their essence of being, through absolute freedom and the ability to travel anywhere in the world and soak in experiences as a sponge soaking water.

Without your soul, you are nothing. A fleeting glimpse of potential, a half-muttered thought, dancing on the wisp of possibility. Perfect for a life of servitude, but nothing more. A serf, a land-locked servant, clothed and shaved and civilized, chained to his plot of land by debt and service to his patron, his country. Destined to live a life of middle-class oblivion as personality is erased by state responsibility as a result of the accidental location of your birth. Read More

Character Sheet

My Secret Life as an Expat Gamer – Player Character Versus Non Player Character

Posted by | Blogging, Gaming, Human Evolution, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

Everything had been going well up until the point the guard had woken himself up by snoring and just happened to catch Terrik in mid-pick on the lock of the door across the hallway. Purely chaotic, bad luck. Until then he’d made it past the three first-level guards, a tired manservant pushing a broom and an outbound prostitute before he’d made it to the door, completely undetected. And it was inside this very room that his whole reason for breaking in existed.

A quick jab to the throat sent the guard down in a gasping heap, but not before he’d let out a startled shout. After that, there was no point in worrying about silence and stealth anymore. Terrick wasn’t going to leave empty-handed, so boot to door made the most sense.

Splinters flew, heel jerked in pain that would turn into a bruise tomorrow, a yelp from the bed as the owner clutched his sheets around his frame and fumbled in the dark for his sword. Or a crossbow. There wasn’t time to find out, and a quick scan was all that was needed to locate the book he had been hired to retrieve. Impossible to miss, tucked away behind colored glass as it were, all displayed with pride and joy.

Other heel down, shattered glass, book in hand, into pack and out the door, only to come face to face with three charging guards from the left and two more from the right. Quick glance over shoulder reveals iron bars over the window. Not an exit. Take deep breath, commence getaway.

A couple of quick lunges got him up to speed for the right, and he spun slightly on his heel as he leapt, hoping to clear the guards. They cursed and tried to catch him mid-run, fingers wide and reaching, but he was above their claws. All clear, and then the toe of his left foot impacted with the left guard’s face, sending him into a stumbled landing, crashing into the wall, knocking a painting to the floor.

Two crossbow bolts shot from the three guards firing over the two sprawling guards he had just bowled over buried into the wall next to his head with a thunderous thwump thwump. He jigged to the right as he ducked and tried to recover from the landing. The rasp of steel drawn behind him, then horn blast, then another two guards coming up the stairwell as he reached it.

No choice but to avoid, so he swung himself up over the stair railing and took the leap down to the first floor, a good ten foot drop. He was ready for the impact, remembering it from earlier, crouching low to absorb and rolling forward into a somersault directly in front of the guard on the right hand side of the front door, both he and his fellow guard on the left in mid-turn as they heard his tumbled landing. A leg sweep for the one on the right, then as the one on the left reaches for his collar and swings a blade he ducks under the steel and half-stumbles, half-falls out onto the stairs of the front entry.

Cold night, torch light, shadowed burrows stretch out before him. The night is his element, and it’s time to disappear. He sprints for the nearest building with a first-story access and quickly scales its walls even as the shouts ring out behind him, “There, on the roof!” No worries. Six rooftops later and he’s slowed his pace to a casual run, springing from roof edge to roof edge as he makes his way back into the heart of the downtown district.

Time to get paid.

Being The Player Character

Terrik is what is known as a Player Character in the gaming world. He has something that sets him apart from the rest of humanity: PC Status.

PC Status is the defining skill that sets you apart from the rest of the masses. You are more than just ordinary, and you are much more than average. Rather than rolling a bunch of 8s and 10s and only a couple of 12s during your character creation, you got 14s, 16s and maybe an 18 or so.

You were smarter, prettier, stronger, faster, more skilled at something, but in some way or another PC status is what sets you apart from the rest of the meat suits. It’s what makes the difference between Bill Gates and anyone else who was born in the same year, lived in the same area and went to the same schools. It’s that special something.

It has nothing to do with luck. PC Status is what sets a Hero apart from the serfs. He’s the one who isn’t afraid to pick up the sword, to rob the castle, to brave the spider-infested dungeons of Kranthagol because deep within the lair lies the Sword of Thalius and the Bow of Bethar.

A Hero braves the cold, the heat, the sprawls, the dumps, the dungeons, the sewers, the mountains and the sea to achieve his or her goal. They inspire others to go along with them, leading through strength, bravery, wit, genius and beyond, based upon what their primary PC Status character trait is.

Someone with PC status makes their mark on the world and is remembered after they are gone. They are the Masters of their own Universe. They aren’t afraid to go out into the cold and the dark with nothing more than a torch and a sword or spell, because they’ve handled challenges like this before. It’s just one more step on the evolution to perfection, the learning experiences that shape us into the Heroes that Player Characters were born to be.

In the world of Terrik, he is the Player Character and the fumbling, bumbling guards are the Non Player Characters.

Player Character

Life Skills

I’m a long-time D&D fan. Up until the point I left the U.S. at the end of 2007, it had been as much a part of my life as MMORPGs and video games had been. The 12+ years I was living on my own up until that point had been an accumulation of all those roleplaying experiences. Which in mind lead to some of the most critical thinking anyone will ever achieve as a result of continually brainstorming and finding new ways around challenges through group interaction with a dedicated team of like-minded thinkers and artists.

I’m a firm believer that gaming leads to life skills. You’ve seen it in the other Secret Life of an Expat Gamer entries. Just as I was running 15 to 25 man crews for the construction business back in the day, I was also running teams of 30 to 40 players through raids and dungeons for six years, leading the guild to two different top 10 lists in my time as a hardcore gamer (EQ2, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes). Management. Team-building. Teamwork. Leadership.

Puzzle-solving as you come up against dungeon traps and in-game quests require critical, out-of-the-box thinking. You can’t just pass the buck to someone else when you are playing a video game and walking your character through the depths of a dungeon or in the middle of a quest. The decision rests on your shoulders, and you and you alone are the only one who will gain the glory and credit if you pull it off. Or you’ll die trying.

Non Player Characters aren’t born with innate PC Status, but they can earn it. Just as in the games there are often tomes you can find after achieving lengthy quests or overcoming challenging odds that lead to stat increases, or earn more experience points as you go along to enhance your abilities as you see fit, in life there are many things which lead to experience that can in turn be traded in for enhanced skill in a certain area.

A person who wants to paint, for example, not simply dabbling in it in their spare time, but choosing instead to spend four to six hours a day, every day, for four years working on their craft, building and doing it for their own betterment as well as to get good at it. Studying under a master, serving a mentorship, spending day upon day, hour after hour, on enhancing that one specific skill. The reward is an enhancement of that attribute after hard work and persistence. It might take you 10 levels (10 years), but eventual you always enhance your status through long hours of study…and that’s no different than reality.

Being The Hero

Being a Player Character is hard work. You don’t get to be a peon following someone else’s lead. Rather, you are the leader. The one people follow. You have the power, while others only dream about it. You have the freedom, while others only look on and wish. While the stable boy sweeps stalls and shovels horse shit, dreaming of winning the hand of the princess in marriage, you are out there, sword in hand, slitting the throat of the beast that was set to eat said princess, a night of steamy passion ahead as she sinks into your arms, not his.

You take the risks others are afraid to. You push yourself further, working longer hours, pursuing your passion with all your strength and dedication. Where others spend 10 mninutes a day focusing their time, you spend five hours. Training. Preparation. Becoming the best you can possibly be.

Giant spiders, dragons, the dark recesses of the Earth, glory, destiny and the phat lewts belong to you and those who are brave enough and skilled enough to come along for the ride. You are the Hero, the one the bards and storytellers will sing and write about for centuries to come. Your time…is now. 

Are you a Player Character? What are you doing to enhance your skills? Haven’t broken out of the NPC mold yet? Have questions or comments? Leave them below or shoot them to me in an email and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

This blog post was inspired by Luck Is Just the Spark for Business Giants.

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An expat’s guide to living in Madrid

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

Spain. While the country itself has been hit in recent years by a number of economic hardships that have resounded around the world, it still remains one of the hottest destinations that digital nomads and expats alike should consider as a long-term destination for their location independent lifestyle. When you are working online and making a digital income, and are thus not affected by a slow economy, you can make the best out of a bad situation.

The heart of Castilian Spain, Madrid is a city with a history dating back over the centuries, home to the kings and queens of the country and rife with castles, museums, opera houses and more. Although it can be a bit more expensive than, say, Thailand or Mexico as far as long-term living goes, there are still a variety of residential areas that you can consider if you are looking to get the most out of your money.

And despite the economic downturn of the early 21st century, the Spaniards remain resilient and the city marches on regardless. The bars and restaurants remain packed full of locals and tourists alike, and there is plenty of modern infrastructure to keep you connected and working no matter which part of the city you choose to live in.

There are a variety housing options based on what you are looking for, starting with studio apartments and going up to three-bedroom houses, villas and small farm retreats just outside of the city. Not to mention there are numerous museums, parks and traditional plazas spread around the city, not only in the historic district that tourists usually explore when they visit Madrid, but also around the surrounding residential areas that house the majority of the locals. Everything is connected by a large subway network and there are also a network of buses that connect the city’s neighborhoods to nearby towns.

With that in mind, the following list showcases some of the residential areas that you can consider, as well as the prices associated with living there.

La Latina

The city center, with its ancient churches, museums and parks, is the place for nomads who want to be in the center of the city’s cultural developments. The district of La Latina, a short walk south of the historical city center, is a typical madrileño district, with tapas bars, clubs, restaurants and traditional shops. The area is filled with students and with madrileños who have lived in this area for generations.


Bikes are used in this area, walking will get locals to anywhere in the city center and the La Latina subway station is the area’s main transport link.


Studios can be found for less than 500€ a month, and a two bedroom apartment costs around 700€ a month. Obviously, the farther away from the city center and transport links, the cheaper the rent is. Most of the apartments out from the city center are in need of upgrading, so don’t expect pristine, newly washed walls and fresh ceramic tile, and a room in a shared flat is around 250€ a month.

Chueca and Malasaña

The district of Malasaña, with its many art galleries, chic lounge bars and ethnic restaurants, is favored by young visitors and out of town professionals who want to live near the places where they party on a nightly basis. The Fuencarral shopping street, with several organic stores, boutique stalls and independent shops, is an area for the younger, hip crowd. Nearby Chueca is considered the capital’s gay district and is known for its many bars and lounges. 


The subway stations of Alonso Martínez, Chueca and Tribunal connect this district to the rest of the city.


Smaller studios in old apartment buildings, most of them located close to the bars, can cost upwards of around 500€ a month. There are many shared rooms available for around 300€ per month. This district is close to the historical city center, where a small apartment is around 800€ a month. The stately apartment buildings located on the other side of Malasaña, where the larger, two and three bedroom apartments are found, start at around 1100€ per month and go up from there. Really only ideal if you are a family or several people living and working together for a set amount of time.


Located north of the city center, near the business district of Plaza Castilla, Chamartín is an area perfect for expats with families and expats who travel on business. The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is one of the area’s main landmarks and the Berlin Park is one of the largest nearby parks. There are several international kindergartens and schools nearby, including the German School, the kindergarten section of King’s College British school and several private and public Spanish schools.


Chamartín’s main subway station has three lines and a regional train station. The subway has access to the main train station that links the district to other main cities.


Price for a 90 m² apartment is around 1000€ per month in those areas closest to the subway. The neighborhood’s secluded ancient villas can cost twice as much, so don’t expect to spend a lot of time in this part of the city unless you can afford to shell out 2-3k Euro per month in rent, plus utilities.

Las Rozas and Majadahonda

Another expat area, this one adapted to families with children, is the town of Las Rozas. Located to the northwest of the city, the houses are larger and expats can choose between chalets and apartments, all of which are surrounded by green spaces and plenty of parks. The nearby town of Majadahonda, located a bit farther from the city center, is another place for families. There are numerous international schools, malls and parks in these two towns, and while you are out a bit from the city center, it’s also significantly more tranquil.


A car could be considered necessary for those who live in this area, due to the fact that you are quite a ways out from Madrid proper. These towns are connected to the city by several highways and there are buses that link the towns to Moncloa, a central neighborhood in Madrid. A cercanías regional train provides a link to the business district and the city center.


A three bedroom, two bathroom apartment costs at least 900€ a month, and a house is around 1500€ a month. Most apartment buildings and houses have swimming pools and sports facilities, which gives you more “homey” options in comparison to the smaller apartments of central Madrid.

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