As many of you my followers and subscribers may know, I am undertaking a series of trips to and around Mexico to determine the best location for my #BLAXIT. I am traveling all around this incredibly beautiful country to find a relocation home as I pursue an authentic, unapologetic, and free existence in this world. I will chronicle all my stops here in this blog.
I am evaluating each place I visit to determine whether it is somewhere I can settle for at least 6 to 18 months after my BLAXIT from the United States of America (aka “Murica”).
Originally I thought 12 months to start but I am thinking a shorter stint in a place initially may be best. As I always say “you are not a tree”, if a place doesn’t work for me I am pre-emptively giving myself the room and option to move to another destination.
I will be evaluating places on the following 10 factors.
- Short distance to the nearest International Airport; and direct flight to Washington, DC area or South Florida airport in the US available.
- The temperature and climate is stable. It is not excessively hot or cold majority of months of the year. Low to No Hurricanes or earthquakes risk
- Fresh Fruit and vegetables are easy to access and find.
- Cost of Living is low. Average 1-2 BR Rent falls between $400 -$1000 per month in secure building, 5–10-minute walk to the beach, downtown, gym, pool, ocean view (if in beach town), A/C, very hot bath water (smile), washer/dryer/dishwasher in unit)
- Stable Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
- Creature comforts like Walmart, Costco, Starbucks present or nearby
- Uber is an option
- Neighborhoods are walkable and safe for walking alone
- There is a black expat community accessible to me
- It Feels Like Home
Some of these factors I have noted may be of zero importance to many but they are of critical importance to me so as I travel this is the lens I will apply to each town or city. The places I will visit and consider for relocation are:
Playa del Carmen
Ajijic, Lake Chapala
San Miguel de Allende
I have devised a Five Point Rating scale that I will apply to the towns I visit going forward.
5 – Perfect (all of the factors are present)
4 – Damn Near Perfect (8 or more factors are present)
3 – Almost Perfect (7 or more factors are present)
2 – Probably Not (6 factors or less are present)
1 – Hell No (3 factors or less are present)
I will be remote working throughout, I mean somebody’s got to pay for this stuff, right? I am visiting these towns and cities to get a sense of the feel and rhythm of each place. Along the way, I will collect information about each city, what makes each place interesting and unique. But most importantly I will be allowing myself to absorb how each place makes me feel.
If you have been following me you know that I am in relentless pursuit of my personal freedom. I have explained all the reasons why in my first post “America: I am breaking up with you”. You can also read “America is a Gilded Cage.”
I want to preface my comments by stating that these are my opinion and views. Other bloggers and residents of a town or city, may differ from me on many things so keep in mind that these are just my views. My trips are being financed by me. I am not being sponsored by any person or entity and therefore there is no one or entity influencing the views shared here.
For more historical information about Tulum, check out this link.
I visited Tulum, Quintana Roo from October 1-17, 2020. It is the first place I decided once I started contemplating relocation to Mexico.
As you may know, Tulum has become the destination for the younger set, specifically the Black tourist and Black ex-pat set between the ages of 20 to 35 primarily. Everyone has been visiting and Tulum is featured on the travel blogs and IG platforms of many popular online travel personalities. This is NOT why I considered Tulum. I was actually unaware and unprepared for the popularity of Tulum when I arrived there in October. I chose Tulum because it was my second visit. I first visited two years ago celebrating my 50th birthday on an epic solo trip where I gifted myself a stay at the Encantada Tulum. I highly recommend Encantada but it is pricey. It is located in the Beach Zone.
This time in Tulum I stayed in the neighborhood of Aldea Zama at Hotel Mediterraneo Tulum from October 1-13. I stayed on the beach from October 13-17. I wanted to experience staying in a residential area in Tulum as well as on the beach. I also visited Bacalar, QR on the weekend of October 9-11 I shared my thoughts on that lovely town in a prior post. Aldea Zama is a residential neighborhood off the main road in Tulum. There are a lot of condos and boutique hotels being built and new restaurants popping up everywhere in the area. There is a Farmacia, mini-mart, and several lovely cafes within walking distance. However, to get to the large super mercado, and most bars and restaurants a bike, taxi, or rental car is required. It’s a very long walk to the main road. I don’t know how to ride a bike (long story) so I took a taxi when I needed to get to the city center but mostly I avoided the city center for social distancing reasons. That might seem extreme to some but it worked for me.
The Hotel Mediterraneo Tulum is a small family-owned boutique hotel. It has a lovely pool with the most adorable bridge running across it. I had access to the pool right outside my patio so I dipped into it almost every day. The staff is incredibly kind, attentive, and professional. Very affordable nightly rate with breakfast included and Wi-Fi, AC, Ceiling Fans, and a great table for me to remote work from. Extremely clean. They cleaned everything in my room with bleach every day.
Villa Pescadores is located on Playa Paraiso in the zona arqueológica area. I stayed there from October 13-17. Villa Pescadores is a hotel comprised of a series of hut-like rooms that sit a stone’s throw away from the beach. The hotel is quaint and classy at the same time. It fit the price point I wanted but had all the amenities I needed: A/C, Ceiling Fan (I need both to sleep optimally), Wi-Fi, and the beach right at my doorstep.
What I loved
All the food. Did I say the food? Oh, how I love the food in Tulum! It’s fresh and delicious. The Seafood was my favorite. The fried snapper that you can tell came out of the sea that day. The shrimp tacos, grilled salmon with risotto! You can also get fantastic cocktails on The Beach Road and the bars in the City Centre of Tulum. I had one of the best cosmos ever at my favorite restaurant Rosa Negra. I also had a fabulous dinner there. I highly recommend a visit to Rosa Negra if you are in Tulum. I used the food delivery service Tomato.mx a lot because I did not want to be out amongst the people during the ongoing pandemic. I had delicious meals delivered to my door in Aldea Zama. Yummy paella one night. Delicious ceviche from El Capitan another. They also make a pretty good juicy burger there at the Kai Beach Club! I had chilaquiles for breakfast dining outdoors and delivered. You can get delicious street food in the center of the city and in small carry-outs. While I was at Villa Pescadores, I primarily ate at the Kai Beach club because it was convenient, I was social distancing and I was working every weekday. While I was at Hotel Mediterraneo Tulum I used Tomato.MX most evenings but had lunch out most days. One night I ventured out with some friends for a socially distanced outdoor meal at El Capitan. Excellent ceviche and strong drinks! I did not have a single bad meal in Tulum. Not one. The average cost for my delivery meals was $7-10 USD. At the hotel, it was $10-$20 USD depending on what I ordered. Cocktails were on average $3-7 USD.
The Playa Paraiso beach is gorgeous. White powdery sand water that turns shades of turquoise and azure under the glint of the sun. It’s breathtaking. The water was warm and not particularly rough. I tried to come out early every morning before the crowd to just enjoy the view. I also enjoyed seeing the local families show up each day to enjoy the beach along with the tourists.
The Kai beach club had chairs and umbrellas set up and you can literally be there all day and just let the time fade away. I was able to access Kai Beach club because it’s owned by the same company as Villa Pescadores. I was advised to set up there if I was going to be working because it had the best Wi-Fi reception (more on that below) and that was true. I was able to do teams and zoom calls very easily from the beach club and I could order their yummy food all day long. My room service bill at checkout was a bit shocking LOL but worth every penny.
There are areas of the public beach where you need to be careful when you’re walking because unfortunately there are things that have been discarded that might get in your feet. I do recommend wearing swimming shoes with sturdy soles when walking on Playa Paraiso Beach.
The Local People
The people of Mexico are kind, gracious, and patient. I found the staff at each hotel to be incredibly polite and helpful. They were patient with me when I would ask things in my very bad Spanish. And when I would order my breakfast and lunch every day in my very bad Spanish. And I just found them to be very helpful and friendly. I never felt particularly lonely because people were so friendly and there was always someone to chat with – be it a local who wanted to practice their English or a fellow traveler also hanging out at the Beach Club or my hotel pool in Aldea Zama. The owner of Hotel Mediterraneo Tulum deserves an honorable mention. Her name is Silvia. She was just incredibly kind and treated me like family. She stopped by to say hello and checked on me each day. During the height of the Tropical Storm, she showed up in her rain parka to check on me. She drove me to the grocery store ahead of the Hurricane that wasn’t – Delta. She charged me nothing for the ride. She was just kind. I would return to that specific hotel in the future just because of the hospitality of Silvia and the rest of the staff. Despite the sometimes shaky Wi-Fi, I truly enjoyed my stay.
What I didn’t love
The Taxis and their ever-changing fares
The local taxi commission has the Tulum area on lockdown. You can take a taxi somewhere and be quoted one price going and a completely different and higher price coming back to the same destination. Also, confirm with the staff at the hotel or restaurant what the fare to your destination should be, and if possible have them get a quote for you. It’s imperative that you know enough Spanish to understand numbers, be able to ask the cost before you get into the taxi and, challenge the fare if it’s too high. Otherwise, you could get “taken for a ride” the type you won’t appreciate.
Safety is a Concern
Tulum is relatively safe. I would advise solo female travelers to read my Top Five Safety and Security Tips and follow them. I would not advise walking at night alone and I would not advise getting drunk out alone either or really even with friends. While I was there I did not feel unsafe but because of the influx of party people to the area, I would caution visitors to keep the situational awareness meter on high.
BaldGirlProTip: download some of these phrases into Google Translate so you have them handy in Spanish:
- How much to take me to ________?
- How much does it cost?
- That is too much!
- Know how to say your numbers from 1 – 500 in Spanish
There are a lot of people seeking to escape Covid-19 by visiting Mexico and specifically Tulum. Many are a younger demographic (the hipsters for lack of a better word) but many are around my age (40+ or older). There is also a burgeoning black ex-pat community developing in Tulum. Most that I met or saw were in the 20 to 40 age range. It was heartening to see folks younger than me taking the Blaxit leap full-on. It is heartwarming. What was less than heartwarming was the number of bare faces I saw in Tulum of every hue. I saw too little mask-wearing and social distancing by visitors and ex-pats alike. It appears that many visitors and ex-pats in Mexico are treating COVID-19 like an urban myth. It is not. One of my favorite places in Tulum is the Beach Zone or Beach Road. While a lot of the stores are overpriced it’s just a cool place to hang out and browse and eat and drink. And my favorite restaurant Rosa Negra is in the area. I had a 6 pm dinner there one evening and I left immediately thereafter because by 8 PM it was becoming quite crowded and people were entirely too close to each other not wearing masks. Most of the said people not wearing masks were clearly American tourists. Of every hue.
I urge all of you if you are traveling outside the US during this time – To follow the science. Social Distance (6-10 feet), wash your hands regularly, and wear a mask. Our visits help support the economy of Mexico. Let’s also do everything we can to safeguard the health of the locals and each other so that we can continue to visit Mexico during this pandemic.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Quintana Roo (QR) sits on the Eastern part of the Yucatán peninsula and is bordered by the states of Campeche to the west and Yucatán to the north. It has a coastline to the east with the Caribbean Sea into the north with the Gulf of Mexico. Both Tulum and Playa del Carmen are in QR.
As most of you may know many hurricanes form in the Gulf of Mexico. Luckily until this year, most of these storm systems formed but bypassed the QR area. 2020 has been different and it has been an active hurricane season and quite an active year for QR. Two days after I arrived tropical storm Gamma showed up and passed near Tulum. It had sustained winds of up to 70 mph in some areas But in Aldea Zama it was mild. Heavy rain and winds around 40 to 50 mph. The power did go out and was out for about 10 hours. So that means no Wi-Fi and because cell phone service was particularly spotty in the area, I was also without cell service until the storm was over and I could walk out to the main street and get reception and check in with my check-in buddies. Power went out around 8 AM and it came back around 7 PM. It did not appear to do a lot of damage where I was and for the most part, it wasn’t too bad for me. But then two days later hurricane Delta was forecasted to pass through the area. Thankfully it turned out to even less of an issue than Gamma and was downgraded from a category four to a category two with the outer bands barely grazing Tulum. Despite this development, it was a bit unnerving to experience and prepare for two storm incidents in less than a week. As of the writing of this blog post another hurricane, Zeta, just exited the QR and Yucatan area. There seems to have been more damage in some areas and flooding than with the prior storms.
I will say I was quite impressed with the way the Mexican citizens and government dealt with the storms. People were calm. They weren’t going crazy the way they do in the United States. They were not running around the grocery stores buying all the toilet paper. Mainly people were buying food and water when I went to the grocery store. There was a serene calmness to the demeanor of the people I encountered and as a result, I remained calm. The power was out but not for as long as it was when I experienced Tropical storm Isabel in Washington, DC in 2003. Our power was out for two days. I must still confess that it is still disconcerting to know that from July to the end of November these storm events can occur at any time in this region of Mexico.
The toilet paper thing
When I checked into Hotel Mediterraneo Tulum I saw a sign over the toilet that ask that guests not flush toilet paper down the toilet. This seemed a bit odd to me since what else do you do with toilet paper but flush it down the toilet? Luckily, I watched several videos about Mexico and Tulum prior to my visit and learned that because of the plumbing situation in many parts of the country it’s problematic to flush toilet paper down the toilet. You have to deposit the used toilet paper into a waste bin.
Not being able to flush toilet paper was hard to get used to but I did it because it’s very important for the infrastructure and the plumbing in Tulum and other places in Mexico. But I will admit it felt odd wiping my bum and then depositing the paper in a trashcan. But when in Rome and so on . . . .
In Aldea Zama the hot water wasn’t piping hot. I don’t know if that was the neighborhood or just the hotel. Because it was so hot outside that when I would come in and take a shower after being outside for an extended period, I didn’t mind it very much. There were times when I would’ve really liked to take a really hot shower and that was not possible during my stay in that specific neighborhood. When I got to the hotel on the beach the water pressure was better and the water was hot. Very hot and that brought great joy after all those lukewarm showers.
Mosquitoes and other biting insects
I generally recommend using very strong mosquito repellent in Mexico to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases. Here are links to the ones I like here, here, and here.
The mosquitoes and other biting insects are downright disrespectful in Tulum folks. Again, it’s the jungle people. Some of them are undeterred by any type of mosquito repellent. I wasn’t always sure what was biting me was even mosquitos. They felt like some small super-human biting machine going after my flesh at every turn some days. I found that if I wore Avon Skin-So-Soft on my bald head for the most part I didn’t get bitten there except for one night at dinner when one of those suckers found the one spot I missed and got me good. But for the most part, I was OK if I slathered SSS on my legs and arms and head; and wiped my feet down with repellent wipes, I was ok. For back-up, I also carried a citronella oil spray that I sprayed on the back of my neck one night because a very tenacious biter was after me. As long as I didn’t sweat. I found the biters were the worst at dusk and at night. They were less bad in the daytime if it was dry and not humid. Sunset and the evening is their dinnertime and we are dinner! If you are visiting Tulum, I recommend using very strong mosquito repellent.
Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
This was by far the most difficult thing to deal with as I am remote working from Mexico and Wi-Fi is UBER important for me. My cellphone provider is Verizonwireless and usually, I have no problems with cell phone reception. I was assured the Wi-Fi was “strong,” in Aldea Zama and at the beach, it was not. It was serviceable but not stable. It worked but if you moved around much it would go out. The Wi-Fi in Tulum is inconsistent. It’s the Jungle folks. There’s no other way to put it. I’ve been told that you can get better reception and Wi-Fi if you stay in the central part of the city on the main road. However, I wanted to be in the locations I selected. I was assured the Wi-Fi was strong and I didn’t independently check. I should have.
I had a Wi-Fi adapter and I’m glad I used it because working would’ve been an impossibility. There was one area in each room that had good reception and I had to make sure that I stayed there when I was doing teams or zoom calls. The basic email was fine and basic surfing on the Internet was fine. But streaming and video calls didn’t always work well. Thankfully I downloaded several movies from my Netflix and Amazon prime accounts and I watched them in the evening if I was bored or just needed something to help me fall asleep.
Lesson learned. Next time I will ask for evidence of an online test of the Wi-Fi speed in the area I choose to stay and change accommodations if I don’t like what I see.
A couple of other items of note
Tulum is in the Jungle I need to reemphasize that fact. There are creatures in the jungle. If you decide to stay in a hotel in the jungle be prepared to see some of its creatures. An iguana may stroll by. I saw the first palmetto bug a.k.a. Roach that I’ve seen in over 20 years, it ran across my bed (I won’t say where because it’s the jungle you can’t really keep them out).
I saw a snake, a garden snake, but still a snake. I am intentionally not saying where because I don’t hold my accommodations responsible. The fact of the matter is Tulum is a jungle. Jungle shit comes out of the jungle. Deal with it or stay home.
The Tulum beach area is VERY dark at night. If you are a solo female traveler carry a flashlight and a security alarm if you are out at night alone and practice situational awareness. You can learn more about maintaining personal safety by reading my Top 5 Travel Security Tips for Female Solo Travelers. I never felt unsafe in Tulum but I did turn my situational awareness meter on and up when I was out and about at night alone.
Verdict – No.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in Tulum. The food fed my tummy and the beauty of its beaches soothed my soul. It is a wonderful place for a getaway and to find yourself. I sorted out a lot of things there and made some key decisions. I enjoyed every moment. I remember sitting at the beach club one morning at my iPad on a Teams call looking at the sea in front of me. All I could do was smile. It’s was a great office to have for five days. Tulum is a place I will return to. It’s great for a weekend trip. I want to come back and do an extended tour of its Ruins. I didn’t have the time this go around.
Is it under consideration for my home base after Blaxit? NO.
Tulum is in the jungle. Its average temperature is 84 degrees. The Wi-Fi is also not stable enough to accommodate my work needs on an ongoing basis. The closest international airport is in Cancun 1.5 hours away by car. A bit longer by commuter bus. And frankly, it’s the Jungle and while I truly enjoyed visiting the Jungle I do not want to live there. However, for a solo getaway, a girls’ trip, or a romantic getaway, I highly highly recommend it.