By now you should 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 cities/towns I have or will visit in Mexico are:
Playa del Carmen
Ajijic, Lake Chapala
San Miguel de Allende
After my visits are complete, I will share which town, if any, I selected as my relocation destination.
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)
Here are my ratings of the Mexican cities I have already visited based on this rating scale:
Playa del Carmen 2
Puerto Vallarta 4
Ajijic/Lake Chapala 2
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 prior post but if you are new (welcome) please check out my first post “America: I am breaking up with you” and “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.
I visited Oaxaca de Juárez or Oaxaca City in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico from January 31, 2021 to February 7, 2021.
Oaxaca City is located at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains. Oaxaca City (or “Oaxaca” as I will refer to it in this blog post), is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the home to indigenous people descended from the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures. Benito Juarez, the first and only indigenous President of Mexico was born in a village in Oaxaca state and Oaxaca City is named for him (Oaxaca de Juárez ). The influences of the indigenous people who call Oaxaca home is reflected in the exquisite works of art exported across Mexico and the World and the incredibly beautiful and delicious FOOD that originates from not just the city but the entire region.
The closest airport to Oaxaca City is Oaxaca International Airport in Oaxaca City. Oaxaca international airport does not have direct flights to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or the Washington, DC area. In terms of travel, Oaxaca was the hardest city/town to get to. There was no direct flight there from any major city in Mexico except Mexico City. I am not a fan of Mexico City airport for many reasons that I will blog about separately, so having to fly through there to get to Oaxaca did not fill me with glee but getting to Oaxaca and experiencing it was well worth it.
The average temperature, while I was in Oaxaca City, was about 85 degrees. I turned on the AC every day. Over the course of the year, the temperatures in Oaxaca City is usually from 47°F to 87°F and is rarely below 42°F or above 93°F. The warmest weather is from Late February to early May.
The fact is that much of the foods and drinks considered Mexican haute cuisine is derived from Oaxaca. From Tamales to the various Moles, Hot Chocolate, Tlayudas, and Chapulines (roasted grasshoppers) that are popular and recognized across Mexico, you have to Thank Oaxaca for it! Mezcal that rivals Tequila in popularity in Mexico was born and is primarily distilled and produced in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is famous for its Artist and its Artisans. My favorites are the hand-carved and hand-painted wooden animal called Alebrijes you can find in galleries, mercados (markets) and flea markets across Oaxaca City. What struck me was that regardless of where you go in Oaxaca to buy Alebrijes, you can find beautiful and high-quality ones. I have seen them all across Mexico in boutiques, gift shops and of varying quality but the most beautiful that I saw were in Oaxaca. Oaxaca is also known for textiles that are handloomed and colored using natural sources such as Tumeric, Marigolds, and Indigo among others. It was fascinating to see the looming done in person at family-owned factory in Mitla, a town outside Oaxaca City.
But truly the greatest reason for visiting Oaxaca is the FOOD. There is so much that is sooo good to eat that I could not possibly list them all. Here is a great article that describes the foodie experience in Oaxaca. I can testify that I did not eat a single meal that was not at least good if not great to superlatively great.
For more on the history and culture of Oaxaca, check out this link.
During my stay in Oaxaca City, I was a five-minute walk to Centro at an Airbnb. You can check out a brief video Airbnb tour by visiting my Youtube Channel. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!
What I loved
The Food – My GOD the food.
The food in Oaxaca is simply fantastic. I must preface and share that I do NOT love Mole and yet I found so much to love about the food in Oaxaca. My favorite was Casa Oaxaca restaurant but you could walk to just about any corner and have food that is incredibly good in the Zocalo (Main Square in Centro). Tamales were my favorite along with just about everything I ate at Casa Oaxaca (I went twice). I also had the best coconut cake I have ever eaten from a bakery on a random street. Can’t even remember the name but it was just so good that I could feel the fat going straight to my ass while I was eating it (but I didn’t care)! My last meal at Casa Oaxaca was so good that I have to tell you that I started eating slower and slower because I didn’t want it to end. Oh and the Hot Chocolate – My GOD. It was divine. It tasted like pure cocoa in a cup. If you do not go to Oaxaca for any other reason – go for the food. Thank me later.
Shopping for Art pieces
Oaxaca is the best place to go to buy Alebrijes, wood carved handmade and handcrafted works of art. From rugs, table runners, wraps and throws all made by indigenous hands, you can’t go wrong.
As I shared my favorite thing are Alebrije – hand-carved and hand-painted wood shaped into different animals. I especially love Elephants. Let’s just say I now have a small collection of elephants. There were just so many beautiful pieces carved and painted with such detail. I got to visit a family-owned factory where some of the pieces were produced and it was truly impressive to see a gentleman with a machete cutting the wood into various items and then seeing other members of the family sanding, filling and then hand-painting the pieces.
I also visited a Textile factory in Mitla and it was truly a revelation. To see the amount of work that went into producing the rugs, wall-hanging, coasters and sweaters that we see in the flea market and galleries, it kind of made me feel bad to pay so little for some of the items I purchased.
There are multiple places to purchase artisan pieces in Oaxaca. My favorites were Aripo and the Mercado de Artesanias and of course Mercado 20 de Noviembre which is a massive flea market that was a bit overwhelming.
Affordable and easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables
There is easy food shopping in Oaxaca. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh juice right in the square in Centro. You can also easily find Walmart, Sam’s Club and major grocery stores like Soriano in Oaxaca City. You can also get food easily delivered via Rappi and DiDi.
Transportation was easily accessible
I stayed right in El Centro of Oaxaca City not far from Reforma which is primary thoroughfare. I was able to walk to most places that I wanted to go. When I couldn’t walk I used the DiDi app to get around. DiDi works just like Uber but for cabs. There is no Uber in Oaxaca but DiDi was just as good. I got overcharged by the first cab I took in the city so I stuck to DiDi thereafter.
Major comforts and conveniences are present
Starbuck, Sam’s and Walmart are available in the Oaxaca City. There is also plenty of shopping for just about anything you want in Centro.
COVID-19 precautions in place
COVID-19 precautions were in place in Oaxaca. While folks were out and about especially on the weekend, people were masked up. There is a LOT of rooftop and outside dining in Oaxaca which I took advantage of. I did find certain parts of the Zocalo crowded especially on the Saturday so I just spent less time in those areas. But it was good to see everyone wearing mask in Centro Oaxaca City.
Safety was not a Major Concern
Oaxaca is considered a relatively safe city and I found that too be true. I walked several places alone at night in Centro and I never felt unsafe. I did note that when I was standing outside alone waiting for a taxi at one particular restaurant, the host did come out and encourage me to wait inside. But I never had anything happen there that made me feel unsafe.
Black Expat Community
There are a lot of American ex-pats in Oaxaca of varying ages and demographics. I saw lots of “hipster” types in their 20’s and 30’s, some ex-pats in their 40’s and others in their 50’s as well as older. There is also a small Black Expat community in Oaxaca. I missed a socially distanced meet up they had on the day I arrived. I actually saw a couple black ex-pats as I walked around Centro. Mostly younger folks in their 30s and 40’s but it was nice to see us represented in Oaxaca albeit in lesser numbers than Merida and PDC but more than in GDL and definitely more than Ajijic/Lake Chapala.
Spanish Fluency Not Required
Spanish fluency was not required. While it would help tremendously to have Spanish fluency of at least an intermediate level. I was able to get by for the most part with my beginner Spanish. I found that many of the local Oaxacans I encountered understood English very well though many did not speak it.
What I don’t love
How hard it is to get there
Oaxaca is not easy to get to. There was no direct flight from Oaxaca City to anywhere I wanted to go or be in Mexico. Unlike Puerto Vallarta where I could fly directly from Querétaro (QRO) Airport or Guadalajara where I could fly directly from Puerto Vallarta, I had to fly through Mexico City airport to get to Oaxaca and I had to fly through Mexico City to get from Oaxaca to anywhere else. I lost a great suitcase to baggage handlers in Mexico City on the way to QRO and that likely would not have happened had I been on a direct flight not routed through Mexico City, an airport I try to avoid if I can.
Oaxaca State also has some beautiful beaches. There is one specifically that I have heard about that I wanted to visit, it is called Huatulco. I couldn’t get to Huatulco because I was told the bus ride there, aka the Vomit Bus, is pretty bad, and there were no direct flights from Oaxaca to Huatulco despite it being in the same state. I would have lost a day just trying to get there so I opted to skip it.
Climate – It was Hotter than I expected
Oaxaca was hot Ya’ll. For some reason I thought the daytime weather would be milder. I landed there in Jeans and a T-shirt and that was a baddddd choice. I switched to shorts and a T-shirt as soon as I checked into my Airbnb. I found that it was hot during the day (mid to upper 80’s) but cool in the evening. I was told it gets hotter through May but is almost always cooler at night and the heat is mostly of the drier variety. The cooler season comes during the summer when other places are quite hot so that is a silver lining. But it definitely gets hotter than I thought. I actually broke into a sweat walking in the open sun on a couple days.
Earthquakes are A Thing
My biggest concern about Oaxaca is its significant and ongoing seismic activity. There was a major earthquake there in 2017 and another last year. Both had casualties. I was told that it is just a fact of life if you choose to live there. Most of the time you feel nothing (I sure didn’t feel anything while there) but sometimes you might.
Mosquitoes and other biting insects
Because of the warm weather in Oaxaca while I was there, I did note the biters came out around dusk each day while I was in Oaxaca. I made sure to apply Mosquito repellent as I was bitten my first night out at dinner when I was wearing shorts.
Wi-Fi Reception was Spotty
WIFI was not great at the Airbnb where I stayed in Oaxaca. While it was not as bad as Tulum or Ajijic, my WIFI in Oaxaca could be rated the fourth worst of the nine places I visited. Probably of the same quality as what I experienced in Campeche, which was not great. I suspect this may be due to the type and quality of the WIFI provided by my Airbnb host rather than an area wide reception issue. I did have good cell phone reception in Oaxaca.
Verdict: Yes with reservations
Rating Score: 3
There are A LOT of things that I loved about Oaxaca. Specifically the food, the culture and the people. The frequency of seismic activity there really puts me on edge. I also did not enjoy how hot it was during the days when I was there. My Eczema didn’t like it either. It is good to know that the weather is not like that all year round and that Oaxaca might be a pretty great place to check out in the summer months when other places in Mexico are blisteringly hot. I think I would need to spend more time in Oaxaca to determine whether I actually want to live there. For whatever reason it just didn’t feel like home to me but it did feel like a place I would want to come back and visit frequently.
Oaxaca City is on the average side for rent in Mexico. I researched the cost of living in Oaxaca and it is Medium. Oaxaca City rent is 86.16% lower than the city I live in currently in the United States. You can review the cost of living by checking out Numbeo and Expatistan.
The Single Girl Factor. The Single Girl Factor is my evaluation of my dating prospects in a city based on my use of online dating apps while traveling. There is nothing scientific about it. I simply utilize dating apps in the area and see how many matches or hits or solicitations I receive.
Applying the Single Girl Factor, I could have a social single life in Oaxaca City. The hits on the dating apps were decent not as great as some other places but decent.
My Next Mexican City review will be the last one of this series and it will be about San Miguel de Allende. Stay Tuned!