¨I am not giving up. I am just starting over.¨
In March 2020, I Began a New Chapter of My Life: I Went from Being a Nomad to a Full-Time Expat in Merida, Mexico
After spending nearly nine years mixing my time between living part-time in Merida and Montreal and traveling around the world, in March 2020, I decided to live in Merida full-time for at least a couple of years.
The decision was not easy for me to make, but it was the best option given my situation now. That said, I do not expect to live in Merida full-time for the rest of my life, and I know I will be traveling around in the not too distant future.
I decided to settle down for a while for the following reasons:
Why Did I Decided to Become a Full-Time Expat in Merida For Awhile?
I Did Not Have a Lot of Money Left to Travel
When I was lucky enough to travel nine months a year from April 2011 to November 2015, I initially planned to travel cheaply, and I knew how to do so and did not mind staying in hostels and cheap hotels.
Yet, I had grown tired of traveling economically. After listening to hundreds of students in my seminars, I wanted to stay in places that were a bit more luxurious and to have someone else organize some of my travels.
Perhaps more than anything else, I wanted to just spontaneously decide to eat at a luxury restaurant, stay at an elegant hotel, or even more than anything else, go to an expensive concert or other special events without considering the cost.
In 2011, I suddenly found myself with the freedom to travel in a bit of comfort, style and do whatever I wanted without thinking too hard about the budget. (Though I spent around eight months of those five years traveling in volunteer/learning experiences, most of these experiences were inexpensive and featured modest accommodations).
I never wanted to travel in absolute luxury for
a long, though. Quickly, I realized that I could usually travel comfortably if I spent around $100 a day for accommodation and $60-80 for food. (Though about ten to twenty-day if I spent over $200 a day if I could stay in an exclusive hotel like the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa).
In India, this meant staying and eating at some very high-class places. Yet, even in an expensive area like Copenhagen, I could meet my minimum comfort standard in a centrally located (though small) hotel room with my own bathroom. (The only place I couldn’t find a hotel with a bathroom for $100 a day was New York City).
I continued to travel in this relative luxury until March 2020. I grew to love it, and when I tried to go back to cheap travel, I did not enjoy it much.
By 2020, I did not have much money left between traveling this way for five years and buying and rehabbing my house in Merida. Initially, I decided to spend what was left on a couple of month-long trips to see many of the places left on my wish list. Still, I gradually realized that it would be both wiser and probably better for my psyche to stay in Merida for a while.
I Want to Work at Being Part of a Community
Even when I was traveling nine months a year from April 2011 to November 2015, I liked having someplace to come home to three months a year, like Montreal. I enjoyed spending some time with my girlfriend and being part of her life for a while each year.
Starting in 2015, I could use a home base, and I was not ready or able to spend it in Montreal but decided to seek a new home base somewhere in Mexico. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that a new home would be in Merida. (See posts on Why I Live in Mexico and the Pros and Cons of Living in Merida).
In 2019, I found out that I wanted to stay in Merida most of the year to build a sense of being part of a community. I searched around and found Merida does offer enough cultural and social opportunities to fulfill this need. Though I do want to go back to traveling part-time in the future, I do not think I will want to spend the bulk of my time away from my home base again for a long time.
Being an Expat in Merida Part-Time Did Not Work For Me
I bought my house in Merida after spending five years, mainly on the road because I:
- Felt that, in the long run, I would run out of money if I kept on travel; and
- Wanted a place to call my own where I could make some friends and become part of a community.
Despite this rationale for buying the house, it was not as easy to adjust to life in Merida as I expected. I missed moving all the time, and it was hard to settle down in one place.
I made this situation worse by contracting out for significant changes to my house that lasted almost three years. I never enjoyed working on a home, even in the US.
Before the house finished, I always felt a bit trapped in Merida. I didn’t particularly appreciate waiting for workers to show up, and I also got tired of sometimes waiting weeks or months at a time for the work to end.
I could never get enough information to plan anything. Sometimes workers finished their tasks incredibly quickly. Other times, things would come to a halt for weeks at a time. I went to ATMs often to take money out to pay workers but always wondered if I was being taken advantage of because I did not know much about home repairs.
In retrospect, moving back and forth and working on my home put me in the throes of a prolonged, mild culture shock during the three to six months a year I spent in Merida. I dealt with my house-related frustrations by frequently leaving, never making friends, and avoiding becoming part of the community. Once I felt comfortable with someone, I left.
I am More Comfortable Staying in One Place While Starting My New Business
I have found it hard to work on my business while I was in travel mode. Unlike most bloggers, I don’t write articles with titles like “The Ten Best Romantic Restaurants in Brooklyn.” (Since these types of pieces work well with Google algorithms). While there is nothing wrong with these articles, they are not for me to write, and I miss details and am more interested in more significant travel topics.
When I tried to write these articles, I became so bogged down in details that I no longer enjoy traveling. It felt like I was working, and I missed the opportunity to observe and learn about a place without a given agenda.
My skills best come out when I have to think about and analyze my experiences. I can look at what I’ve learned, what I think others could understand, and what is not easy to find elsewhere. I do not have any meaningful or exciting insights without reflection.
Instead, I realized that I want to create a community through my website and teach what I have learned from my life as a Fifty-Plus Nomad. Some of the lessons are practical, like finding a suitable flight or using frequent flyer miles. (Most of these lessons come from things I wish I had known when I started to travel full time in 2011.) Others are a personal reflection about the realities and benefits of life on the road.
Very few of my posts involve doing a lot of research on-site to find out details of traveling in a particular place in the world. Instead, they depend on observing my thoughts and documenting what I learned from my life on the road.
In addition, the type of writing and research that I do can make it hard to market my site. My posts do not fit well into Google algorithms.
As a result, I need to concentrate on finding more creative marketing strategies than most other bloggers. Unfortunately, marketing does not come easy for me, and I find it most comfortable to focus on things I wouldn’t say I like when I am in one place for a while. Being in one place has also allowed me to find people who help me deal with my marketing frustrations and give me helpful feedback.
However, I am willing to put the time into marketing because I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. I feel like there is a need for sound advice and personal reflection. Until the advent of social media, there was a lot of excellent advice about traveling and thought-provoking memoirs. Today these sources have diminished significantly. I can’t help but think there is a place for what I offer in the market.
I Feel Like I Have Been on a Long, Slow Journey to Accept the Idea of Becoming a Full-Time Expat
Being a genuinely nomadic person has changed me in many ways. I am used to the challenges and the excitement of moving, and it is difficult for me to settle down in one place.
Since high school, I have moved 20 times and spent nearly eleven years on the road. (Though most moves were within California, I also have lived in four foreign countries and the US Midwest). I have become addicted to the call of new adventures and discoveries that a nomadic life affords. It took me almost four years after I bought my house to be ready and willing to settle down in Merida.
In August 2019, I decided it was time to consider becoming a full-time expat. But, to be honest, I felt somewhat torn. I knew it was logically the right next step financially and was excited about becoming part of a community. Yet, another part of me still wanted to continue traveling, and I worried about missing the excitement of constantly discovering new people, places, and experiences.
Nonetheless, I put a lot of time and effort into creating my new chapter of life as a full-time expat. Since mostly finishing the house, I began to explore community activities, went on some dates, and worked on my website and business consistently. I discovered Facebook pages that helped me learn much more about local businesses, clubs, and activities. I made some new good friends. (One of whom, Mario, is helping me with my Social Media issues).
In January 2020, I left Merida for a two-month trip around Mexico to research living and traveling around Mexico (which I still intend to write about in the future). Unfortunately, the two-month tour around Mexico had a cloud over it for most of the time. In my third week, I was the victim of an express kidnapping. It affected both my ability to learn and enjoy the trip. I did not feel up to doing much of the research, sightseeing, interviews with expats, etc.. that I planned to do.
Yet, the kidnapping did have one surprisingly positive effect. I felt like I had finally really come to accept and be happy about becoming a full-time expat in Merida. If I had not rented my house, I would have come home almost two weeks early. Something I would never have considered in the past! It also made me want to get to Merida and go back to creating this new chapter of my life.
Sadly, after only two weeks passed in this new chapter of my life, the Coronavirus hit the scene and upended most of my plans for this new chapter in my life.
Now My Plans Are On-Hold
At first, I decided to self-quarantine after learning that many overweight people in my age group died in Italy. For the first two weeks, It did not change my life much. Most of Merida remained the same, and I decided that I would go out less often. Then, things began to change. First, some restaurants began to close. Then all the cultural venues around the city closed.
About two weeks after my self-imposed quarantine, the government imposed a stay-at-home policy. Nowadays, restaurants only deliver, and most stores, except convenience stores and supermarkets, are closed. (No more than one person can enter a store, and even then, most stores are not open to anyone over the age of 60). No alcohol was available for sale during most of the last five months. You cannot leave the house without a mask.
So far, the Yucatan has had 2000 Coronavirus deaths, 90% of which occurred in the past three months. Mexico has the third-highest number of deaths globally, and many experts maintain that the actual death rate may be several times the number reported by the government.
How Coronavirus Makes Me Feel
Some days I am fine staying at home. Others, I felt a strong sense of alienation and sadness. It took me almost a month to understand that I felt a bit cheated. Once I decided to settle down, I couldn’t be involved in the community, etc. I even miss some of the daily joys of living here, like going out for drinks and dinner with friends, sightseeing, etc.
My days feel a bit like I am on a roller coaster of emotions. Some days, I write and work on my website for ten to twelve hours, usually until well after midnight. Other days, it feels like it is a lot of work to brush my teeth and take a shower.
Even going outside is distressing. The streets were usually full of life. If I went out any night of the week before the quarantine, I could find dozens of places to sit down and have a drink or a meal and enjoy musicians. Even at midnight, many people were out, even on weekdays enjoying the company of their family and friends.
The virus will not last forever, and I will start the next stage as envisioned, even though we may have to take another quarantine if the viruses return and until someone finds a vaccine.
I am even beginning to wonder if my website will have much use in the post Coronavirus world. The travel industry may not come back, and people may be hesitant to leave their home country. Yet, it could also make people more willing to travel or live in another country for an extended period. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I will create content that is useful for the community.
I am beginning to see that the quarantine may be helpful in some ways. I will be unusually grateful for small things like a nice restaurant meal and visits from friends. In June, just having someone clean my house felt like a bit of a blessing. I will be happy to know that service people will show up if I need them. (I also have a small list of things that I will be glad to see done with the house). My hesitations, even sadness about not living such a nomadic life, etc., won’t be much on my mind.
Why I am Blessed During the Quarantine
That said, I am generally one of the luckiest people during the quarantine.
I am not stranded. I know several Fifty-Plus Nomads who are staying in a country other than their home. Many feel anxious about when and whether and if they can return home.
I have also seen several posts and emails from Fifty Plus Nomads experiencing problems settling into a more sedentary life. Nomads enjoy a life of meeting new people, trying new experiences, and learning about the world first-hand. Living without new experiences is challenging, particularly if you have no control over the situation.
Moreover, I don’t have to work to live until the crisis passes over. I do not have a mortgage, rent, or car payment and have enough money to live off for a while. The quarantine may help me financially, and I will spend less money on food and liquor. I also received the Coronavirus tax refund from the US government even though I live abroad.
A lot of Mexicans live hand to mouth and are suffering during this time. They do not have any cushion to survive if they lose their job. Even though there are some stipends for people here, they do not have much money. I have also read that the government has had difficulties distributing them efficiently.
I do not have to go out much. Usually, I only leave the house to walk the dog or buy something at the small next-door convenience store. Once every ten days, I go to Walmart to resupply. (The dog is not mine. I am taking care of the dog for a friend in Canada).
I have air conditioning and a lovely, comfortable home. (Most days now, the temperature ranges between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, 35-40 degrees Celsius). Usually, I watch TV series on Netflix, listen to podcasts, and work on my website. I order food frequently from Uber Eats, cook an occasional meal, and snack more than I should. (I will be fatter when the quarantine ends, both from snacking and not walking a lot).
As a whole, the quarantine is a minor inconvenience for me. Having a house in Mexico requires more maintenance than in the US. Right now, everything works fine. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if something goes wrong with the house. I think, if necessary, I can find someone to take care of these tasks.
All this said, I would be glad to see the Coronavirus end, and I want to get back to the next chapter of my life. I also want to go outside, meet friends, and enjoy the vitality of the Merida street life again. Moreover, life in Mexico is hard enough for locals without the added stress of Coronavirus.
Want Another Perceptive on Digital Nomad Life During Coronavirus?
Check out this post from Ayla from Worldpackers.
Other Posts About Mexico
- 8 Horrifying Lessons From An Express Kidnapping In MexicoIn January 2020, I was a victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla, Mexico. I discuss what happened to me and what I learned about travel safety from the incident.
- My Surprising and Complex Journey from Nomad to Expat in Merida, Mexico During CoronavirusIn March 2020, I decided to live full time as an expat in Merida, Mexico. It was not an easy decision. I spent 2011 to 2015 as a full time traveler. From 2015 to March 2020, I lived part time in Merida and Montreal and also traveled three to four months a year. Right when I was excited about becoming a full time expat, the Coronavirus pandemic happened and changed my plans even more.
- Maggie and the Mexican Hot Sheets MotelRoberta Rich wrote this article about staying in love motels in Mexico during her annual drive from Vancouver to Colima, Mexico. She stayed in these motels because they were the only places she could find that allowed dogs.
- Fascinating Accidental Nomad and Expat Profile: Vicki Skinner in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and MexicoThis is a profile of Vicki Skinner, a friend and an interesting example of a Fifty-Plus Nomad. She has lived over the past 16 years in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Mexico on very limited funds.
- 6 Reasons Why I Love Living and Traveling in Mexico (and Probably Will Live Here for the Rest of My Life)I live in Mexico because I love the country’s rich culture, history, nature, food and people. (Note: I have a related post on the pros and cons of living in Merida).
- Pros and Cons of Living in Merida, MexicoThis post lists the pros and cons of living in Merida, Mexico. It also shows how I have adapted to (and even come to appreciate) some of the cons of living in Merida.
- Expat Life in Merida Blog, Part Two, What a Difference a Year Makes: Guilt-Free Contentment with Friends and a Dog Despite CoronavirusWhile I haven’t written any posts, the last year (Summer 2020-Summer 2021) has been very eventful. I have developed some essential friendships, improved my health, and really settled down into my new life as an expat in Merida.
- Unearth Little-Known Spanish Language Tips for Adults over 50, Expats, and Long-Term Travelers (Under Constitution)Under Construction
- Logistics of Expat Retiree Life in Mexico (Under Construction)Under Construction
- Establish Your Ultimate Expat Retiree Life in Mexico: Choosing the Right PlaceOne of the main challenges for expat retirees in Mexico is choosing the right place to live. This post explores the advantages and disadvantages of living in five types of communities in Mexico: expat havens, locally-oriented expat communities, Gringo Ghettoes, off-the beaten path communities, and business havens
- Why I Chose Living as an Expat Retiree in Mexico Versus Costa Rica: Mexico’s Incomparable Food, Rich Culture, and Amazing PeopleThough I like Costa Rica very much and recommend living there highly to fellow expat retirees. I live in Mexico because of its rich culture, history, and diverse culture, and world-class cuisine.
- 200+ of the Best Expat and Long-Term Travel Quotations From Fifty-Plus NomadAll of my blog posts lead off with a quote that is relevant to the subject of the post. I also frequently post quotes on my Facebook group page: Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over the Age of 50. This page of quotes is from my blog and Facebook group page mostly. However, I have added a few extra of my favorite travel-related quotes.