I wish everyone the opportunity to fall in love with México its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, the Spanish language, diversity of people, and fantastic food as I have had the blessing to experience this last eight months.
I must admit when I first arrived in México with my golden retriever, Mila, I was a little nervous I had heard the stories. But since day one, I have had a lot of experiences that have only reinforced my love for México, it’s culture, and the beautiful people I’ve met along the way.
For me, just coming to México took courage. For the first time in my life, I was genuinely traveling outside my own country alone. It terrified me. And while I have family back in the states who are from México, I quickly discovered I knew very little about this country, it’s culture, and customs.
Nevertheless, I was ready for the challenges and overcoming my fears of the unknown or anything that might go wrong. Traveling, and now living here, has been nothing short of an amazing experience that I will be appreciate for the rest of my life.
Below are four reasons, from my own experience, on you why might just fall in love with México, as I have:
1) México’s Beautiful Landscapes and Geography
When I first arrived in México, I stayed at my friends’ house in Villa de Garcia, just outside Monterrey. I was immediately awestruck by the majesty of the neighboring Sierra Las Mitras State Nature Reserve (see photo above). I was immediately in wonder by the sheer size and magnitude of the glaciers from the past that carved such large and straight edges into the side of the mountain.
After Monterrey, I decided to wander down to the Yucatan. Before coming here, I had always wanted to visit the Yucatan but I had really never heard much about the Riviera Maya or Cancun let alone Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Coba, Tulum or Puerto Morelos. After a week in Cancun, I took the advice of someone I talked to in the Playa del Carmen Digital Nomads Facebook group and decide to come down here instead of staying in Cancun. Taking that advice was a great decision!
Since then, I’ve been living here in Playa del Carmen and I have explored many of the beaches, the jungle, and nearby towns.
As soon as I arrived here in Playa with Mila, I had the immediate sensation of feeling I was home. I love the vibe here. Playa del Carmen has a diverse culture. In fact, from what I’ve been told by a local Méxicana friends, Playa has an approximate 30% gay and lesbian population. It actually feels pretty accepting and is relatively safe here.
Since then, I’ve explored the Riviera Maya from Cancun to Cozumel, Playa, Tulum, and took the ADO bus down to Chetumal for a weekend getaway to San Pedro, Belize. Up and down the coast, the beaches here are breathtaking. And, only enhanced by the astonishing colors in the sky during sunrise and sunset.
Of all the beaches I’ve been to though, by far, my favorite is “Piedra Escondida” (Hidden Stone) in Tulum. During the offseason or when the hotel itself isn’t booked, it’s one of the few places I can take Mila to the beach without problems (most beaches here are not dog-friendly). As the name implies, it really is a hidden gem of a beach. There are few people on this beach and it’s secluded on both sides by stone cliffs. A great place to watch both the sunrise and sunset!
During my time in México, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit México City. It really is a vast city with traffic that rivals that of Los Angeles reminding you of it’s enormity in geographic size and population. While there, I spent most of my time exploring the city center learning about the rich culture, history, and monuments erected to honor the countries equally rich heritage. Learning and understanding how the city has grown rebuilding and transforming on top of itself since the days of the Aztecs. The experience gave me a newfound appreciation and respect for this country, the people, and their history.
In the coming months, I’m looking forward to heading over to the other side of the Yucatan to explore the charming and historic city Merida. Then, down near border to Chiapas to see more of the jungle, the rivers, and the canyons. I can’t wait! I know my adventures in México have only scratch the surface and I am excited to continue exploring.
2) The Art and Science of Learning Patience: Diá a Diá
There is something here in Playa that reminds me of when I lived in Palm Springs, California. Playa definitely has an enlightened vibe, and many people here enjoy a healthy lifestyle, practicing yoga, and daily meditation locals, nomads, expats, and tourists alike. But, unlike when I lived in Palm Springs; Living in Playa del Carmen is teaching me to “chill the f*ck out!!”
When I lived in California, I’d say that was the time of my spiritual awakening learning meditation and becoming more mindful. But now, living here in Playa is the evolutionary next stage in my journey. Here, I’m learning, as we say in my house, you just have to take things “Diá a Diá” (Day by Day). In spite of its rapid growth, Playa is still a relatively new and small town. So nothing here happens too quickly.
Living in Playa del Carmen is teaching me patience. Learning a new culture, new customs, and a new language at 41 years old is not as easy as I thought it would be. Services, delivery, and the way of life aren’t quite as efficient yet; at least compared to my old expectations and the faster pace back in California. So I’m just having to learn to be patient. Things will get taken care of…it just might take a little longer.
3) Learning the Language and Customs Heals the Heart
Probably more than anything, learning to speak and understand Spanish, has been my toughest challenge. It’s one thing to learn the basics, let alone the mechanics of a new language. But, it’s another thing entirely trying to remember the vocabulary and understand the cultural nuances of the Spanish language in México. I’m just starting to grasp Spanish in the present tense, but please, don’t ask me anything in past or future tense my brain just ties into knots. jeje
Living in Playa del Carmen and learning to speak Spanish is teaching me, more than anything else, to be patient with myself. At this age, sometimes I still get stuck in my old ways of thinking. Plus, my memory for retaining vocabulary isn’t what it used to be. I often have to remind myself that learning Spanish just isn’t going to happen overnight.
These days, I’m getting pretty good at taking care of myself in restaurants, getting around in taxis, ordering coffee, and buying groceries. As well, I am starting to get the gist of friends’ conversations in Spanish (context helps a lot!). I couldn’t say that eight months ago! But, I just have to keep at it learning and growing. Yo practico mi Español, diá a diá.
One thing I did not expect when I came to México was that not knowing the language would give me a much deeper appreciation for what it must be like for someone who goes to the United States for the first time without understanding English. In those moments, you can truly feel alone in your own skin. There are times, especially when I’ve really needed help as has frequently happened when it’s next to impossible for me to be able to communicate my needs. Fortunately, for all of us, we live in the age of smartphones and Google Translator!!!
4) Exploring Outside the Touristy Areas: You’ll Really Discover the Local Vibe, Meet Wonderful People, and Tasting Some Amazing Food!
I remember when I was younger, watching Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel. On her show, she always talked about “discovering a place from a locals perspective.” Until I got to Playa del Carmen, while I understood what she was saying, I never really appreciated what she meant.
It’s true, you need a little courage to venture out past the designated tourist zones. It’s a little intimidating. But, like anywhere in the world, we just have to be aware of our surroundings. It also helps if you have a local who knows the language and can show you around. Believe me, it helps, a lot!
If you really want to taste some of the most amazing (and truly authentic) Méxican food, you’ve gotta explore beyond the tourist zones. Yes, there are fabulous restaurants on La Quinta (5th Ave.) here in Playa del Carmen, but believe me, there is nothing in the world like a torta handmade on the spot from a local food cart. Oh! It just melts in your mouth “Picante” or not! And besides, the price is always lower when you get away from the tourist areas (which is always a good thing, right?!).
P.S. While you’re in Playa, be sure to stop by Choux Choux Café. I don’t know a better place to introduce yourself to the local vibe. Marie and company are amazing and super friendly. And besides, they are local and family owned!
With a Little Courage, Curiosity, and Creativity You Might Just Fall In Love with México
From exploring the breathtaking landscape, learning a new language, to meeting the wonderful locals with “Corazon Grandes” (Big Hearts) to enjoying the best Méxican food, there is plenty of reasons here you might just fall in love with México yourself! Yeah, living in México has it’s fair share of challenges, but so does everywhere else in the world.
Oh and I gotta say, coming here is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I have no regrets! I found what I was looking for: community, a place to call home, and I am beginning to feel grounded in a new routine. Living creativity in the world, at least for me, has become about learning to trust my instinct, believe in myself, and discovering that if I stick with it (i.e. learning Spanish), I will indeed get to where I want to go. It’s all part of the journey.