If you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume that you’re interested in spicing up your life a bit.
Perhaps you want to take a gap year. Maybe you want a learning experience for your kids. Maybe you’re just plain bored with the suburban life.
Whatever it is, I’m going to assume you’re open to the idea of living an extended period of time in a place that’s not your current home.
And even if you’re not, I’m going to do my best to sell you on why living in the Riviera Maya, even just for a short time, could be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.
After all, 30 years from now, you’re not going to look back on the time you spent living in paradise and regret it. In fact, you’ll probably view it as one of the best times of your life.
My wife, my kids, and I all love living here. It’s why we came back!
And when I refer to the Riviera Maya, I’m referring to the Caribbean coastline of Eastern Mexico starting around Cancun and headed south to just past Tulum. It also includes my personal favorite, the island of Cozumel – which is where we live.
What a Soccer Mom Thinks About
Recently, one of my best friends and his wife came in for the day on a cruise ship. We had a blast! You can see the day featured in this video: The Most Important Thing In Life
My friends began asking us serious questions about living here. Keep in mind they have 6 kids and have to take into consideration stuff like insurance, school, etc.
With that in mind, I’m going to write as if you’re a soccer mom who’s thinking about relocating here. Why? Because if my answers can satisfy a good mom’s concerns, then they should work for just about everyone else.
Let me just rattle off the most common questions we get.
“What about safety? Isn’t Mexico dangerous?”
This is always an interesting one to me. Usually it’s people from the U.S. asking us this question. The same place where you hear about some tragedy shooting (way too frequently). The same place that our European friends are literally afraid to visit because “everyone has guns” and “it’s so dangerous”. In fact, if you live in the U.S., you literally live in the country with the highest reported crime rate (source).
I’m not saying Mexico doesn’t have its dangerous parts. It does. But it’s not as much as most people think or what the news tries to make you think.
In this particular part of Mexico, the major income source is tourism and they understand that. I personally feel safer here than where we lived when we were in the San Francisco Bay Area.
If you want to get even more safe, come to Cozumel. Places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen might be a bit more of a party scene, sure. But Cozumel? Nope! It’s definitely a family scene here.
“What about health insurance?”
It’s true that the United States has some of the best health care in the world… if you can access it that is. With recent changes to health care, the majority of Americans I know have worse coverage but higher costs.
But what about Mexico? Well, to put it simply, you can literally pay cash. Both medical services and especially pharmaceuticals are relatively cheap. And this includes dental.
For example, I recently had to get a new crown for one of my molars. With a new custom crown and multiple visits to get the fit just right, the grand total was just over $200. And it was a very nice office with an English-speaking staff.
Oh, and I had some light pain so I got a prescription for a pain killer. Total cost? 13 pesos. That’s about 66 cents USD at the current exchange.
You can of course get international health insurance if you like. Or you can set aside money every month just in case.
Long story short, should something happen, you can literally pull out your debit card and pay.
“What about my kid’s education?”
Just like anywhere, Mexico has public schools which are open to all and there are also private schools.
We chose to put our kids in a private school here on the island. For three kids, our total cost is just over $10,000 pesos a month (which is $500 USD at the current exchange). Not too shabby for a bilingual private school!
Oh, and each kid has their own iPad for advanced learning – something I love as a parent raising kids in the 21st century. Contrast that to the year we spent in Southern California where my kids went to a “computer lab” once every two weeks for an hour.
Besides the schools available in this part of Mexico, the actual experience they’re getting is priceless. My kids go to school with kids whose names include: Karla, Regina, Gladys, Pablo, Jaime, Guillermo, Rodrigo, and more.
Without going into too much of a rant, I’m a big believer that the world has never been more connected than it is now and having my kids establish international friendships is incredibly beneficial.
As parents, we can no longer afford to hang out vegetating in a some town with a small town mindset. At least not if we want our kids to be successful in the 21st century.
Every parent wants the best for their kids. Education is a HUGE part of that. Having my kids in a private school in another country is a big part of laying the foundation for what we hope are very productive lives.
“But what about the language? Won’t my kids get confused with another language?”
Closely related to education is learning another language. My older two kids are bilingual. Our 4 year old is learning to speak Spanish and for the most part, already understands what’s said to her.
Besides knowing two internationally useful languages like English and Spanish, my kids are receiving the added learning benefits that occur when learning a new language. They’re becoming better at critical thinking, more social with deeper relationships, and generally better communicators.
And learning another language doesn’t just apply to my kids. Both Heidi and I are conversationally fluent. I can honestly say, it’s enriched our lives.
Take a look at the dude in this picture:
He doesn’t look like it here, but this guy is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. If I didn’t speak Spanish, I would have never become friends with him and my life would be that less rich.
I just can’t say enough about the benefits of learning and knowing another language.
And especially for Americans, there’s no better language to know than Spanish. Just order your meal in Spanish the next time you go to a Mexican restaurant and watch how your server lights up. It will make your day I promise.
By the way, if you get here and totally feel lost, half the people in this part of Mexico speak English fluently. Just ask and you’ll get help.
“How much does it cost to live there?”
This is one of the most exciting parts of living here. It’s cheap! Well, kind of. This part of Mexico is actually one of the most expensive parts to live in. That said, it’s still cheap!
To put it into perspective, our current place is 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms in what I’m guessing to be about 2000-ish square feet. For a family our size, it’s perfect. We have a pool and access to a private beach (about 50 yards away).
We pay $1,100 USD a month. And that tends to be on the high end as far as rent goes. We have friends who live in a house bigger than ours and pay only about $600 USD a month. The most we’ve ever paid here was $1,200 USD a month. Keep in mind, these are nice, fully furnished homes in gated or private neighborhoods.
The cost of food you ask? Well, groceries are on average about 25% cheaper. So that’s good. But it gets better. We eat out. A lot. It’s so affordable! We could make our own food or for about the same cost, go out to eat.
Gas? Fuel? Petrol? The cost is about the same as in the states. We live on the north end of town and tend to do more driving than most with daily trips to school and back. That said, we only spend about $35 every two weeks to fill up.
Cell phone you ask? You’re going to love this one. Heidi and I are on a plan where we EACH have 3gb of data every month. And of course unlimited calls, texts. etc. And that includes calling to the U.S. and Canada.
Oh, and it also includes all of that FROM the U.S. and Canada. As in, if we fly to Florida for example, we can use our phones there without skipping a beat. Total cost? $40 USD a month. Contrast that to our plan with Verizon in California which was $160 and didn’t include international calling and we shared 2gb.
Another aspect of the cost of living is the exchange rate. Currently, it’s about $1 USD to $20 Mexican Pesos. I LOVE that exchange rate!
Actually, let me just give you a solid breakdown of the monthly costs to give you more detail.
To make it simple, I’ve converted all costs to US Dollars. I’ll go off of the current exchange which is right about 20 Mexican Pesos to 1 US Dollar.
Rent (furnished 3 bed/3 bath home in private community with pool & beach access): $1,100
Auto Insurance: $65
Dining Out (average 20+ times a month): $250
Water (purified drinking water – six 20 liter jugs): $7
Private School (for 3 kids): $500
Cell Phone (unlimited texts/calls to Mexico, U.S., Canada + 3gb data EACH): $20 each phone
Maid Services (weekly): $50
Those are the normal expenses. There are other costs like taking a ferry to the mainland ($5 USD round trip) or getting a taxi ($1.50 USD) and so forth. But those are so nominal and inconsistent that we don’t take them into account.
We do not have a car payment because we paid cash for one when we got here (2007 Toyota Rav4 – great condition with low mileage – $5,400 USD).
“Is it easy to get there?”
Yes! The Cancun airport is crazy busy and there are great deals from pretty much anywhere in the U.S.
In fact, it’s one of the reasons we came back. It’s close enough for friends and family to come visit. For all of our west coast peeps, flying here is barely longer than flying to Texas.
This is contrasted from a place like Thailand or Bali or new Zealand. If you want company, making them fly half way around the world is much more challenging.
And Now the Fun Stuff
With the basic needs out of the way and answered, let’s move on to the fun stuff! These are some of the additional reasons why we and many other people we know, are living in this part of Mexico.
“What about the food?”
I’m not a foodie. I’m just not. But living in a country that’s internationally known for its amazing cuisine has turned me into one. A while back I posted how I can’t take a bite of food here without saying, “mmmmm…..”. It’s still true.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an upscale restaurant or a street vendor, every time I take a bite of food here, I love it. Knowing that it was prepared from fresh ingredients only adds to my delight. And knowing it’s a fraction of the cost of eating out in the states makes it even better!
“What about the weather?”
If you’re into warm, tropical breezes, then this is the place for you! The actual temperature hovers right around 82 degrees year round. It tends to rain more in the late summer and gets a bit more humid then.
Aside from the occasional thunderstorm, weather here is really nice. If you’re not a fan of snow like we are, then this is paradise.
“What about the people?”
If you’ve come to Mexico, you know that people here are nice. A good friend of mine compares Mexicans to Midwesterners – very nice, very warm, and eager to help out.
In my own experience, I’ve seen a hard-working people who know how to laugh. Most importantly, they understand the value of family. As a family guy and the head dude behind the Family Rocketship, family is a HUGE value for me.
Come to Mexico and you’ll hear the word “amigo” and I promise it will make you feel happy.
“What about other expats?”
Besides the locals, this place also attracts a ton of “out of the box” kind of people. Fellow Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and more. All people who want to have a fun, adventurous lifestyle.
This is actually one of the things we missed the most when we took a “year off” living in Southern California. Living in the suburbs, it was hard to find people that we connected with on all levels.
Living here satisfies that need. We have fellow expat friends who “just get it” for a lack of better term.
“Can I still buy stuff?”
This is for all you consumers out there who want to buy stuff. You’ll be pleased to know that you can still shop at all of your favorites like Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, Old Navy, American Eagle, Zara, and more. They’re all here.
Oh, and Amazon ships here too. What else do you need?
“What is there to do?”
My family and I live here because we are ocean lovers. We need it. The Mexican Caribbean offers some of the safest, most beautiful ocean in the world.
White sandy beaches? Check. Warm turquoise waters? Check. Second biggest reef system in the world? Check.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beach bum, kiteboarder, scuba diver, kayaker, or more, the Riviera Maya has got it all.
When you get tired of the ocean (if that’s even possible), you can explore the countless cenotes (fresh water cave mini-lake things – so cool!) or explore ancient Mayan ruins.
If you’re into culture, you can explore all of the charming towns here on the peninsula.
With my vlog, I have to come up with a good video every week. As I look back on a week’s worth of footage, I astound even myself at how much fun we actually have.
If you’re an active person, this is the place for you.
My Big Fat Disclaimer
This life isn’t for everyone. It really isn’t.
Some people like their suburban lifestyle. That’s fine. Stick with it.
However, if there’s even a teeny-tiny part of you that’s at least curious to see what it would be like to live in paradise, then why not try it? Try it for 30 days. It might grow into 6 months. Or 6 years.
If you’ve read this far, you now have a choice.
You can either come live the fun lifestyle OR you can continue on with your normal life always wondering what it would have been like.
Life is short.
Choose the fun option!