We get a lot of questions from you all, our fabulous readers. The questions range from the practical about living and working outside of the United States to the fun and frivolity of where to go and what to do while vacationing in Playa del Carmen to the personal about our former lives and backgrounds. I love reading and answering as much as I can, and if I don’t know the answer to something I make it my mission to try and find out. And I have realized that if one person has the question someone else might as well. So I present the first of several (seriously, a lot of questions) Playa del Carmen FAQs that I’ll post here on AWOL Americans from time to time. These questions and answers are strictly based on our own experiences so if someone else has a better answer, please do share!
How do you get mail in Mexico?
We don’t. There is a postal service here, but they are notoriously unreliable and known for lost packages and really, really late delivery. Some family and friends from the States have mailed us a couple things and the average estimated delivery time is several months – if at all. I’m still waiting for a birthday card. My birthday was in July. As a person who spent the majority of my career at Hallmark Cards advocating for (and believing in) the power of greeting cards it pains me to not receive notes and letters from back home. So if there is something of absolute necessity we rely on FedEx, UPS or DHL. For an even more cost-effective option? Mules! Anytime we hear of someone coming or going to the States we’ll check to see if there’s anything we need to send or receive. Most people around here are happy to help out.
Is it safe to live in Mexico? Do you feel safe where you live?
Look I get it. I still read and follow many U.S. news sites and if I went solely based on what I’ve read Mexico ranks up there with Somalia and Syria as one of the most dangerous places in the World, although maybe I’m not being fair to Somalia and Syria. Regardless, reality check time. Are there parts of Mexico that are dangerous? Absolutely. We specifically planned our drive down here to try and avoid some of those areas. Are there parts of the U.S. that are dangerous? Absolutely. And I used to avoid driving through them when I lived in the States. Here’s the deal, Mexico is a huge diverse country that has pockets of areas that would be deemed not so safe. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I thought this site summed up the situation pretty well with some revealing statistics. Overall the main takeaway from this site, and I quote, “unless you are involved in the drug trade you are statistically safer in Mexico than anywhere else in North America.” Just for the record, Jason and I try to avoid any and all illegal activity. There is so much more I could say about this and I might work on a longer post on this topic alone because I feel strongly about the subject. Stay tuned but for now I’ll just say this,”YES, we feel safe!”.
Aren’t you concerned about hurricanes?
We come from a part of the Midwest known as Tornado Alley. Tornado touchdowns are fast-forming, highly unpredictable and a warning, if it comes, is usually last minute. So hurricanes? Eh. We’re concerned about the damage they can cause, but so far any inkling of something serious has been broadcast well in advance and given us much time to prepare. We make sure to have a hurricane preparedness kit around with things like flashlights, candles, a route to safety and lots of water. Well and some beer. They stop selling if there’s actually a hurricane so, you know, best to be prepared.
How do you fund your lavish lifestyle?
#(&($%$. Sorry, water just shot out my nose because I was laughing too hard there for a second. Part of the reason we’ve been able to make this move to Playa del Carmen and to be able live a more relaxed lifestyle is because we’ve given up on the idea of lavishness. Together we own a business that offers website design, hosting, SEO optimization, writing and other communications services and social media planning. All of this is done online which means we can work from anywhere that has an internet connection. But we are by no means a Fortune 500 (or Fortune 5,000 or 500,000) company. We live pretty frugally. We chose an apartment that’s a bit further away from the city center because it’s cheaper. We rarely run the air conditioning. We forgo nights out and cook dinner at home. We sold everything we own for the drive down here and have avoided buying new things to replace what we no longer have. We are constantly looking for ways to cut corners and that often means making some sacrifices. We do that so we can continue to live here and work and travel on our own terms.
Where do you buy clothes, shoes?
See previous question – we don’t. There are a couple malls here in town and there’s even more of a selection of stores in Cancun which is a short 45 minute drive from us. But we just don’t. I promise we’re not sitting around our apartment naked (although sometimes it’s hot enough that we’re pretty darn close) but we’ve tried to add only necessary items. We have found that clothing is more expensive here so when we do need some new t-shirts and flip flops we get them from the States. We picked up a couple items on our last visit and if someone is coming to visit we might ask them to throw a couple things in their bag – mules! We figure it’s a small price to pay to ask them to give up some luggage space for a free place to stay.
Where should we stay when visiting Playa del Carmen?
Well that depends, what kind of a trip are you looking for? There are some AMAZING all-inclusive resorts up and down the Riviera Maya, including a couple right in the heart of Playa. I love me a good all you can eat and drink place that waits on you hand and foot. In fact we stayed at the El Dorado Royale on our honeymoon a few years back and loved every single minute (they had a pillow menu!). Having experienced several all-inclusive resorts I can tell you that they all offer luxury based on your budget and I really don’t think you can pick wrong. I’ve learned though that everything you could need or want is inside the resort walls and sometimes it’s hard to justify going off-site and exploring the surrounding area. For some, never leaving the resort is a negative. So if you’re the more adventurous type who wants to spend more time in town visiting the many restaurants and beach bars and exploring the attractions in the surrounding area then there are some really great, affordable boutique hotels in Playa such as The Bric. Or why not check out VRBO or Homeaway and find a great condo or house to stay in and truly experience living in the community of Playa?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Playa?
More Playa del Carmen FAQs coming soon, and if you have a pressing question just press send, I’ll do what I can to get an answer to you ASAP.