In a couple of prior posts I have referenced the great vacation we took to Mexico in 2017 that helped spark our decision to try traveling for a year, so it seems appropriate to share details about that trip. It actually all starts with a long ago episode of House Hunters International, in which a woman was purchasing a home in which to retire in Mérida. They described the city as an artistic community, full of charm, and extraordinarily inexpensive. I made a mental note.
So when planning our winter getaway to break up the Missouri winter, I presented Chad with three options, one of which was Mérida. Even compared to flying down to Florida to stay with his parents, Mérida was cheaper. And so that was Chad’s choice.
Upon further research, I discovered that Mérida is actually a really large city. So, knowing our preferred travel style (expect a future post on “The Vegas Principle”), I found some additional places in Mexico to visit with Mérida as our main base. Of course, since Chad and I were both still in the mode of working all the time, this mid-winter break would be limited to only a week. This was our itinerary for a mid-February week in the Yucatan:
- Arrived in Mérida late Sunday night, picked up our rental car and checked into hotel. This did not go altogether smoothly, as at that time we weren’t carrying credit cards (just debit cards) and the place we had the reservation had a policy against debit cards. Happily, we found an alternative car rental at the airport and it all turned out ok. We missed the street fair we hoped to check out, but after checking into our Freda Kahlo-inspired hotel, enjoyed a nice dinner out along one of the squares.
- Spent Monday exploring Mérida, including the market, the buildings around the Plaza Grande, and the Museo del Mundo Maya (Museum of the Mayan World) to provide context for the rest of our visit. I believe this was also the night we tried Mezcal, a liquor made from agave that is like a smokier tequila. It came with orange slices, chili salt and dried bugs. Dinner that night was at a fancy Italian place.
- On Tuesday we drove to the Ek’ Balam Mayan ruins, one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, which we’d first visited in 2006 on a trip with Chad’s folks. It had definitely become more developed in the 11 intervening years, but was still not at all crowded and this time around we also came prepared to swim in its awesome cenote. After Ek’ Balam we visited the town of Valladoid for a fantastic lunch that included fresh guacamole prepared tableside.
- On Wednesday, we left our Mérida hotel and drove to the beach town of Progreso. We swam and sunbathed for a couple of hours, having rented chairs from a beach vendor. Then we went to a beachside sports bar to watch Arsenal’s Champions League match and enjoyed some lovely bar snack and a very impressive pulpo (grilled octopus). What we did not enjoy was the match, because Arsenal played terribly. I’m still not over it. From there we drove on to the walled city of Campeche.
- On Thursday we explored Campeche, walking along the city walls, touring its hole-in-the-wall museums about colonials and pirates, and walking along the sea. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner on its restaurant row, Calle Ocho.
- On Friday we were back in the car, this time headed to the amazing Uxmal ruins, which are stunning and huge. After lunch at a resort nearby, we swam in a couple of great cenotes (X’Batún and Dzombakal) off the beaten path in the town of San Antonio Mulix and made it back to Mérida in time to catch the Mayan ball game demonstration on the square and enjoy one last nice dinner out.
In summary, we had a fabulous time. The ruins amazed us, the cenotes were an experience, the people were friendly, the food was fantastic. And this whole vacation – staying in decent hotels, eating and drinking well in the best restaurants, driving to multiple cities – only cost $2,000 including our flights (which alone totaled about $700).
I happened to have a family visit planned immediately upon returning to the US and on the airplane down to visit my grandpa in Texas, I started reading The 4-Hour Work Week. The way that book presented entrepreneurship combined with the experience I’d just had in Mexico completely clicked in my brain. And that was the start.
Mexico had been incredibly affordable. If it was possible to live in Mexico for less than the United States, maybe the other places mentioned in the book were plausible as well. And before I knew it, I had convinced my husband that we should pivot our lives and start traveling full-time.