In 2005, we took our first trip to Playa del Carmen. It wasn’t so much a choice to specifically go to PDC. We just happened to live close to the Galveston cruise terminal, and the ship happened to be going to PDC, and it happened to be in our budget. It was a bonus that it was a short trip, because it was the first time we would leave the kids with grandparents for a vacation. That was the extent of the foresight and planning that went into this trip. We learned two very important lessons from that trip. 1. We hate cruises. Vehemently. 2. We love PDC. We had no idea that this trip, with so little planning, would change the course of our lives and shape our financial decisions for decades to come. None of that came until much later.
I have to admit that my cruise experiences are limited to exactly two trips. The first being our trip to Playa del Carmen, the second being an all-star cheerleading competition our child competed in (and we were forced to attend) years later that docked in Cozumel. Neither of which I really enjoyed. There is nothing that appeals to me about a cruise. I did not know this the first time around, but I should have. I hate crowds. I don’t like doing the “touristy” thing. I’m not a huge fan of hanging out by a crowded pool, gambling, or group activities. Basically everything you find on a cruise. We both felt stir crazy and trapped on the ship. Once docked, we chose to explore the town on our own, rather than do a structured activity, since we felt we needed a little separation.
This decision ended up being the pivotal moment in our lives. We would not recognize this moment for what it was until far later, but talk about the “what-if” of it all the time. What if we had gone zip-lining that day? Or what if we chose to go snorkeling? Would we have made our way back? We would have fallen in love with PDC?
This decision ended up being the pivotal moment in our lives .
We had no real plan once we docked in PDC. Our cab driver dropped us off at the bus terminal near Fifth Avenue. All those years ago, Fifth Avenue extended only a few blocks and was mostly local shops and market style vendors. By 10 am, our feet were badly burned from our lack of planning and no sunscreen, and we had walked the entire length of Fifth Avenue. We found our way to a beach bar that had swings where we could sit to put on our sunscreen. In the years to come, I would amass a collection of age progression pictures of our kids in those very swings. We ended up at a boutique beach hotel with good music, lounge chairs in the sand, and a waitress that served us the best berry mojitos I have ever had. We spent the rest of the day in that very spot wishing we could just stay there and dreading getting back on the ship. We probably had our next trip planned out before we even returned home, but I don’t remember the specifics. I just know that it was the first of many trips to Playa del Carmen over the years.
Over the next decade, we traveled to PDC multiple times. Sometimes three or four times per year. We stayed at boutique hotels and various resorts. The kids celebrated birthdays in Playa, we celebrated anniversaries in Playa, went there to relax and recoup, we explored, and fell a little more in love with the sleepy beach town that was growing exponentially. It would be a few years later when we saw a real estate sign advertising a home for sale for $90,000 that we started to dream about living in Playa. It was such an abstract idea, though, even at $90,000. It was as real as planning on winning the lottery. But over the years as we dreamed about it, a shift happened. We no longer thought about it as an abstract idea, but as a reality we want to plan for. Our dreams started to formulate into plans, and almost ten years after that first trip we purchased our first vacation home, a two bedroom condo in Playa. Now, almost three years later, we are selling our condo, and beginning the process of building the home we plan to retire to. This blog is about our journey from tourists to home owners in Mexico. It’s about what we have learned along the way both travelling in Mexico and in other countries. But mostly, it’s about leaving the resort and falling in love with the places we visit.