Current Location: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
So here I am, sitting outside on the patio at the Airbnb that we’re staying in for the next month, and I’m wondering to myself: What the hell am I starting a blog for? Don’t I already have enough on my plate with my full-time remote job, sightseeing bucket list, and road-tripping duties? How will I have time for my other side projects? And lastly, why would anyone find my blog useful when there’s already 1,239,012 travel blogs out there, especially those written by an expat?
My girlfriend and I had just arrived from Mexico City to our first destination on our road trip. Also with us are our two large dogs: Kaiser, a haired hairless Xoloitzcuintli with a mind of his own, and California (or “Cali” for short), our goofy Rottweiler. Much to our surprise, we all somehow fit snugly with our whittled-down amount of possessions within our Jeep Wrangler. Oh, and yes, the Wrangler also has a name: Gringo.
So far, within our first few days here, Tulum has exceeded our expectations. The beach is stunning with crystal clear water and white sand. The amenities are good enough for what I need for my remote work. And there’s no shortage of restaurants to order food from; supposedly Tulum is the food capital of Quintana Roo, and now I believe it. Obviously there are some downsides that are important to note, but those will be addressed in another post later on.
A myriad of questions popped in my head, causing me to doubt my ability to maintain a blog, especially one about a topic that I’m still learning about. And yet, I’ve had at least five people reach out to me within the last week alone asking me questions about how they could possibly start living abroad. If my experience was useful for them, perhaps it’ll be useful for someone else out there, right? And without much further ado, I pulled open my laptop and started typing away.
Who am I?
I’m from a town south of Atlanta, Georgia, where people say things like “y’all” and “bless your heart” and greet you with a glass of way-too-sweetened tea. For a large portion of my childhood, the concept of traveling to me didn’t really extend beyond the scope of visiting a neighboring state. It wasn’t until my college years when I started having a growing desire to get out and see the world. And yet, I didn’t go on my first big international trip until I was 25 years old.
It was at this point in life when I realized that societal norms are unwritten rules defined by us in which (ironically) we then become enslaved and limited by, thinking it’s the right way to live life. Upon this realization, I started untangling the societal norms embedded in my plans and began doing things that felt right in my heart. It wasn’t without costs though – both literally and figuratively – and the following few years were spent defining my new course in life. However, every step taken gave me happiness that I had long desired to experience.
On the day before my 30th birthday, I walked across the border into Tijuana to get on a one-way flight to Mexico City, my new home. I was finally on my pursuit of happiness. This was a culmination of the years spent dreaming about the move, and I had finally done it.
So, who am I? I am an American expat. Mexican resident. Digital nomad. Full-time remote data engineer. Girlfriend. Dog mom of two. Queer. Proud owner of a Jeep Wrangler. Aspiring entrepreneur. And of course, finally a global citizen.
The beginnings of this long journey.
My girlfriend and I started planning for this journey in Fall of 2019. While we love Mexico City, we knew we didn’t want to stay there forever. But, at the same time, we also didn’t know where to go. So we figured, what better way to find our forever home than a road trip around Mexico? We started drawing out our planned path around Mexico, starting with Oaxaca and somehow ending in Tijuana after touring the rest of the country. Not sure how we were going to pull that off, but needless to say, we were excited about the trip.
Clearly, none of us had an idea of what was in store for us in the following months. On March 3rd, 2020, I had just signed the contract for my “new-to-me” Jeep Wrangler. At that time, national news stations were blaring BREAKING NEWS of the coronavirus outbreak at a nursing facility near Seattle. The setting seemed almost unreal, but it still didn’t foreshadow what the next few months looked like for us. Without hesitation, I left the Jeep with my parents in Georgia and flew back home to Mexico. The thought was to get back home before the borders shut…which never happened, but I digress.
A handful of long months, a new job, and one too many self-quarantine food deliveries later, we were finally on the road as originally planned. How long we’re staying in each destination is completely up in the air as we go from place to place. The ongoing pandemic will ultimately determine our path. If things start to look better sooner than expected, we’ll (slowly) keep moving around. If things start to turn for the worse, we’ll hunker down and shelter in place. And yes, we are wearing N95 masks, practicing social distancing, and relying on our Jeep for transportation between destinations. We understand that we’re pushing the limits due to our road trip, so we’re doing everything we can to mitigate those concerns.
So again, why a blog about being an expat?
Throughout my journey to becoming an expat, there were many obstacles to overcome. Was I actually emotionally, mentally, and financially ready to leave the US? How hard is it to find an apartment in a country whose language I wasn’t fluent in? Will I actually miss Trader Joe’s cookie butter as much as I think I would? Fortunately, there are communities out there that helped me navigate my life abroad, such as a digital nomad community called Nomad List, along with a handful of expat Facebook groups. However, over time I noticed that the priorities of an expat were different than those of digital nomads. And yet, my priorities were different than those of most expats due to being a full-time remote software developer, whereas most of them were retirees looking to survive off of their Social Security benefits.
Additionally, there’s this common misperception that digital nomads and expats are mutually exclusive, in that you can’t do the digital nomad life if you’ve become an expatriate, and vice versa. But the reality is, it’s entirely possible (and likely more probable in the upcoming years). For instance, in my case, I’m an American expat because I live in Mexico as a resident. But I also work remotely as a developer and travel around on the road. Does this situation present myself with some nuances that may be unique to being a nomadic expat? Absolutely. Are there challenges with being a digital nomad versus an expat, and vice versa? Also yes!
So, all in all, I’m hoping to use this platform to shed some light on the aforementioned topics. While my website will primarily focus on expatriatism within Mexico, I do hope to touch upon similar related topics (e.g., digital nomadism). I also envision leveraging this platform to help others make educated decisions regardless of where they are on their journey as an expat.
I’d love to hear what you all would like to know about my experiences. I’d also love to know what questions you may have about becoming an expat. Please reach out to me and I’d love to chat with you!