We’re now on our final days roaming around Mexico, so we thought it would be an excellent time for a long-overdue travel update. When this year began, we really weren’t sure what direction we were heading (both literally and metaphorically). Over these past few months we’ve really enjoyed slowing down our travels here in Mexico yet we’re also excited to look forward to our upcoming plans!
Our Fast Travel Ways Are Finally Slowing
During our first two years roaming around the world, we have been traveling at a lightning-fast pace, usually staying in most locations for just a few days at a time. This can be great for a one or two-week trip but it can become challenging to keep up this fast pace for two full years straight. Somehow, we did, and it was a blast! 🙂
Yet attempting to occasionally work remotely while changing locations every few days proved to be a significant challenge. As a result, we haven’t earned much income in the past few years, and have been living primarily off 5+ years of a dedicated savings plan combined with implementing low-cost travel strategies. But if we want to continue to travel, we most certainly need to earn some income, which absolutely requires slowing down. Otherwise our dwindling funds would dictate an end to this journey.
The Decision to Roam Around Mexico
Ultimately we decided to continue the journey, but at a reduced pace. We couldn’t stray too far from the US, as we have a few personal obligations back in the States beginning at the end of April and in early May. Nearby Mexico seemed like a convenient option, so then the question became where exactly in Mexico to hunker down for a while. As we embarked on a trip to Cuba during the final weeks of 2015, we still hadn’t decided where we would be living in 2016. With the world now appearing to be more accessible than ever, the options seemed endless.
Four months is a long time to remain in one place, particular for a couple of travelers who’ve been bouncing around the globe constantly for the past two years. We wanted to ensure we picked the right city. We had previously explored the Yucatan but had yet to visit any other regions in Mexico. We had mixed emotions about possibly going to a new-to-us location or returning to somewhere familiar. Then there were the questions of “Beach or mountains?” “City or rural?” “North or South?” We were torn.
Ultimately we decided to return to the safe-bet of Merida, capital of the Yucatan. We had spent a week there early in our travels and enjoyed it. So on January 2nd, the day before hopping on our flight to Mexico, we pulled the trigger and booked an apartment Merida. …but only for one month, not four.
How A 4-Month Stay in Merida Evolved to An Entire Mexico Trip
It felt great to be back in Merida and within a few days we agreed that we had picked the right city. Yet while basing ourselves there in January, we also came to the realization that we had nothing holding us to stay put in Merida for four months. We started to get itchy feet. Why not explore more of Mexico?
So we began to map out a few cities that were calling to us. Then we started planning some quick “vacations” to the beach and other attractions in between month-long stints living in the Mexican towns we had selected.
Ultimately our insatiable thirst for travel ended up overtaking our yearnings to stay put somewhere for a while. What had begun as an idea to live in one place in Mexico for four months had just evolved into a 16-week journey through the country, staying in a total of twelve different locations over the course of 2,272 miles during the overland trip.
Despite this evolution to a multi-destination romp around the country, it has been a much more sustainable pace which has enabled us to get some work done. Yet it’s been great to simultaneously still be able to enjoy some fantastic travel experiences throughout Mexico. Overall we’ve found it to be a great compromise between work and travel.
Roaming Around Mexico: Travel Stats
- Length of Time: 108 days (15½ weeks)
- Distance Traveled: 2,272 miles
- Number of Mexico States: 9
- Number of Beds Slept In: 13
- Place-to-place transport Segments: 12
- Buses/shuttles: 10
- Taxis: 2
- Our Travel Route: Merida => Progreso => Merida => Palenque => San Cristobal de las Casas => Tehuantepec => Zipolite => Oaxaca => Lachatao => Oaxaca => Orizaba => Puebla => Mexico City
No More Travel Recaps
In previous travel updates we usually recap the journey, but we’ve come to think that it gets a bit redundant. If you’ve been following us on Facebook and Instagram, then you probably already have a decent idea of what we’ve been up to here in Mexico. So we’ve instead decided to discuss what we loved about this travel segment and also dish out our highlights.
Why We Now Love Mexico
Mexico has been awesome. We really weren’t sure about living here for four months. We had visited Mexico for a few weeks early in our travels back in January 2014 and had definitely enjoyed it then. But we were still unsure about living here for an entire third of the year. We now have a newfound love and respect for this fascinating country.
First, lets start with the food. It’s been incredible! After four months, we’re still not sick of it! Bonus points goes to the fact that half the cuisine seems to be doused in hot sauce and/or lime juice, two of my favorite condiments! We’ve eaten our weight in tacos, moles, pozoles, tyuladas, pibil, and cemitas. These and other regional specialties have all been so delicious, whether dining in upscale restaurants in Oaxaca or a snagging a taco from a vendor on the street. And we’ve discovered that each region has their own plethora of unique dishes, so there is never any monotony to your tastebuds.
But it’s not only the cuisine that has shown its variety. The landscapes have been amazingly diverse. We’ve gone from lush jungles to barren deserts, from scorching beaches to frigid mountain tops, and from tiny villages to the huge metropolis of Mexico City. This country seems to have it all. The vast array of both cultural sites and natural attractions has left us speechless on a number of occasions. Within the same day you can see an impossibly blue waterfall then go explore ancient Mayan ruins.
And I’d be remiss not to mention the incredible value that Mexico is right now. Our dollars have stretched incredibly far and it’s been the perfect place to soften our budget. We’ve had delicious three-course meals at white tablecloth restaurants for less than the price of a Burrito Supreme Combo Meal at Taco Bell. We’ve had multiple medical visits (no insurance) for what amounted to less than a co-pay would be back in the States with insurance. We’ve scored some incredible Airbnb apartment rentals which have ranged from $400-$800 per month including everything from utilities, wifi, housekeeping, and even a weekly gardner in one instance.
Yet perhaps best of all, everyone here has been so damn warm, welcoming, and friendly. We’re going to miss that the most. We love all of the smiles, the greetings “bueno dias/tardes/noches,” and the random chit-chats which greatly helps with our struggling Spanish. We love the laid-back attitude where seemingly anything goes. There seems to always be a fun and festive atmosphere which keeps us continually in good spirits. The constant laughter of children running around and playing is contagious, and a welcomed sight instead of watching blank stares into a screen. But it’s just the genuine friendly hospitality that has warmed us the most. It’s indescribable.
Mexico is a place where it’s a completely normal occurrence to walk through a park and be invited to join in a dance party. We’re going to miss that.
We’ve loved our time in Mexico.
Superlatives from Roaming Around Mexico
Favorite City to Live In: San Cristobal de las Casas
We loved it! The mountains, the cooler climate, the hiking & recreation, the many restaurants, the friendly indigenous people, an amazing Airbnb rental, and what we thought was the best value of all the Mexico locations we traveled to. San Cristobal won our hearts and if we ever were to stay somewhere long term in Mexico again, this would be destination #1. See more about this lovely town in the Southern Mexico highlands in our full post about our Top 15 Things To Do in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Favorite Beach in Mexico: Zipolite
This 2-kilometer stretch of coastline sandwiched in between rocky cliffs was pure paradise to us. There’s a half-dozen restaurants that encourage you to sip on margaritas, which ultimately act as a prelude to a fresh fish dinner. Dig your toes in the sand as you watch a beautiful west-coast sunset sink into the Pacific Ocean. When you feel like being more active, you can have a local fisherman bring you out on a boat to watch hundreds of dolphins frolicking before he takes you to secluded beach coves. And with such a beautiful coastline that has further come to fame as a filming location of the movie Y Tu Mama Tambien, you would think it would be swarming with tourists. But we usually found the beach to be relatively secluded, aside from the occasional nudist. This is world’s away from Cancun. Beach perfection. This is a place I hope to write more about soon.
The Best Thing I Ate in Mexico (John): Chile Relleno de Tinga
Really, I have to pick one thing? All of the food in Mexico has been so amazing. I suppose if you put a gun to my head, I’d say my favorite dish was a chile relleno I ate that was stuffed with spicy shredded chicken (tinga). It was home cooked in the small village of Lachatao, and she didn’t hold back on ensuring this stuffed pepper was piquante! It doesn’t look like much from this grainy cell phone pic, but this was probably the best dish I had in Mexico.
The Best Thing I Ate in Mexico (Heather): Tacos, all of them
Picking your favorite taco in Mexico is an impossible task. They’re all muy delisioso! Cochinita pibil tacos in Merida, turkey tacos throughout the Yucatan, the newer tradition of tacos al pastor, tacos oriente in Puebla, and fresh fish tacos anywhere in stone’s throw of the ocean. Whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, the tacos here in Mexico have all been muy sabrosa!
The Best Thing We Drank in Mexico: Mezcal
Mezcal is a complex beast. It can be harsh. We came to Mexico not liking it too much. It’s complexity has grown on us and we now very much appreciate the smokey intricacies of this agave based liquor.
Favorite UNESCO Site in Mexico: Palenque
Palenque just seemed to have it all. Situated in a beautiful jungle setting, Palenque’s temples sprout up into the sky throughout the hilly terrain. You can channel your inner-Indiana Jones by climbing up the ancient structures and even inside of them. And while many of the ruins have been excavated, several of the surrounding temples remain beautifully entangled with the lush jungle that is seemingly in a slow process of swallowing the structures whole. Here’s a quick photo essay of our visit to: Palenque.
Favorite Adventure in Mexico: Ziplining Over El Chiflon Waterfalls
The video speaks for itself. This was awesome.
Most Random Thrill: Crossing Paths with the Pope
We couldn’t believe it when we found out the Pope was coming to the small town we were living in. Yet upon arriving to San Cristobal de las Casas we found Popemania had taken over land. …And it was contagious. We joined the pure excitement of the locals who gathered near the Cathedral to get a glimpse of Pope Francis and soon found ourselves face-to-face with the Papal leader. Surreal. Here’s a quick blog post about seeing Pope Francis in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
Where in the World We’re Roaming Around Next!
We write this from our final destination in Mexico, it’s capital. But we’ll soon depart Mexico City on a flight back to the US to my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, FL. But we won’t be there long.
The day after returning, Heather and I will be splitting up for a few days. While she remains in South Florida holding down the fort, I’ll be joining some friends to help celebrate a bachelor party. We’ll actually be taking a boat to the island of Bimini, Bahamas, which is only 50 nautical miles from where I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Yet Bimini is somewhere I’ve never been to before in all my years living so close. I’m really excited to discover what this tiny island has to offer while celebrating with guys for a few days.
Making an Impact in the Dominican Republic
Heather won’t be flying solo for long though. On the same day I return back to Florida, we’ll reunite to embark on a weeklong voyage to the Dominican Republic! We were invited by Fathom Travel to discover their unique concept of “impact travel.” We’re very excited to be on their their second-ever sailing! You may have heard of Fathom, a new subsidiary of Carnival, as they recently made headlines for what will be the first cruise to make trips from the US to Cuba, which will begin in May. We won’t be returning to Cuba and instead will be on a journey with Fathom to Puerto Plata, DR. What makes Fathom such a different experience is that while in port, passengers are given volunteering opportunities with locals to provide for culture exchange. We’re really looking forward to teaching English and planting some trees while we’re docked in Puerto Plata! Here’s a preview of what to expect.
Roaming Around the Mountains of North Carolina
After a brief return to Florida, we’re hitting the road for a trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina. The main reason for our visit is to attend our friends’ wedding, but we’ll also be taking the opportunity to slip in some exploration of the Appalachian Mountains and perhaps drink a few of the area’s craft beers.
Crossing the Atlantic Yet Again: Panama to Lisbon!
By the end of May, we’ll be catching a flight back to Panama which we are using as the embarkation point of what is now our fifth repositioning cruise during our round-the-world journey.
We’ll be sailing from Colon, Panama on the Pullmantur Monarch with stops in Cartagena, Colombia and the island of Saint Maarten, before ultimately disembarking in Lisbon, Portugal. This is the cheapest repositioning cruise we’ve snagged yet. After taxes and port charges, the entire 13-day luxury cruise came to $320 per person including the drink package!
Update: here is our Pullmantur Monarch Review.If you’re curious to know how the heck we find these unbelievable deals, check out this post, What is a Repositioning Cruise, and our detailed and recently updated post on How to Find a Cheap Repositioning Cruise Deal.
Settling Down in the South of Spain
If you’ve been following us since the early days of our travels, then you know that Spain is one of our favorite countries. So after exploring Portugal for a few days, we’ll be returning to Spain! We’re currently mapping a quick jaunt through some Andalusian destinations we’ve yet to explore, before ultimately returning to a slower pace again. We’re eventually going to hunker down in Spain for at least a full month, taking us to late July.
While in Mexico, we’ve noticed that we’ve been enjoying rural areas more so than the cities. And we’ve been favoring the mountains to the lowlands. So instead of basing ourselves in Barcelona, Madrid, or San Sebastian, we’ve chosen a tiny old Andalucían village of Bubion (population 315) way up in the country’s highest mountain range: the Sierra Nevada. We’re really looking forward to spending the summer months in our rural home in the South of Spain!
On a side note, if you’re a friend of ours and happen to be traveling around Europe this summer, come stop by our village where an empty spare bedroom awaits your visit. Sangria anyone?
After Spain, we’re not entirely sure where we’ll be roaming. We’ll be returning to the US by late October, which gives us about three months of vacant plans. We have a few very different ideas and we’ll be spending the next few months vetting out some of them. We’ve always wanted to go to Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet Iceland & Greenland have also been beckoning us. We’ve been considering a trip down to some of the Balkan countries or perhaps going a bit further east and venturing into Central Asia.
Like I said, we have some very different ideas that we’re considering. And maybe we’ll head in an entirely different direction altogether! Wherever we end up roaming, we’re very excited about continuing this third year of travel!
As always, thanks for following along this journey! Your moral support means the world to us 🙂 Until next time, happy travels!
Although we have been travelling on and off for four years we had never heard of a repositioning cruise, so this has really excited us (me).
As we are currently in Mexico we too are looking at the Pullmantur cruise from Panama to Portugal (with what looks like an extra stop in Antigua). It is currently priced at $398, before taxes and tips. In your experience will it come down in price, (current January, sailing 10May) and how was the cruise? We have never cruised, I’ve read some reviews that say the food choices are a bit repetitive, and advice would be great.
Thank you Jackie
John Widmer says
Overall it was okay and I’d recommend the Pullmantur cruise, particularly at the $159 price we paid. But do know that taxes and tips added over $300, so you’d be paying about $700-$800 per person, which is still pretty good considering all that you get, but it does weaken the cruise’s value. Still it’s one of the few cruises I’ve seen with open bar, which is really nice if you like to enjoy a few cocktails, which are otherwise very costly on cruise – so if you’re a drinker you can easily drink back your money’s worth 😉
The cruise definitely provides for a good time, however, the ship is not without its faults. We’ve been spoiled to have been on about a dozen cruises (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Celebrity, etc.) and this 3.5-star ship did not live up to the same standard of previous ships we had been on. The food was just fine but don’t expect anything like filet minion or lobster that we’ve had on other ships. We didn’t find the food was too repetitive, but we’re not too picky about eating.
If you’re using the cruise as an inexpensive way to get to Portugal, I’d recommend it. Cabins were adequate and the food was good and plentiful. The ship overall is nice for what you pay and you’ll get to see some cool islands along the way. But if you’re looking for the full-on luxury cruise experience, you may want to consider another line, because Pullmantur may not deliver. …just my 2 cents.
Will this cruise come down in price? There’s no telling – it’s a gamble. It may go up, it could come down. There are lots of other repositioning cruises to Europe that depart from South Florida that are nicer and WILL definitely drop in price over the next few months, so consider those too. You might be able to find a nicer ship for an overall cost that comes out less than this Pullmantur cruise. (Although last-minute airfare from Mexico could add to your costs.)
Thanks for your reply, greatly appreciated, what do you do about travel insurance? We took out insurance for our trip when we left the UK, but now we have asked them about returning on a cruise they have said, “no way” and buying cruise insurance but not starting the trip in the UK also seems impossible, I don’t know if it’s just UK insurers that are so difficult or whether you suffer from this too.
John Widmer says
Hey Jackie, sorry saw this a little late. Am not sure about travel insurance. We usually recommend Roam Right for cruising but they only insure for the US 🙁 I’d have to imagine there’s some UK insurer that covers cruising, but sorry I don’t know. Anyways, we have finally posted are big review of last year’s Pullmantur Repositioning cruise, so just wanted to post the link here if you hadn’t already seen it.
No worries, our problem isn’t so much finding cruise insurance, it’s that our current insurance doesn’t cover cruising and booking cover while already away is very difficult. I have found somewhere that will do it though.
It’s now just knowing how long to hold our nerve for before booking!
I saw your article come up on the Facebook feed, great article thanks, very informative. Only thing that really put me off was the library, and that was due to horrible guests not the company!
Pete T says
Great update. I just got married in Punta Allen, Mexico last week! Looking forward to reading about your next adventure. Carry on friends!
John Widmer says
Ah, that’s right! So cool! I hope you both had a fantastic wedding in Punta Allen. I can only imagine it had to be beautiful and magical. Still itching to make it there ourselves one day. Enjoy this new adventure in your lives! 🙂
Although I am FAR from an experienced traveler, I absolutely fell in love with the people in Mexico. Very friendly, always willing to help, surprisingly tolerant of my broken Spanish…I loved my trip there.
The fact that the food was AMAZNG didn’t hurt, either!
Excited to hear about your future travels! Xox
We can certainly understand how you found yourselves loving and staying in Mexico. We did a similar thing during our first year of nomadicness. We had planned to start in Mexico and venture down into Central America but we fell so in love with the country (and the cost of living) tat we spent 8 months there with only a short venture into Guatemala and Belize. In fact we loved it so much that we plan to make Mexico home for a few more months this winter.