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Paamul or How to Retire in Mexico on $30 a day


I retired to Paamul, Mexico about six years ago. “Where is that? Never heard of it,” you say. Well good, because I really don’t want every Joe, Schmoh and Harry to move down here to my secluded paradise. But I am going to let you in on my little secret if you promise not to tell too many other people.

Paamul is a trailer park. “Yikes,” I hear you say. “I am not going to turn into trailer trash in my old age. I managed my entire life to live in a regular house like normal folks, I am not going to live like the people on the other side of the rail road tracks.

Paamul is probably in every book that lists places where to park your travel trailer when on a trip in Mexico. That is why there are a bunch of Canadians and U.S. Americans who pull their RV trailer down here to enjoy this little secluded cove in the winter time. But, that is a whole different story. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking living in Mexico permanently or at least six months out of the year, if you can afford to keep two places of residence.

During the summer is when I like it best. When I have the entire beach almost to myself. I like it that way, because it leaves more air for me to breathe. No topless Italians, no screaming kids, just the blue, blue waters of the Caribbean and a completely secluded beach with beautiful white sand are to my avail.

I own a place about 30 yards away from the edge of the water. Yes, it is about a stone throw. My place has five palm trees with coconuts on them in front of it. Yes, sometimes I pick one, mix the milk with some rum, distilled illegally in the jungle by some locals and have a drink. But, mostly, I just sit around and enjoy the ever-changing colors of the ocean. You would be amazed how many colors a body of water can actually have depending on the light of day, the weather, the intensity of the sun, the calmness of the ocean, the wind, the waves, the season, the stages of the moon, tide and ebb, etc. It can change from emerald green to light blue to almost gray within minutes. No, no, I do not take drugs, I am on a natural high.

I am often asked by stressed out folks at home who are unable to cut that umbilical cord of the rat race because their bills are eating up all of their monthly income, what I do all day. When I answer nonchalantly “Nothing,” they tend not to believe me. “You must be doing something!” they ask me in disbelief. No, I say, I really do not do much of anything, unless you count living as an activity worth mentioning.

Before I moved to Mexico, I had a job in Information Technology and lived in Denver, Colorado. I spent countless hours in pointless meetings that regurgitated and reevaluated mission and vision statements that had been defined years ago and revised after every merger and take over. When I asked myself why I was attending them it always came down to the same answer: Because my boss liked to hear herself talk and needed an audience and I did not want to rock the boat.

Eventually, I reached the point where all the psychological counseling sessions did not improve my screaming at red lights. This is what I used to do when I was held up driving down the street. I would yell at one of those countless traffic regulating devices in my neighborhood, whose sole purpose it was to make me late or loose some more precious minutes of my day that needed to be spent in one more meeting.

I kept thinking, this could possibly not be how a life is supposed to be lived. Then a friend of mine invited me to come to Mexico to visit her. She had just bought a place on the beach and so I went. She told me to fly to Cancun and she would pick me up. Cancun, I thought, yikes, I had spend a resort vacation there, hating every minute of it. There were too many tourists, too many tourist rip-off joints, too many drunken teenagers on spring break or some other excuse to evade the age limits for drinking. But, she assured me that this place would be nothing like that. She was right.

Paamul is about an hour south from Cancun, past Playa del Carmen towards Tulum. It is before Akumal and before Puerto Aventuras, so if you drive by there, you went too far. It is right after Xcaret, the amusement park equivalent of Disneyland, but in the Yucatan.

Owning land in Mexico is difficult from what I hear and you cannot buy on the beach for at least 100 km. So what good is it to live so far inland if the reason you want to move here is the ocean. This trailer park has places for sale or you can build your own. The places for sale run between $50K and $100K and if you want to have your own build you could probably do so starting at around $25K depending how elaborate and luxurious you wanted it.

What this entails is a plot that is about 50 feet by 30 feet. This plot has to have a trailer on it because the owner pays taxes for this park based on this trailer park rate and so there cannot be permanent structures out of concrete on it without at least the axles of a trailer. Now there have been people known to circumvent this rule, by just sticking an old trailer wall on one side of their cement house to make it look like a trailer. But, from what I hear they are charged a higher rent. I am not certain that this is true and I do not want to risk the higher rent just to find out.

My “rent” on the front row is $7000 per year, it is less if you are one or two rows from the beach. As I look at it, this is not “rent” because I feel as if I own the place and am able to sell it (hopefully with a little profit in a few years). This is basically just like paying HOA fees more or less. This HOA fee entails my electricity, my water, my sewer, my trash removal, and the most important thing: my security. I know for most people this might not be such an important issue because you feel secure when you come down here to an all inclusive. But, I am a single woman and it is not the same to be at some resort or to be on your own.

The park has a guard house stationed at its entrance that is manned 24/7 by a security guard. There are usually two people on staff, one that walks around the park every hour on the hour and one who mans the guard station.
Visitors are asked to sign in and if you do not want somebody to visit you, you can tell them at the station not to let that person in. I also always tell them when I leave the park for an extended period of time, just to let them know that my palapa will not be occupied for that time period and maybe have an extra look at it. This is important in Mexico because you do not want to have your place broken into and all your stuff stolen, which happens frequently from what I read in the paper.

Okay, granted, you do not own the land. But, I really did not care to find out how difficult it is to buy land here for a foreigner and let me tell you, the less time you have to spent in an official government office here in Mexico, the more fortunate you are. You have to have a palapa roof, that is a thatched roof out of palm leaves. Because this is a turtle sanctuary and they want to preserve the more natural look of this beach is the reason for this rule, so I am told.

One day, I had a day tourist (we do have those come by occasionally) ask me where the turtles are. Some half-educated nitwit actually thought, if he took a bus out here, they would just be waiting for him. This is not a zoo and this is not swimming with the dolphins. Yes, there are a ton of turtles in this area. If you are very fortunate you can see them while snorkeling in the water during the daytime. And yes, if you are very, very fortunate you can get to witness the miracle of one mother turtle laying her eggs into the sand of the beach, but this natural wonder occurs at night time only. I have lived here for two years and have seen it twice. So you figure it out. No, if you are here on a 3days/4 night’s all-inclusive vacation, the likelyhood that you will see one in its natural habitat is zero. But, there is always Xcaret or any of the other water parks that has them in some pond, so I hear.

Xcaret also offers an excellent show in the evening that replays the actual ball games held at Chichen Itza and the fire and lights and costumes would be worth the $80! entrance fee that they charge, but I have yet to find out. The Yucatan peninsula has a very rich Mayan culture that is older than most things in Europe. The high time of their culture took place about 600 to 700 AD but there were Maya Indians living here well before then. Chichen Itza is only about an hour away. There you can find the great pyramid and several other Maya ruins. This pyramid with its four sides has exactly 91 steps on each side and then one common step on the very top to amount to a total of 365, which are the days in our calendar. They invented the concept of the number zero and that tells me that their mathematical skills and their entire culture were highly developed when in Europe in the castle of Versailles they still were lacking pluming, but lets not be biased here.

Also, if you wanted your place cleaned, the indigenous ladies charge $10-$15 for this service. The gardener is an octogenarian, Don Beto, who lives on the premises. He used to work for the owner’s father way back when they were still harvesting Chicle, which is some type of rubber that is won by carving the trunk of the chicle tree and collecting the sap in a bucket, He is willing to weed your beach or cut back your Bougainvillea’s for any small hand out. He is out there raking the leaves in the street every morning at six and sometimes when I feel guilty for having slept in, I look at him and hope fills me that I will be so physically and mentally fit as him when I get to be that old.

Back to the original idea of retiring on $30 bucks a day. Food here is a lot cheaper if you do not buy the prepared, precooked, frozen TV dinner type items. Stay away from anything that is just like what you are used to at home. Buy fresh fruit (the overabundance of different types of fruit that I had never seen before is remarkable) when it is in season. Buy fresh vegetables when the local indigenous people offer it at the mercado. Eat what the locals eat. Tortillas made from flour or corn and pasta, rice and beans and the occasional fish or chicken make a tasty meal. Beef is a little tougher than what you are used to in the U.S., but marinating does help and do try the arachera style off the grill at some place in town. Another favorite dish of mine is deep fat fried shrimp in a tempura batter. You eat it by squeezing a lime over it with fresh Mexican salsa on corn tortillas. Make friends with a local fisherman or captain. There are a bunch of yachts stationed in Puerto Aventuras and young locals man these ships, Try to buy their daily catch off them or trade them something for it.

If you figure your “rent” is about $500 per months, you can figure an equal amount for your food and expenses. So, that brings your expenses to about $1000 a months, divided that by 30 and you are at around $30 a day. Gasoline is cheaper here then in the U.S. right now, where I believe the gallon is around $2.85. And another selling point about Paamul was the fact that you can get high speed Internet here. I pay about $50 per months for satellite Internet and even though it is a lot, to me it is totally worth it. I call my family and friends over VOIP and I listen to the radio over the net because at the beach you cannot get very good reception of any local station. Since the mail service here is basically non-existent, this is my connection to the outer world. You can get a P.O. Box in a neighboring town and have your U.S. mail forwarded to it, but the last time I sent a post card from Cancun airport to an address in the U.S. it took six weeks. Just thinking about the amount of checks still being passed through the U.S. mail on a daily basis and the unreliable service here make me cringe, but what can you do. You cannot have all the conveniences of a life style and then complain about the fast lane and burn out syndrome and opt for a more relaxed way of living and then complain about missing the conveniences of the former.

I spend my days snorkeling at least once a day. I actually use it to exercise. I swim out to the reef and back, looking at the fish and the underwater world. If you are very lucky you can encounter a stingray floating through the water like a butterfly. I have seen some that were the size of a good dining room table. I have seen a spotted ray that actually had pink polka dots, a color I always thought more suitable for little girls, but he swam away gracefully and proudly. I have seen turtles in the water, mostly smaller ones.

But, on two occasions I have witnessed them laying eggs at night in the beach. Did you know, they always come back to the same beach where there are born. They might be hundreds of miles away from that beach, but it draws them like the spawning salmons up the stream. They actually shed tears while laying eggs. I had to see it to believe it because I always thought it to be an old wife’s tale. They lay between 50 and 150 golf ball sized eggs. They will spend an hour finding the right spot and digging themselves in, and another hour covering the eggs with sand before they turn around to go back to the ocean. The eggs take about six to eight weeks to hatch. The DIF (some Mexican institution to protect wildlife) comes by to mark the spot and put a wodden stick into the sand with the date on it. I also have seen the baby turtles actually leave their nest. They do it based on the moon and wait for night time and head for the water where most of them will fall prey to predators. The one I saw laying eggs was the size of a roof of Volkswagen beetle with a huge head. I think somebody said it was a hammerhead turtle. If you have ever seen a bullsnake you know what shape of the head I am talking about.

The palapas usually have a trailer that has been gutted to allow for more space, but will have at least one or two bedrooms with air conditioning.
The dining room, living room, kitchen and bath are outside, outside of the trailer that is, but still under your palapa roof. It is much nicer to eat and cook al fresco than inside your trailer. The trailer is basically only used to shelter you from the elements should the weather indeed get ugly, stormy or rainy or too hot to take without AC. You will also use it to house your fragile equipment like TV, computer, stereo, etc. I find it a perfect solution because I do like to sleep in peace away from the critters that sometimes do make their way from the nearby jungle. But, living should really be done outside enjoying the million Dollar view that can be had for just on or about $30 a day.

When I lift the head of my pillow in the morning and look out at the ocean, I see the island of Cozumel. At night I see the cruise ships with their lights and I think about the ballrooms filled with glitzy robes and decked out folks and I wonder if they are having baked Alaskan for desert. And I am thankful that I do not have to partake in organized entertainment. I eat what I want and when I am hungry. I cook what I feel like. I am not bound by dressing rules and eating times and have to leave my room because the maid wants to make the bed and the tour bus is leaving and I have a session scheduled to go para sailing. I am free to do what I want, when I want it and I have the freedom not to do anything, not to spend any money, just be.

If you think about the prize of your utilities, your water, your gas, your electricity and add your mortgage you need to make a very high monthly salary to be able to live anywhere in the U.S. Now add your food bill and your miscelleneous spending and that is not even talking about your credit card dues and your car loan. Only if you are debt free, are you able to get out of this rat race. Where else in the world can you buy a house for around $25K. outright? No mortgage. Just HOA dues of $500 a month and another $500 to eat and live on?

Only in Paamul!

6 Comments

netterfield,

I'm glad you found the right retirement spot for you. We don't have anything like Paamul in our area. Our expats tend more to be looking for a new "hometown" where they can have a wide variety of things to do. Sometimes, people want less house to contend with - but sometimes they want more. Sometimes creature comforts don't matter to people - but sometimes they do. I suspect that people gravitate to the lifestyle that suits them best. Thanks for giving us some up-to-date insight on what the lifestyle and costs are like in Paamul.
Know exactly where you are, I used to go to Xcaret through the farm and the cattle way back when all that area was paradise. I swore off Playa when the invasion destroyed its quaintness and innocence.....Maybe one day I'll go visit Paamul, I am sure I can find my way easily to your doorstep, if you let the guard send me in......congrats on such a beautifully written piece that has taken me back to the '80s in QRoo. Merry Christmas. :)
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lippincottfarm
Dec 25 2011 05:41 PM
Is this the same paradise that you are trying to sell in the classified section? Or do you have two paradises?
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MexicoSteve
Dec 29 2011 07:35 PM
Paamul is a very nice place with a great little dive shop. More of a dive club then shop. Everyone knows everyone. The south end of town is pretty much all palapas with RV's parked in or by them and the north side has some houses. At times I've gotten the "vibe" that the north and south ends of town are separate "clicks." Could be wrong just the feeling I got. There's a great little hotel there, runs roughly 1000 Mx a night depending on season. There's a decent restaurant though it's not Mexican cheap. A decent dinner and a drink will run you about 200 Mx in my experience. The beach is pretty rocky, if you go take beach booties/socks if you plan on snorkeling.
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CasiYucateco
Jan 07 2012 12:42 AM
There are errors in this article with regard to "difficulty owning land in Mexico"

Owning land in Mexico is difficult from what I hear and you cannot buy on the beach for at least 100 km. So what good is it to live so far inland if the reason you want to move here is the ocean.


As there are many people living in properties they have bought on the beach, this statement isn't case. You can buy within the restricted zone, on the beach or otherwise, and the restricted zone is only 50 km from the coasts and 100 km from any international borders.

I did enjoy the article very much and appreciated hearing about this alternative choice for people seeking something other than the usual.
I just joined Yolisto today. I love your article and am encouraged by it. Looking to retire south. Thank you,

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