By Lauren Macintire | Borderless
My husband and I have lived in Cozumel, Mexico for the last three years. We moved for my husband’s job, but not in the way you might expect. He is a professional online poker player, a job he’s had since 2007. In 2011 the U.S. government shut down online poker, leaving professional players like Mike with the choice of either changing careers or leaving the country. Like many others, we became “poker refugees.”
We came via plane from our hometown, Auburn, Alabama. We’d never visited Cozumel before, unless you count driving around Google Street View, which we actually did quite a bit beforehand to get to know the place. Before we left the U.S., we put a few belongings in a small storage unit and gave away or sold the rest. Everything that we brought with us fit in our luggage. We also brought our two dogs, who came with us on the plane. (Incidentally, we have picked up a third dog while living here.)
We are on Mexican tourist visas, which is what everyone visiting Mexico gets. This type of visa does not allow us to legally get regular jobs here. We have to leave Mexico for at least 72 hours every six months to renew our visas. This requirement is almost never an issue because we visit family in the U.S. frequently and every year we go to an event in New Hampshire called the Porcupine Freedom Festival. We can renew the visas indefinitely, and we know people who have lived on tourist visas for many years.
Though moving here has had it’s challenges, it has been one of the best decisions we ever made. Here is my list of the top challenges and benefits of our move to Cozumel, Mexico.
Challenges of moving to Mexico
Miss family and friends in the U.S.
Financial support. It’s works best if you work online, are retired, etc. I’ve also seen people come here and start successful businesses.
Can’t find all my favorite products.
Isolation. I recommend coming with a partner or friend and/or connecting with other expats.
Delivery services not as good. They’re slower and a lot of things won’t ship to Mexico.
Can’t have guns.
Less prosperity around me. In general people here are poorer so stuff is not as fancy.
Benefits of moving to Mexico
Legal online poker.
Inexpensive Housing. We live in a much nicer place for less money since moving to Mexico. Our 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment is three blocks from the ocean and close to downtown for 6000 pesos ($356 USD at current rates) per month. Some friends recently stayed in Cozumel for a couple of months in a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment two blocks from the ocean and even closer to downtown for 4500 pesos ($267 USD) a month.
Low Prices. If you are paid US wages and live like a Mexican local, you can save a lot of money.
Natural beauty. I love living near the ocean. We go snorkeling at least twice a week and we walk down to the ocean every evening for sunset.
The Mexican people. They are super nice and welcoming.
Mexican culture. It’s really fascinating.
Safer than living the U.S.
Simpler lifestyle. For example, we don’t have a car. We just walk everywhere or take a taxi for a couple dollars.
Caribbean water. When the sun is high in the sky, the water is the most bright blue and turquoise you’ve ever seen. It’s crystal clear, which makes you just want to jump right in.
Lenient immigration requirements. The governments of most countries make it hard to move there. For example, you basically have to be rich to move to Canada.
Opportunity to practice Spanish. But really only as much as you want to. You could get by in tourist towns like Cozumel with little or no Spanish because so many locals are bilingual.
Family and friends eager to visit. Who could blame them?
Safer from cops. Just by nature of being a tourist. We’ve had exactly zero police interactions in the three years since we moved here.
Visit home easily. Because Mexico is so close and there are plenty of flights.
Life is slower. As the locals say, it’s “tranquilo.”
Easy to get a bank account.
The Riviera Maya. Killer day trips or mini-vacations to places like Coba, Chichen Itza, Tulum.
Cheap labor. Much easier to afford services e.g. handyman, maid, nanny, muralist, gardener.
Not exposed to U.S. media. There aren’t TVs everywhere with news pumping nonsense into your eyes and ears. You can keep up with it online, of course. Personally, I couldn’t pick Bernie Sanders out of lineup.