I have long held the belief that:
A picture’s worth a thousand words… if there is one to see.
If not, our words can paint one—oh, so vividly.
Today, a colorful life is being painted for me in Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo on the eastern coast of Mexico. But that is not where my overseas adventure began…
I first spent two glorious years in Belize—finding the peace of mind that I had lost growing up in the midst of a stressful big-city life in the northeastern United States. Belize, with its multicultural and slow-paced environment, offered me a much slower-paced and healthier lifestyle. And that worked really well for a while…
But, after some time, I felt the need to see the other scenes around me. So I decided to step out of the picture I had painted myself into. I was also beginning to feel a little homesick and missed some of my favorite stores and dining spots—there were no real alternatives to these in my new area.
So, I took the advice of a fellow expat and traveled north of the border to the city of Chetumal—the capital of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state. Immediately, the colors already existing in my life became more alive…
At the sight of a Burger King and an Applebee’s, I felt a twinge of home. The more franchised outlets I saw as we ventured deeper into Chetumal, the more excited I became. I noticed, too, that the energy here was moving at a faster pace. Right away, I knew that I wanted to spend more time in this region and that it could become my home away from home one day.
Even though I’d been learning bits and pieces of the Spanish language throughout my life, I wasn’t able to communicate fluently. But, during each of my frequent visits back to Chetumal, I was always assisted by the bilingual store representatives or other customers. This made my return trips and the greater shopping options worth it. I also started using the Google Translate app on my phone and my experiences became more fun. On one trip, I engaged a realtor and looked around the area for a place to live, but we didn’t locate anything suitable.
Sometime later, I took a trip to visit my family Stateside and flew out of Cancun International airport. This was my first time in this city. The energy reached an even higher level here.
But, the place in Mexico that truly brought colorful highlights to my personal canvas was my trip with a friend to Playa del Carmen—fondly called “Playa.”
On the highway approaching the town, once again the scene was changed. I started seeing the entrances to beautiful resorts, as well as magnificent gardens and beautiful trees. Coming through the downtown area, I spotted an Office Depot and a McDonald’s (my safety net).
In Playa itself, the colors began to jump off the canvas. It had so many fine restaurants—Mexican, Italian, seafood, steak, and plenty local specialties.
Fifth Avenue was an adventure in itself. The hustle and bustle reminded me of New York City’s busy streets with people from all over the world mingling and enjoying themselves. All along the avenue and beyond were fabulous restaurants, local stores, and global favorites like H&M, Old Navy, Rolex, Armani, and so on.
After a few days, I headed back across the border to Belize and started packing my belongings. I knew I had found my new home. But I also knew that if I lived in buzzing Playa, I’d want to be able to go home to a peaceful community.
The following month I returned to Playa after making arrangements to have a realtor show me around. I’d given myself four days to locate a two-bedroom, fully furnished apartment in a quiet community that fit my retiree’s budget.
The realtor wanted to show me a particular place in the gated community of Playacar Phase 1, but was concerned that I might not like it because the furniture was “a little dated.”
I reminded him that I was also a little dated, and, to me, that means valuable. And this place was exactly that…
After my third day of scouting around Playa, I signed a long-term lease for the place that I’d come looking for. I paid the security deposit, and, 10 days later, I moved into my new home.
My exclusive gated community here in Playa del Carmen is just three blocks from the beach. It was built around Mayan ruins—something I believe helps the ambiance of serenity here. There are no stores located in this community… and, fortunately, my rent and utility expenses are practically the same as in Belize.
I still continue learning Spanish and I get to practice every time I ride with my taxi drivers—there’s a team of them located right outside the security gate. My neighbors are mostly expats from various countries or visitors on a short vacation.
For the most part, this painting is complete. However, I know I will continue to add more vibrant colors in this captivating place.