Did you read Mexico article #1? If not you can find it by clicking here.
Since Vonda and I are interested in living in such a wide variety of places we are always considering many different places to live. The plan is to move to a new place each year for the next ten years. I am writing this so we can discuss our thinking a little bit. We didn’t want to just experience places as vacationers but as residents; albeit temporary, and as participants in our communities. We want to take the time to make new friends, actually know new areas and adjust ourselves to the rhythm of life as we find it. A year is a necessary compromise between depth of experience and variety of it. A year gives us exposure to all the seasons, the festivals, the migrations and a multitude of other things that operate on a perennial cycle. A year also gives us a fair chance to see many different countries and ways of life without rushing too much.
The criteria we use to select places are personal only to us and anyone looking to do similar things might have a completely different set of goals and criteria. Even though we might have different goals and aspirations we could wind up in many of the same places. Great places are like that – they have so much to offer people of different lifestyles that they become meccas to people searching for what they see as good. I will discuss Vonda and my criteria later but please know that it is changeable, subject to finances, stage of life issues, political climate, family and even whimsy. We know there are no right answers. With limited lifespans we know we have to make choices and compromises. One compromise we are not going to make is to just sit in place.
Before I get to criteria I want to make clear that the one thing that we are immediately discounting is “conventional wisdom”. In contemporary America it seems that many people’s “convention” is sitting at home in an easy chair looking for sources to confirm what they already cling to as their “wisdom”. It also seems to hold that those with the strongest opinions about a place often have the least amount of information and what little they do have is often culled from the narrowest of sources. That is not to say that we don’t listen to differing opinions, but we do our own homework and we do our own individual plan.
Another thing to bear in mind is that there comes a point where in order to move forward – you have to really begin moving forward. Research is great and necessary but at some point doing research can become a crutch for not doing anything. You can never eliminate all of the unknowns and fear of them can become paralyzing. We personally find that in some ways you can also crush the spirit out of an adventure by becoming too familiar with your subject. There is huge joy in to be had in finding things through serendipity.
So what are we looking for as we run toward “Life Part II”? First off we want places that will challenge us, expand our comfort zones and contrast strongly with what have become accustomed to. We want places with a sense of community, an interesting environment and plenty of outdoor activity. Ideally it would be populated by a variety of open minded people that are curious about the world and willing to independently form their own informed opinions. We want to meet people that listen to reason, learn when new facts are presented and embrace a certain “joie de vivre”. Also, all things being equal we like warm climates, spicy food and optimistic people!
Correspondingly we also want a certain amount of infrastructure. Weaving our own clothes, hunting for every meal and digging latrines is not for us; at least not at our home base. We want some of the things we are accustomed to. Running water, (not necessarily on the grid) electricity and reasonably stress-free ways of getting groceries are required. Internet service, simple restaurants and roads that don’t require four wheel drive are desired. An international airport less than a few hours away, competent medical care and a little night life would be a sublime.
Weighting all of these factors but ignoring a few we have picked Xcalak, a small fishing village near the Belize border in Mexico as our number one stop. We chose it for its rich history, diverse culture, warm climate, beautiful beaches, acceptable cost of living, smiling people, easy but not too easy access, delicious and widely variable food. Mariachi music, moonlit strolls, SCUBA diving, fishing, cenotes, tropical birds, Mayan Ruins, rum drinks, warm tortillas and Margaritas don’t hurt. I does have all that but to be perfectly honest, in the end we just went with our untested instincts because we like the feel of the place.
Xcalak is located on the Xcalak National Reef Park just south of the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. Just a few miles off shore, rising from over 3,000 foot waters is the Chinchorro Banks, part of the world’s second largest coral reef, a ship graveyard, pristine diver’s paradise, migratory bird refuge and our new front yard. Among the things we will have to contend with are sand on tile floors, water from a cistern, mosquitos, the occasional scorpion and no heating or air conditioning. Overall to us that seems like a pretty small trade off and a good place to get our feet wet as we begin our adventure.
We are going to learn to speak Spanish, the history of the place and to the extent possible try to blend in with the local culture. We will be learning to shop for and cook with local ingredients and perhaps even learn how to harvest coconuts. There are plenty of opportunities for travel and sightseeing in this remarkable corner of Mexico. Because we are in an area that is off the grid there is little light pollution and an amazing opportunity to study the night skies. I am excited about being able to take my photography to the next level. I am also very interested in learning underwater photography, learning to play guitar and improving my writing. Oh yeah, did I mention that I intend to do a bit of chillin’. Vonda can’t wait to paint the landscape from the roof and whatever new tropical birds we discover. She is also very excited about volunteering with the local school to help teach art classes.
We expect it will be hard but, after one year; we are going to pack it all up and move on to someplace new. There are so many great places on our tiny planet and we want to experience in depth as many as possible. Will we come back to Xcalak one day, perhaps to live permanently? Maybe!
We are still weighing to possibilities for after Mexico. Currently on our ever growing “short list” and in no certain order is: Croatia – Ecuador – Portugal – Australia – New Zealand – Argentina – Belize – France – Nicaragua – Honduras – Italy – Vietnam – Thailand – Romania – Greece – Columbia – Bulgaria
Is our list special; absolutely. Is it unique; yes. Is our list uniquely special; not really. There are THOUSANDS of places that are unique and special just waiting to be discovered. SEVERAL of them could be perfect for you. It is our list, it is incomplete, flexible and you can’t have it! But please make yourself one based on your circumstances, your dreams and your desires. We reserve to right to change our mind on any of this for any or no reason at any time and so should you. We see that as freedom. If we wind up in the same places, and I suspect we will from time to time, we look forward to meeting you.
Please share your thoughts and ideas with us as we move through this adventure. We read all the mail we receive would like to be able to use it as a gauge of what you are interested in, new places to consider and a source of tips to share with other members of “the tribe”. Thanks for indulging us with your time as we move through to “Life Part II”.
To follow our travels and experiences please provide us with your name and mail and we will send you stories and lots of pictures as we travel along…
About the Author: Jonathan Look, Jr. has along with his wife Vonda recently arranged his life so that he can pursue his passion for travel, photography and writing full time. He believes that awareness is the first step in teaching others to be compassionate and as a consequence is especially interested in using his photography to help impoverished peoples, endangered cultures and ecosystems. Jonathan is available for assignment work and can be reached at through his website…