Tag Archives: alternative retirement

Transitioning from Tourist to Traveler

Palm trees and the CaribeanWe arrived in Cancun on September 19th and found a bus to take us to Playa del Carmen. We started out our travels in the Yucatan Peninsula because we’d been in the area before and thought that it would be a gentle way to reintroduce ourselves to Mexico, easing into the life of travel slowly, and avoiding full-out culture shock.Picturesque church Playa is small enough that it’s easy to get around on foot and the main industry is tourism so we figured we could get by in English while trying to improve our rudimentary Spanish. We also planned on attending a month-long program beginning in November that would provide us with international certification to teach English as a second language.Successful fishing trip Playa del Carmen, like so much of the “Mayan Riviera”, had undergone a radical change. When we first visited the area in ‘94 the pier for the ferry to Cozumel was the big draw with a small fishing village surrounding it.Downtown In 2001, it had grown and was worth a day trip for shopping and drinking when we vacationed in nearby Akumal. Now, it’s approximately 120,000 people and, in a few more years, it will be another Cancun.colorful building The beaches are populated with high rise hotels and pricey condo/timeshares. Tulum and Akumal, small, quiet towns a few years ago, are also growing rapidly with luxury hotels, private homes, boutique stores and more developments on the drawing board. La Casa VerdeWe found a third floor walkup, furnished studio apartment, La Casa Verde: safe and secure, inexpensive and clean. The apartment was in a mixed neighborhood of apartments, condos and small businesses. With a four block walk to the Caribbean, the rent was a great deal at $400/month. There were several markets nearby with a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, our “at home” diet, along with bread, cheese, and yogurt. However, within a few weeks of sampling the local restaurants we found that we would need to adjust some of our eating habits and remember that this was a new lifestyle rather than a vacation; our clothes were getting a bit tight…2012-09-29 12.20.22 (800x600) A few differences that we took note of between Mexico and the US cultures: milk comes in cartons and is not refrigerated until open; neither are eggs. Pictures can be deceiving. We bought what we thought was blackberry yogurt and discovered, once it hit our mouths, that it was prune. Ciruela Pasa sounds melodious but the taste…glgh! A typical Mexican kitchen does not have hot water at the sink. Toilet paper goes in the waste basket not the toilet bowl (small sewer pipes). A computer keyboard has a few different keys and lacks the @ sign. A lot of people keep roosters in their backyard which crow early in the morning but also at other intervals around the clock. The church bells ring at all hours.

Car with loudspeaker for blaring advertisements

Car with loudspeaker

There are a lot of cars with loudspeakers mounted on top advertising miscellaneous deals which cruise slowly up and down the streets blaring out various deals and music.Playa del Carmen The Caribbean is much more beautiful when compared to the Gulf of Mexico. I think we’re going to like discovering more differences…!


We lived in a water front home on the canals of north Padre Island. The island is located over the causeway from Corpus Christi, TX. It’s a beautiful place to live and retire. The house was on the Laguna Madre, the west side, and the Gulf of Mexico, the east side, was about a mile distant. The National Seashore – a massive national park dominated the north –central part of the island and provided excellent recreational opportunities. We planned on retiring there.


The economy, politics and business decisions beyond my pay grade had led me to early retirement. That did not pose too great a problem. I was busy with volunteer activities, beach combing and my island fellowship gang. Anita was a hospital pharmacist working with people she enjoyed. We had family and friends, the beach, water toys; things were good.

Somewhere along the line, in between Anita’s job becoming less satisfying and more frustrating and my growing restlessness, we agreed upon a new option for the future. We decided that we would travel. There was more to it than that, but that was the essence of it. We would travel with no clear end game, no ultimate destination, no place to which we must ultimately return.

This idea did not arrive fully developed. Anita researched it for several months – in stealth mode – before she broached the subject with me. I wrestled with the notion of possessions and how we could keep the “the really good stuff”. We both considered the option of being teachers of English as a Second Language while we travelled. But in our minds, we began to envision an alternative to our previously anticipated retirement years.

We began in August 2011 and started making up lists of what needed to be done.  We went through two garage sales, endless Craig’s list postings, shipping treasured items across country to new homes, etc. We finally got our stuff down to what we would need to travel.  We put our finances in order, leased the house long-term (still waiting for the real estate market to recover), arranged  for worldwide health insurance, addressed issues of taxes, voting, medical records, and especially, how to stay in touch with all those who are important to us.


We left our island home on September 11, 2012. The cars were loaded to the gills with “stuff”, but all of that was destined for our son in Colorado. We drove to Longmont, Colorado, left the vehicles with all that remained of our worldly goods and said our goodbyes to family.  On September 19th we took off from the Denver International Airport for Mexico. We took with us two laptops loaded with all our photos, scanned copies of documents and other important information , two kindle e-readers with extensive libraries,  two cameras, and two suitcases each.

We have no set itinerary or schedule.  We plan to not plan and follow opportunities and interests at our own pace.  In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose”.