A Travellerspoint blog

Setting up a home for only a month

Home sweet but temporary home

semi-overcast 74 °F

We knew that setting up an apartment would be different than staying in a hotel. The main difference is that we have a kitchen. Our goal is to cook many of our own meals and only eat out extravagantly every couple of days.
The kitchen we have is equipped with dishes, pots, utensils galore. The previous tenants even left some basics like salt and oil.
So this means we must trek off to the store to fill in the blanks.
Now, I'm used to taking a car to the grocery store. That means buying big economical packages and not worrying so much about how this package will open and close best because I have tupperware at home.

Here are my wise observations to pass on to the next generation:

  • When your list says 'sugar'- remember how much you would actually use in a month.
  • Measure your apt sized fridge shelf height, before you ponder the milk containers.
  • and finally...When you carefully select the cheese with the ziplock slider side, DO NOT let your husband open it!

We have a nice little one bedroom in the heart of the tourist area. Fortunately we face the back of our building and our kitchen balcony faces an inner courtyard filled with trees and early morning birds. We also have access to a rooftop deck. During the day, our rooftop deck gives a glorious view of the ocean and a sunrise. At night, the stars are on display. Unfortunately, the roof also exposes us to the construction crazy Fifth avenue and the sounds of sawing and banging are heard during working hours. It so happens these hours also tend to be beach hours, so we're not crying. For us, it all balances out. Our gym is down the block and it comes with a beach club membership. That's our big daytime activity. And it is only steps away.

Same rooftop, different directions

So, if you are thinking of setting up in a place far away, ask about the 'current' state of construction and the sounds that you will be embedding in your mind's memory. Sometimes in the heart of all the activity means, well, in the heart of all the activity!

Playa Del Carmen is booming and construction is rife. Last night, we took a walk north to the more 'traditional' place we stayed last year. It previously was an older full block complex of low rise hotel units. Today it is all boarded up and ready to be bulldozed to make way for newer taller retail and housing courtesy of an East Indian investor. In fact, the streets and quaint shops we saw just last year in the area of 5th and 34th have begun to change drastically. Talking to a street hawker, we learned that Akumal, the place we went snorkelling to see turtles has experienced a breach in the coral reef. This has resulted in rougher waves in the lagoon, stirring up the once clear aquarium like conditions. So sad that our footprint in discovering this paradise is having such devastating consequences.

Posted by travelDIAS 05:40 Archived in Mexico Tagged shopping construction development grocery Comments (1)

How does one rent an apartment in a different country?


We've vacationed in Mexico - but it has always been with a fairly enclosed and isolated situation.
The first time we went to Playa Del Carmen was a cruise stop in Cozumel and a land excursion to Tulum.
I remember getting off the Ferry and being welcomed by a bar called Senor Frogs. "All you can drink all day $10 American (one 24 hr period). The year was 1997 and the fishing village was just that. Roads were dirt and we walked past a few stands with crafts for sale but little else.
I was charmed - but not sold.

In past years, we have seen the village turn to a town then turn to a city of 200,000. Day trips while staying at all inclusive resorts eventually morphed into a "12 day in-city stay" where we spent the days wandering the streets and connecting with the locals at the community centre. These were hard-working happy people. The city was struggling with growth but really working to meet the challenge. We were sold.

Spanish is their native language and all efforts to connect at their language is useful. My husband's knowledge of Portuguese helped with the spanish. I started on a Rosetta Stone program.

We first started by visiting a local real estate agent who advertised English and showed long-term rentals on their window.
Initial conversations seemed promising and we moved to email after we returned to Canada.
I am a cautious spender and had a lot of questions to ask.
This did not go over well with the agent. She suggested we go to an all-inclusive and stopped our conversation.
HMMMM. Time for a different approach.

Air BNB is a good place to start - but can be pricey. Expat papers and advertisements had offers - but what reference? Trip advisor has some good advice - but it has become a bit of a tourist push that may not be as useful as it once was. Expat forums and magazines can be helpful. Sites like Mex Connect can be hard to find. So I started to look for blogs by past travellers. I found one for Wandering Earl. 14 years ago, this guy headed to Asia for a post grad trip. He hasn't gone home.
If I was his mother....

Anyways he referenced an agent while he was in PDC and then I looked her up and found other references from other fairly seasoned travelers. That's how I started looking for her site. http://www.rentingplayadelcarmen.com/
So far so good. She welcomes questions and seemed to be quite open to pros and cons of the places she offers.
I appreciate the detail of her answers and she does get back to me quite quickly.
Deposit Payment made through Paypal makes for some traceability. The fact that we don't need to pay for actual rent until we see the apt provides me with some semblance of security.

So far so good. We arrived, the apt is real and we are not sleeping on the street!
In fact, the apt is all it was represented to me and very faithful to a mexican villa rather than the modern looking apt we passed by. The agent met us, showed us all functions and glitches and promised to be around if we need her.
Conclusion: We have not been ripped off.
Sub-Conclusion: IF we haven't been ripped off at least once today, is it possible that we are not yet on vacation? More on that musing on a future post.

Posted by travelDIAS 08:30 Archived in Mexico Tagged rental apartment long-term Comments (0)

Getting the paperwork in place

semi-overcast 53 °F

Life is getting really busy with work and tucking the yard away for the winter.
It's a blustery day and difficult to get much done outside.
Time to start making a list and getting as much done ahead of time as possible

One thing that I've noticed people don't do is register their trip abroad with the Government.
In Canada, we have http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration
Registration enables the Canadian Government to reach you in case of an emergency abroad, such as an earthquake or civil unrest, or inform you about an emergency at home. I've noticed that the new technology also will send a text message on the day you arrive to let you know about any issues in the area you are travelling.
I will also get the contact information for the Canadian Consulate agency in the area I am travelling to.
We get to print a business card of contact info. Print it and get it laminated to carry with your wallet.

I will also be notifying my charge card company and bank of my travel plans.
It is really scary to have your accounts frozen up while you are away. This planning can avoid such a thing.
Plus they can place flags for activity that looks out of the norm.
Nothing worse than to have info stolen and used in such a way that you don't have access to your own money.
They can advise you of techniques to identify legitimate withdrawals.
I won't say - because each person comes up with a different idea of how to do it.
Each financial institution has different notation capabilities.
Just know that it is worth the effort for the peace of mind.

After all, getting away is supposed to be about peace of mind.

Posted by travelDIAS 04:18 Archived in Canada Tagged mexico pack plan prepare consulate notify_authorities bank_access Comments (0)

Making a housedress

rain 44 °F

I've learned why the Arabs wear those flowing robes in the desert. It is very cooling.
So when facing the heat of a southern climate, my choice is a long loose dress.
My favourite style is a past the knee skirt with a button up front and a good sized pocket.
Of course, despite all my searching, this style of dress is not necessarily on store shelves.
So a visit to the sewing store is in order.
This is the pattern I bought. It has sleeves -this scares me because sleeves are hard.
I've always done sleeveless. But having gotten sunburnt drives me to add a bit of protection.
The material I picked is super lightweight cotton.
Time to get out my tools.
Cool electric scissors - oops where's the adapter cord? Ah, kitchen shears will do , won't they?
Measuring tape - mine seems to be missing the first three inches. Well, if I use only that, it will be consistent.
Pins with heads. Yes I have pins.
9:30 am - time to get going.
As I begin, I am reminded of Mrs. Fenske my grade 7 / 8 Home Economics teacher.
She emphasized planning and good preparation before starting a project.
I remember having to stretch and square fabric before cutting it. Reading the instructions ahead of time.
They don't teach that class anymore. Too bad. I actually learned basic skills that have gotten me through life.
By the way, I didn't remember all the details of Mrs. Fenske's admonitions until well into it.
Yep, I wish I had.

The challenges start when laying out the pattern. Butterick shows 115 and 150 cm layouts. My material is 130 cm wide.
No problem, I had purchased extra material and am thankful for that. I used it all up.

After I layout and cut the pattern pieces I have realized my first big mistake.
The pattern shows buttons - but they are decorative!
Time to bank my head against the wall....
That helped...
So back to the drawing board and piecing scraps together to add a front section to overlap and put buttons and buttonholes on.

Buttonholes are not that easy either. Always a good idea to practice them before you get to the real thing.

Eventually, I figure it out. 6:30 pm

That'll do.

Posted by travelDIAS 04:46 Archived in Canada Tagged cool clothing prepare wear sewing Comments (0)

Practicing Retirement

- the planning begins

overcast 46 °F

This morning, a thin sheen of frost covered the windshield of the vehicle that I carelessly left outside last night. It's time to remember to put it to bed in the garage each evening.
The garden flowers have mostly died or frozen and the gladiolus that showed promise have been cut short of a full bloom. This is life in Canada.
After last years winter from the pit of Hades, many of my co-workers are beginning to express their trepidation at the looming monster we call winter in Northwestern Ontario. I feel the cold seeping into my bones already.
In fact, I have removed my office heater from storage and placed it in a foot cozying location under my desk.
But this year will be different.
After flitting away for 1-2 weeks at a time to escape the cold, this year we will be PRACTICING RETIREMENT!
That seems like a grand statement for a one month vacation. But we are on a 5 year plan to ease ourselves out of daily work and test our sense of what we will be doing with ourselves outside the bind of employment.
Now I know that those of you who know Fernando think he is already retired. He claims it. Having businesses does clear up your schedule when you have good people in place who know what they are doing. But we are taking this a little further. Life on a dime kinda further.
We have rented an apartment in Playa Del Carmen. This means not an all inclusive. But a place with a kitchen and laundromat. It is fairly close to the heart of a town about an hour south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula.
I am so excited and very ready to leap into learning Spanish and walking everywhere.

So one of the first steps was to dust off our travel blog and get things started. There are a few of you who claimed to want to live vicariously through it, so here's your chance to subscribe and travel along with us. You might want to check out are trip to Africa to see what you might be in for. We hope to entertain you and ourselves along the way.

Posted by travelDIAS 16:48 Archived in Canada Tagged mexico planning retirement Comments (0)

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