yucatan peninsula the nomad experiment
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Admitting Defeat…For The Win! Leaving The Yucatan Peninsula 10 Days Early.

Sometimes Admitting That You Know What You Need Is Enough To Justify “Admitting Defeat”

If you’ve been following along, you know that I write a lot about “embracing the fear” or how to overcome it, typically based on personal experience. My hope is that others will find some sort of inspiration in the bumbling of this idiot’s case study; realizing that if I can do it anyone can.

Putting what’s left of my pride aside and embracing my own humility to hopefully create a conversation that someone needs if the stars align. That’s why talking about cutting my recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and somewhat admitting defeat, is important. Even though it’s actually kind of hard for me to discuss.

Nuggets Of Self-Deprecation In This Article Include

“I really shat the bed on my research on this one…”
“Gee Jason, you’re kind of a dumbass…”
and
“mocking my uncertainty while slowly cementing my plans”

The reality is that it’s actually really hard for any of us to consciously put aside those feelings of pride and discuss the road bumps. Truly opening up situations that make us uncomfortable for consumption by the masses, or even those close to us, is difficult. It’s for that reason that I’ve been ruminating on how to drop this script.

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I Love Mexico! But This Time Was Different…

You can read and learn how to be able to work in locations away from “home”, remote work if you will, in other articles. Let’s put that aside and just concentrate on the personal hurdles encountered and the resulting moves that I had to make on this particular trip.

I hope this can either help you or someone around you feel more comfortable with creating and facing uncertainties. Make it a little easier to open yourself and your life up a little more to the uncomfortable. Then also understand that it’s OK (and expected) that you’ll have to adapt along the way. For, as they say, shit happens.

Disclaimer: I really do love Mexico! The people, the colors, the food, the art; everything. I’ll continue to go back. This is more about understanding that sometimes love of a place can’t overcome extenuating circumstances. Sometimes you just have to do you and cut bait!

Why I Chose A Trip To The Yucatan Peninsula, Merida Specifically, And The Backstory

When I took my first long-term trip to Mexico, I was totally getting outside of my comfort zone. I flew in on a one-way ticket to Mexico City (check out the amazing art there!) and figured out the rest from there, quite literally.

Eventually, I got on a cross-country bus (my first of that type) and ended up in Oaxaca for a week. Then another night bus got me to Puerto Escondido until I broke a rib surfing and decided to head back stateside. Checked that off the list! (The surfing, not the broken rib…) All along that trip, I was able to continue to log in and get my work done.

That trip was exploratory and meant specifically to flex my comfort muscles with different places and levels of understanding, and it did just that.

This trip to the eastern, Yucatan Peninsula side of Mexico, had a similar plan. Although this time I was to stay in Merida for 3+ weeks, again getting my work done along the way. But more importantly, I wanted to learn Spanish to feel more comfortable and be more than a tourist. To be able to interact more like a local in the future, learning the language is key.

I have a couple of friends in Merida, whom I had never actually met in person, that would also help me acclimate and be a source of help. (They rock, check them out here…) Other than that, I would stay moreso in Airbnbs and less in hostels (do you know the difference?) to make sure I had conditions good for working.

Plans For My Trip To Mexico And What I Wanted To Get Accomplished…Not Including “Admitting Defeat”

• Stay cool. I planned this trip at a time when I thought things would be cooler and more comfortable in the Yucatan; not being a lover of hot, humid conditions. Foreshadowing should have you thinking this comes into play. You would be right. I really shat the bed on my research on this one.

• Stay budget-friendly, but with a higher budget than usual to make sure my accommodations were work-friendly. (Usually $30/day in Mexico, this time I was comfortable upwards of $50/day, all-inclusive, including costs of airfare/transport for the whole trip)

yucatan peninsula the nomad experiment

This is what $5-6USD can get you in Merida…along with coffee and a liter of agua fresca.

• Find a tutor for 10+ hours a week to learn Spanish.

• Workwise, get my design done, but also shoot a few more online courses. (You can read about how I do that here.)

• Experience Dia De Muertas and Hanal Pixan

• Use Merida, Mexico as a home base and take a couple of day trips away on buses to different areas of the Yucatan Peninsula. Much slower travel than traveling from city to city over a whole trip like my earlier Mexico City trip.

Welcome To The Yucatan Peninsula…Where It’s hot…Like All The Time.

a couple of weeks before the trip I started to notice that the weather reports weren’t exactly fitting the (false) narrative I had concocted in my tiny little brain. I used my experience in Mexico City in late December and early January as a guide. I had drawn an assumption that because they share a similar longitudinal line that temps might be similar.

You might be saying “Gee Jason, you’re kind of a dumbass”, and I will happily accept that judgment.

Judgment aside, that’s how my brain worked leading up to this trip to Mexico, but it was quickly corrected. No, I hadn’t taken into consideration elevation nor location relative to large bodies of water in my understanding of heat and humidity differences.

For future reference: The northern Yucatan Peninsula is pretty much hot and humid as balls most of the year. And in this case, it is actually about the heat, combined with the humidity.

So yes, I was quite uncomfortable upon arrival, and that definitely played a part in the final demise, admitting defeat, on this trip. Oh. did I mention that very few, if any, budget-friendly accommodations in Mexico (yes, all of Mexico) have heating/AC? Now you know!

Sticking To A Budget In Mexico While Making Sure Your Digs Are Conducive To Getting Work Done

So hopefully it’s clear, I don’t actually go on “vacation” so to speak. My trips are all designed to supplant me in a new location and to work, but with the opportunity to explore a new place when the workday is done. Any digital nomad or location-independent worker will tell you that it’s a priority to actually take it slow and that getting the job done is essential.

No getting the job done? The entire plan falls apart.

So for me on this trip, I expanded my financial comfort level quite a bit. I was willing to spend more on accommodations, which I hoped would be good for working. (There’s that foreshadowing thing again…) Bumping myself up from the typical hostel to Airbnbs comes with a small increase in cost. Then finding Airbnbs in the right areas with the right amenities (wifi, good working space, coffeeee…) means a little more.

Now, personally, my daily accommodation budget was going from about $8+ a day (typical hostel dorm bed prices in Mexico) to $15-35+ a day. If you’re not yet, or may never be a budget traveler, you might not think that’s much.

But when you know you can very comfortably travel in a country on $30USD a day and you nearly double that budget, it starts to tickle a bit. Add to that a fairly Expat, touristy area where costs are 25%+ higher and things get even dicier.

What ended up happening is that my Airbnbs, which I did have to book at least a week or two in advance because of availability, simply weren’t conducive for working. One had a large 12 person table for working, but it was outside under a large common area.

Add tropical pop-up rain showers and unrelenting Yucatan Peninsula mosquitos, etc., and it’s no bueno. Another Airbnb didn’t have a table at working height. Kind of a problem when you need to work on a laptop all day.

Rolling With The Punches And Making Things Work

So with these things not going as planned the two main tenets of my trip were being highly jacked. Where I had to bob and weave was that now I would find myself going out to coffee shops or libraries, at least 2 a day, to get absolute minimum work done. (Read: spending more money…)

So now I was losing an hour or two a day walking to/from places to get work done. That 10+ hours a week I wanted to learn Spanish? You guessed it, a casualty in the war. I was smart enough to resume my Pimsleur courses on my phone while walking to and from my work spots, so I still got better at my hablo Espanol.

WATCH NEXT: Essential Spanish Phrases For Your Next Trip
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Needless to say, I was also unable to shoot any courses due to the conditions (I teach on Skillshare). On this particular trip, that was kind of a deal-breaker for me. I kept pushing it off, hoping my next conditions would allow it, but that didn’t happen. I made sure I was getting my client work done, but these personal work projects kept getting bumped to no avail.

Finally, I Had To Weigh My Options Admit Defeat…Kind Of

I checked into my newest Airbnb at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon. I had high hopes for this one since it was an entire apartment to myself with what I assumed better working components…and a coffee pot. This one was in the $25USD/night range, quite adequate for proper budget travel digs in Mexico. It also had amazing gardens and foliage all around the grounds, which I loved the idea of. I miss my garden back home…

Unfortunately what I found was an apartment that had no functional place to set up for my work needs…and an ant problem, due to the amazing gardens outside. Did I mention I was supposed to be checking into this place for a week? I immediately decided to just lay on the bed and siesta for a bit and chill out, regardless of the heat. By the way, bugs in hot, arid climates are a reality. But it does take some getting used to if you’ve never traveled to those places.

And I figured out why “siestas” (afternoon naps…) are a thing in Mexico. That heat makes you super sleepy…

Although there wasn’t necessarily an excessive amount of ants in the place, I had two venture up onto my bed and onto my body during my short, 15-minute siesta. I started to question whether this would be an issue while sleeping overnight.

Admitting Defeat, For The Win. Deciding To Book A Bus, Buy A Plane Ticket, And Leave The Yucatan Peninsula 10 Days Early

I literally stewed in that new place for 3 hours, battling my inner monologue on what to do. During that time the noisy dogs next door and the neighborhood cats added to the discussion. They mocked my uncertainty while simultaneously helping to cement my plans.

I pulled up the ADO bus schedule app, purely in Spanish, which I barely understood mind you. Then I looked up bus options for the next 48 hours. I cross-referenced with flights out of Cancun, where I had flown in, a 4-hour bus ride away. I took screencaps and circled bus times in case I needed them for reference if I decided to get the hell out of dodge and admit defeat.

Then I did it all again. Rinse, repeat, talk myself into it, talk myself out to if. The two fighters at odds were my Pride and my Brain…

My Pride argued that I had excitedly told so many people about this trip and my grand plans and that I couldn’t just “give up”, admit defeat, and go home. “You’re a big boy,” it nagged, “and you can muscle through this. Just suck it up buttercup, and never mention your frustration or inclinations to anyone! It’s only 10 more days!”

My Brain argued just the opposite. If I wasn’t getting the things done that I needed to, and conditions weren’t changing for me, that it made sense to assertively do what I needed to. “You know you, and if the things you deem important aren’t able to be accomplished, then you’re smart enough to do what you need to do…”

After about 3 hours of this back and forth and researching of options, I decided to walk down to the bus station and step closer to making a decision.

$150 Is A Small Price To Pay, In The End, For Sanity

I made it to the bus station, sat in a chair, and ran through my plan again. Yes, like literally another time. I would buy the $28USD bus ticket first, to ensure that I had a seat on the bus in the morning, only 14 hours away at that point, and then book the flight. 

That way if somewhere in between the transactions a mystical fairy arrived, flying a unicorn and waiving it’s wand of magical “everything is gonna be alright” dust, I could pass on the flight and resume my trip, only out $28.
(Yes. I need therapy. I’m very aware.)

I finally booked the bus ticket, only after confirming that I would arrive in at Cancun Airport 3+ hours before my flight. Still not 100% comfy with the nuances of Mexico Bus Travel. Then I took to Skiplagged for a “hidden fair” of only $150 to get me home later that day. You can read about that here, but essentially I was rolling the dice again to save myself over $250 off a “normal” flight to CLT with connections.

Clearly, regardless of somewhat admitting defeat, I was still comfortable tempting the fates.

I researched on Skiplagged then booked through the airline—to get the points of course—and the deal was done. It was 6:30pm and I was to be on a bus at 8:30am, then a flight at 4:30pm.

Not bad for a neurotic nights work.

The Takeaway From My Mental Breakdown In Mexico And Pulling The Plug On Plans

In the end, it honestly only cost me that $150 extra to alter my plans, and clearly a lot of mental anguish. I would have had to take a bus back to the airport at the end of my trip anyway, so that’s a wash. And technically I was heading home 10 days early, so I would “save” those travel expenses. 

I arrived home the next night, had a beer and unpacked, and was awake and already shooting my next course by 8am the next day. I doubled down and knocked the next 10 days out of the park getting things caught up. My brain, and my productivity, were in a much better place.

I also have to view the things I learned as really great information moving forward. I mentioned to a friend the night I booked the tickets back that Mexico had won and that it was a #failure. She immediately and without pause volleyed “not a failure, an experiment.”

Damn I hate it when people use my words against me!

Lessons Learned for The Next Trip

I now know, or reinforced, a few things that I can totally draw from for the entire rest of my life of travel, whatever that may look like. Maybe these will help you too? Among them:

I Reall Don’t Like Heat

If it’s hella hot, at least don’t plan on working. Save those places as a true vacation trip where I can ease my self-imposed pressure to be productive in uncomfortable or non-conducive conditions. And do better weather research.

Know The Really Important Keywords For Airbnb Research

I love the platform, but I have to search better. Start by clicking the filter option “for work” and go backward from there. Yes, the budget needs to go up, but if I can get more work done, it pays for itself

You Do You

If there’s one thing I think is really not beneficial in our current social landscape, is that people hold things in or bend to what the outside pressures convince them is important. I battled that demon here and won, but it wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy to come to terms with that.

strength quote the nomad experiment

Now To Plan My Next Trip To Mexico

Yes. I’ll go back, and soon. Maybe not to the Yucatan Peninsula straightaway though. I love learning about new places and new people. Also, Mexico is very easy for most people in the US to get to and explore, and very safe if common sense is involved.

But I will draw from this experience and be better off on the next trip. Will it go smoothly? Who knows. But you can never truly appreciate the sweet without the sour, and most easy days in life don’t result in personal growth.

In the long run, we are all stronger from a little adversity.

So go out there and plan something that makes you uncomfortable. You can always change midstream. It’s only money and time, and hopefully not too much of each if you’re being resourceful.

But more importantly, this is you, your sanity, and your growth as a human, and those are important things to keep improving on every day. The key is making sure to reflect and see how we’re getting stronger, even if it feels a lot like we’re admitting defeat, if only for a moment.

Cheers!

— Jason

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Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start with an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, or another. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. And get a yearly evacuation plan, since you’ll have to get home after your emergency! 

Need more resources? Click here!

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