Finding Our Own Slice of Paradise in Mexico

Like many of a certain age easing their way into retirement, my husband John and I traveled to the Caribbean on vacation many times while also keeping our eyes peeled for something we could make into our own slice of paradise.

You know what I’m talking about… Our own bit of sand, surf, and eternal sunshine. A place to vacation in the run-up to retirement and then in our golden years, turn into a tropical escape from those long nasty winters, like those that slam our home near Toronto, Canada.

Over the years, we visited Belize, Roatan, the Dominican Republic from coast to coast, Jamaica, parts of Mexico, and more. You name it, we gave it a test run, sometimes several times. For one reason or another, we didn’t find the place we wanted to permanently hang our sunhats.

Then one evening in 2003 as I once again trolled the internet for that ideal tropical locale, I found it. I had never heard of this little paradise before, but the beaches and area around Progreso on the Gulf side of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula had everything we were looking for. It’s close to an international airport and the major city of Merida with shopping, good restaurants, museums, hospitals, and lots of activities. The whole coast is rich in history, Mayan ruins and culture. The beaches are gorgeous with wide swaths of white sand dotted with shells and gentle, shallow waters ideal for swimming.

And, for people on a limited budget, beach lots and homes were and remain affordable. In 2003, prices for beachfront lots started at under $40,000 and modest beachfront homes could be purchased starting at the same $40,000.

Yes, after a long search, we’d finally found it.

After several visits over two years to make sure it was right for us, we bought an oceanfront lot and started the building process. Doing it that way allowed us to get exactly what we wanted, to make sure the home was properly constructed, and we hoped that building from scratch would save us a few pesos.

Now, building is never an easy proposition, no matter where you do it. But home construction in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home, with a different set of rules and regulations, when you don’t speak the language, presented a host of additional challenges.

There is an expat mantra that goes like this: If building in Mexico was easy, everyone would be doing it. Take my word for it, few are and even fewer did when we took the plunge.

So, the adventure began. Over the almost two years it took to design and build the concrete, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom home with oceanfront pool, we made many mistakes. But as it turns out, we did a lot right, too.

The house itself cost about $130,000 to build, plus land, landscaping, furnishing, and purchase-related costs. That was many years ago, and the price of everything has since increased.

After a number of bumps—including dealing with the fallout when our builder elected to do a runner to Cancun—our winter home, called Xaman Ik, was completed eight years ago. Over schedule, over budget, and much anticipated. And while there are always things you might change when a build is completed, we think we got it very much right. Though sometimes we wavered, we never lost faith.

We spend three to four months in Mexico every winter, though we intend on spending longer periods there within a few years. We visit only rarely in the warmer months and we occasionally rent it out or loan it to friends.

We love Mexico and our Mexican home. It’s our own quiet little corner of paradise. Although there were challenging moments, building a home thousands of miles away in a completely different culture and language, and we sometimes questioned our sanity, we have never regretted it. Especially when we are sitting by our ocean-front pool, soaking up the sun, with a cool beverage in-hand.

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