“When I was 11, my mom brought me to a small fishing village in a tiny cove, just south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico,” says Sara Moen. “We stayed for six weeks and at the end, I informed my mom that I was Mexican. She laughed and said, ‘No baby girl you’re from California.’ I responded defiantly that I was Mexican…but she just didn’t know it yet.”
Decades later, Sara lives in the ultra-chic, beach paradise of Playa del Carmen. For the last 15 years, she’s called this cosmopolitan city on Mexico’s Riviera Maya her home, and has no intention of leaving anytime soon.
“I am an early riser and usually start my day with chai tea and a swim or maybe a run,” says the Californian native. “I have a much less stressful lifestyle here, and there are good business opportunities. I love it here.”
“The people of Mexico, especially those here on the Yucatan, are the most humble and wonderful people I’ve ever known,” says Sara. “I really love the food, too. My favorite restaurant is called Hartwood. It’s in the jungle in Tulum a bit south of here. It’s an amazing place; no walls, no electricity. The menu changes every day and everything is cooked over a wood fire by amazing New York chefs.”
“You can live a nice life here with a modest income,” says Sara. “You can find amazing low-cost, local food in small, family-owned restaurants all over Playa del Carmen.”
Last November, Sara turned her passion for food into a successful business idea.
“I’m happiest when I’m in my kitchen creating new recipes,” says Sara. “I love cooking for friends with some good wine. I’ve recently started a beef jerky company. It’s a snack food Mexico wasn’t familiar with yet.” In less than a year, Sara says Charki Jerky is breaking even and has recovered 50% of her startup capital. Currently she’s planning an expansion.
But Sara’s life in Playa del Carmen is filled with much more than beef jerky.
“I’m also a huge fan of adventure and exploring,” says Sara. “I’ve been to over 50 cenotes (pre-historic, water-filled caves which have formed underground) in the area and to lots of ruin sites across Mexico.”
Sara also loves to help out in her community, assisting two-legged and four-legged residents, alike.
“I worked with local animal rescues for many years, as both a foster carer for dogs waiting for adoption, as well as helping to fundraise and promote,” says Sara. “I also assisted the local fire department by helping raise the funds necessary for equipment upkeep and purchases. At the moment, I’m the surrogate mom to three rescue kitties who only have three working eyes between them.”
Sara says she’s never been happier than she is here. “I have a solid core of friends here—most of them are local business owners from all over the globe. After almost 15 years here, Mexico is absolutely my home and I truly love it here!”
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