“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” my husband Jeff said as he paid a total of $10 for two first-run English-language movie tickets, a large soda, large popcorn, and bag of M&Ms.
The fact is, we are not from Kansas. We met in Denver, a city that I often told people is great for what it is close to. Within two hours of the city limits, large areas of the Rocky Mountains are accessible.
Cancún, Mexico is like that for me. It is a metropolitan area with everything one could desire. There are famous night clubs, shopping malls, hospitals, and an international airport to rush people around the world. It is also within a couple of hours of Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Tulum.
Isla Mujeres, where we currently reside, is 18 minutes from Cancún via ferry. The small island does not have space for big city chain stores and restaurants, but it does have room for locally owned restaurants and corner stores, all of which charge 50% of what we paid in the States.
We pay $1,500 a month for a fully furnished, oceanfront apartment with weekly housekeeping. All utilities are included, and we enjoy WiFi strong enough to stream Netflix. If we stayed longer than the high season, rent would be $600 to $800 a month. Our U.S. phone plan covers North America, so our cells work perfectly and cost no extra.
Not everything works the same in Isla Mujeres as it did back home. Now, when I put something in the microwave, it beeps once. My U.S. one repeated the noise until it could no longer be ignored. Many trivialities of our old lives behaved as if they held sway over us, and we believed them. We no longer hear such irritations over the sound of the waves.
I have spoken with people who worry that living internationally will fail them in some undefinable but undeniable way. We have not lived here long, but we have met no disappointed expats. In Denver, unfulfilled people line up at drugstores for antidepressants. Here, they wait under umbrellas for frosty refills.
Mexico, like most Caribbean countries, functions on the premise of mañana. When we spend too much time watching the turquoise sea, we determine to do the errands tomorrow. Or the day after. If it rains, it does not matter. We are not on vacation, so the few precious days allotted to us are not lost. Living here, we have every day to spend with our feet in the sand.
Americans can stay in Mexico for six months without a visa. Long-term residency is easy to obtain and qualifies foreigners for national healthcare at reasonable rates as well as other substantial discounts.
Today, we paid the equivalent of $15 apiece for the roundtrip ferry ride to Cancún, a very fair price. Our neighbors, seniors over 60 years old with long term visas, paid $1.25 apiece.
No, we are not in Kansas anymore. I can tell, because people here are wearing flip-flops and smiles. The microwave can wait. The margarita blender is calling.