We were sitting in a rustic, mostly outdoor beach bar in the small town of Puerto Morelos on Mexican’s Mayan Riviera sampling what the bartender promised was the best Margarita in town. The temperature was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and the ever-present sea breeze was wafting in from the Caribbean. Shore birds were circling overhead in a cloudless blue sky. From time to time, one would fold its wings tightly against its body and dive into the brilliant aqua waters to snatch a small fish from below. Only a few yards from the bar’s entrance, two men were lounging in hammocks playing their guitars and singing in wonderful, Spanish harmony. It was as if the Chamber of Commerce had staged this entire scene just for us but I knew better. This is really our life!
An hour earlier, we had walked along the shoreline, gazing into the crystal clear waters from short piers that periodically jutted into the bath-like Caribbean. This was nature’s natural aquarium with many species of colorful fish finning along and underwater gardens of multi-colored vegetation swaying in the gentle currents.
“Think back five years ago”, she said. “Living in the Caribbean wasn’t even on the radar, and now, look at where we are!”
The drive from our condominium in Cancun had taken about 25 minutes. Puerto Morelos is a small, quiet fishing community that shares none of Cancun’s dazzle and sparkle but exudes the natural, simple pleasures of the area. Some have called Puerto Morelos a sleepy little village. There are the usual gift shops along the main roads of course, as the word had begun to spread some years ago and more tourists were finding their way off the main highway. A number of expats were also now claiming Puerto Morelos as their home.
Multi-colored, hand-woven serapes hung from sale racks fluttering in the breeze like rainbows hung out to dry. Hand tooled leather purses and shoes shared space with colorful hand-painted clay pots and yard ornaments contributing to a spectacular display of brilliant hues converting the street into an exotic, colorful garden of sorts.
There are perhaps 10-15 restaurants within a 2 block area. Naturally, sea food is the specialty in many with other traditional Mexican fare offered in the others. The aroma of hot, fresh tortillas, onions and freshly grilled fish escape from doorways and blend with the warm breeze from the sea. I walked down the street with an eager upturned head, inhaling it all.
As I continued to enjoy the best Margarita in town, I realized that my wife, Diane, was right. Five years ago, our circumstances were much different and the future of our retirement was grim. We left the states in 2012 after realizing that our life as retired expats living offshore could be much better than remaining where we were. After significant research, we moved to the coast of Ecuador. Our lives in the small fishing and farming community of San Vicente, Ecuador allowed us to observe life at its most basic level; a place where our rudimentary Spanish language skills were developed through immersion as virtually no one spoke English. After two years, the need to live closer to first-world medical care rose to the top of our priority list and we moved from Ecuador to Cancun on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.
Puerto Morelos is one of our favorite places to visit and a great place for a day trip but we love living in Cancun. Our condo is situated on a strip of land with the Caribbean Sea on one side and a large lagoon on the other side. From our bedroom, we have a stunning view of the lagoon with its frequent kayakers, small boat tours of the nearby mangroves and numerous small fishing boats bobbing in the calm waters.
From the other end of our condo, we have a spectacular view of the jewel-like, turquoise Caribbean Sea. Our walk to the powdery-white sand beach takes about 2 minutes with direct access from our property.
Cancun offers all the modern conveniences one would expect from a world class destination including large malls, major shopping outlets, more restaurant choices than one could visit in a lifetime and great hospitals. Cancun is the most popular destination in the Caribbean and hosts a modern International Airport. Direct flights from Miami take about 2 hours.
When we tire of modern conveniences, we can drive to one of the many nearby Mayan ruins such as those at Tulum or we can visit one of the many cenotes (crystal clear underground rivers and pools) in the area. We could leave in the morning and enjoy lunch in the historic city of Merida with its stunning architecture dating back to the 1500s.
So, this is our retired life! I say that out loud several times each week just to be sure I’m not dreaming. Every day as we watch airliners departing in the distance, I realize that most of those passengers are headed back to a job and a life somewhere else when many of them would rather be here….where I live.
I have to go now. Maybe Diane will join me in the pool before a lunch of fresh Mango and Pineapple.