I’d been taking a break from writing my blog from Cozumel, but all things must come to an end. Especially when I read something that sparks my attention, grates my nerves, and practically begs for a rebuttal with a different perspective. The article that managed to do all this pertained to “affordable retirement in Bali.” This particular piece was discovered online and, due to my own retirement experiences, caught my eye. Bali has many of the amenities that I sought before coming to Cozumel. Exotic location, tropical foliage, delightful sunsets, and friendly locals surrounded by a welcoming ocean just on the other side of white, sandy beaches. So, imagine my surprise when I read further only to discover that the author’s idea of affordable was a mere start-up cost of a land lease for $50,000 usd and an additional $350,000 usd for building (not including rental fees while waiting for the finished product), along with a monthly average of another thousand for upkeep, meals not included.
I have to admit, my idea of affordable is quite different. Of course, my idea of living might be quite different as well. I’ll give you an example. The above photo of a pool surrounded by palm trees is, I am happy to admit, not mine. It belongs to a salmon colored hotel located on the main drag called the Barracuda. A lovely place located right on the ocean complete with umbrella tables and a sundeck, and it is a great location for watching the cruise ships pass by. Both photos were taken by me doing exactly those things since it is where I have often gone for breakfast. Several times a week I am able to eat some good food at a reasonable rate and then swim in an idyllic setting under said palms, but without the cost, or the hassle, of upkeep. These are the kinds of “compromises” I have decided I can live with to be here on the island. Let me give you a few more examples from a life spent searching for bargains.
I rent an apartment. It is about five blocks from the ocean, in a quiet neighborhood, next to a beautiful church, and catty corner from a park. It has a large, rooftop deck with an overhang that includes a couch and table that the landlord left for me. But, I’ve been happily filling up my deck with some foliage and furniture of my own including the obligatory hammock and a lovely little outdoor set. So far I have spent about $250 usd for everything including the plants and could, if I wanted to, throw a party for eight comfortably. But, for now, I just spend many an evening relaxing outside while listening to the songs of devotion that are just loud enough to make for true ambiance. My biggest concern is whether or not I will paint the cement top, or just throw down an indoor/outdoor rug. But, I’ll get to that later, or not.
Inside my home one would find a sizeable living room/dining room combination, a small, galley style kitchen, a large bedroom, a bathroom, and another smaller deck out back that I use for laundry purposes. As a single woman, but with dogs, I don’t need much more space. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Kerouac who once said, “if you have a rug, you have too much.” After all, one can only sit in so many places at once, yes? But, still, it is my home now and I am content with the size and enjoy furnishing it without feeling as if I need to follow traditional suburban guidelines. In other words, my comfy chair is a lounge chair with a pillow. But, what a chair it is! I can lay back, sit upright, extend my legs, or not, and all without the fabric that might become hot in the tropics. The cost? $560 pesos, or about $40 bucks usd. Put a plant behind it and I have no trouble remembering that I now live on an island.
In the middle of my room I have a hammock stretched across for easy access. In fact, I went on such a hammock spree that I bought four within the first few weeks so that I would always have one somewhere. The only problem was that I had less “somewheres” than I had hammocks. I let that frenzy die off. But, I digress. In the dining room area I have another table and chairs for indoor eating. I found the set at a store called Mega here on the island and it was below a hundred dollars (again, usd), which is, for me, quite affordable although it only seats two. It was just too lovely to pass up, and, I’d decided, if the time ever comes when I have more to seat for a dinner, I’ll buy another set. At these prices it isn’t difficult.
The kitchen is small, but it works for me. A sink, counter, two burner stove, microwave, blender, and coffee pot take up much of the available space. Food stuff goes underneath, plates go above. I may not ever need to buy that table for eight since cooking for more than four might be difficult, but I can still make a mean pasta dish and have room left over. Just another one of those little compromises I’ve learned to accept.
The bathroom is a nice size. It came complete with high shelves that I immediately filled with plants. In addition to the commode and sink, it has a large, newly tiled shower that has several windows, which helps the room to be filled with light. A touch of color here and there and it is all that I’d ever need. Again, none of these measurements would impress many, but I’m not out to impress and I don’t live in my bathroom. Give me a clean, and pretty, environment and I’m good.
The bedroom is an important room for me and I don’t like to shortchange myself. As a writer I like to have an alternate environment in which to work if the weather outside isn’t cooperating. Since the landlord provided me with a bed, all I needed was some decorative touches and a bit of furniture. Tables that can be of multiple uses are important and I decided to go with a few footstools. The table for my television was also important because I wanted it to be able to hold my decorative pillows at night. Yes, I actually think of stuff like that. A taxi driver I’d become friends with, Jaime (taxi 11), has been a wondrous informational resource for such things. When I told him what I was looking for he immediately took me to a friend’s place of business. I was able to custom order exactly what I needed down to the type of wood, stain, and varnish. It was ready two days later and cost me just under a hundred dollars. It is also the nicest piece of furniture I now own. Throw in some fabric for the windows and, most importantly, a lounge chair cushion for a doggy bed and the room is now complete.
My point to all these details? Let me ” sum up” my life in pesos, then dollars. This apartment costs me $3500 pesos a month, which includes all but electric. My electric, food, and very minor extras such as my morning breakfasts at the Barracuda then comes to approximately $3,500-4,000 pesos a month. Add my medical insurance, any vet bills, and an occasional dinner out and I am living reasonably well for about $10,000 pesos……………….that is $719.00 usd monthly with the current exchange rate! In fact, I live so “reasonably well” that I decided I am worth that gym membership at the EGO for another, outrageous but worth every peso, fee of $700 pesos a month. All total including a membership at a modern gym with air conditioning? About $780 usd a month, again with the current exchange rate, which comfortably fits within my lowly teacher’s pension. In fact, the $1,200 per person that is required by Mexico to obtain an FM3 is more than enough to live on, if one defines living through ways other than just money. I guess the biggest factor was realizing that I’m not on permanent vacation, I’m home, and I therefore spend accordingly.
I guess my point is this: there is the dream and there is the reality. I don’t live in a fancy home mostly because I cannot afford to, but I can freely walk down to the ocean whenever I want. The sunsets are the same for me when I stand on the beach, the birds sing just as much for me on my rooftop. I can also enjoy shopping at an outdoor market that has just about everything, listen to local music for free on a Sunday night, and walk my dogs in a quiet park every morning. I sip coffee on my deck while listening to church bells and water my plants in the evenings while my pups play. Yes, I may not eat steak every day, but I’m certainly enjoying the local cuisine.
Finally, my “startup” cost was nothing more than an airline ticket and a month of cheap rent. Has it all been ideal? Absolutely not! I’ve had to pay some dues as those of you who’ve read this in the past know well. But, it has all been worth it and I look forward to years of bliss, as well as reality, on the island of Cozumel. Salud!