5 Unexpectedly Amazing Places to be a Digital Nomad in Mexico

Viva Mexico! We love digital nomad life here, for all the right reasons; tacos, surf, kind people, interesting culture, and chingón of things to do and places to go.

Of course, Mexico City (one of the biggest cities in the world!) and Guadalajara usually top out the list as a digital nomad hubs, but there are many other wonderful pockets of Mexico to get your grind on as a DN.

Like any country, costs, WiFi speeds and the general standard of living vary from place to place—it all depends on what kind of vibe and access you’re after. We put together a few up-and-coming hotspots for Mexico Digital Nomads to keep an eye on.

Image  Source

Image Source

Santiago de Querétero Recently touted as one of Mexico’s next DN destinations, you might want to head to Querétero before everyone else. Three hours north of Mexico City in the mountains, it offers stunning views, colonial architecture, and a deep sense of Mexican culture. If you don’t want to go get lost in surrounding vineyards and cheese makers, we will…

Pros:

-It’s safe. Known as the safest city in Mexico, crime is not big here, so although you always should be careful when traveling, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

-It’s cheap. Lodging here is VERY cheap—an average Airbnb costs only $20/night, so it’s pretty ideal for someone looking to hole up in colonial-era paradise.

Drawbacks:

-Far away from the sea. No surfing here, folks, but the weather is very mild and enjoyable year-round.

-Not a lot of English speakers. Not a ton of people speak English—your perfect opportunity to practice!

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop

Photo by Jeremy Bishop


Sayulita Ok, we might be a bit biased—one of the UU members is based in Sayulita—but this beach town is a pretty fabulous place to DN, especially if you want to surf. For one, it’s a pretty small with everything you need at your fingertips. Food? Drinks? Beachside margaritas? Check, check, check.  

Pros:

-Highly walkable. You can walk just about anywhere in this town to get groceries, buy coffee, run random errands, etc.

-Surf. If waking up for a surf sesh is your thing, choose from the left or right breaks at Punta Sayulita, Punta Mita, Burros, or La Lancha (all within a 30 min drive!).

-Affordable. Although it’s somewhat more expensive compared to places like Oaxaca, you can still get away with paying less than $200/month for your own room in Sayulita (price varies depending on where you find it, of course). We recommend staying in hostels or Airbnbs for a bit before you nail down a place of your own.

Drawbacks:

-WiFi can be a challenge here. Even at the town coworking space, WiFi can still be spotty. For some reason, Mondays are when the whole town loses Internet at once (and you’ll know—people start acting differently!).

-It’s a bubble. Read: you’ll have to drive or take the bus to Vallarta to get to a Home Depot, or any larger grocery/specialty store.

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Mérida The capital of Yucatan, Mérida is known for its safety, accessibility, and fantastic food and culture. There’s also a strong community of DNs, so making connections is a breeze.

Pros:

-Location. Flights from Miami, Atlanta or Panama City are affordable, and access to nearby cenotes and the beach are a swift drive from Mérida.

-Culture. Brimming with incredible architecture, museums, art, and delicious, DELICIOUS food options, Mérida is an ideal place to experience everything Mexico has to offer.

-Strong DN Community. Since it’s a larger city, you’ll find plenty of places to work, play, and make friends here.

Drawbacks:

-It’s hot. The closer to the equator, the closer to the god or goddess of heat. But seriously, it’s warm here—in the summer it can hit nearly 104 F (40 degrees Celsius).

-Not a lot of English speakers. Shrug. If you don’t know Spanish, here’s your chance to learn!

Todos Santos, Baja California  

Shhh… the pueblo mágico Todos Santos has been hailed as one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, but not for long. Located about 45 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas, it’s got all the laid-back charm of a hot, beachy surf village, along with plenty of art.

Pros:

Outdoor mecca. Pick your poison: surfing, mountain biking, yoga, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling, SUPing… you name it, you can find it here.

Amazing weather. Averaging 70 degrees F in the winter and 85 in the summer, it’s generally always comfortable here—even during rainy season.  

Fresh food. Right next to the sea, you can imagine the amount of delicious seafood at your disposal.

Drawbacks:

-Isolated. With only about 7,000 people, you’ll definitely be living the Mexican beach life, and have to make a drive or journey to Cabo or La Paz for access to more “exotic” grocery and clothing items.

-Not much nightlife. There aren’t that many bumpin’ clubs in Todos Santos, to say the least—you’ll find a brewery and a few bars, but don’t come here to party.

Image Source:  Pocket Gypsy

Image Source: Pocket Gypsy

Oaxaca City  Maybe it’s not so unexpected, but definitely worth touting—Oaxaca City is a fabulous base for digital nomads. Nestled in the desert mountains a few hours from the coastal beaches, there’s tons to do and see here, as well as a strong sense of culture thanks to the 16 different indigenous tribes that call Oaxaca home.  

Pros:

-Cheap, cheap, cheap. Oaxaca City, and Oaxaca, in general, is known for its affordability. A 1br studio in the center of the city, for instance, will run you about $204. Yep.

-Incredible food and culture. Oaxaca is known for its native community, art, and incredible food—you’ll find no shortage of things to do here.

Drawbacks:

-Political instability. There are many demonstrations in Oaxaca City which sometimes makes it difficult to get anything done. And it can be loud.

-Poverty. There’s a lot less opportunity here than other parts of Mexico, which is not necessarily bad in itself, but you’ll see a lot more beggars in the streets and perhaps on your doorstep.

Our CDMX location is coming soon—make it your base as you jump around these fabulous cities! Get first dibs here.

Interview: Queer Women Digital Nomads Founder Nicole Abramowski

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? When did you start traveling? Where are you now? What do you do for the moneys? 

My name is Nicole and I'm originally from the US, but have been based in Berlin, Germany since 2011 and am now a permanent resident here. So I am one of these elusive expat nomads, which basically just means I really love paperwork. I became an expat before I knew digital nomading was a thing. When I graduated college I just subconsciously knew I didn't want to do what everyone around me was doing. At the time, that was grad school, getting full-time jobs in the US with no vacation days, buying houses and starting to think about having kids. Nope. That just never fit me.

My first real travel was studying abroad in Brighton, England during college, and that year triggered [wanting to live abroad] for me. After that year, I wanted to move back to England after graduation, but they got rid of the working holiday visa for Americans my final year of college. So I Googled "how can I not live in America?" and ended up moving to Prague to teach English and get my TEFL certification. My visa didn't work out there, so I did a Eurotrip by train instead, and that's when I stumbled upon Berlin. I've been here ever since with lots of travel at different points of course!
I got my first remote job by accident. I applied to a customer service role at a start-up after being here for a few years and they didn't really care if we were in the office, so I did some smaller trips around Europe and a three-month road trip around the US. Then I got bored with that job and got a salaried job for a while as the Registrar at a small university. After two years I got my permanent residence in Germany, quit that job, flew to SE Asia for six months and started doing digital marketing implementation for work. 

I build sales funnels, Wordpress websites, eCommerce shops and online courses for badass creative entrepreneurs. I like it as it's all problem-solving and my clients thus far are pretty cool. I also run a vegan food and travel blog at Vegan Nom Noms. My business website and blog is called Unsettled Down. There you can also read my thoughts on some aspects of the digital nomad scene. Warning: I do not keep my opinions neutral, haha. There's also my story of why I left Prague and how I failed at au-pairing in Berlin on my Unsettled Down site. It's certainly been a long and windy process, as life tends to be!

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Wow! Sounds like you do it all, that’s amazing. Tell us about Queer Women Digital Nomads—why did you start building this community? When? 

When I was first learning about digital nomads, I never saw anyone like myself anywhere. It made me wonder if being a digital nomad was going to be super lonely and if I'd ever fit in. A couple people posted in some other digital nomad groups asking if anyone else was queer and voila! The first community was born. I started the community as a place for us to all meet, get advice, chat. It's been going for a few years now and I've met so many cool people from the group! You can find us here.

What are some ways you think that the digital nomad community at large could incorporate more voices and become more diverse? 

Besides the obvious need for more queer people, people of color, trans etc. nomad voices, I'd love to see more variety of jobs portrayed! Even though I do digital marketing, it seems like everyone is doing that, building an online course, managing social media or teaching English. I'd love to see more and learn more about digital nomad doctors, lawyers, accountants, non-profit workers, psychologists, and more things I haven't even heard of!

Sometimes I wonder what will happen to everyone if/when the online course bubble bursts. There are some really great and unique online courses and membership communities out there, that are very helpful. However, I also find there are a lot of sub-par copycats and people releasing stuff just because everyone else is doing it. It makes me wonder what will happen to all these nomads if the bubble eventually bursts and this is no longer on-trend. Hence why I'd love to see a greater variety of work featured, to also make it clear that you don't have to build a course or a blog to be a nomad.

That said, I'd love to see more women in tech and leadership roles and more queer nomads visible. I still don't see much of that. I am considering doing a coding bootcamp and have stumbled upon very few women developers who work remotely.

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Solid points. Are there any other DN groups/accounts/communities etc. that you think set a solid example for the traveling community? 

My favorite digital nomad community I've been to in person (besides my own queer one, hah) is 7in7. Such great people and no douchebaggery. They run a conference focused on community every year and specifically seek out women, queer and POC speakers. Online I enjoy Digital Nomad GirlsRemote Like Me and The Nomad VA & Freelancer communities.

Tell us about Nomad Misfit Month! Did you start that, too? Who's it for? Why did you choose Berlin? 

I did start that! Inspired while at 7in7 I wanted to create more opportunities for awesome nomads to meet in real life. It's basically a way to lure everyone to my home base, haha, but Berlin in the summer really can't be beat. There are already loads of conferences and such for a weekend or more short-term, intense with lots of activities. the idea of this is to mimic real life a bit more and have a less intense schedule for a longer time.

Nomad Misfits Month is for any nomads who don't feel like they fit into the mainstream digital nomad community. I chose Berlin because I am based here and know it very well!

What are your goals for Queer Women Digital Nomads in the next few months? Years? 

I don't really have any major goals besides just keeping it a great place for queer women* digital nomads to meet and find community. I'd love to be able to do some sort of in-person retreat or such at some point but thus far there hasn't been enough of a critical mass in one place at the same time. Definitely something I will try to organize myself more for the future though. A few of us will be at Nomad Misfits Month.

You can find Nicole Abramowski here:

Biz site: https://unsettleddown.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unsettleddown/

Don’t forget to join our Mexico Digital Nomads Facebook group!

Two Dusty Travelers: How to Travel Ethically

First off—the standard travel stuff. Where are you from originally? Where do you live now? Where are you going next?

I (Emily) am originally from Seattle. Aaron was born in Australia but moved to Seattle as a child, and that's where we met (many years later)! Seattle is still home base for us. Our next trip is a big road trip through National Parks in the Western US this summer - including our first visit to Yellowstone!

How long have you been promoting ethical travel? What was your first foray into traveling and working abroad? 

We've been blogging for about two years, but have been promoting ethical travel since long before we officially had a blog. We've always been passionate about traveling in ways that help, not harm, the places we visit.

My first foray into traveling and working abroad was as a college student hoping to "save the world". I spent a summer volunteering in Kenya, which led to my decision to go to nursing school so that I would have a skill that would allow me to travel and do humanitarian work. Shortly after that, Aaron and I moved to Tanzania together to volunteer for 6 months.

In the decade since then, I've participated in many medical missions and learned so much about how damaging "voluntourism" can be if it's not done responsibly. One of the main reasons I wanted to start our blog was to speak honestly and openly about volunteering abroad.

Road tripping around the US in our rooftop tent instead of flying to reduce our carbon footprint

Road tripping around the US in our rooftop tent instead of flying to reduce our carbon footprint

What do you think are the most common mistakes or misperceptions people have when it comes to volunteering in other countries? 
The most common misconception about volunteering abroad is that good intentions are enough. I have no doubt that people who volunteer in orphanages or spend a week working at a medical clinic have their hearts in the right place. Unfortunately, that doesn't prevent them from causing serious harm.

Most people are surprised to hear that many children in orphanages in developing countries aren't actually orphans. The increasing popularity of orphanage volunteering has basically made children a commodity - meaning that foreigners have created a demand for orphans and they're willing to pay big bucks to spend a week snuggling babies, so local communities will find a way to fill that demand.

In many cases poor families are encouraged to hand their children over to orphanages, where they're told they'll get an education. Instead they're raised by a revolving door of strangers, which can cause lifelong psychological damage. (This is why we don't have orphanages in the U.S.—studies show it's a terrible way to raise children.) The best solution for these kids would be to invest in programs that help lift their parents out of poverty, but that would cut foreign volunteers (and their money) out of the picture so instead these kids end up in orphanages to entertain tourists.

Medical missions also have hidden problems: Who follows up with patients after volunteers leave? Why are we spending money to fly foreigners in to treat patients instead of training local staff? Is it ethical to allow medical and nursing students to treat patients in developing countries when they aren't licensed to do so at home?

It's the responsibility of the volunteer to do a LOT of research and ask the hard questions before they ever step onto a plane. Just meaning well isn't enough. (Here are some questions we recommend asking yourself and any organization you're thinking of working with.)

What are some resources/organizations you recommend so people can be sure they're actually helping/supporting communities they visit?

We put together a massive ethical travel resource to help answer that question! There are tons of resources to learn more about responsible volunteering, cruelty-free animal tourism, how to travel sustainably, you name it! There are endless resources out there to help you no matter what aspect of ethical travel you're interested in.

For those who want to learn more about volunteering overseas, I highly suggest reading Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad. In fact, I don't think anyone should volunteer unless they've read this book first!

On safari in Tanzania, where we volunteered for 6 months

On safari in Tanzania, where we volunteered for 6 months

What would you say are 3 ways someone thinking of traveling/volunteering abroad can prepare and "do it right"?

- Think critically about the long-term effects of your actions. After you go home from your volunteer trip, what happens to the people you helped? Who continues the work? Is someone trained to repair that water pump or solar panel you installed, or will the community be dependent on foreign intervention permanently? Does bringing American high schoolers to build houses really help, or does it take paying jobs away from locals who need them? The answers aren't always easy, but if you're truly volunteering to make a difference (and not to get a cool selfie and a line on your resume) you'll want to do it right.

- Spend your tourist money in the local community. It can be easy to travel without every really setting foot in the local community. If you stay at an international hotel chain, eat at expat-owned restaurants, and take tours with big foreign-based companies, then very little of your money is actually staying in the country you're visiting. Tourist dollars can make a huge difference to a community, so spend them wisely. Seek out locally owned places to stay, eat, and play. The bonus is that you'll probably have a way more interesting and meaningful experience, and see things that most tourists will miss!

- Use social media carefully. Ask yourself: Would you want a photo like this posted of yourself, or your child, for the world to see? Volunteers often share photos while traveling that they would never take at home (like pictures of children you don't know, or photos of patients in a hospital). Also, be intentional about the story you're telling with your photos and captions. Is it something positive about the place and the people you're visiting, or are you reinforcing tired old stereotypes about poverty and helplessness? Assume that the locals you're with will see the photos you post - would you want a visitor to talk about your hometown that way? You may very well be the only reference point that your friends and family have for the country you're visiting, so use that power for good.

What countries would you say could benefit the most from tourism and volunteering abroad?

I think any country can benefit from tourism if it's done the right way! That said, I'm a big believer in visiting off-the-beaten-path places. That takes the pressure off of super popular places (like Santorini or Venice) which are suffering from over-tourism. Plus, cities and countries that are less visited can benefit so much more from tourist income. We've had fantastic experiences in places that aren't popular tourist destinations, whether it's a rarely-visited country like El Salvador, or a remote location like a safari in Tuli, Botswana.

Visiting El Salvador after Trump called it a "shithole" and we wanted to give it some positive pres

Visiting El Salvador after Trump called it a "shithole" and we wanted to give it some positive pres

How do you see travel evolving in the coming years?

I hope that travel evolves to become more thoughtful and meaningful, rather than just checking countries and experiences off a bucket list. I'd like to see travelers recognize how much power their choices have (where they stay, who they spend their money with, how they interact with locals, etc) and use that power to affect positive change. If travelers make it clear to the tourism industry that we want responsible, sustainable options that benefit local communities, then those options will become more popular and accessible!

Traveling in Mexico? Join our Mexico Digital Nomads group here!

Semana Santa in Sayulita: What You Should Know

Have you ever been “on holiday” during another country’s BIG holiday?

That’s exactly what happened to the UU team in Sayulita, Mexico last weekend. You see, Semana Santa was upon us, and that translates to one thing and one thing only: party.

Semana Santa, aka Spring Break, aka the week before/during/after Easter is a BIG deal here in Mexico, especially on the coast. It sounds sweet and saintly, but be warned—every beach town in this country goes nuts.

Usually a semi-tranquil place (okay, the Sayulita secret’s been out for a while now—tons of tourists come here), as of last week this little town switched into full-blown Mexican party mode. Here’s a bit about our experience and what you should know if you somehow wind up here during one of the biggest party weeks around.

The beaches were packed

The beaches were packed

Where did all these people come from?

It seems that every Mexican family has flocked to the beach for long, beer-filled days filled with similar sentiments: splashing in the waves, kicking off spur-of-the-moment fútbol matches, doting around abuelos (grandparents) fanning themselves under umbrellas, and general family fun time with no end in sight. With hordes of people walking into town from the bus stop, traffic becomes nightmarish and there’s not much in the way of car parking or even places to park your sunburnt self.

The beaches are packed with extended families, couples, kids, and folks from every corner of Mexico. The bustling main beach of Sayulita gets packed to the point there’s nowhere to sit, while the northern part of Sayulita (usually more chill) also gets busy.

If you keep walking north, however, you can still find some basic refuge—particularly at the “hidden” beach between Sayulita and San Pancho. The waves are a bit intimidating there, but the allure of a deserted beach all to yourself makes it worth the trek.

Beach sunset

Beach sunset

Local Strain

Despite the perception that business is booming, it seems a lot of beach vendors and even restaurants/bars shut down during Semana Santa. Why? Most families bring their own supplies for BBQ, beer, etc. The kioskos (general stores), on the other hand, are buzzing—the staff often has to exert crowd control.

There are also those ever-persistent rumors about Sayulita’s water quality. More specifically, there’s a rumor that sewage drains directly into the water where thousands of people are splish-splashing around on the daily.

Supposedly that’s not true anymore—at least none we can see (or smell), but according to some locals there’s simply not enough bathrooms to go around for the influx of people. In some cases, even water is hard to find. Those stacks of beer at the entrance of kioskos make up for it, though.

Staying Safe

Without a doubt, an influx of people comes with an influx of, well, not so great people. Transients come and go as quickly as the waves, and despite the easy comfort of this place, you do need to stay aware of yourself and your surroundings with slightly more vigilance during Semana Santa. We heard a few horror stories about this time of year, so taking extra precaution is recommended.

A few tips:

  • Don’t leave valuables lying around unguarded: ask neighbors to watch your things if you’re going for a swim, or have someone stay on shore to watch

  • Watch your drinks / NEVER accept drinks from strangers

  • Lock your doors and leave lights on so it looks like someone’s home

  • Don’t get wasted to the point you can’t make it back to where you’re staying

  • Don’t hang out in front of kioskos late at night. Stay in well-lit places

  • Don’t reveal too much about your routine/where you’re staying to anyone

  • Keep your credit cards/passport safely locked away

Are you a digital nomad in Mexico? Join our Facebook group!

As always - the food was delicious!

As always - the food was delicious!

Earth Day Feels: Sustainable Travel with Laura in Waterland

First off, where are you from and how long have you been traveling?

I was born in Belgium but I have been infected with the travel bug for so long that I consider myself more of a “citizen of the world.” I started traveling on my own for very short trips at 16 and haven’t stopped since. I left Belgium for what was supposed to be a six month backpacking trip in January 2010, and haven’t really stopped traveling since. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Indonesia for about six years now.

Amazing! How did you become passionate about the sustainable travel movement - particularly with oceans?

I grew up surrounded by a dad who picks up litter on walks and environmental TV shows like Captain Planet, Stop the Smoggies and Ocean Girl. The decision to live a more sustainable life came later, however. I had learned scuba diving that year and became increasingly aware of the devastation of plastic and fishing from seeing it firsthand underwater. I fell in love with the Ocean and nothing made more sense than protecting what I love. I participated in ocean cleanups and started using reusable items like a refillable bottle. The veganism and strive towards a low waste lifestyle came gradually after that because I kept informing myself and realizing living and traveling sustainably didn’t impair my way of life but would help save what I loved: the Ocean. I think seeing the underwater world helps people realize what is at stake. That’s why surfers and scuba divers are some of the best ocean advocates! So I would recommend to anyone to try snorkeling or scuba diving.

It truly is another world. On a similar note—it seems everyone’s jumped on the bandwagon of banning straws, but some people have criticized it as not doing enough. Thoughts on this?

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Straw bans are great! this has helped reaching so many people who may otherwise have never realized how badly plastic can injure marine creatures and seabirds. But I do believe we should not stop at straws. Bans must extend to many more single-use items such as plastic bags, produce bags, disposable take away items, etc. Some corporations are taking this opportunity to do some “greenwashing” but more and more people see through those campaigns. Over time, thanks to the initial awareness about straws, more people will keep questioning their habits and what’s normalized in our society. Public awareness and education is absolutely key in further and long-term change. The more we are, the louder our voices, and the more power we have to hold businesses, corporations and politicians accountable.

Absolutely. We know it takes a village, but what would you say are three ways that digital nomads can lessen their environmental impact while on the road?

1.) Reduce plastic use. A lot of the countries just don't have the infrastructures to deal with their own waste and it gets worse with tourism. So I would advise to travel with and use as many reusable items as possible. Even starting with a refillable metal bottle is a good first step. And skip as many plastic items as you can unless absolutely necessary. I would also go further and say that these habits need to be upheld in countries with good waste management too because, although recycling must go on, it is not a great solution now, or long term.

2.) Avoid animal attractions or products. Riding an elephant is the biggest no-no (http://laurainwaterland.com/elephants-rescue/) but it doesn't stop there. Abroad, you often encounter animal selfie opportunities or "free a bird", etc. No animal wants to perform and live among humans. They are abused so they conform. I don't recommend supporting any of these activities or buying animal products. Some things can seem harmless such as the now famous "poop coffee". However, the "luwak" (the animal) are captured in the wild, kept in tiny cages and fed an exclusive diet of coffee beans. The wild population is now at risk. Turtles are also kept in tiny tanks or killed straight away to make jewelry from their shells. These are all examples of things to avoid. Use your wits and ask questions when traveling so an animal doesn't suffer behind the scenes.

3.) Support businesses that care. Choose the eco-friendly hotel or operator. I always try to look for the companies that have pledged to do better. Check their websites and social media page before booking to see what kind of actions they are taking.

4.) I think this last point is also important but I will be brief! Offset your carbon emissions after flying. It doesn't solve the issue and we should be mindful of choosing the train when possible. However, if we must fly, offsetting should be the norm.

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Are there any top companies or or travel products you follow or admire for their sustainability mission?

I admire any company that strives to reduce their environmental impact or help others do so. I think it’s honorable and they really deserve our support even if they are not perfect yet. I recently traveled to the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand and was appalled at the plastic wrapped items in the souvenir shop but I can't help support the main project of elephant rescue, and education of other companies using elephants around Thailand and South East Asia. Lek Chaileart, the owner, is an inspiring woman and I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for her.

Do you have any big plans/dreams in the next 1-2 years regarding sustainable tourism and travel?

There are so many places I still want to go. I am planning to do quite a bit of discovering this year. Most of it will probably be around Indonesia.

To find out more about Laura, check out her website.

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