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.

Merida-town-0045.jpg

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.

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!

Introducing the Do More Than Roam Series

Why do we travel?

What drives us to be permanently or semi-permanently nomadic—rather than staying put and scheduling vacations? To name a few: the food, waking up to new possibilities everyday, the warmth of sunshine in a different hemisphere… the list goes on.

But there’s something we’ve noticed. As more and more people decide to become DNs, it creates some unique challenges; most land-bound communities have set laws and societal standards that dictate how people conduct themselves. Some have called out the DNs for being aloof to the communities they inhabit—for hijacking cultures rather than highlighting them.

Taking trains, planes and automobiles all over is intoxicating, but it can be, well, a little toxic. Many nomads already practice minimalism, but is it possible to show up in places in more ways than one? To show up for local communities, for sustainability—for the planet?

There are no simple answers. Our “Do More Than Roam” series seeks to investigate some of these tougher questions, as well as provide resources for DNs with similar interests.

Okay… we’re seriously not trying to guilt you here. We get it. Travel is FUN. If it weren’t for all the different cultures, flavors, smells, lovely people, challenges, language barriers and general spice of life, what would be the point of living out of a suitcase?

Digital nomads aren’t going anywhere, so the time is ripe to distinguish our presence in the world—in a positive way.

Some nomads are way ahead of the game.
Sometimes giving back is as simple as showing up. There’s Nomads Giving Back, started by Tarek Khaloussey in Medellín, Colombia, which places digital nomads directly into communities they inhabit or are passing through through volunteer events and programs.

Since the majority of us are already online, harnessing some of your skills as a marketer, social media guru, etc. could also create a real impact on the places you travel to. As pointed out in this Finding Beyond blog post, you can leverage some relative privilege by raising money online for specific community causes or for other issues around the world. Ask yourself—what are you good at? How you can contribute to the world?

Here are some other ways you can be a DN without being, for lack of better word, a dick:

  • Place communities and the environment at the center of your actions.

  • Learn the local language.

  • Invest in people: hire those who need a job or you can help directly with something.

  • Invest in community projects: create something for them, not yourself.

  • If you build a business, build it with the intention of helping the world at large.

  • Work towards a zero-waste/carbon-neutral lifestyle.

  • Use your skills online to raise money/awareness for locals

As our Do More Than Roam series continues, we’ll be diving headfirst into some topics like sustainable travel , eco-friendly staycations and voluntourism. What are some of your tips for being a responsible digital nomad?

By: Kelsey Shirriff

Self-care for the Win: Tricks for Health on the Road

Self-care on the Road: Tips and Tricks

It’s easy to imagine #digitalnomadlife in the typical fluffy form: mojito in hand, new faces, new places and a constant state of adventure from the comfort of your laptop. While life on the road certainly lives up to its reputation at times (wink), let’s be real—it can get exhausting. Whether you’re traveling on a shoestring or working 40-50 hours, too much of anything is, well… too much.

We rounded up some tips and tricks from nomads near and far to stay sane while you’re staying somewhere far from home.

Packing

Before you’re off to put another stamp in the passport, there are some things to add to the list. While you might not be able to control that hostel dorm mate who’s decided to wrestle a plastic baggie at 6 a.m., you can arm yourself against unwanted noise, light and general discomfort.

Remember to bring:

-Notebook

-Melatonin tablets/sleep tablets

-Earplugs

-Noise-canceling headphones

-Eyemask

-Soft sweatpants

-Your favorite lipbalm

These items might seem small, but they can make the biggest difference when you’re needing some comfort—or simply sleep.

Schedule Time

Whether it’s first thing in the morning, an entire day of sightseeing or just some time reading in bed, scheduling your self-care in advance helps you prioritize its importance.

Since travel often includes the hiccups of missing a bus, a delayed flight or the classic case of bureaucratic red tape, carving out time in your schedule to relax and reflect is crucial. If you want to handle all the bumps of the road in smooth style, having the time to take it all in makes everything easier.

Unplug and Unwind

Phones. Laptops. Cameras. Kindles. It seems like everything is on a screen these days— and it’s scientifically proven that screen lights have a habit of keeping us awake and anxious.

Unplugging from it all is an easy, natural-feeling way to refresh. Go on, bask in the glory of some time on the beach with just a good book and the sound of a guitar (the waves too). Find ways to occupy yourself without the easy flick of a thumb or typing on a keyboard—it will help you reset and power off.

Make Time to Reflect

Sure, you’re gallivanting the world, doing all the things and meeting all the folks—just make sure you take some time to pause and turn inwards. Bring a notebook. Write stuff down. Pause. You’ll thank yourself later.

And speaking of thanking yourself, why not take some time to reflect on where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going—both inward and outward? Even making a list of failures and wins can help get the hurricane of thoughts in your head a bit more organized!

Another proven way to pause is meditation. There are even apps to help you get out of your head and into that quiet space—even if it’s just a few minutes.

Meditation apps:

Insight timer - Free guided meditations + timer (https://insighttimer.com/)

Calm - Meditation techniques for sleep/stress (https://www.calm.com/)

Stop Breathe Think - Mindfulness guided meditations (https://www.stopbreathethink.com/)

Headspace - Classic guided meditation app (https://www.headspace.com/)

Physical health

It’s easy to get caught working one way or another (we’re definitely guilty of that), staying up too late sending e-mails… you get the idea. Since most digital nomads are traveling AND working, challenging themselves with an itinerary while trying to keep track of their work schedules, finding balance mentally and physically is crucial.

We rounded up a few gym apps in our last blog post, but here they are again as well as some health/wellness apps

Zeamo - International gym passes (https://zeamo.com/)

GymPass - International gym passes (https://thegympass.com/)

Global Fitness Pass - International gym passes (https://globalfitnesspass.co.uk/)

Sweat - app built with female trainers (https://www.sweat.com/)

MapMyFitness - app for tracking fitness (https://www.mapmyfitness.com/us/)

Skimble - workout app/trainer (https://www.skimble.com/)

My Water - Tracks + reminds you to drink water throughout the day (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-water-balance/id964748094?mt=8)

HealthyOut - Healthy Restaurant Nutrition Guide (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/healthyout-healthy-restaurant-nutrition-guide/id566409966?mt=8)

Food Intolerances - handy app for or peeps with intolerances/sensitivities (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/food-intolerances/id419098758?mt=8)

Self-care for the Win

In short, self-care is essential to staying healthy both on the road and at home. So go ahead, give yourself a self-hug—you deserve it!

Digital Nomad Life: Tips and Resources to Get Started

Digital Nomad Life: Tips and Resources to Get Started

So, you’re ready to become a digital nomad—congrats! No matter where you are in life, it’s exciting stuff—the flexible hours, ability to work wherever, opportunity to travel—we definitely get it.

Despite the persistent image of a DN working off their laptop from some idyllic location (usually in a swimsuit), digital nomad life still has its challenges like any other venture, especially when you’re starting out. There’s the grind to establish yourself. The uncertainties. Beyond everything, there’s logistics.

Lucky for you (and us!) there are TONS of resources out there to take some weight off your shoulders and work off your plate, plus the DN community is incredibly supportive. Everyone started somewhere—everyone. We rounded up some of the best tips and resources from around the globe to get you started as a digital nomad.

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