- Kara Landau, 34, founder of Uplift Food, moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, from NY in January 2021.
- On a six-month visa, she loves that she can walk on the beach every day and make friends with expats.
- This is her story, as told to freelance writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The pandemic had me itching for change from my New York City homebase.
As an Australian, New York winters have always felt brutal to me, and without the opportunity to visit home this year and with the stressors and intensity of working from home all of last year, I felt I needed to get out of the city and place myself in a calmer, warmer environment near the ocean for my mental health.
I selected Playa del Carmen, Mexico, simply based on geography.
I’m the founder of Uplift Food, a prebiotic functional snacking brand that has a range of plant-based, keto-friendly products designed to support gut health.
At the time, I knew in order to continue to run my business at the critical stage it was at — between managing the team, launching into retail, introducing two new product ranges into the market, and being in the middle of a capital raise — I needed to be in a similar time zone as the East Coast of the US (Playa del Carmen is only a one-hour time difference).
It’s only a four-hour flight away and offers a six-month tourist visa option. There was no application in advance — I just arrived and made sure to have an outbound flight booked to show that I wasn’t going to overstay the acceptable time frame. I was able to book a flight on New Year’s Eve 2020 and hop on a plane 10 days later with my puppy.
I’d visited Playa del Carmen for a few days quite a few years ago on a holiday, so I knew the town a bit but not very well. I knew it was smaller than Cancun, but allowed for you to have a town and beach together, which I found attractive, compared to a place like Tulum that’s split and where you would need a mode of transport to go between your residence and the sea.
The quality of the home I’m living in is drastically higher than my apartment in NYC.
I’m living in a renovated, modern, and bright complex with a rooftop pool a block away from the beach.
The cost of living as a whole is significantly better, and food in general costs significantly less. As an example, my large build-your-own salad, which would cost $14 in NYC, costs $5 here, or an authentic, huge platter of fajitas and ceviche, which would cost around $25 in NYC, costs around $8 here.
Massages range from $10 to $40 for 90 minutes versus over $80 in NYC for an hour — which is a life luxury that’s been very beneficial during such a stressful time.
I’ve been able to continue my regular working schedule without any issues.
Some days I work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., whereas others I’m still at my computer at 10 p.m.
There have been a couple of days when the power has gone out and as such, the WiFi stops, too. This hasn’t been ideal when I’ve had investor video meetings planned and had to make do on the little phone battery that remained so I could still quietly be in my apartment without background noise. Beyond that, it’s been pretty smooth sailing, thankfully.
The locals and expats are friendly and welcoming, and the clear blue sea is a calming environment to be exposed to every day.
I’ve loved being able to get up before sunrise, go for hour-long walks with my puppy along the beach before the world wakes up, and start my day in such a relaxed and centered way. I’ve been able to enjoy a pace of life that’s often only saved for vacation.
Restaurants are open with outdoor dining and people are set up with their laptops to work. I’ve worked from my apartment most days to be more COVID-19 cautious, but simply being in a space that has sunshine pouring in through the big sliding-door windows, without buildings surrounding you, has been invigorating in itself and sets the tone for my work day.
I haven’t encountered any drawbacks.
I don’t speak Spanish, so I suspect that may be seen as a limiting factor to some, but given it’s a tourist town in general and there are a lot of expats, you can certainly get by speaking English.
If you’re not a fan of hot weather, I also suspect in the coming months as it approaches summer that could be a turn-off to some.
Otherwise, it’s really been a very easy place to call home, and somewhere where you can make your life as you please, be it having alone time in nature or being social and participating in activities.
There are ways to connect with like-minded individuals for exercise groups, day trips, yoga and meditation workshops, and more.
Originally, I joined a Facebook group for women into fitness in Playa del Carmen. From here, we all were invited to join a WhatsApp group so that we could get more real-time updates on events and meet-ups.
A Canadian girl was hosting an event for a small group of women to come together with a few different hosts to take part in a range of activities for the afternoon, such as yoga, meditation, intention setting, Reiki, sound bowls, and more. I decided on the morning of the event, “Why not just go? You never know how it will go — just have a different life experience!”
At this event, I connected instantly and couldn’t stop laughing with another young woman who’s originally from Germany. We exchanged numbers and invited each other to various activities, such as private group catamaran trips to see some surrounding islands and beach clubs, as well as went on beach swims and grabbed dinner on Friday evenings together.
I will have to come back to NYC at some point given visa requirements, but it’s been eye-opening to know that a life like this exists.
This could be a great option for me going forward in the winters while I’m based in the US (I still have an apartment in NYC) to break the year up.
Make sure you live in alignment with who you are and be honest about what you need. For so long, I tried to push through what was needed for me from others and for my business, but at the end of the day, nourishing your soul will lead to better outcomes across the board and leave you feeling far more joyous at your core.
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