Oct 2019: Monthly Travel, Expenses, and Income Report - Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, Mexico!

This month was Mexico! I spent a week in Cancun for the Nomad Summit, then came down to Playa Del Carmen, and have been checking out this potential digital nomad hotspot since. I've always wanted to try basing myself out of Mexico as it's in the same timezone as the US, a short, easy flight, the weather is warm year round, and I love both Mexican culture and food. I've heard a lot of great things about Playa Del Carmen as both an expat and digital nomad hotspot, and on paper it's perfect. With low costs of living, incredible food, decent infrastructure, super easy visas, and a good international community, Playa could very well be the Chiang Mai with a Beach that everyone's been looking for.

I'll get into life in Playa more in my full blog post after I spend a solid month or longer here, but for now, I want to recap the month's travels, the costs of getting and staying here for a month, and how that compared to the amount I earned this month while working online. Read this month's travel, expenses, income, and goals update, and Viva Mexico! (Long Live Mexico!)

Travel Updates

My flight from Vegas to Cancun took off at 6:05am on October 1st, which meant that I had to wake up at 4:30am to get to the airport. Even more insane is that I was scheduled to speak at the Playaprenuers Panel that evening at 7pm, knowing I would get in just an hour before, and with little to no sleep the night before, have to speak in front of a room of 40-50 people. Some of you may have had the bright idea to stay up all night until the flight, and to just sleep on the plane. And although that sounds good in theory, it's always turns out to be a terrible idea. So as difficult as it was to say no to another night of partying, I instead went to the Wynn buffet at 7pm, ate a ton of food, then passed out by 10:30pm, giving me a full 6 hours of sleep before heading straight to the airport for my flight. I slept on the plane as much as I could, then again on the hour bus ride from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen, and actually arrived at the talk really well rested and ready to go.

I wanted to come to Playa both for the talk, but to scope out and check out the city before bringing people here after the Nomad Summit. I stayed at Selina PDC for two nights and started organizing the calendar of events for the after trip, then stayed at Selina Hotel Zone Cancun for almost 2 weeks after. It was a perfect place to host the conference (read the recap here) as it was a huge resort with a great pool, the convention center, beach, restaurants, and nightclubs within two blocks away. Also it was actually quite nice to stay at as a digital nomad as they had a great coworking space, a quiet library, and even a cinema room.

After the conference ended, a ton of people stayed around to travel together, cowork, and hang out, starting with a day at Isla Mujeres, which might be the nicest island I've been on anywhere in the world. After that we all moved down to Playa Del Carmen and did a ton of day trips like a day at the Mayan Temple called Chichen Itza, the Cenotes, and also a day trip to Tulum. Here's a video of the highlights at those places plus a really cool highlight of what you can see at night in Playa Del Carmen, check it out!

Day trip to Chichen Itza

Scuba Diving in Mexico

I checked out some of the diving spots here in the Yucatan Peninsula where we are and from what everything I've researched the diving in Cancun is decent, with the highlight being the MUSA Underwater Museum which is actually in Isla Mujeres. Playa Del Carmen is known for their Cenotes, which I plan to do next week, and also their Bull Shark Diving, but the season runs from November - March and hasn't started yet. There's also Manta Valley 60 miles (96km) away from Cancun which is currently difficult and overly expensive to get to.

Other than that, at least in this area, the best diving in terms of clear water with good visibility, nice coral reefs, and a decent variety of fish life has to be Cozumel which is just an easy 40 minute ferry ride away from Playa. So far I've been twice, once with the Nomad Summit Cancun Crew where we had 40 people on the boat, then again just yesterday when my cousin came to visit. The first trip was organized through Selina which was the only way we could get that big of a boat to fit everyone, and made for a really fun day. And yesterday's trip was on a small 6 diver maximum boat with ScubaTony that is a company I highly recomend here. It was the most professional service and best equipment I've seen anywhere this side of the world, including the Florida and Hawaii, and I got to meet Tony himself who is a super cool guy.

Here's the video of all of us scuba diving and snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico with the Nomad Summit attendees and crew.

Scuba Diving trip to Cozumel

Expenses for the Month

I knew that Mexico, especially the touristy parts of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen were going to be a bit more expensive than living in Thailand, but I've been actually pleasantly surprised on how affordable a lot of things are. Everything I've seen is cheaper than it would be in the US, so right there it's already better, but some things are a bit expensive compared to the the average salary of $843 per month. For example, a monthly SIM card is $25 a month for 6gb of data, which is still cheaper than the US, but almost double what it would be in Thailand or many parts of Europe. Housing is also expensive with the average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in the city center being $675 a month. Sure you can get something a bit further out of town, or a studio for less than $400 a month, but if you're like me, you'll want to live within walking distance of the restaurants, bars, cafes, coworking spaces and clubs of 5th ave, and also be within a 10 minute walk or short bicycle ride to the beach.

For food and drinks, it's funny as the prices vary tremendously with just a 2 block radius of where you are and the type of bar or restaurant you're in. Last night a friend wanted to eat at a nicer looking sit down restaurant but after looking at the menu and realizing everything was $18 or more, meaning that it would be a $30 meal after everything which is almost US prices, I suggested going down the street to a local spot instead. For 1/3 of the price we had beers, shrimp burritos, and some amazing chips and homemade salsa. That's basically been my theme for my entire trip here so far. There are tons of really nice sit down restaurants and trendy looking places to eat or drink on 5th ave, but instead, I've been much happier eating at the local spots just a few blocks up the road. 

As for getting around, even though taxis are cheap here, at usually $2-$2.60 per ride anywhere in the center, I've been mostly walking or taking a Biciplaya bike, which I signed up for a year's membership for $22 during their promo. It's an awesome shared bike service with stations every two blocks in the center and rides up to 30 minutes at a time are free. The only downside is the bikes stop working at 11pm, which means I usually have to walk home or take a cab from the bars. But overall, life in Playa Del Carmen has been relatively cheap for a fantastic quality of life, amazing food, and being so close to the beach. 

It's been a conscious choice to save money by eating at local taquerias where tacos are 15 pesos at 80 cents each and having $1-$2 beers somewhere local rather than splurge at clubs. Instead I've been spending my money on things that really matter and either make myself, or the people I love around me happy. Things like treating friends out to drinks and food, or even buying my buddy Chris a new Macbook Charger when he got his bag stolen. I love living frugally, but it really comes down to ROI on happiness in return. I am 100% happy eating street tacos, so eating at expensive places doesn't give much if any ROI as often the local ones are better. Spending $100 to cheer a friend up when he's having a terrible day, to me is the best ROI you can spend, especially when it's something they actually need and will use everyday. It's the same reason why I give my parents $1,000 every month, the missing money in my bank account hurts, but the joy it gives them and the peace of mine is incredible value in happiness. 

Selina Hotel: Collaboration 
Airbnb in Playa Del Carmen: $538.65 (1 month)
Electricity: $30
Cell Phone Data: $40 (8GB ATT Go)
ADO Bus Cancun to Playa: $11
Taxis: $35
Rental Bikes: $22 (for 1 year) 
Ferry to Isla Mujeres: $17 (roundtrip)
Scuba Diving: $120 (2 tank dives) 
Chichen Itza trip: $60
Gym Membership: $33.92 (Evolve)
Massages: $40
Food and Dining: $375 (80 cent tacos, $1 beers) 
Drinks and Parties: $50 ($2-$4 cocktails)

Macbook Charger: $102.40
Money to my parents: $1,000 (retirement)

Total Expenses for September: $1,230.57

*decrease from last month's $3,319.94 

Biciplaya Shared Bikes

Amazing local 80 cent tacos

Everyday is Taco Tuesday here

Income from October

My main focus for the past 7 months or so has been planning on the Nomad Summit Cancun event, and ideally it would have been profitable enough to pay me for that time. However, I've always known it's a gamble to take the conference somewhere new and that it wouldn't necessarily pay off. Nomad Summit Las Vegas last year barely broke even and ended up making just enough to cover my hotel and local travel there, but people loved the conference so much and were really happy that we had one so close to home that I knew I had to try it again. The good news is that the Cancun event had a lot more people attend and the partnerships with Selina helped keep costs down a bit, but at the end of the day, having four staff members working on putting together the conference, promoting it on social media, through paid ads, and outreach, even paying them part time ended up being such a big expense that the conference ended up being run at a -$7,618.97 loss this year.

We'll try to make that up in the next event happening in Chiang Mai January 2020, but either way, I'm super fortunate that I'm able to continue putting on these events because I have other streams of income to offset my living costs. Even though this month's income was super low and the worst month I've had in years, I'm not too stressed about it. I know that if I want to be able to continue to do passion projects and be generous with my friends and support my parents, I'll soon need to start another profitable business and get back to working on another stream of income. Right now most of my income comes from investments that I made when I sold my previous dropshipping stores and the profits I made from them. But I only count the interest and dividends they make monthly and not the gains on paper. So technically the value of my index funds grew by $5,954 this month, but it's not something that I count until I sell it. Speaking of which, I recently sold 50 shares of Facebook Stock (FB) that I bought at $57.73 and sold for $204.15. I didn't include it in my previous income reports so I've added the screen shot here and will add the $7,320.86 in realized gains to my total for the year but won't include it in my total income for the month. 

I would like to have more monthly earned income, but I'm honestly a bit hesitant to start another dropshipping store because I know how much time and effort goes into it. I know I can make $2,000-$5,000 a month in net profit by following Anton's Method again, but I also know it'll take 40 hours a week for the first 3 months to get it up and running before I can hire out the day to day tasks. Right now i'm only a partner in the stores that we built as a team so my cut is only 30% of the profits, which I split with my team, leaving me with just 15%. The goal for these stores is to sell them after 12 months of consistent profit for a big payday, but until that day happens, I don't have a large monthly income from them. But some of the stores are doing pretty well, they're just not consistent yet. Here's a screenshot of one of the dashboards for the month to illustrate some of the income I have coming in. 

 Total Income: $3,105.33

*decrease from $6,238.21 last month

Income from one of the dropshipping stores

Income from my Index Fund Investments

Profit from selling FB stock

Overall Thoughts

Everyday I am grateful that I don't have to go to a 9-5 job and stress about bills and money. The best decision I ever made was moving out of the US and living cheaply as a digital nomad. Instead of spending $1,200 or more a month on rent back home, I'm now spending that exact same amount on my total costs of living and travel combined! My second best decision and what really funds my lifestyle today is investing all of the money I made when I sold my dropshipping stores a few years ago, as well as when I was saving 75% or more of my monthly income instead of spending it. It was those two things combined that has allowed me to now have around $1,700 a month in completely passive income just from interest and dividends, not even counting the money I earn from the equity growth which usually doubles that amount.

Putting in the hard work for those four years bootstrapping in Chiang Mai from 2013-2017 really set me up for life, and it's something that I highly recomend everyone do. If you want to know exactly how it all happened, read my book Life Changes Quick as it goes into all of the details in full. It's now allowed me to spend 7 months putting on an event that technically lost over $7,000 but created hundreds of thousands of dollars in value for the people who attended in the knowledge shared and the connections made. It also created the foundation for us to do the event again here next year which will then hopefully be profitable.

I know it all sounds a bit strange, but when you get to a place where you don't have to stress about money each month, as you know you'll eventually make it back one way or another. You can be happy that you're providing value in the world, creating jobs, and really helping others even if you take a $7k financial hit temporarily. I'm so grateful for the people I've met in the past who have helped me get to where I am today, and to be able to share it all with everyone else.

Taken in Tulum, Mexico

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With love from Playa Del Carmen,

Johnny FD

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Post a Comment

  1. Hey Johnny, I've been listening to your podcast for years. Mexico looks like a great place to stay for a while, especially for us Brits as there's a 6 month visa. Enjoy your time there, Sam :)

    1. Thanks Sam! Glad you enjoy the podcast and I hope you like Mexico! Make sure you check out the latest blog post just about Playa Del Carmen:

  2. Hi Johnny useful post as always, your dropshipping and index funds seem to be doing well.

    I was wondering are you still invested in art of fx.

  3. Hi Johnny useful post as always, your dropshipping and index funds seem to be doing well.

    I was wondering are you still invested in art of fx.

  4. Let me know when you're ready to sell stores!



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