Los Cabos, Mexico - Nov 2019: Travel, Income and Expenses Report - San Jose Del Cabo vs. Cabo San Lucas

This month started in Playa Del Carmen and although I liked it a lot, it was more or less what I had already written about in the past two blog posts. However the second half of the month was a completely new experience for me. I flew from Cancun Airport to Los Cabos and went from the south east of Mexico, all the way to the opposite side on the north west, in Baja California.

My expenses this month were a bit mixed as as you’ll read in this month’s update, I did a lot of really cool things ranging from diving in cenotes to surfing in San Jose Del Cabo, staying in a baller ocean view condo in Cabo San Lucas, and ending it on a 10 day liveaboard scuba boat in the Socorro islands where I am now. This month normally would be been over $10,000 easily if I was a standard tourist, but if you’ve been following along my journey, you’ll know that I’m not the one to blow budgets like that. Keep reading for this month’s full update.

Where I Traveled

My time in Playa Del Carmen was a great one. My cousin Jacob came to visit me for the first week of November and we had a blast hanging out, getting drinks, going out for Mexican food, hitting the beach as well as scuba diving. I took him back to Cozumel as I had some really incredible dives there, this time going with Scuba Tony which was a super professional and friendly dive operator. We then went diving in cenotes, which are underground sinkholes that are famous for cavern diving. I also spent a day in Puerto Morelos snorkeling and exploring some cenotes with Kay Tours that was super fun and allowed me to check out a few more out of the way cities and cenotes that I hadn't been before. Read my blog post all about Playa Del Carmen that I put together in a mega write if you want to know more about what it was like being in PDC for almost two months.

I had an incredible time diving in Cenote Tajma Ha and really loved it. But I also had the worst dive of my life on the second dive going straight down into a pitch black hole called El Pit. When the sun is high, there's a light beam that goes deep into the pit which is beautiful, but this cloudy afternoon, it was completely dark. It was at 37 meters where I had the first panic attack of my life. It started with disorientation being in total darkness, following my guide into the black hole. I tried shining my underwater flashlight to see what was around me and get my bearings. However, there was nothing. The torch beam would fade away into the black and there was nothing. My breathing rate and heart beats started increasing, my eyes widened, and all I could think about was why my guide would shoot us straight down into total darkness. It was overcast by then, so the normal highlight of the cenote, the light beam that would shine straight down was absent. It was just us, in an old Mayan sacrificial pit, making me think, “why are we doing this, we don’t belong here.”

I tried to keep my shit together, as I’ve had plenty of experience diving deep and even in the dark. But something about this was different. Logically I knew I had nothing to be afraid of, but physically I couldn’t stop myself from hyperventilating and wanting to spit my regulator out and shoot the equivalent of a 10 story building straight up to the top. Part of it was the nitrogen narcosis from dropping straight own to 37m and from the disorientation of the total darkness.  I held my regulator in with my hands, told myself to calm the F$%# down, but knew that I had to either cancel the dive or at least start going up. I signaled to the dive master that I was going to join the other group who was much shallower and that he and Chris could continue to go down, but it turns out Chris was feeling a mild version of the same and was happy to come up as well. We finished the dive around 15-20m all of which I didn’t enjoy but forced myself to get through as I didn’t want the ruin the dive for others and knew that at that point there was no more danger and was just something psychological to get through.

For some people, that would have been a bad enough of an experience to never dive again. I knew I would be going on a 10 day liveaboard just for diving later this month out in the middle of nowhere in the Socorro islands, which was a 30 hour boat ride away from the closest point of land. Luckily I had a few more weeks in between to stay out of the water calm my nerves before the 10 day journey. I spent another week in Playa Del Carmen doing mostly the same as I had during my month prior, living and working online as a digital nomad. But on November 20th, I flew to Los Cabos in Baja California with just a short layover in Mexico City. I knew that the other people on the boat had all paid a lot of money to go and wouldn't want me to drag down their experience with my own fears. I was right, with no logical reason to be afraid, and by being a big guy, with tons of experience diving, I was lucky that no one gave me pity and that I just had to get over it, and I did. Here's a video from the first dive in Taj Mahal, you can get glimpses on how cave diving could be claustrophobic and scary at times, and this was from the good dive, the one I loved. The other video was scrapped as it was literally complete darkness the entire time.

At Cenote Zapote near Playa Del Carmen

San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas

I technically could have stayed longer in Playa Del Carmen and just came in directly to the liveaboard boat the day of departure like most of the other divers did. But for me, one of my favorite things about being location independent is the freedom and flexibility we have of being able to go somewhere a few days, week, or even a month early to settle in and see a new place. For me it was my first time in either of the Cabos, which collectively are known as Los Cabos, or “The Capes.”

The airport itself lands in San Jose Del Cabo which turns out to be a quiet resort town built mainly for big luxury hotels and American expats who retire there. There are plenty of walkways to the beach, unlike Tulum where all the resorts are built right up to each other eliminating any form of local access. Whoever is in charge or or designed San Jose Del Cabo seems to have put a lot of thought and care into allowing everyone to enjoy the beach and not just those staying at the resorts. On the main strip lays a quiet main road with hardly and cars or traffic, and just a few random restaurants, shops, and small plazas each with a commercial gym and a restaurant or coffee shop. I stayed at Los Cabos Surf Hostel which was just across the street from resorts and the beach in San Jose Del Cabo.

For just $20 a night I spent 5 days hanging out, surfing, and grabbing fish tacos with other members of the surf camp. There was a local coffee shop a block away where I’d use their WIFI, grab a couple of Americanos in the morning and get all of my work done before grabbing a surfboard and walking across the street to attempt to catch some small afternoon waves. It was perfect for me as a beginner as I mainly just wanted to be in the water, but for the more advanced crew, they’d hop in the van and drive down the coast for bigger waves.

Over the weekend I caught the local bus and rode about an hour into the bigger city of Cabo San Lucas which I’ve heard of back in California as a hot spring break party destination but had never been. My buddy BK who I actually met at an MMA gym in Thailand years back has been living there and had an extra room with a queen sized bed and an ocean view I could stay in. It was a good time catching up with an old friend, hanging out in his six resort pools, and swimming in the infinity pool every morning by walking straight out of my bedroom. We caught up and talked about living in Thailand vs. Mexico, MMA, and Business in episode 237 of the Travel Like a Boss podcast if you want to hear more.

Cabo San Lucas is much busier than San Jose Del Cabo and is geared more towards a younger crowd. There were a couple really cool restaurant/bars right on the beach with competitions and festivities all day starting each afternoon, and the food and drinks there were surprisingly good. However, the beach itself and the downtown itself was way too touristy for my liking and felt super inauthentic and non-relaxing, similar to being in Cancun. What I really loved about my time in Playa Del Carmen was that even though you have a bit of the touristy stuff right on 5th ave and some parts of the beach, most of it was integrated even with locals, and just two blocks in felt like you were in the actual community. The resort community BK was staying it is great for families or couples on a honeymoon, but being 30 minutes away from the main beach or downtown by car and needing to call a shuttle, drive or take a golf cart even within the giant resort itself just to get to the pools, restaurants or gym would get tiring for me as I like getting up, and walking everywhere and being in the city center.

San Jose Del Cabo is a nice vacation spot for older couples, had a relaxed, non-pushy vibe, but aside from the one surf hostel was all big resorts. But if you do go there make sure you check out the art walk that closes off all of downtown San Jose Del Cabo on Thursdays, grab a tamale in front of the cathedral, and on other days go to my new favorite fish taco spot in the world, Claro Fish Jr. They have the biggest and best salsa bar I’ve ever seen anywhere that included not only 8 different types of fresh made salsa, but also roasted peppers, giant fried onion rings, battered jalapenos, three types of coleslaw, and enough sides to almost make a full meal, all complimentary. Overall, both are really nice places, especially for Americans to escape to for a short vacation or to in another country, but still have the conveniences of living in the US, like having Costco, and American style amenities and service wherever you go. But with that, you get almost US prices, and the same downsides of living in similar feeling beach towns in Florida.

Downtown San Jose Del Cabo

in Cabo San Lucas with BK

Liveaboard: Socorro Islands

When I asked my seasoned dive friends where the best place in Mexico was to dive, even though the popular ones are the the nice reefs of Cozumel, unique caverns of the Cenotes, and the Bull Shark feedings in Playa Del Carmen, the real jackpot of diving is on Socorro Islands, a place so remote, most Mexicans have never even heard of it. For those who don’t speak Spanish, Socorro basically means SOS or Help, and the islands were named this way because they are so far off shore that if you ever found yourself there, you’d be surrounded by sharks and on an uninhabitable island in the middle of nowhere.

The only way there is by Live aboard dive boats, as the journey to the closest dive site takes anywhere between 26-30 hours of driving. My trip was for 10 days total and included 21 total dives aboard the Quino El Guardian who I booked through Dive the World. The dives were incredible. I’ve been all over the world, in the Caribbeans, Thailand, Indonesia, Komodo, Maldives, and Australia and by far these dives were the closest encounters I’ve had with big sharks, manta rays, and even dolphins.

It was my first time seeing hammerhead sharks, as well as dolphins while diving and it was a truly magical experience. I’ve always avoided going to Sea World, or Dolphinariums as I wanted to see them in the true wild and not in captivity. Seeing the come and go in the open ocean and choosing to come up and interact with us, sometimes for up to 20 minutes at a time was a magical experience. it’s difficult to describe the experience of diving with these amazing creatures. I’ve had the pleasure of swimming and snorkeling with them in the Maldives, but being 30m/100ft underwater with them in their true habitat was surreal and incredible.

This trip was also the first time in years that I’ve gone over a week without internet access. It was definitely a much needed mental break and something that I think would be healthy to schedule in once a year, regardless if it’s for a dive trip, trek, camping, or another long getaway. Most of the other guests on the boat all have normal 9-5 jobs and this is their one big vacation for the year. But it was also nice having a nomadic couple on board, even though they’re living off of savings rather than working while traveling. I didn’t even bother to explain to the others how I’m able to live and travel year round, basically forever while earning money even while underwater with no internet access. I’m just grateful that I’ve built a life where it’s a possibility and have the choice to go on a once in a lifetime trip like this each and every year. Here are two of my favorite videos from the trip, you can find the third one by subscribing to my youtube channel as i'll be uploading it next week.

Expenses for November

The most expensive part of the trip would had to be the 10 day liveaboard as it’s $3,500 for room, meals, and diving, but other add ons like flights, transportation, equipment rental, nitrous tank fills, and gratuity make it a few times in a decade or even lifetime trip for most people. I’m fortunate enough to work part time for a liveaboard booking company and do marketing for them so I get to do one big trip with them a year basically for free. But I still had to pay my own way to get there, rent the gear as well as pay for things like the national park fees, tips for the staff, and for my own transportation. All in all with just $400 tip I left, the nitrox air fills and rental fees it was $700, not including my flights and transfers there.

I sold all of my dive gear a few years ago, and left the rest of my dive related gear in Chiang Mai as I’ve been trying to travel as light as possible with just carry on luggage. In retrospect I would have bought my dive computer as it’s not that big nor heavy and costed $50 to rent, but 11 months ago when I left Chiang Mai, I had no idea when I’d need it again. I did happen to keep my mask, and was lucky to find a cheap $30 pair of fins and a $20 3mm shorty wetsuit online when I was back in California a few months go. It would have actually been more expensive to have rented the items than to just buy them and leave them here at the end of the trip as I did. I hope someone on the dive boat or a future guest can make good use of them.

Aside from the big liveaboard expense, I had the cost of Airbnb rental in Playa Del Carmen for a few weeks, the flight from Cancun to San Jose Del Cabo, and the few nights I stayed here in town. Here’s a breakdown of how much I spent for each part of the trip, and how much out of pocket I spent total this month. The total expenses added up to be a lot more, retail price wise, but I got reimbursed for a lot of it through collaborations and partnerships as I do marketing and user experience design and review for some of them. But regardless of how much it ended up costing me at the end, I'm always honest with my feedback and if it place sucked I either don't mention them at all, or if they really sucked I'll tell you how bad they were. So here are my total expenses, and the grand total of how much I spent on travel and living minus the donations and money I give away.

Airbnb in Playa Del Carmen: $538.65 (monthly rate, stayed 20 days)
Gym Membership: $33.92 (Evolve)
Cell Phone Data: $40 (8GB ATT Go, US Plan)
Scuba Dive Cenotes: $150 (Playa Scuba: NOT recommended)
Scuba Dive Cenotes: $140 (Good Vibes Diving: Recommended)
Cenotes and Snorkeling Tour: $145 (Collab w/ KayTours)
Ado Bus Playa to CUN Airport: $8
Flight CUN to Los Cabos: $159.48 (InterJet, okay flight)
Surf Hostel in San Jose Del Cabo: $100
Bus to Cabo San Lucas $10 (return)
Ubers and Taxis: $55
Food and Dining: $375 (more or less)
Drinks and Parties: $20 (stopped booze mid nov)
Liveaboard Diving: $3,500 (Collab w/ Dive the World + Quino El Guardian)
Rental Gear/Nitrox: $300
Fins, Wetsuit, SMB: $70 (one time use)
Gratuity/Tips: $400

Money to my parents: $1,000 (mom's retirement)**
Parent's Property Tax: $3,496.68 (Christmas Gift)**

Total Expenses for September: $2,268.00 +/- 

*increase from last month's $1,230.57
**total spend this month including gifts $6,764.68

The liveaboard boat I stayed on for 10 days

Income for November

After a big dip in earnings last month, I was hoping something good would come in before the end of the year but didn’t know what it would be. I chased a few unpaid invoices from podcast sponsors, affiliates, and even scored close to $4,000 for a one off marketing project I did for a client. Since PayPal takes a huge fee, the actual payout was $3,884. The fact that I lost an entire week of work since I’ve been offline since Nov 25th, means that a lot of what I earned this month was from truly passive income which I’m always happy to have built up in the past, especially since this was such an expensive month for me. If it wasn't for the collaborations I traded marketing work for the entire month would have been over $10,000 in expenses which would have been insane. Luckily, it was a one off kind of month that only happens every 12 months or so.

If it wasn't for that one time payout I had this month and the collaborations, I would have been really screwed income wise compared to my expenses these past 30 days. I know I've been living off of passive earnings and things I put in the work for years ago, and it's starting to catch up to me, especially since the last few projects I've put my time into haven't paid off financially yet. But i'm extremely fortunate to be in this position and to have been smart enough to live frugally through all of this, save, and invest all that I did or I wouldn't be financially in a position to live the life I do now, while giving my parents money each month and doing things like paying their property tax each year. If I want to be honest with myself, if things don't turn around in the next few months financially with my passion projects such as the Nomad Summit, podcasts and other things that I've been doing more out of love than profit, then I'll really need to rethink my financial plan for 2020.

But for now, I'm happy that I have a bit of passive income coming in through things like my courses on Udemy like my best seller, Small Talk Networking or small earnings like my the blog posts recommending my favorite items for travel that I wrote about on my Amazon store. But all that is peanuts compared to the money I used to earn when I was building, scaling up, then selling dropshipping stores that I built following Anton's course back in the day. I still have access and know it's a straightforward way to create another business in 2020 that will make $2,000-$5,000 a month in profit, but I also know it'll involve a lot of work to start up, and customer service everyday which will limit my freedom and prevent things like being able to go offline for 10 days without internet like I just did, which reminds me that even though this wasn't a great month and I kind of got lucky, it's truly a blessing that I've built this life when I did.

Total Income: $5,338.71

*increase from $3,105.33 last month.

Sales from my courses on Udemy

Sales of items from my Black Friday Post 

Month End Thoughts

It's now December as I'm finishing up this post, but I actually wrote most of it while on a boat in the middle of nowhere in Mexico, doing what I love most and seeing parts of the world that 99.9999% of people in the world never get to experience themselves. It's a pretty crazy life that I've created and have been sharing with all of you for these past 10 years if you've been following that long. If you don't know the details of the entire backstory, I would recomend reading my first two books, starting with 12 Weeks in Thailand then Life Changes Quick to truly understand what it all took to get here. This was also the month for Thanksgiving which is always a reminder of what I truly am grateful for and thankful of. For me, it's my health, and the wealth that I had built up and saved up over the years when I was hustling hard and working crazy 80 hour weeks. 

Now that I've been taking it easy, traveling, exploring and working on passion projects, I feel like I'm really fortunate that I didn't f$# it all up along the way somehow or spend it all like most entrepreneurs who make a lot of money do. I'm grateful to the mentors in my life as well as everyone who has given positive advice that has helped my succeed. I'm also hopeful for a great 2020 as I know that this is the year that I'll have to get back to work and make things happen if I want this life to continue to go well. Instead of waiting until my new year's resolution on January 1st like most people do, I've started now and as of 2 weeks ago, I've stopped drinking alcohol and plan to stay 100% sober for at least a year, if not the rest of my life. It's just one key factor in getting back in shape physically, mentally and emotionally, but it's a huge step, so don't mind me if I skip the beers, whiskeys, champagne and wine, and grab a club soda with lime. 

Life is good, but I know it can be great, and it all starts with each step that we take, each and every day. I don't know what's holding you back, but whatever it is, whenever you're ready to take that step, I support you. Leave a comment and let me know your goals for the month or the year and lets crush the rest of 2019 and build a solid foundation for the next year starting now! Here's our chance for a head start. Don't pass it up. Watch this video for a more in depth recap of the month.

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

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  1. Thanks for this post! I also considered Mexico as a place to live. I lived in Merida for 2 months, and Oaxaca for 4 months. Out of the two cities, Oaxaca was my favorite. I highly recommend checking out the city! I am currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But will be going back to Mexico at some point in the future! Will definitely check out the cities you listed.

    1. Hey awesome Tiffany! I'm glad you liked your time in Mexico. I've heard great things about life in Oaxaca as well. I'll be back in Chiang Mai next week and staying for the Nomad Summit in Jan. Hope to see you there!


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