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Xanthe Appleyard

What to Consider Before Moving to Tulum During COVID-19

“There are moments where it feels like home and moments where it feels like a foreign country – because, it’s both…”

Saying goodbye to everything but four suitcases and moving our lives to Tulum, Mexico during a global pandemic wasn’t part of our five-year-plan.

In Summer 2020, we had been working on developing our US Corporation, with plans to move to the West Coast in 2021.

In July, we found our dream house online. 

It needed some work – more than we thought – but it was charming, boasted two bedrooms, three bathrooms, ample outdoor space, and an unfinished rooftop balcony with SO. MUCH. POTENTIAL. The floor-to-ceiling windows and wood-framed French doors sealed the deal, along with the two palm trees, rooted in the front yard. 

Yeah, palm trees.

Because our dream house also happened to be in paradise, just a “quick” 3.5 hour plane ride away from our hometown, where we were living, in Canada.

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Still, since visiting Tulum for the first time, the location had been on our mind. One of our *big* goals for our life and business is to branch into managing global rental properties – a means to truly make living, working, and playing feel like permanent vacation. We’d talk about it, but it always felt like a decision that was a long way – and a LOTTA savings – away. 

And then, COVID hit, and it all seemed even further, still. 

(Isn’t it fascinating how global uncertainty strips us of our ability to plan, and made so many of us feel like it was risky to look forward to anything? It almost feels shameful to admit that we didn’t stop dreaming). 

We’ve been asked many times, “why Tulum?” And “why now?”
And the honesty of it is – we don’t have a concrete answer for that, yet. Maybe we never will. 

But this, we do know:
We were ready to stop standing still, so we leapt. 

And now, we’re here. 

There are moments where it feels like home and moments where it feels like a foreign country – because, it’s both. 

We’re learning how to welcome each of those things in one breath. 

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There are so many moving parts to how we made it here in just 12 short weeks from finding that listing online, and we’ll be sharing bite-sized pieces of the journey in the weeks and months to come, as we continue to experience it. 

For now, we’ll leave you with a collection of things to consider before moving from Canada or the USA to Tulum, Mexico (or anywhere), amidst COVID-19. 

Beyond just adjusting to a new culture, climate, and way-of-life, we’re also managing the reality that, because of the global pandemic, seeing the people we love (whether that means flights back home, or visitors here) is extremely limited – and could be, for some time. Sit in the reality of that, before you make a decision. *And,* remember that life’s too short to feel misaligned with where you live. Sit in the reality of that, too. 

01 // BECOMING A TULUM RESIDENT

For a young entrepreneur (I.e., you’re not planning to work for someone else, and you’re not retiring) there are a couple of options. From most countries, a tourist Visa in Mexico requires nothing but a passport and a plane ticket, and you can stay in the country for up to 6 months. 

Pros: it’s easy, requires no paperwork, and is totally feasible for a shorter-term move. 
Cons: you won’t be able to get a drivers’ license or bank account, can’t pursue working in the country, and of course, your stay is limited. 

Temporary residency, which is the avenue we went for, was relatively seamless in Canada. We had to make an appointment at the consulate (they book far in advance, but you’ll know whether you get the Visa on the day of your meeting!), for interviews – which were about 3 simple questions about our move, and a stamp of approval. We can’t speak to how this experience looks like for everyone, and I’m sure it varies city to city, but it was really simple + straightforward for us. 

With this visa, we can stay in the country for 1 year, and then renew for 3 more years, before being eligible to apply for full residency after 4 years. 

Pros: With this, we can get a bank account, a driver’s license, get health insurance, open up a Mexican corporation (to allow us to work with Mexican citizens), and it has some nice perks like allowing you to pay local prices in some circumstances!
Cons: Includes more bureaucracy and paperwork, and there are fees associated with it depending on the route you take to get it (ie. we’re working with lawyers, which isn’t a *must,* but has helped us a lot since we aren’t fluent in Spanish, yet!). 

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02 // THE TULUM LIFESTYLE

If you’re a fast-paced, lover-of-hustle with no chill – it’s not for you. This transition is all about savouring the slowdown and learning new depths of patience. More on that, another time.

We’ve seen the question asked, “I wanted to move to Bali, but it’s not accepting visitors right now. Should I move to Tulum instead?”

Is Tulum similar to Bali? Sure, in some ways. It’s got a beach and palm trees and nice people and a lot of wellness influencers. But, it’s also an entirely different culture, climate, landscape, language, and cuisine. It’s Latin America, not South East Asia. That should sum it up. 

So, here’s the THIIING: Move to Tulum because you want to move to Tulum. 

Maybe it wasn’t your first choice, and that’s okay! But, it’s only gonna live up to being exactly what it is. Make sure you respect, and are prepared for, all that comes with that.

03 // LEARNING THE SPANISH LANGUAGE

Yes, you need to learn Spanish. (No, we have *not* learned enough).

Don’t fight this one.  Learning the language is a sign of respect as a visitor to a new culture, and it’ll make your life a whole lot easier. 

In the 12 weeks that we knew we were moving, we spent almost every day practicing in some capacity – Duolingo is a great place to start, but now that we’re here, we’re looking into immersion one-on-one teaching so that we can advance more quickly towards fluency. 

Pandemic or not – plans change. 
Sometimes we get to change them. 
Sometimes circumstances change them for us.
Either way, shifts happen, and we can fight them or embrace them. 

We embraced.

And, OF COURSE, we have MUCH privilege that allowed us to embrace. 

A solid support system.
A thriving online business. 
Access to a loan, to make the purchase. 
Ease in navigating the other systems required to make a move like this. 

And still, it’s been a whirlwind – but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thinking about moving your business to a new country but have no idea where to begin? 

Book a discovery call with us here, and let’s chat about creating the life you know you deserve. 

Cheers, 

The Appleyards

Image of Our New Home in Tulum, Mexico