From Cape-Florida snowbirds to something muy, muy diferente

beach-chairs1Realizing that each trip to Merida and back costs roughly one potential sofa, set of cabinetry, etc. (we have yet to fill Casa Nana with any of our own furniture) we’re scaling back on trips down there this year, with a big 2015 commitment in mind. So this gives us time to re-discover all the places in New England and along the Hudson Valley that we’ve always enjoyed.

First up, a trip to Provincetown, Mass. We’ve gone every year for the last 20 years, but actually skipped 2013 as construction came to a head.

Provincetown is our road less traveled. When we first decided we’d have a second property, that’s where we were thinking. A place totally opposite to Merida.

How did we go from second-home wannabes to second-home owners and landlords in the space of three years? We wanted a condo with a water view, hardwood floors and a fireplace. A place to drive to on weekends. We got a 100-year-old courtyard house with tiled floors, a pool and some guppy ponds. Not drivable at all unless you’re like this guy. How did we get here?

It all began in P-Town, about four hours away from home. Colorful yet gray, hippy-dippy yet yuppy-infested, and totally breathtaking Provincetown, on the tippy tip of Cape Cod, where we visit our friends W and T.

We were always impressed with their previous 10 years or so of buying vacation homes on the Cape, fixing them up, using them for rental income and for their own vacations, selling them at a profit, and taking the proceeds to an even nicer Cape property, and repeating the whole thing. Remember when people did that? They introduced us to the concept of managing a house remotely, using FlipKey and sites like that, to market your home to vacationers.

We asked them to keep an eye out for any property bargains in Provincetown, where we easily imagined driving up on weekends, renting out to others, and eventually joining that P-Town/Florida snowbird circuit. Mexico was the last thing on our minds. It all seemed so clear, and we’d have our friends W and T along with us, bayside in summer, and poolside in winter.

Reality set in, though, when that P-town bargain never materialized. On future trips, we toured Provincetown homes for sale. Provincetown is pretty tiny, and its homes are antique. That’s its charm, after all, but it makes for pretty challenging house hunting. Even in a buyer’s market, if there is such a thing in P-Town. We targeted a condo that was built in the ’80s or early ’90s with a sliver-view of the bay, a fireplace, and hardwood floors. But overpriced by at least $80,000, the realtor admitted. We waited for the price to drop. It sold instead. Today, nothing is available in the entire complex. Provincetown is linked to Boston by ferry, and I suspect that Beantown money combined with limited inventory is keeping prices high. Like 2008 never happened.

But earlier that year, we had seen House Hunters International, and the conversation kept coming up, that after nearly 20 years with very little change, we could be making a more daring move: to Mexico. Paul knows Spanish, which is a big help, and I … I … well, I had nothing to offer, but it seemed like we could live like kings for the amount of money we had in our homeowner’s equity line. Why don’t we actually go down there and see if the place appeals to us, we resolved, while sitting on a balcony overlooking the bay, which didn’t make saying goodbye to this idea any easier.

I had never been to Mexico. In fact, I had previously envisioned moving to Maine or Canada, and stuck to the idea that colder climes had a civilizing effect on society. I liked gray and wet climates; they reminded me of an old Masterpiece Theatre program, and I pictured myself lord of some manor somewhere, strolling the grounds. Watching PBS as a child left me an Anglophile.

So to answer my original question: How did that happen?

I really don’t know. I’ll attempt to answer that in the coming months. Meantime, we’re trading some planned Mérida trips for some Cape Cod and Hudson Valley jaunts this spring and summer. Casa Nana is rented out and in good hands. We’ll wait until late August to see our beloved Mérida again, just a few blocks away from the house. As hurricane season allows.

Why would we go down in August? There’s some business to get done. I’m turning 50 this year, and I have resolved to mark that milestone in Mérida.

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Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to my day trips along the Hudson. Just going to the many boat basins inspires with its scenes. I will be admiring the bridges and seeing the city across the way from the southern end. There are many walking trails along the river and fascinating remains of old stuctures most people don’t even realize exist. The summer festivals and markets in Nyack often have Latin American music, food, and crafts. I bought an Ecuadorean flute once – no I don’t play.
    The spring (if only old man winter would go to sleep for good) and summer here, are super fun.

    P.S. I finally did see purple crocuses in my yard this week, and a very happy daffodil with lots of bulbs and yellow flowers popping through.

    • We finally were able to do our fall cleanup. Not spring, fall … because the snow fell before we had a chance to rake up the leaves. To our horror, having a layer of leaves under a layer of ice and snow all winter was not too good for the grass. We have to replant now. So no crocuses, or much else, this spring, on the lawn.

      We haven’t been to Nyack in a while… we’ll have to take a kayak.

      • Kayak to Nyack? That is picture worthy, better yet a video.

        • You’ll find a Sinatra clip somewhere on YouTube. Sing along!
          Let’s take a boat to Bermuda
          Let’s take a plane to Saint Paul.
          Let’s take a kayak to Quincy or Nyack,
          Let’s get away from it all.

  2. I must admit – there is something about a classic New England summer. It’s the Vineyard for us this year. Your Provincetown last, and the Cape and Ogunquit years past. And you know what – it will always be here if you want to visit again. Just make sure you stay in touch with friends and their guest rooms.

    • We could get to the Islands too, if only we had friends there… if only. Actually, I’ve had a fantasy of having Thanksgiving on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. It must be so peaceful there that time of year.

  3. Barbara says:

    Oh I totally relate to thinking of trips in terms of what they could buy once there! And the irony of the closer it being to moving the fewer trips you take.

    I am four years out from retirement and being able to move to San Miguel. It chose me – 12 years ago I was in a waiting room flipping through a magazine and flipped past a page with a small photo of the city. I quickly turned back because in a literal instant of glancing at it my middle had registered “Home”. I had no idea where it was, I only knew it was home. I scanned the text and discovered it was San Miguel. For all those years I researched it and read blogs virtually every morning over coffee and was only able to go the first time last year. I’d tried to prepare myself for it not being all I’d built it up to be in my mind all that time, and for the fact I might indeed find it lovely and charming but discover no…I couldn’t actually live there. Instead it was all I’d dreamed and more.

    I return for the second time today and will be there for Semana Santa and my birthday. It will be much different than the first time as I know (some of) the ropes now – where things are, who has the best pollo, etc. I am thrilled to return and while I pray the next four years pass quickly and with good health, I hope the next three weeks slow down to a crawl.

    Thank you for sharing your process and path. It ALL fascinates me and how we all can be so different and yet the same.

    Live is good!

    • “I pray the next four years pass quickly and with good health”

      You hit a nerve there. We find we are so much more conscious and careful with our health and well-being now that we have plans and have invested heavily in making it happen. I remember hearing of a couple who had moved to Merida after years of planning, and the husband dropped dead on the second day. Yes, let’s hope we get to live out a dream that we’ve been entertaining for so long.

      Keep in touch!

  4. Hi guys, Enjoy your blog!
    I (Ron) is frm Maine Ben(from Bangkok) but lived in Cambride for many years.
    Your story hit home. Like you, we like the dark, rainy and cloudy environment, much for the same
    reasons! We moved to Vancouver in 2005! Since then we discovered via House Hunters Itl as well
    Merida! Our first trip is Feb Mar April 2015 and we are so excited. We rented a 2800 sq ft home there.
    We also have set up volunteer activities with the English Library!
    I (Ron) am so hoping Ben falls in love with this city! The possibility of living there winters is exciting.
    We look forward with great hope. In reading 100s of pages and seeing photos, we’ve not seen one negative
    word about this city (outside of the car exhaust maybe). We’ll keep following your web blog and thanks for writing it.

    • Already a volunteer! A great way to meet your future neighbors, and renting is also smart, because you get an idea of what it’s like to live there. You have to shop, do laundry, and pretty much manage on your own. Be sure to look for Mexico Amigos on Facebook for small, insider-y tips. Thank you for such kind words about the blog, and keep in touch!

  5. Hola Lee!

    Thanks for the callout. Let’s see if I make it to Mérida. It’s starting to look VERY far away, even from there in SLP.

    You continually amaze me. You’d never been to Mexico before you and Paul decided to buy a house in the far tip of the place? Wow! You’re the opposite of me. After coming here regularly since 2005, learning Spanish, and having seen a good bit of the country, I’m still in the “maybe-yes-maybe-no” camp when it comes to the idea of moving here, LOL. Felipe over at unseenmoon. wordpress.com makes fun of me for this whenever he gets the opportunity.

    I’ve really fallen in love with Zacatecas, but wonder if I could live in such a small place. I met a closet-case there who was worried about his every move because he knew so many people.

    Probably DF is more my speed.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    San Luis Potosí, SLP
    Which might also be a good choice.

    • First off, kudos for your “child bride” comeback to Filipe! I actually hooted when I read that, and I never hoot! And I was thinking of your post as I dabbed my face with just a smidge of bronzer this morning. A little color is a good thing!

      Paul and I are the product of a whirlwind over 20 years ago. We met in February and made an offer together on a house by August. Time for another whirlwind! We could have talked ourselves out of a lot of things all this time, but we’ve learned to go with our guts.

      I hope you do make it to Merida. I’d really like to see your take on the White City of today.

    • Despite looking daunting on the map, Kim, Merida is only three fairly easy driving days from SLP. We just did that trip. Come on down .

      • Hey Paul! From here in Puebla, it’s starting to look more and more doable. Now if only my back weren’t so opposed to more driving, LOL.