On Money And Sustainable Lifestyles
For 104 Pesos per night (around $8 US) we can live in one of the most beautiful destinations on this planet. This fee includes a very well built, 4 sided palapa (around 10’x12’ large) in which we have set up our kitchen, solar shower, drying line for laundry (which we do in town), and storage for miscellaneous items which helps reduce the clutter in the trailer. In actuality this palapa is large enough that one could sleep in it and keep everything in there and not need to bring down a trailer or camper at all (but that’s a separate topic). The $8 fee also covers a sewage dump (for those with trailers) as well as several outhouses. Trash is also picked up regularly (though I’m sad to say we have a hunch just gets dumped in the arroyo as we have not seen an official garbage dump in Mulege).
We are sharing this beach with around 15 other campers. This is known as the Canadian beach as most of the folks here are from Canada. Each of them has their own palapa as well, and the vast majority of people here stay for six months (the maximum amount of time the Mexican government will give a travel visa, per person, per year). Several of the campers have set up pretty intricate kitchens, living rooms and even sun-rooms on the palapas by building them out just a little bit. Everyone actually sleeps in their trailers. The trailers range from 20’ to over 40’. Our pop-up tent trailer is the smallest one on the beach and so far, we are still the only pop-up rig we have seen in our travels in Baja.
Some folks have satellite dishes set up on the beach and they watch TV at night. Some people have two satellites, one for TV and the other for internet. And with a satellite phone, one could live life as ‘normally’ as they would in the U.S. or Canada. Several people also have their own motor boats (smaller 12’ aluminum hulls for easy dragging onto the beach) for fishing. Well over half of the campers also have their own kayaks to enjoy the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez.
Speaking of water, there are a few drinking water options available here on the beach. Some people pay a local guy 100 pesos (less than $8) for rent and refill of a large pickle barrel which holds 55 gallons of fresh water. He comes by regularly and refills the drum as needed. From this barrel you can use a plastic jug and fill solar showers, dish-washing bins, etc. You can also take your five gallon hard plastic ‘garrafon’ to town and they will fill it with delicious and safe drinking water for 13 pesos. We own three of these and have a small hand pump that attaches to the opening which allows us to easily pump water out of the garrafon into our drinking bottles. Some people have the water guy transfer fresh water directly into their RV holding tank for easy use and the ability to shower indoors. We use our solar showers to bathe and they work great. We wash and rinse our dishes with sea water by transferring water with a 5 gallon bucket. This method works well and certainly feels like the most sustainable way to do dishes around here.
Electricity is easy because there is typically so much solar gain (of the 2.5 months we have been here, we have seen five cloudy days). Everyone has solar panels in various sizes depending on their individual needs. Our solar system is tiny and we are still fine tuning it in hopes that we will generate enough power in the day to run our overhead lights in the evening and not drain the battery. Currently we use two Coleman lanterns that we recharge in our car every couple of days and that works just fine. Other than that, we don’t have a need for power as our stove and refrigerator run off of propane. We have had to refill our 5 gallon propane tank only once during our whole time here…it’s an incredibly efficient fuel. On occasion you’ll hear someone running a generator on a cloudy day to recharge their battery. A few people have solar charging garden lights in front of their palapa for a little ambiance.
Most of the campers here have been coming to this beach for at least 8 years. Some of them have been coming down to the same exact spot for 30 years. All of the ‘permanents’ are older couples. The one common theme is that everyone is retired, which is not to say that they are retirement age because some people had the good fortune to retire early. Living this inexpensive lifestyle has allowed many people that are here to retire young and to have their savings extend dramatically so that they can live in this peaceful way. A few people are full time RVers and spend the rest of the year in the States or Canada when they are not down here.
The reasons for people coming down here vary but one thing we all share is an ability to think outside the box. Each person we have met has a knack for thinking creatively and coming up with ingenious solutions to living completely off grid. The nearest electrical power source is 20 minutes away. The closest internet connection is about 30 minutes away, and the closest cell phone signal can be found around 15 minutes away. As soon as we cross the U.S./Mexico border, Andrew and Terra turn their phones onto airplane mode to avoid any incoming cell phone calls, texts and potential data usage charges. My phone has become the Mexico phone and because we use AT&T, we are signed up for the Viva Mexico call plan, which is actually very reasonable. AT&T has the best coverage in Baja apparently (at least as of now) and for around $60 per month we get 450 minutes, free cell to cell (including U.S. cell phone numbers) and free nighttime and weekend minutes. There are no roaming charges at all, so there are no hidden costs. This is more than enough minutes for us and it has been extremely handy to be able to call both U.S. and Mexican numbers without dialing any international prefixes at all. We opted to not add data or texting plans, as not only are they very expensive but it also goes against our whole intention of unplugging while here.
We calculate that we are spending around $300 per month on food (whereas we typically spend around $1,100 in the U.S. because our kids are gluten-free and that’s a very expensive way to have to eat). Internet costs are around $30 per month (we go to a local internet café to continue running our business and staying in touch). We are doing more outings that include local, hired guides because it helps to support this economy which is really suffering as a consequence of the bad press Mexico has received recently. We spend around $300 per month on gas because we do quite a bit of exploration by car (the cost of fuel is a little less here than in the U.S.). So for $300 per week (which is our budget and we are sticking to it), we are living in paradise, ON the beach, with no utility bills per month and getting to do pretty much everything we would like to do. This amount is less than what we were paying per month in just rent (let alone utilities, food, gas, etc.) in the U.S.! Plus, our stress levels are significantly reduced, we have good, affordable medical care available should we need it, and we are living our dream lifestyle. I would say we are living better than ever for less than ever in our adult lives.