Six Months in Playa del Carmen

Mrs. ItchyFeet at the beach in Las Terrenas, DR

Living in any one place for six entire months is both a really long time and way too short. It’s enough time to build up a lovely supply of cooking ingredients but not enough time to spend with the brand new friends you just made. You spend so much time and money building a foundation in a place, only to tear it down and start over somewhere else. After six months in Playa del Carmen, México, I’m ready to move on but sad to see it go.

Ants! So many ants!

When I first moved into my apartment, it was filled with tiny ants everywhere. They were on every surface, exploring for anything to eat. I discovered quickly that they didn’t care for peanuts or coffee grounds, but if you left out a bit of nopal (prickly pear cactus), they were all over it! They also found my corn starch, which really surprised me. Very industrious, those ants.

Ant colony moving to a new apartment
Check out this colony of ants moving to a new apartment! Won’t miss them.

I’ve traveled to a lot of tropical locations and you almost always have ants (and cockroaches) so I didn’t expect them ever to go away. Turns out, if you keep your kitchen obnoxiously clean, they don’t stick around! Every bit of garbage that they might like (chip bags, veggie and meat scraps, takeout containers) goes into the fridge or freezer immediately to be taken out later. Every spill gets cleaned up, post haste.

After about three months, the ants abandoned me! I watched about three colonies pack up their babies and migrate out of the apartment. There were lines of ants (some carrying eggs) heading out for greener pastures… which I assume is my neighbors’ apartments. Sorry, neighbors! Now, even after six months, my apartment is still free of ants.

Gecko behind the door
Not Gobby, but still fun to spot a house gecko. Eat the bugs!

Where is Gobby now?

I was so excited to get a house gecko. I named her and everything! Unfortunately, she stopped coming by (or she died). I kept looking for her, but with no luck. I saw some evidence of other geckos (poop presents!) but no Gobby. We were lucky enough to spot a random adult and a tiny baby gecko while my in-laws were visiting. I put the baby gecko outside because there was not enough food inside for the little one.

Lessons learned

A two-bedroom apartment is too big. When I rented it, I was sure that loads of people would come to visit me. We would all have a joyous time! Unfortunately, with plane tickets to Cancún costing a ridiculous amount and the sargassum scaring people away, I only had the in-laws stay in my apartment. I could have saved money (and maybe gotten a better place) by getting a smaller unit and just renting them a room when they visited.

Mrs. ItchyFeet in a rainbow
This rainbow is from a rooftop pool in the early morning sun! Represent!

While I know that me inviting you to come visit me, and then saying you have to rent your own accommodations is weird, I’m getting comfortable with the conversation. If I’m staying in a studio apartment, you’re going to want your own space. Then you get your own bathroom and can wake up whenever you want. I wake up early. It’s a win for everyone.

I still haven’t decided if six months in one place is too long. I think it really depends on the location. However, I really don’t enjoy cleaning the fridge or mopping the floors, or washing windows, so I feel like I should be gone before those cleaning items are due. That is the wonderful part about renting. Some maintenance item needs done and you can just let the manager know. Ha!

Playa del Carmen street art of turtle and shark
I will miss all the amazing street art around Playa del Carmen!

Moving on yet again

Right before moving on to Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic, I had an entire plan of eating as much food in the apartment as possible. I went a bit too far and had, like, nothing to eat for the last week and had to go get more food to make it until the move. Luckily, a couple of my new Playa friends could come down and take a bunch of my condiments and other ingredients so they didn’t end up in the garbage. This also allowed me to see them one more time before heading off (I finally got to take them to my favorite Venezuelan restaurant!). Will miss you all!!!

Then I spent an entire stressful week packing and unpacking and repacking. I’ve gotten it down to two checked bags, which is amazing. However, it means that the two bags have to be under 50 pounds and the overhead bag can’t have any big liquids or sharp cooking tools in it. There’s a lot of moving items around!

Sandbags along beach in Playa
The beach has lost so much sand during the six months I’ve been here. This beach bar is doing all they can, but it might not be enough. They built too close to the ocean!

Travel is exciting but painful. My neck and back seize up (and I have this rib that pops out) about two days after travel and it is horrible. Lots of physical therapy exercises and painkillers. It takes several days to get back to normal. I love traveling to unfamiliar places, but it’s a lot of work. Plus, the first week in any new place is not that relaxing with the groceries and cooking and unpacking. You will not believe all the crazy stuff that happened to me getting to DR! Lost power and water! Stay tuned!

It costs a lot to change locations

I purchased the tickets from Cancún to Punta Cana, DR more than six months ago because you need an outbound ticket to get into México. Then, like two weeks ago, while confirming my shuttle to the airport, I found out the flight details had changed such that I would have to stay in Punta Cana for a night instead of making my way to Las Terrenas that same day. So I started looking at other flights.

Sunrise in Playa del Carmen at the beach
There used to be a gaint beach here with a lifegaurd station. The sand all washed out from hurrican storm surge. Crazy!

That is when I found out that an entirely new airline had recently formed with direct flights from Cancún to Santo Domingo, DR for freakishly cheap. I immediately bought a ticket and tried to cancel my other tickets. Unfortunately, they would not let me cancel. Sigh. Canceled the direct flight (bye-bye, amazing deal!) and got on the phone to figure out an alternative. Luckily, the airline let me change the flight to fly into Santo Domingo instead of Punta Cana for the same price.

That cut my shuttle time (and cost) in half while allowing me to get into my apartment the same day. Sucks that I couldn’t take the direct flight, but it is what it is. That is a major problem with buying tickets six months in advance. You just don’t know what will come up during that time. To get into DR, I bought temp outbound tickets because I just don’t know where I’m going next (hoping for Portugal!!!). For now, onward to The Dominican Republic!

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