The Why and How of our trial retirement in Oaxaca, Mexico

At any point in your very tiring work week, have you ever thought if you could just stop, pack your bags and be somewhere else where work and home responsibilities could not reach you – for a weekend? a few weeks? How about for a WHOLE MONTH?

Photo by Collin Guernsey at Pexels

This idea was foreign to me before we were able to pull it off. This is because I cannot imagine myself not working for a significant amount of time and in turn not having a paycheck I can rely on for my month’s expenses. Although, we do not live paycheck to paycheck as we see to it that we save enough to not get stressed on lacking funds, the thought of not getting a month worth of salary is still daunting. My wife and I do not live a luxurious lifestyle, no extravagant house, no fancy cars and clothing. We are a middle-income household, both working in the healthcare industry, hoping to be in the path to financial freedom.

My wife and I had this crazy realization at the beginning of 2021. Being in the healthcare industry we had been faced with so much work for the past months that we ended up spending time together only for a few minutes at night and then up we go to work the next day. To complicate things more, we were then in the middle of purchasing a home.  We felt that we were beyond tired then, we started losing sleep because of job and home related responsibilities. We do love what we do, making a difference in other people’s lives no matter how small, but we took so much work, its weight is starting to crush our minds and bodies. We figured, it’s time to take a break.

Photos by Ryutaro Tsutaka (Left), Alex Green (Top), Negative Space (Bottom) at Pexels

I remembered having a “List of cheap places to retire” from when I was contemplating the possibility of early retirement.  I suggested to my wife that maybe we could do a trial-retirement, to know cities and countries in this list to find out if it is a right fit for us when we do get to retire early. There were different countries, Portugal, Thailand, some parts of Spain and then Mexico. All noteworthy countries that have amazing cities you could visit for cheap. Since Europe was still on a lockdown and flying to Asia typically takes more than 24 hours, we took them off the list, and we chose Mexico.

Down we went the rabbit hole of YouTube videos and articles on the best and cheapest cities to be in the country. Each day we get excited with planning a trip we do not even know we can take, with how busy we are with work, checked suggested towns from tons of websites and I stumbled upon Oaxaca Mexico. We saw tourists walking around on the streets of some colonial town, for us that meant it is safe. The colors and liveliness of the city called our attention and so we became more immersed into the research. We saw hiking trails, archeological sites, and tours you can visit for less than $20. Lodging came up to about $20-40 a night and decent meal options for less than $3 a person. So far checking out all the boxes for our trial-retirement. The one question between us is that. Can we just go?

Like with every big decision we make, we opened our calculator apps and started pushing the numbers in. With our monthly budget, we know how much we earn and spend, and so it made it easier to come up with a number that we can afford to save. With all the estimates I had from research, we came up with this plan:

The Goal: To stay, learn and enjoy in Oaxaca Mexico for a month without relying on our incomes for that month, but still make our financial obligations (i.e., bills, savings, etc.)

The Plan: Save up $110 dollars each a week for 4 months (total of $3520). All expenses including airfare and lodging must come from this fund.

It was an incredibly challenging 4 months, due to the burden that the pandemic placed on the healthcare workers. We showed up day in and day out, working from 8 am to 6 or 7 pm. Sometimes if there is demand, we work the weekends too. We were exhausted at the end of each week. During these times a couple of vaccines had already been approved and so like everyone, we were hopeful to see an end to the tougher days. Each day we showed up for work, we look forward to seeing our clients get better. At home, from fatigue, we look forward to taking our needed holiday.

We continued doing a research, planning is after all is half the fun one gets from travelling. I went to websites that has cost of living calculators, then I pushed the numbers in the excel sheet I made on how we plan to allocate our $3520 budget between all our planned expenses. There are 3 columns for every line item that we thought of spending on to: Budget, Spent & Balance. I knew I did my research, but I figured that we could get a better reading of the cost of living and how much we tend to spend in our first few days. I thought that it is important to know the remaining balance for each line item so that we can move around the budget if we feel like we are spending more on a line item that the other.

The items listed are as follows:

I thought that it would make sense to have some margin so that we can move a bit freely and not run out of money. First, we decided that we want to fly out the 2nd of April and return the 1st of May and set out to find deals in American and United Airlines to be able to use the airline credits we had. I called up Expedia and they found 2 roundtrip economy American Airlines flights for $630, with our airline credits. When we found flights that we liked, we booked it right away to set everything in motion. The excitement 10x when we did. It was like adding fuel to our engines to keep us working. The next 2 days we looked at all the Airbnb stays we saved. For our place we decided to be in or close to the city so that we do not have to rely so much on public transportation to move around, and we prefer to have a kitchen so we can save a bit more of our funds by cooking some meals. We ended up booking a studio with kitchen north of the town center for $386.

Since we were seeing a bit of savings, we decided to portion some of it for fun things to do while there. We figured there is no best time to boost our Spanish learning than being in a country that speaks it. And so, on our research we found a one-on-one Spanish Immersion School in the city, a 20-minute walk from where we booked to stay, in a school called Spanish Immersion School Oaxaca. We requested for 4 hours a day lessons for a week for $300 each. To make it the most revitalizing vacation ever, my wife compared the reviews and prices for massages around the area and allotted $200 for 2 sessions of couples massages.

The updated budget:

We then stared at our excel spreadsheet as if it is a brilliant work of art. We just had a couple of tasks to do before going, one of which is to tell our directors that we will be out for a whole month (not a recommended last step). It was really happening. A whole month without work calls, emails, and voicemails. No more early morning visits and late-night documentation. A few more weeks in the grind and we will be able to enjoy our first trial retirement.

Check out how our trip to Oaxaca Mexico went. Did we stay on top of our budget? What did we learn in this trip? What awesome places had we visited? Maybe you can visit them too!

Check out our channel to see the beautiful streets of Oaxaca Mexico and how we explored them on a budget.

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