It's been about two weeks since I moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, casually referred to as "Playa," and I can see why it's getting such international recognition. Playa is experiencing an economical boom felt by everyone who lives or passes through here, and things are changing fast in this beach town- some things for the better and some for the.. "not so better."
I wouldn't say Playa is in "skyscraper mode" or anything, but the amount of buildings going up that are directed towards tourism or the "expats" is staggering. The changes are noticeable even in the three years since I was last here visiting. Fifth Avenue- the shopping, eating, and partying strip located in the heart of Playa, is starting to look and feel more and more like Miami's Lincoln Road. It's still a long way off from that, but it seems to be moving in that direction.
Like Miami, there are people here from all over the world. In my couple of weeks here, I've already overheard conversations in English, Italian, German, French, and Portuguese. I've met people from Australia, Ireland, Canada, England, Colombia, Holland, France, and Argentina (the Argentinians in particular seem to be everywhere). All the locals I talk to- Los Playensas- openly agree that their town has become internationally represented. And while some embrace the change and recognition, others are trying their best to preserve the laid-back, beachy lifestyle that Playa has always been known for.
One positive thing about all this change is the amount of opportunity that is flourishing here. The major opportunities seem to be in real estate, as condos and commercial buildings are popping up like bubbles on a freshly-poured pancake. This is happening because more and more people with money are discovering and looking to relocate here. Naturally, they'll be looking for places to spend that money, so restaurants, bars, retail stores, and services are becoming more prevalent and more in demand.
This is good for those like myself who are seeking employment abroad. Although a work visa will eventually be needed to extend my stay, I've already been offered jobs as an English Teacher, Travel Writer, and Filmmaker (see below)- the three things I'm most passionate about. I've also networked with a really great crew of like-minded people who are all here for the same reason- Playa provides the opportunity to be ourselves and do what we love, on our own terms. How much we get out of life here is entirely dependent on what we put into it.
Although I don't really gel with the party scene- and there is plenty of that here- I've been encouraged by the number of great people I've met already who have bigger goals, with more worldly ambitions in mind. There are people here who are actively trying to change the world we live in for the better- and what better a place to positively change the world than somewhere the entire world visits?
One thing that's for certain is that I already feel a sense of relief from the pressures of society that I felt in America. I'm not knocking my country- I love America and I'm proud of my home- but we've somehow gotten our priorities crooked. It seems to me that our society has become driven by intangible measures of success that determine our place and level of acceptance or accomplishment by others. I'm not saying everyone succumbs to these impositions, but only those swimming up stream against them realize how strong the current is. Only when you leave the country for an extended period of time (I'm not talking about a vacation) can you fully understand what I'm talking about. You'd be surprised how many people I meet that have left America for a while, only to find that when they went back, it "just wasn't doing it for them anymore."
I understand that not everyone can or even wants to leave forever, but that's not a commitment you need to make, and not one that you need to fear. I simply want to remind all my friends at home that your life is entirely what you make of it, and not to waste any of your time on things you don't love doing. Settling into Playa has proven to me that I made the right decision to focus on the things I love to do, and serves as a reminder that I got lost focusing on the things our society wants us to. It's really easy to get wrapped up in it. I just want to encourage you to follow your heart, no matter how daunting the consequences may seem. Your heart will never lie to you- you just have to learn how to listen to it.
I leave you with a quote:
"Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
-The Dali Lama