I live in a place that is absolutely fantastic, except for one big problem: the weather. Here in Vancouver, Canada it is rainy, dark and depressing for about eight months of the year. For me, that is a long time without sun and no, I’m not one of those hardy Canadians who gets on all the rain gear and goes hiking and mountain biking in the midst of it anyway.
So, for the last eleven years, I have been trying to find a way to escape Vancouver during the dark, wet winter months.
I started by selling my telecommunications company and setting up a new company that was completely Internet-based. My husband later joined me in this company and then he also started another Internet-based company. So we are both fully mobile. All we need to live and work anywhere in the world is a phone and high-speed Internet connection.
What amazing freedom! people say. You can live anywhere in the world, why do you live here? Yes, why indeed?
We then moved about an hour east of Vancouver, along the coast to a smaller town called White Rock. Ten minutes from the U.S. border (where our warehouse is located), White Rock receives substantially more sun than Vancouver and being further away from the mountains, the pressure from the cloud cover is also not so strong.
Okay, great, now we were down to only about… seven months of rain and darkness per year.
Well shortly after that, I became pregnant and started having babies. Along with that went homebirths, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, unprocessed organic meals and all the other fundamentals of raising emotionally and physically healthy children.
Every time we would get ready to leave Canada, I would get pregnant again. So three children and ten years later, our youngest is now two and a half and we are finally in a position to get out of White Rock.
But we have not been idle in the meantime, oh no. We have made one to six month forays to a number of hot places to research and see if we could live there; Kaui, Hawaii, Barbados, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, Singapore, Arizona, Florida, California, Puerto Vallarta, Loreto and Playa del Carmen.
But guess what? Every single one of those places had something wrong with it that was serious enough to be a “deal-breaker”. Either there wasn’t any decent schooling, or no organic food, or rampant pesticide use and pollution, or undeveloped infrastructure (i.e. no decent Internet connection), or too expensive, or overcrowded, or unsafe guns, drugs and politics (hmmm which ‘civilized’ country could I be referring to here?), or any combination of the above.
As I write this, we are visiting Playa del Carmen, on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico (about one hour south of Cancun) for the fifth time. However, the longest we have stayed previously is three weeks and each time we have stayed at an all-inclusive resort. So this time we are staying in a house that we have rented for two months, so we can live like locals. Playa del Carmen came the closest to our requirements out of everywhere we’ve been, so we came down here to give it a trial and see about buying our own house here.
There are not one, but two Waldorf schools here to choose from – one of which promises an unprocessed organic lunch for the kids every day. There are gorgeous white sand beaches, cenotes, nature reserves, wireless high speed Internet (so you get the speed, but you also get the radiation), oodles of restaurants, Sam’s Club and even a massive Wal-Mart. What more could we want?
Well, here’s the big problem: I don’t know where the school is getting it’s daily organic lunch from, but I have been unable to find organic food anywhere in this town. Thinking I was being really smart, I went to a restaurant called 100% Natural and asked them where they purchased their food – are they buying from local farmers, or have some sort of special arrangement set up? Their answer: We buy everything from Wal-Mart.
As a health writer, I know that our food intake is the cornerstone of health and wellness. And I have always fed my family unprocessed, organic food, cooked from scratch. Yes, this is a tremendous amount of work, but I feel strongly that it is crucial for both optimal development in children and ongoing health.
I’ve been here two weeks and to be honest, I don’t think I want to subject us to this level of chemicals for more than a month, maximum. For example, it is impossible to buy bread that doesn’t contain preservatives and dough conditioners – let alone organic and whole grain. You can’t even buy unprocessed tortillas – oh, scratch that, I finally did find non-chemical tortillas in the freezer section of one store. The ‘butter’ is some strange hybrid of butter and vegetable oil and all the milk is all UHT pasteurized.
The largest organic food supplier in Playa is indeed Wal-Mart and it offers one whole shelf of organic food, which consists mostly of bottled, concentrated juices.
High-speed Internet is everywhere. However, this is my first experience with wireless Internet as I have purposely avoided it due to the detrimental electromagnetic radiation (the same reason I rarely use a cell phone).
If you build your own house, you can get it wired for cable during construction of the cement walls, but otherwise, you are mostly stuck with wireless. The hotel three minutes away has wireless access – we can get on the web there and download emails, but for some reason can’t send them. The restaurant ten minutes walk away also has wireless and from there we can send our emails. But in both places the speed and reliability is nowhere near that of my cable Internet connection back home in White Rock.
Then there’s the cost. Part of the lure of a place in Mexico was the idea that we could live here for a fraction of what it would cost us in North America. And indeed, there are places in Mexico where that is true. But here’s the catch-22; if the infrastructure is well-developed (roads, sewage, water, electricity, schooling, internet, telephones, cable, etc.) then the city is no longer cheap. In fact, our monthly bills here would be pretty similar to what we’re currently paying in Canada.
My Mum and Dad are visiting this week and my father said something very interesting to me: “The problem is not where you live,” he said to me, “the problem is your discontent. You’re never contented, no matter where you are.”
And he’s right. No matter where I am, there is always a “deal-breaker”. In White Rock, it’s the weather. Otherwise everything – and I do mean everything – is perfect. So I guess the better question might be: Which “deal-breaker” am I going to compromise on? Which deal-breaker am I going to turn around and find a way to make it work, regardless?
Do we want to build our own house in Playa del Carmen and have it wired for cable? FedEx all our organic, grass-fed meat, eggs and raw dairy in every two weeks and start an organic vegetable garden, or contract with a farmer for the rest? And what would that cost us?
Or do we want to continue taking lots of vitamin D and cod liver oil during the winter? And turn our front living room into a solarium; with a wall of full-spectrum light panels, an infrared sauna, lots of tropical plants, a fountain and separate heating system so it mimics a hot, tropical place we can visit for an hour or two per day and reap the health benefits? And then we just go away to hot countries for three weeks at Christmas and three weeks at Spring Break (thereby not mucking up the kids’ schooling). And what would that cost us?
Utopia may not exist. But I have always lived and thought “outside the box” and pursued an extraordinary, exciting life. Granted, with five different people now in our family – each of us having our own needs and desires – this has gotten a lot more complex. However, we do have enough similarities, along with the respect and intimacy necessary to figure it out.