The Conscientious Traveler/Retired Person Buys “Locally”
When you retire in Mexico, you will be relatively rich when compared to the majority of Mexicans. You may feel some concerns about the equity of your access to wealth. It’s just not fair! One thing you can do to support your new community when you retire in Mexico is to spend your money locally.
In the same way, as the rich outsider (i.e. conscientious traveler), you would feel good knowing that your tourism dollars help to improve the quality of life in your destination area. In order to be sure that your money gets into the pockets of the right people, you can try to patronize smaller, locally-owned businesses.
Try to find a hotel, hostel, or bed and breakfast that is small and locally owned. Looking on line to see if any are listed is a good start, but it’s important to remember that in Mexico a large percentage of small businesses don’t have web sites and even if they do, they may not be found by the likes of Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Some of the best places fly under the electronic radar.
Since business is done in person in Mexico, it is often hard to book a place to stay sight-unseen before you get there. Despite your desire to be fair, there are some people who would misrepresent their hotel in order to get your dollars. Empty pools, saggy beds, and mildew smells “happen.” Â Also, special prices for American tourists “happen.”
One way to get around this is to book a room in a larger, reputable hotel for the first night or two of your stay. Once at your destination, you can check out other, smaller hotels and move to one that is to your liking. Once you are settled in to the first hotel, it can seem difficult to move, but it’s worth it because the interpersonal interaction with people in one-of-a-kind places is what really makes memories.
When you retire in Mexico you may go in person to make reservations for people who come to visit you. You can check out the rooms and avoid the issues mentioned above. When you retire in mexico and get to know your new community you will get to know the really special local businesses.
In addition to patronizing smaller hotels, you can eat at individually owned restaurants. Walk around town, peek in the doorways of restaurants. Pick them by their good smells or the interesting foods you see displayed. Probably you’ve heard a lot of information about being safe as a tourist eating in Mexico. You know, eat the round ice, eat only fruit that comes in a peel, etc. When I first traveled in Mexico I practically knocked myself out trying to follow that advice, but I’ve since found that it’s kind of outdated.
Pretty much everyone in the Mexican food service industry — there’s a euphemism, if I’ve ever heard one — uses bottled water and safe ice. In addition, pretty much no one has ever taken a food handling course. My observations have brought me to the conclusion that it doesn’t matterÂ where you eat, it’s still a Mexican who is preparing and serving your food and their rules apply. I’m sure that if you retire in Mexico you will come to a similar conclusion.
As a side note, one of my family members traveled to Oaxaca with a small group of family and was the only one to get sick. She got sick on a lemonade in the restaurant of the most expensive hotel there, not at the littleÂ hole-in-the-wall places she explored later in the trip. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t miss out on the sensational tastes of Mexico because you are worried about getting sick. Just bring some immodium with you and don’t be afraid to use it.
Most small restaurants, especially the little “comida corrida” (the Mexican version of fast food) places, are individual enterprises. In fact, comida corrida places are often run by women. You’ll be sitting with Mexicans on their lunch breaks and will have a chance to meet the cooks who prepare the food. You’ll be sure that your money gets directly into the pockets of local Mexicans.
Depending on your hotel’s location, there may be several small, locally owned restaurants within walking distance of your hotel. If you don’t notice any you can ask someone at your hotel where to eat. Let them know that you want to eat where the locals eat. Sometimes hotel staff assume that you want a larger, fancy restaurant. It’s OK to back out of the doorway of a restaurant, if you don’t like it.
So, what about eating in the street? I do it. It does imply more risk because the people working there don’t have any water to wash their hands and utensils (yuck!) during the day, nor do they have refrigeration. The advantage is that you get to try delicious traditional foods and it’s quicker than sitting down in a restaurant. As a conscientious traveler it may be smart to avoid these places. Your stay is short and you wouldn’t want to waste time on an illness. When you retire in Mexico you may find it worth it.
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