Every week, I answer dozens of emails from
people interested in moving
to Playa del Carmen. While I am always happy to give my point of
view....my perspective on life here as a foreigner.....I thought it
might be fun
and informative for "Life's a Beach" readers to get to
know some more
of the folks who have made the big leap into expat life. We
began a series of interviews with local business people and
families who have moved to Playa del Carmen whose journey may be of
interest to those still in the planning stages or even those just
dreaming about it. Unlike other expat
interviews found on the web, we know all of these people personally. If
you are planning to
move to Playa del Carmen, they just may be your neighbors! We may not
necessarily see eye to eye with everyone we interview but each of these
interviews will be published unedited and in their entirety. As such, I
imagine that this particular series will be interesting to follow and
prompt quite a few comments and questions.
This Expat Interview
features Arielle Newman. Arielle moved to Playa del
Carmen 12 years ago after traveling to the Riviera Maya organizing yoga retreats. She has made a fantastic life for herself here in Playa del Carmen and owns one of the area's most reputable and best loved yoga studios, Yoga by the Sea
Q: Where are you originally from and where
in the Riviera Maya are you living now?
A: I've lived in Hawaii, Australia, Los Angeles
and Kansas City before moving to Playa del Carmen.
Q: How long you have you lived there and
what made you chose that area?
A:This November will mark my 12th year living
in Playa. The beautiful beaches and warm weather are what seduced us to move
here. I had lived at some beautiful beach locations before, the North Shore of
Oahu and Bondi Beach in Sydney, but nothing compares to the super white sand
beaches and aqua water here in the Caribbean part of Mexico.
Q: What made you chose the Riviera Maya as a
place to live? Had you visited the area many times in the past? What attracted
you to Mexico and this region?
A: I had been conducting yoga vacations and
yoga retreats in Akumal and on Isla Mujeres to yoga students from the US and
Canada for four years before deciding to move here to live full time. The
easy going pace was appealing as well as the weather. I'm a sun flower not a
Q: What did you do for a living in your home
country? What do you do here?
A: I was a yoga teacher, choreographer, and
writer in the US and have continued to do the same here.
About the area
Q: What do you enjoy most about the
A: The biggest draw for me for living in the
Riviera Maya is being able to swim in the warm and silky waters of the
Caribbean Sea. That, and not having to put on a coat, hat, sweater, boots, and
scarf to go outdoors in January!
Q: How's the quality of life? Is it what
you expected or have you been surprised by anything?
A: I like the people of the region; for the
most part they are friendly and pretty laid back. And I love the cultural
richness of Playa being an international community with people from all over
the world. You hear so many languages spoken here walking down the
street. It's also a young town. People are physically active at every age,
which fits in well with my business, Yoga By The Sea.
I like that I can walk, ride a bike, or take a
bus or taxi anywhere I wish to go.
Q: What have the downsides been in your
move? The biggest challenges?
A: I think they are similar to any new place you
move to: finding new doctors, dentists, and vendors that offer goods that you
prefer. Cooking is a passion for me, and I love it that we have organic produce
and specialty products like pesto, arugula, and olives from Italy here now.
Twelve years ago, it was a challenge to find a variety of fresh vegetables and
Q: What do you miss
most about your home country when you are here?
A: I miss family and friends when I'm here. But
I've been lucky that many of them are now coming to Playa on a regular basis in
the winter months, so I get to see them then. One year, when the US was having
a particularly severe winter, it was like a revolving door at 'Case de Newman.'
Our extra bedroom got a good work out that year.
Aside from people, I miss odd things like crisp
cole slaw, Lipton's ice tea, live American football games, and first-run art
house movies. Although the Riviera Maya International Film Festival that we've
had the past couple of seasons has been a nice boon for a cinephile like
About living here
Q: Which are the best places to live in
this region as an expat? Any specific area you would or would NOT
A: Even though Playa has grown quite a
bit, I still enjoy living here. I like the amenities offered, the restaurants,
the services. People who want more of a secluded living experience would
probably prefer Tulum, which is where we go when we want to "get
Q: How do you rate the standard
of living accommodations and services?
A: My belief is that your standard of living is
affected by the whole environment that you live in - so I count clean air and
the natural negative ions from the water, the fresh tropical fruit and doing
yoga daily part of a great "standard" of living.
The standard of home repair and maintenance
services (such plumbing), can fall below what one might be used to.
Communicating in Spanish to an electrician finds me consulting the dictionary
to look up technical terms specific to the job.
Q: What's the cost of living compared to
home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living here is about the same as
in Kansas City, or other mid-size midwestern cities in the US. Food is about
10-15% less expensive, electricity quite a bit more. High quality towels,
linens, and other cotton goods are hard to find and expensive when you do.
Q: Was it easy meeting
people and making friends? Do you socialize mainly with other
expats or do you have a lot of Mexican friends?
A: I'm outgoing and curious about people so I
tend to meet people easily. I have made friends from a variety of countries
which is also in part to me teaching yoga at my studio.
Q: Do you find Playa del Carmen and the Riviera
A: Yes. Very.
About working here
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work
A: No, however there can be a month or more wait
for paper work to go through.
Q: What's the economic climate like in the
city. Is there plenty of opportunity to work as an expat?
A: There was a low point for about three years
with the economic recession, but there are a lot of people back visiting Playa
Q: Was it difficult to start your own business?
A: I was fortunate to fall into the opportunity
to use beautiful sea-view yoga studios with beautiful vistas of the Caribbean
Sea. There's nothing like doing yoga with the sound of the waves in the
background and birds flying by over the palm trees. I feel blessed to be
teaching yoga in settings so conducive for peace and relaxation.
Q: Tell us about your business and how it came
A: I've been teaching yoga for a number of
years and I'm blessed to have graduates from my Yoga Teacher Training
certification courses interested in teaching with me. We offer a range of
classes from Yoga for EveryBody, to Ashtanga Yoga which is a vigorous form of
yoga that concentrates on strength building and stamina. We offer Yoga for
Pregnancy, Yoga For Kids, and a lovely Sunset Yoga which is a terrific way to
end your day. There's one teacher who teaches Vinyasa Flow and presents Yoga
for Athletes Workshops. She has won many of the competitions in the Riviera
Maya race circuit here. There's another who is terrific with the more spiritual
side of yoga.
In the end, what could be better than to bring
health and well being into the lives of others? I endeavor to present a
comprehensive and professional teacher training courses, the next one of which
is November 8 - December 8, 2013 and is approved by the Yoga Alliance.
Q: What differences have you found between
doing business here and back home? What was the most surprising difference,
either positive or negative?
A: Teaching yoga reminds me of the
phrase, a rose is a rose is a rose. Downward dog is the same in any language:
hands down, bottoms up.
Q: What do think it takes to be successful
A: It's helpful to have patience and
perseverance to be successful anywhere.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner
have problems adjusting to their new home?
Q: How would you rate the
healthcare by cost and quality?
A: Good and well priced.
Q: Is there any specific advice you like to
offer new expat arrivals?
A: I would advise new arrivals to the Riviera
Maya to soften your expectations around how much you think you can get done in
a day. When we first came here, we wrote out pretty robust "To Do"
lists. After some trying days, we realized that if we could get two or
three things accomplished successfully on any one day, we were having what
we've come to term, "A lucky Mexican Day."
Q: Have you ever considered moving back to your
home country and if so, why?
A: No, this is my home. Yo estoy contenta.
Q: What brings you the most joy and keeps you
A: Meaningful work, a loving husband, nice
friends and a terrific beach keeps me happy and very grateful.
Michele Kinnon and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.