Megna and I just got back from a 9 day trip to Tulum, Mexico. It reminded me a bit of how much I take for granted, viable alternative ways of living, and some of the downsides of capitalism.
Taken for granted
Mexico treated me with a whole host of environmental changes that required me to change how I operated day-to-day.
- There are many, many bugs - bug repellant was used profusely
- The water system is non-potable - everything must be bought in bottles
- Electricity, wifi, and cellular are spotty - even at high end restaurants and Airbnbs
- Sidewalks and roads were non-standard and often out of repair. Yet it seemed travelers were more courteous to walkers and bikers.
- There’s no Uber, so we had to haggle with taxis the old fashioned way (and often ended up on the losing end of the transaction)
It was a welcome change to shake things up but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit relieved to come back to the comforts of NY. Among the US, NY is often considered to have less of the nice things - small apartments, outdate fixtures, everything’s expensive, etc. But it’s still pretty plush and I take that for granted far too often on my pathway to hedonic adaptation.
Viable alternative lifestyles
Tulum itself is largely branded as a chill, party, lifestyle place. It has big clubs, nice beaches, and tons of earthy / selfy yoga / meditations / rituals / restaurants to enjoy.
Now a good bit of this is likely driven by the capitalist nature of tourism (see below) but it is notable the density and variety of different self-focused groups and organizations.
Some ideas that I’d like to incoporate more into my life:
- Biking / walking / public transport to get around
- More frequent yoga and meditation
- More vegan / vegetarian / pescatarian food (though probably will stick with poulcetarian)
- Free activities
- Outdoor activities
Capitalism has certainly left its mark on Tulum. I don’t think it’s done yet.
- Meals were frequently in the $20+ USD range per person
- Clubs were charging upwards of $100+ for entry and $20 per drink
- ‘The strip’ is slowly becoming central to only tourists and foreign developers who run the expensive tourist traps
This is a natural progression of capitalism. Where there is market demand, often market supply will follow. That supply and its prices will slowly increase until an equilibrium is reached.
For places like Tulum though this causes some problems.
- Most of the tourists are from the states and many are willing to blow $$$$ (like yeah, paying that $100+ just for entry and another $100 for refreshments each night)
- The town and surrounding areas itself live off just a few USD per day in some of the poorer areas. For reference, a taco in some of the local spots is just $0.60 USD.
These factors lead to a strong phenomena of international gentrification.
- Land is being bought up by investors and turned into extremely expensive (for the area) condos that seems extremely cheap to foreigners
- Foreign operators are moving into the area to start their own businesses with these foreigners as customers, leading to foreigners reaping most of the profits of this cash influx
- Construction projects are claiming land, many of them never being finished leading to long-term presence of seedy construction sites
- Prices tend to go up for commodities and likely the surrounding land as well but this doesn’t mean that wages are going up for locals, likely leading to a fast push out of multi-generational families.
- Cartels are apparently strong arming many businesses to get a cut of the profits (often by placing their drug dealers near the bathrooms of popular establishments / blackmailing for ‘protection’ money)
Now perhaps there are some not-so-bad effects as well.
- The new demand leads to more demand on local infra - this could lead to better electricity, water, transportation, internet connection, etc for the surrounding area. Of course this costs a lot of money and there’s a chance locals will get priced out of these improved offerings.
- The new demand leads to greater scrutiny by the government - perhaps leading to more security and enforcement against cartels / local crime
- The new demand could lead more people to experience some of the unique Self offerings of the community - the mindfulness, health, and alternative diet practices that would probably benefit the human race if it were more widely adopted.