Time Flies: A Spring Update from Puerto Vallarta

by Sasha Savinov

You know that old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”? Well these last few months have certainly proven that to be true! My intention was to write a monthly update, but March flew by in an instant and April was super busy. As a result, I’m just combining the two in a recap of springtime here in sunny Puerto Vallarta. Read on to find out what we got up to in terms of life, work, and travel.

Table of Contents

Work

Once again, I’m going to give an update on our work for the last few months first. It was a busy time indeed as we had lots going on between our various gigs.

Let’s start with the teaching…

Erratic Schedules

February was a pretty busy month, as our students were out of school for the Chinese New Year. They went back to school in March, which we were thrilled about because we got our evenings back! It’s nice making extra money, but it sucks having to get back into work mode around sunset when you just want to grab a cold cerveza and go to the rooftop pool.

For most of March, we opened 5:00-7:00 AM from Tuesday-Saturday with VIPKID. Most of our times got booked in advance, but many students canceled just outside of 24 hours. They get no penalty for this and we are left with an empty time slot. Sometimes they get filled by a short notice booking, but that’s become very rare these days.

As a result, I ended up opening some extra times on Mondays and even opened that dreaded 4:30 time slot on a few days. Rachel refused to do that and just dealt with the gaps in her VIPKID schedule.

Thankfully, Mexico finally sprang forward for daylight savings time in early April. We were fed up with working Saturday mornings so we changed our schedules to be 5:30-8 AM from Monday-Friday. Some of those Monday mornings were rough, though, as Sunday Funday tends to get out of hand here. More on that later…

Just another day at the office…

A Much-Needed Break

In a normal year, we usually take off a week or two several times. Back in 2019, we counted it up and found that we took three months off of teaching! Since we’ve just been posted up in PV, though, we’ve been working away.

We finally decided to take a week off of VIPKID in April just because. Rachel still had Langu lessons scheduled, so we didn’t travel anywhere. We just enjoyed being able to sleep in until 8:00 and not having to teach kids for a whole week. I wish I could say it was relaxing and left us refreshed, but we ended up more exhausted at the end of that week! I’ll explain in a bit…

Anyways, we realized that we need to schedule time off here and there even if we don’t have grand travel plans. After all, what’s the point of being a digital nomad and working for yourself if you just work all the time?

Hanging with nomad friends who are new in town.

Showing our buddy Koz around town.

Another Cover Story

Back in February, I mentioned how I wrote a cover story for Live & Invest Overseas about nomads during COVID. Well, it turns out they liked it so much that they brought me right back on to write another one!

This time I wrote a feature all about Puerto Vallarta. It’s geared towards people thinking about retiring here, so I had to do a lot of research about getting residency, buying property, paying taxes, getting local insurance, and all that. Thankfully we live in a building with a bunch of retirees so it was easy for me to get firsthand info!

It was a lot of fun to write, as I got to go into detail about why this is such a great place to live. It really has been our closest thing to “home” since we left Beijing way back in 2013 and we absolutely love it here. If we ever get to retire, PV is certainly high on our list. Plus, now I have a better idea of how to pull it off.

While it was fun writing this story, it was a lot of work. I spent the entire month of April working on it, usually for a few hours a day several days a week. It’ll be great to see it in print next week, and even better when that paycheck hits our bank account next month!

Admiring the street art in PV.

Launch Mode

For the past few months, Rachel has been hard at work updating her course. She’s been researching new companies for teaching English online, making new video lessons, and beefing up the course to make it as good as it can be.

Her past students have achieved great things after taking her course. Many of them are now working for multiple platforms online and are taking the show on the road. It’s amazing to see the progress they have made!

If you’ve been thinking about teaching English online but have no idea where to start, this course is for you. Rachel will not only show you how to get certified and land the job, but she’ll also show you how to become a successful digital nomad.

The doors to Teaching for Freedom will only be open for a few weeks, so click here to get all the info and make sure you don’t miss out!

Relaxing outside the coworking space.

Life

Since this update is covering two months, I’ll just talk about the biggest events. For the most part, our weeks were spent working and weekends were spent going out with friends.

Let’s start with the biggest party of the spring…

What a Drag

Every year Puerto Vallarta hosts an event called What a Drag. It’s where straight men dress in drag and do a full-on performance to raise money for Casa Esperanza – a women’s shelter here in town. Our friends go every year but this was our first chance to attend.

Last year, our good friend Steve took home the gold. This year we were rooting for our buddy John (aka Juanito), who we joined for the co-birthday boat bash back in February.

For the past few months, we heard John talking about his rehearsals and how much work it was. Well, it all paid off. He absolutely stole the show and easily took home the title.

Juanito crushing it to Lady Gaga.

The whole day was a celebration, as we started early with friends at one of our favorite dive bars. Then we met some other friends at a beach club and ended up ripping tequila shots. Inside the show, they gave wristbands for unlimited beers or cocktails. With our raucous group of friends, you can imagine how that went…

Of course, the discussions of who would do the show next year came up. As I do enjoy dressing up in ridiculous outfits from time to time, some friends were highly encouraging me to take the plunge. When the host asked the crowd who wanted to do the show next year, I was somehow convinced by booze and friends that I was supposed to go on stage.

Turns out that wasn’t what he was going for. I was immediately asked to exit stage left.

Whoops.

Rachel was of course rather embarrassed, but our friends sure got a good laugh out of it! After giving it some sober thought, I’m not sure that I’m cut out for What a Drag 2022.

I don’t know… what do you think?

Yaas queen!

Learning About FIRE

Have you heard about the FIRE movement? It means Financial Independence Retire Early, and it’s taken off in recent years. To be honest, we have never really given retirement much of a thought. We’ve been too busy working and planning adventures.

Our life philosophy over the past decade can be summed up by the Phish lyric “Can’t this wait til I’m old, can’t I live while I’m young?”

Well, we’re not getting any younger, and COVID made us realize that some things probably can’t wait til we’re old.

As such, we’ve been trying to think more about saving and investing our money instead of blowing it all on concert tickets. That’s why we were happy to attend a nomad taco talk with two people who were able to achieve financial independence and retire at 35 & 40 respectively.

We learned a lot from Alan and Katie’s talk at the Joint co-working space in town. We got to chatting with them afterward and they even invited us over for dinner with a few other nomads. Before they left town, we got lunch together and shared tips. I gave them advice about traveling to Oaxaca and they taught us about making smart investments.

I’ve also read the book “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi which was very informative, and am currently reading “The Simple Path to Wealth” by JL Collins. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but we’re making progress.

We’re now using software called YNAB (You Need a Budget) to track our personal and business spending. We opened a savings account and set up automatic transfers to build a nice emergency fund. And we finally opened IRA accounts and bought some index funds with them!

Enjoying the FIRE talk.

Dental Woes

Not everything about the spring here was exciting. I once again found myself experiencing dental woes, as I had to make several trips to the dentist to take care of one tooth. I needed a root canal and then had to have surgery on my gum and bone to prep it for a crown.

Thankfully we go to an excellent dentist here and it’s very affordable. This year alone, we’ve both had cleanings, x-rays, and fillings. We also both had a consultation with an orthodontist (I might need braces – yay!). I had the root canal, surgery, and got a top-of-the-line crown put on.

The total cost for everything came in at around $1,500.

Back in the US, it’s safe to say that price tag would have been closer to $10,000. Yet another reason we love living here! Going to the dentist definitely isn’t fun, but it’s far more tolerable when you don’t go broke in the process!

Finding a Fitness Routines

As I talked about in the last update, we did a home workout program called Ripped30. While it’s great, I didn’t feel like doing it again right away. I need a bit of variety in my life…

In March I set out to do a 30-day yoga challenge. Yoga with Adrienne puts one out every year and I’ve done a few of them already, so I went with her most recent one.

Unfortunately, I had to take a week off in the middle to heal from my surgery, but I actually did it every day otherwise. For a guy who can barely touch his toes, I felt great after doing a month of yoga practices.

As for Rachel, she’s been trying to alternate doing a Ripped30 workout one day and then using our little gym for cardio the next. It usually all falls apart on the weekend when we go out and party with friends, but it’s good enough for now. At least we’re both getting regular exercise!

We Like to Party

When we first moved to PV, we knew nobody. We had approximately zero friends here, and most people we met were of retirement age.

Things have changed a lot since then, and we now have a group of around 50 friends here.

While this is great, it also means that there’s always something going on. A birthday party… a going away party… someone’s friend is in town… a friend’s band has a new gig…

We are social people and we like to party (#sorryifyoudont), so we’re not exactly good at saying no.

Sergio and Naomi’s wedding was beautiful!

Hey everyone… come see how good we look!

The result is that the past two months have been a bit of a blur. I had to go back and look through my phone pictures just to remember what we did every weekend!

In addition to What a Drag, some friends got married on the beach, a few other friends had a duel birthday bash, and the owners of our favorite bar had their farewell blowout 80s bash.

It’s been a lot of fun, but we’re both feeling a bit drained. As we enter our last two weeks here, we find ourselves just wanting to stay home. We’ll turn it up to 11 for our own going away fiesta, though, so stay tuned for that!

The 80s called… they want their outfits back.

Sunday dim sum brunch with friends and cocktails.

Saying Goodbye

Unfortunately, we had some really bad news last month. Within ten days, we lost two of our Puerto Vallarta friends in two separate and tragic incidents.

It was a very sad time for many of us here, but thankfully we have each other.

We got together for two different memorials to honor our friends Brandon and Steve. We printed pictures, shared stories, sent lanterns off to the heavens, and had plenty of beers and Fireball shots as they would have wanted.

This past year has been rough on everyone, and many of us are not okay.

Be sure to check in on those you love and let them know you are there for them. Even a simple text message or phone call might make a world of difference.

Sending lanterns off for Steve.

Travel

That’s right – we’re down to our last two weeks after over half a year of being back.

Since we’re leaving PV, that means we finally have something to write about in the travel section!

Detroit Rock City

It’s been an amazing time here these past six months, but we’re ready to go home and visit our families.

First up is a trip to Detroit, where we’ll get our first COVID vaccine and hang out with my peeps.

We also get two nights of socially distanced rock with one of our favorite bands, the Midwest’s best – Umphrey’s McGee! They were the last show we saw in 2020 and will be the first of 2021.

We’re pumped!

teaching English online Umphreys Redrocks

Flashback to seeing UM at Red Rocks.

Red Rocks > Yellowstone

While we’re pumped for UM in the D, we were a bit bummed when the Disco Biscuits announced Red Rocks that same weekend.

The solution?

Do them both!

After two nights of Umphrey’s, we’ll hop on a plane and fly to Denver. After dropping our stuff off with a friend, we’ll head straight to Red Rocks to catch the last night of Bisco. We’ve never seen them at Red Rocks and are bouncing off the walls in anticipation.

My sister has an Airbnb in nearby Loveland for May, so we’re going to link up with her for the drive up to Yellowstone. We’re meeting my mom and two of my brothers there and spending two weeks exploring the area plus Grand Tetons.

If you have any recommendations, please let us know! We have never been and have not had much time to plan other than booking Airbnbs.

Viva Las Vegas

Our flight options out of Yellowstone weren’t great, so we got creative. We used some American Airlines points to book a cheap flight to Vegas.

From there we can hop on a Southwest flight back to Detroit. I’ve got tons of points and Rachel is my companion for the rest of the year, so her flight is basically free. We haven’t been able to take advantage of the pass, so we hope to crush it this summer and fall.

Some people hate Vegas, but we freaking love it!

We plan to check out the new Meow Wolf location there, eat some amazing Chinese and Thai food, and of course walk around with street beers just because you can!

We love Vegas!

The Show Must Go On

We met at a music festival and got engaged at a Phish concert, so you can imagine how important live music is to us. The lack of it this past year has left a void in our souls that were impossible to fill.

We are so happy to have shows to look forward to again!

In addition to UM in Detroit and Biscuits Red Rocks, we will be seeing Goose for the first time. We’ve got tickets for their 2-night run at Legend Valley in Ohio where we will be camping with my cousin.

We also have tickets for the Biscuits in Atlanta at a minor league ballpark. We’re going with some of our best friends and even have a front-row pod for the first night. And it’s our anniversary weekend!

The Summer Camp festival that I work for was postponed from Memorial Day to mid-August. We’re still selling tickets and promoting it, so we’re all moving ahead with hopes that we get to reunite this summer at Three Sisters Park.

I sure hope so!

Finally, we signed up to volunteer at the Same Same But Different Festival in California in early September. It’s at a state park on a lake and there will only be 2,500 people there. We’re super excited to work at a festival again. It’s been too long!

Now we just need to get an announcement from Phish. We still have tickets to several of their re-scheduled shows but they have yet to say anything about them. We’re remaining cautiously optimistic that we will be able to see our favorite band again this year.

We need to feel the feeling we forgot!

This hippie is ready for the return of live music!

Final Thoughts

That’s about all we have planned so far, other than heading down south to spend some time with Rachel’s family. We plan to bounce around between Johnson City and Asheville for most of July and August, depending on what happens with live music.

Rachel’s brother and his wife are having a baby, so we’re excited to meet the little dude and become Aunt Rachel and Uncle Sasha. We also want to spend some quality time with her grandparents, and not with a fence between us like last year!

Then we’ll look towards the fall and how to take full advantage of having the companion pass before it runs out.

Some ideas we’re tossing around include doing a road trip to more national parks in Oregon and California. Or maybe popping over to Hawaii for some island hopping. We’re not making any grand plans just yet but we’ll let you know when we do!

Gonna miss those PV sunsets…

Overall, it’s been an awesome season here in PV.

We’re so glad we finally got to experience the high season here, especially since it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it usually is here.

We got spoiled being able to live in a luxury condo a block from the beach and we’re definitely going to miss it. We’ll be back, though, most likely in October to do another 6-month stint. Then hopefully things will be open enough in 2022 for us to get back to our regularly scheduled nomading!

If you made it all the way here, thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop them here or just send us a message.


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2 comments

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2 comments

TAYLOR C SMITS May 22, 2021 - 6:02 pm

Awesome post! I love the content. Recommendation: check out Queen, Lady Gaga, or The Royals show at The Palm Cabaret… You won’t regret it!

Reply
Rachel Story May 24, 2021 - 9:32 pm

Hey, Taylor!

Thanks so much for the comment! We’re super excited for Vegas and will definitely check out your recommendations 🙂

Reply

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