In the late 1960s, the central planners in the Soviet Union decided that they needed to do something to boost their winter food supplies.
So they decided to build a massive greenhouse complex where they could grow year-round food.
You’d think they would have picked a better location, perhaps in one of the Soviet Union’s warmer, sunnier spots like Sochi or Batumi.
But instead they chose to locate their greenhouse in the bitterly cold climate of Lithuania.
At the same time, these central planners realized that their giant greenhouse would require an army of workers.
So they built an entire village next to the greenhouse project, complete with houses and apartment buildings. Typical of soulless Soviet architecture, the apartment buildings all looked like concrete boxes devoid of any life or happiness.
And that’s where I grew up.
Our tiny greenhouse village didn’t have any coffee shops or restaurants. In fact we only had one small grocery store, and a school. Hardly anyone had a car.
Growing up, it was just sort of expected that you would eventually go to work at the greenhouse, or perhaps at one of the nearby warehouses.
And the grandest dream of all– if someone even dared to have such a bold vision– was to work for the government.
My first real job was as a fork-lift operator at one of the warehouses. I used to load and offload trucks carrying potato chips, alcohol, and condoms.
I was just a kid and appreciated the opportunity to earn some money.
But more importantly it lit a fire in me; I knew I wanted something more out of life. As I drove the forklift, I started feeling like the village life was not for me. In fact even my home country of Lithuania felt too small for my dreams.
So, I left, and started traveling. Now in my early 30s, I’ve been to over a hundred countries, from small hamlets in Cambodia and Zimbabwe, to large cities like Mumbai, Hong Kong or Istanbul.
Right now I’m in Mexico City. And I wanted to tell you what an amazing place this is.
First off, Mexico City is nothing like most people think from watching movies; people think it’s some hellish, impoverished nightmare… and don’t realize how vibrant and cosmopolitan it is here.
I first came to Mexico City for a friend’s wedding last year, and it definitely intrigued me.
And I came back a few months ago trying to apply for a tourist visa to South Africa. I wrote about this ridiculous story– South Africa refused to process my visa application. Something about COVID. Great.
So I was “stuck” in Mexico City. But I took advantage of that bad situation and decided to explore the city more. And I absolutely fell in love with it.
Mexico City is the complete opposite of the village where I grew up. It’s the most populous metropolitan area in all of Latin America. The city is thriving, surprisingly green, and you can find anything imaginable here.
As such, some areas teem with life and energy while others are quieter and more laid back. In general, the city is very walkable.
If you are a foodie, you will never want to cook at home. Mexico City has some of the best restaurants in the world from my experience. I am yet to find a place I did not absolutely love.
Whether you speak Spanish or not, everyone is very friendly and welcoming. And recently Mexico City started attracting a great international community, especially in the start-up scene.
In addition, Mexico City is quite inexpensive, especially compared to other giant metropolitan areas. Your money will go much further here than in most other large cities.
I live in Polanco, which is probably one of the most upscale boroughs of Mexico City. The streets are lined with parks, Michelin-star restaurants, luxury boutiques, and modern art.
And yet it is surprisingly affordable to live here; I even haven’t really felt the impact of inflation given that I’m spending foreign currency.
It’s also worth mentioning that Polanco has a lower crime rate than Plano, Texas or Boise, Idaho. So as a single female, I’ve never felt concerned about my safety here.
I don’t say that lightly; in my travels around the world, I’ve been shot at, assaulted, chased, and more. It’s why I learned the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.
And in light of all of that experience, I can honestly say that I feel safe here.
So far the worst thing about Mexico City, like any other big city, is traffic. It’s unpredictable, but some days (especially during peak hours) it can be abysmal.
Now, there’s one really unique thing about this place that I learned to appreciate just recently: Mexico has been able to handle global supply chain issues much, much better. Nearly EVERYTHING is available here.
Simon (James) was telling me the other day that one of his companies is struggling to find furniture for their new office in Puerto Rico.
And I understand this is a major problem across the United States, with people waiting months and months for a new couch or bedroom set.
I rented an apartment here in Polanco, and I was able to furnish the entire place in just a few days. I literally had my bed in less than 24 hours.
One of the reasons there are such terrible supply chain problems in the US is because of a shortage of workers in critical roles, like truck drivers and forklift operators.
(Being a former forklift operator, I can appreciate why people might not want that job anymore…)
But labor is simply not an issue in Mexico. People here want to work. They know the government isn’t going to hand everyone piles of free money.
Plus, Mexico has a robust manufacturing sector. They actually make things here– and they have the workers available for both production and distribution.
Because of this, the global supply chain dysfunction hasn’t been as much of a challenge in Mexico. And that’s one of the many reasons I like it here.
Granted, Mexico City may not be for you. But I can guarantee that there are several places in the world that tick the most important boxes on your list, whether it’s about freedom, lifestyle, business, cost of living, weather, etc.
And finding that right place for you is an important part of a Plan B. It always makes sense to have another place to go. And there’s absolutely no downside in discovering a city that you truly love.