10 years ago my wife and I bought a parcel of land just off a quiet beach in Mexico with the idea that we'd quit our university teaching jobs and spend every last penny of our life savings building a small beach hotel.

A year and a half later we did just that.

~2.5 years of construction nearly broke us in every way imaginable but with each passing season of being open the nightmare that is building fades further and further into the distance.

It's been a wild ride with incredible highs and lows. From "Holy shit, I can't believe this is our life!" to getting the plunger to dislodge some stranger's shit from the toilet bowl. We've met tons of amazing and interesting people and a handful of people who aren't welcome back, haha.

When we made the original decision to take this leap we figured that it was at minimum a 10-year investment. We're not quite 10 years in (April 1 makes 9 years in Mexico) but at this point we're definitely ready to sign on for another decade - even if we'll likely one day sell and move on to another adventure, simply for the sake of adventure.

Ask me anything except for the exact investment amount. That always gets asked when I do these...but let's just say that it cost approximately what you'd pay for a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs of a major city in the US but not a super expensive one like Seattle, SF, NY, LA or similar.

Completely unrelated slash bizarre questions are welcomed and encouraged.

WEBSITE

REVIEWS

PROOF (Includes photo of one of the many free cats available around here)

EDIT: I'll remove this add-on if requested by the mods but I'd like to share some of this Reddit love with another traveler slash entrepreneur in Vannes, Brittany. I met Julian on a Quetzaltrekkers hike between Xela and Lago Atitlan (highly recommended) over 5 years ago on my first real vacation we could afford after setting up shop here. We were just coming out of the throes of the challenges of getting a business off the ground and so when Julian told me that it was his dream to one day open up his own restaurant I said, "You ever open your own restaurant and I'll come to France and eat there."

He did.

And I ate there last summer (as part of a longer trip, of course).

He's a cool dude and a talented chef...and Vannes is a kick ass place to see if you want to do something in France that's not Paris...so if you find that you're in the neighborhood, book at table at L'ardoise and tell him Oaxaca Mike sent you. You won't get a discount, haha, but you will get a friendly smile.

Comments: 681 • Responses: 122  • Date: 

Ashurajo702 karma

Why haven't you invested more in your mobile website? If I'm looking for a luxury experience, I'd skip right past this site.

Oax_Mike448 karma

Laziness is the honest answer here.

BloodSoakedDoilies355 karma

Seriously, I clicked on the link and was transported back to 1998.

You gotta help yourself out and upgrade the site.

On another note- I find Oaxacan food to be the best in Mexico, followed closely by food from Yucatan. What's your fav Oaxacan dish?

Edit: werdz

Oax_Mike128 karma

The food on the coast is a little different than what you'll find in Oaxaca City but if we're going to a Oaxacan style restaurant I like puerco en salsa roja or pollo en salsa verde.

BloodSoakedDoilies29 karma

Tlayudas and a deep, dark mole will do it for me every time! Not a huge fan of the chapulines, though.

Oax_Mike20 karma

Yeah, to me chapulines are just something you eat for the novelty. We eat plenty of tlayudas but ironically aren't huge mole fans.

Ashurajo106 karma

You're probably costing yourself money. Maybe you can hire someone to design something for you? It's not a horrible website by a long shot, but it doesn't scream tropical paradise to me.

Oax_Mike84 karma

We absolutely are losing business because of this.

atomhunter14 karma

I'm actually interested in coming for one of our honey moon stops. Would you be down for some form of website rebuild for a discount?

Oax_Mike44 karma

I know it will sound odd and piss many people off who want us to fix our website but for now we're not interested in this sort of arrangement. We mostly prefer to do these things ourselves, even if it's less than perfect.

I fully admit that this is bad for business...but we're weird. That's all I can say on that front.

RizzleP5 karma

Your website isn't that bad. It's responsive. Yes it looks amateur but it does the job.

Those giving you a hard time probably don't realise that your leads come from booking sites, reviews and recommendations, not organic search.

Just my humble.

Oax_Mike3 karma

I agree. If it were "bad" we'd fix it. I'm just not going to argue and say it's optimal because it's not.

We get lots of boomers and slightly younger tell us they love our website. In fact, they're the only demographic that brings it up. And they're the ones mostly in our wheelhouse.

______flatline______23 karma

[deleted]

Oax_Mike51 karma

It's fine but not great.

Many people on Reddit work in web dev or similar.

They're right. It's far from optimized if you're talking about website best practices.

It's a cheapo WordPress theme I bought and installed/tweaked myself.

I can't code other than googling "Fix X in HTML" and cutting and pasting and figuring it out.

blarghusmaximus21 karma

Im a full time web developer who works for a major sports media website.

Your site is 99.9% fine. Its exactly what your customers expect. As a pro id change some things but theyre minor.

Oax_Mike15 karma

Honestly, this is why it hasn't been a priority.

I get that it's not perfect but it works fine for what we sell.

I'm not saying it's great. It's not. But what often happens is that people fixate on one thing and have no idea what it's like for 2 people to run every aspect of this business...there are too many other things that need to be done before we worry about updating a website that's not optimal but not broken.

qpazza7 karma

Lazy hospitality workers...hmmm. I think I'll pass then.

Oax_Mike16 karma

Maybe I'm just so exhausted from making tasty drinks and providing exceptional customer service, though?

gravityapple-7 karma

My wife and I buy a luxury holiday every 5 years or so. Last place we went has this website: https://nimmobay.com

You really should up your game!

We don’t do Mexico (Zika/guns/gastro-intestinal illness) so you aren’t our personal target business, but it looks beautiful and you should up your marketing game! Hire a firm if you’re too lazy to upkeep, they aren’t that expensive if they drive bookings.

Oax_Mike25 karma

Thanks for the link.

To be honest, we don't want to market our place as being true "luxury" because it's not.

Our place is comfortable, cozy and very special - and we serve the best food you'll ever eat.

But the true high-end luxury crowd isn't who we're going after.

I don't doubt that hiring a firm would net us more bookings but maximizing profits just isn't our top priority.

gravityapple12 karma

That’s fair. If you’ve got the cash flow you want, you’re bang on with your attitude!

Do yourself a favour though, if you are going to sell you should definitely optimize a year or two ahead of schedule, you’ll see a massive lift in the sale price because the business is more sustainable for somebody else to take over.

The next person isn’t likely to be “Reddit’s favourite” anything. They’ll need something more turnkey.

Oax_Mike7 karma

Absolutely...we are 100% aware that our business model is a fucking mess if we wanted to try and sell this place as a turnkey business.

Even if we don't sell, our model will be very different 5 or 10 years from now....but that's a long story that requires whiskey to discuss.

FruitbatNT61 karma

I was expecting a non-responsive mess of broken formatting. But other than the retro drop-down navigation I don’t see what’s so bad.

Yeah, it’s not one of the 5 WordPress templates that every landscaper and mommy blogger use, but it’s OK.

Then again I’ve been browsing mobile sites since the Bb 7230 so maybe my expectations are off. .

Lord-Kroak18 karma

but do mommy bloggers inspire you to give them $700?

blarghusmaximus7 karma

Its an airbnb in Mexico not the waldorf.

Lord-Kroak3 karma

His site says he charges about $230/day, minimum 3 day stay.

Oax_Mike8 karma

That's very affordable for the niche we serve, though.

Other properties like ours charge more like double that.

We're not an AirBnB but our price is low, not high.

Heinzketchups178 karma

Why do you think you are reddit's favourite?

Oax_Mike134 karma

Way more than 3.

I'm also not shy about the ulterior motive :)

BUT...I'd still argue that the AMAs are interesting, whether they net us a few bookings or not.

Also, I promise that the returns are far from mind blowing. It's nothing like the dude that made $100k from selling bags of gummy dicks on Reddit.

We get bookings this way but the numbers are still pretty small within the grand scheme of things.

knucks_deep49 karma

Haha no worries man. Your post looked super familiar, and just wanted to confirm my suspicions. Running a business is hard work and expensive, kudos to you for using all your resources and tools at your disposal.

Oax_Mike138 karma

The other thing is this - it's hilarious how many people shit their bricks about us marketing our product here when what we're doing is EXACTLY the kind of thing people on Reddit should dig. 2 middle class nobodies save their money from teaching to start a small business that competes head to head with giant corporations in an industry where all the distribution and marketing channels are owned by giant corporations.

I'm not shilling Sandals. I'm saying, "Fuck Sandals. Support small business."

_donotforget_7 karma

For what it's worth, I'm kind of loving this. Makes me remember my occasional fever dream on long drives of opening a hostel somewhere.

Oax_Mike18 karma

Any self-respecting person who has ever tossed a backpack onto a hostel bunk has had 10 too many beers one night and discussed opening a hostel of their own.

_donotforget_4 karma

Haha, exactly

Oax_Mike7 karma

Our original plan was to open a hostel but then we realized that we were going to be in our 40s soon and that this wasn't the environment we really wanted to live in year-round.

I also didn't like the idea of running a business that had to be FULL to turn a profit. Hostels run off volume and so I'd hate to be doing all the work but not earning any money.

DaveInDigital7 karma

well it worked. i favorited your resort in my tripadvisor app to go back to when i have the time and money to vacation down there :) looks like a great place!

Oax_Mike6 karma

Thanks!

We look forward to meeting you.

Andromeda321124 karma

For what it’s worth, /u/Oax_Mike is also a frequent poster and commenter on various travel subreddits, so not someone who only shows up here to post an AMA.

Oax_Mike136 karma

Also a high-quality shitposter!

Oax_Mike95 karma

Scarcity would certainly be a major factor here :)

And wishful thinking.

But the majority of our guests come from Reddit so there's some legitimate evidence to back my presumption.

odhinnplays41 karma

Are you saying that your beaches aren't filled with beautiful sunkissed bikini models?

Oax_Mike115 karma

Nope. On a typical day there are zero humans on the beach here.

UnacceptableUse25 karma

And how many subhumans

Oax_Mike48 karma

Crabs? Lots.

OzymandiasKoK5 karma

You can get crabs from your beach?

Oax_Mike8 karma

There are quite a few different species, including hermit crabs.

generallyok10 karma

You really ought to join the Mexico expat FB groups, I'm sure you could bring a lot of business in that way.

Oax_Mike26 karma

I already rot enough of my life away on social media as it is ;)

We've had some expat guests from up north over the years but not too many. A lot of Mexico expats are real weirdos....at least around these parts, haha (to be fair, Puerto Escondido is particularly famous for crazy old white people...not Livingston, Guatemala bad but a high percentage of the shady characters around here are implants, not locals)

generallyok13 karma

That is very true, Mexico expats are definitely the craziest overall. I spent some time in Livingston, three weeks. Hooooo-boy, that's a town. The PV seems nice though

Oax_Mike9 karma

48 hours was plenty of Livingston for me but I loved it.

I adore weirdos in measured doses.

And most Mexico loser expats are harmless...unlike the scum you find in SEA.

zagbag3 karma

Livingston, Guatemala

Is that from personal experience or am I missing some well known meme?

Oax_Mike3 karma

Both, I presume.

I've been to Livingston and a lot of the white people there are like modern-day pirates.

It's common knowledge for those who know Central America but no, it's not a meme on the same level as Lake Bled or anything.

til_tomorrow2 karma

Can confirm, live in Puerto... Especially this time of year when all the snowbirds come down.

Oax_Mike3 karma

Have you ever been to Kika's Circus. There's like a row of old dudes who look like they had a lobotomy in 1977 but someone keeps putting them on a plane each winter.

richterscale0968 karma

Did you build the building yourself, or did you have contractors do it? Either way, how are Mexican building safety code/regulations different than US’s?

What’s a “boutique” hotel, and why did you want to own one instead of just working for one before transitioning to owning it?

Oax_Mike118 karma

We did not hire a general contractor. We hired 3 masons and 3 helpers and managed the project ourselves.

We also physically did (and still do) a lot of the finish work ourselves...and slowly over time we've picked up more skills.

So all the major steel/concrete/brick work was done by tradesmen.

About code...they have the same codes here, more or less, but less oversight. It's also very different building in a rural area like where we are compared to being in a big city.

A boutique hotel is typically small and serves a niche market.

One reason we didn't consider working for someone else is that a big reason we chose this plan was to set up a life where we were closed for 3 months a year to travel.

PM_ME_NUDE_KITTENS24 karma

Where do you travel?

Oax_Mike69 karma

Last summer we both took bicycle trips across Europe (we travel separately as one of us needs to stay to watch after the animals) but since we've lived here I've also been to Guatemala twice, Colombia and back to the US and my wife's been to Thailand a couple times, Malaysia, a different trip to Europe.

There's no real pattern. I'm going back to Europe this next summer to do a road trip with a friend and hope to go trekking in Nepal for 2021's adventure.

flickin_the_bean25 karma

Do you need someone to watch your animals so you and your wife can travel together? I would take a month or two of work :)

Oax_Mike30 karma

Our animals are rescues and some have psychological problems and need to have mom or dad at all times.

It's part of the trade-off for our weird life.

roraima_is_very_tall13 karma

how did you design the place, did you get an architect involved, or just kind a say 'we want 4 bedrooms there and a common area there"?

Oax_Mike25 karma

We just figured it out as we went, haha.

And the real trick was trying to make it look nice while also having very simple construction because we didn't have enough money.

We had to hire a draftsman to draw up plans to get approved but really, our buildings are plain square boxes that we've tweaked to look interesting. There's nothing architecturally interesting brick-wise at our place...I mean, nothing of note.

-_--__---___----____53 karma

Are you a Mexican native? If not, how was the process to purchase land and get citizenship? Seems like it could be a litigious nightmare!

Oax_Mike104 karma

No, we are not. It's relatively simple to navigate. You form a corporation and then the corporation buys/owns the land.

So our land is in the corporation's name and then we are the only shareholders.

It's a very common setup.

-_--__---___----____21 karma

Interesting! Are you Mexican Citizens now?

Oax_Mike58 karma

No. Just permanent residents.

We'll be eligible in a couple more years, I think, but we are still undecided on getting citizenship or not. Probably not.

Extremely_Loud20 karma

I am legitimately curious: why not?

Are there any disadvantages to obtaining Mexican citizenship or are you not ready to become citizens of a country in which you do not see yourself spending the rest of your life?

Oax_Mike47 karma

Officially the US says, "Don't do that."

Even the slightest risk I could lose my US citizenship is a pretty big "hmmmm" for me. Not just for the right to return to the US one day if I want but also because it would suck to travel on a Mexican passport.

My wife's passport is NZ and they're more open to multiple citizenships but it's still iffy.

Plenty of people do it but mostly people who have no interest in traveling to other places outside the region.

darez005 karma

I wasn't aware that our passport was "weak", I've always had the impression that it is well received in most places. Like, we can enter and stay in the EU for 3 months and we aren't asked special fees for being Mexican in most countries

Oax_Mike7 karma

It's weak relative to a U.S. passport, which has about 30 more countries you can visit visa free.

You need a visa for the U.S., which is the big one for me, if I were to lose my American passport.

It's also much, much better than it was 20 years ago (I think).

[deleted]4 karma

[deleted]

Oax_Mike44 karma

There is certainly some inherent risk in investing into a developing country but I'd say that your assessment is inaccurate.

Also...the US gov't can repossess your land any time they like, too. They do it all the time to build highways, etc.

Crooklynb42 karma

I noticed you don’t allow outside alcohol at your place. What do you charge for it there?

Oax_Mike81 karma

Beer is $2. Cocktails are $4-6.

OversteerCentral36 karma

How much does gang/cartel activity affect your business operations?

Oax_Mike83 karma

Zero.

If this changes we'll reconsider our plans.

n4te4 karma

Any worries about it?

Oax_Mike19 karma

Sure. I mean, we're not obtuse about it. If the situation changes then perhaps our life plan will, too.

501k30 karma

What are some significant unforeseen challenges you had to overcome that generally have to do with building/owning/operating a boutique hotel?

Oax_Mike86 karma

How exhausting the work is.

It's mostly fun and the best job I've ever had but when we have customers here it's pretty much like working 24/7. Sure, some of that "work" is hanging out with guests drinking beers but our original plan was to have customers non-stop and this wasn't realistic (at least not with our exact business model) and so we have to schedule in breaks to rest and regroup, even if it means losing out on sales during our peak season.

The number one obstacle by far, aside from the physical construction being much more difficult than we'd imagined, has been marketing/advertising. A few big companies dominate this industry and the commission costs for listing with the major booking sites is significant. We've chosen to forego this "best practices" route and only take bookings direct. It means far fewer bookings but none of our profits going to the Expedia or Booking conglomerates.

We're not anti-corporate nutjobs or anything...this is just our preference for our business.

501k9 karma

I don't blame you for steering away from the major booking companies - good on ya!

Oax_Mike35 karma

We tried Booking, which is the most reasonable at 15% commission but there are TONS of problems with that platform from the property's perspective:

  1. They list you by GPS location...and since we are an out of the way getaway, we didn't fit into any searchable category. I told the rep that we'd get ZERO sales if they didn't move our listing into Puerto Escondido instead of Tlachicon, which is some random place that doesn't exist other than on Google Maps. They refused. I was right. Zero bookings and almost zero hits on the Booking.com page.
  2. The company writes the property description for you based off a checklist you fill out. This makes it impossible to describe what makes our place unique.

After a year of zero bookings (because of no traffic to the listing) we just cancelled it.

brklynmark10 karma

On the other big sites, can you list the rooms at a higher price than you typically charge to make up for the commission?

Oax_Mike13 karma

No.

But it's fine...we have enough of a customer base now that we'd rather just avoid these companies period if we can.

hemiones26 karma

Hindsight is always 20/20 so what would you do differently when preparing for your next adventure?

Oax_Mike52 karma

Never ever again will we do something that takes ALL of our money. It's just too stressful.

We didn't have a choice in this case and realistically, ALL of our money wasn't enough - we just had to figure out a way to make it work.

But the next thing, whatever that is, will not be so capital heavy.

thrift36525 karma

Do you feel safe in Mexico and what do you think about the escalating violence there?

Oax_Mike53 karma

Yes, we feel safe here.

The vast majority of the violence really is situated very far from where we live.

That's not to say we take zero extra precautions compared to say, when we lived in Korea where it's crazy safe, but for all intents and purposes living here is just like living anywhere else.

Clearly we're concerned about the issues Mexico is dealing with but more on a global level than our personal safety.

CaffeineRiddledBody21 karma

How hard is it to purchase land in Mexico? Also I am interested in getting Mexican citizenship. Any advice on where to start? Asking as an American.

Oax_Mike26 karma

Getting Mexican citizenship is pretty easy. It just takes time. You move here and get a temporary resident visa for a while, then after 4 years you become a permanent resident and then it's like 4 more years and you're eligible for citizenship. Don't quote those exact time lengths but that's the gist.

Purchasing land is complicated and easy, haha, depending on where you are. In the interior you can buy land right now and put it in your name as a foreigner. But within 50km of the beach you either need to do a bank trust or form a corporation. Both are easy, just cost money. We formed a corporation.

koboabe12 karma

You also have to deal with local ejidos. Each ejido has different rules regarding the sale, use and possible reclaim and repurpose “your” purchased land. You hear stories of shady things, but it’s the ejidos job to protect their lands.

Just because a local says it’s their lands, you must get the neighbors and ejido to survey the claim before you purchase anything.

More of a buyer beware situation.

I own land in Tonameca, Oax. the ejido there is pretty chill, but when we were looking at land... most ejidos stated that they can and may vote to reclaim the sold land for it to be reused in the community.
It really depends on the region and local government.
You shouldn’t have issues if you pay your taxes to the ejido, the local municipality and don’t be a dick to the community.

Also cleaning and using your land for anything helps establish your claim.

Oax_Mike9 karma

True.

Clearly I paraphrased a 10 page explanation into 2 paragraphs.

The reality is that buying land here does come with inherent risk, so it's "easy" compared to how impossible most people presume it to be but not without unique complexities, particularly with ejido land.

downtime374 karma

Not to try and drill down into this to much but is this method for commercial property or does it apply to residential also? If I wanted buy a single family home on the beach would the simplest method still be to go the corporation/bank trust route?

Oax_Mike6 karma

Officially, the corporation route is only if you're starting a business. In practice, TONS of people have fake corporations to put their land into. Not "fake" but corporations that just exist and don't do anything. This means paying an accountant every month to file taxes that say, "Welp, still in zeroes!" So there could be a 50 dollar a month expense to hold your land this way and LEGALLY I think the government can force you to sell if you never operate a business. In practice, I think this is pretty rare and that a lot of people title their retirement home this way.

The bank trust is for residential property but only available for federally titled land. This is a long story and depends wildly on the state as to what percentage of the land has an escritura and what percentage has an acta de posesion.

If you don't speak Spanish and/or aren't hard up for cash, a decent lawyer will only cost $300-$500 to sort this stuff for you...less just to talk to one about your options.

browncode18 karma

Congrats on living your dream! How do you manage the US tax portion of all of this? And where do you like to go on vacation?

Oax_Mike27 karma

US taxes are easy. We don't make enough money to have to do much more than send in a return that says, "I made X" and then it's all written off as an overseas exemption. Also, my wife is not American and never lived in the US so I only need to claim half of our earnings to the IRS.

Kingfriday138 karma

Is this because your corporation is US based?

Oax_Mike14 karma

No, it's a Mexican corporation.

Hepcatoy16 karma

Thank you for this AMA.

How did you initially market your hotel? Did you have a specific target, or did you focus on tourism in general?

Oax_Mike42 karma

We blew through about 5 grand in marketing money at the beginning through a wide variety of traditional advertising and a big investment in taking part in an employee benefits program where I am convinced we were lied to (long story short, I don't think the users were ever shown our product because of geographic settings...we were supposed to have our product/offer marketed to 2 million employees in Canada in this program and we'd get like 4 hits per month on our offer, which shows not that our product was to blame but that we weren't getting the traffic we were promised.)

We also lost a fair bit of money on digital ads. Adwords, etc.

But yeah, early on we made the big mistake of not realizing how niche our product is. We tried to market it to the general market and this was a mistake. It wasn't until we got into this industry that we realized how much the masses really do just want a cruise or giant resort. Which is fine, that's their choice, but it makes it very expensive to advertise using traditional strategies.

scrubjays16 karma

Do you know the saying "I know I am wasting half my ad dollars, I just don't know which half"?

Oax_Mike26 karma

We stopped paying for advertising years ago.

Any money we spend on marketing is spent on making sure guests have a great time and can't wait to come back.

It means slow growth but it's working fine and it means we never have to see money stacked up into a pile only to be burned :)

mdyguy2 karma

It's shocks me how many people do not realize that clicking a small business' ad costs the business real money. Especially, when the person clicking has no interest in using the product/service. I mean, half of these people are sort of ignorant to the fact that they're even clicking an ad, so it's hard to blame them...but they really, really drive up the price of an adwords account.

Oax_Mike3 karma

Yeah, I always scroll down to the main listing when searching for anything. I won't even click on the ad link for big businesses just because they shouldn't have to pay for my click when I'm already looking for their service.

PanickedPoodle15 karma

Do you really "have" seven cats? Or are these mostly feral cats who deign to stop in for regular meals?

Oax_Mike45 karma

We have 5 cats and 2 dogs who are our family and sleep in the house/bed/sofa/etc.

For feral animals we have a couple vultures who perch on our rooftop and plenty of iguanas who have names but don't answer to them :)

Noltonn8 karma

Shit, man, I thought you mean you feed the ferals to the vultures for a second.

Oax_Mike11 karma

No, we rescued an injured vulture about 3 years ago and named him Josh Jr. after a guest.

poopellar15 karma

What are some misconception about living in Mexico that you see on social media forums?

Oax_Mike49 karma

As /u/TexasPhanka said, the number one misconception is the danger.

Something insane like 30,000,000+ foreign visitors come to Mexico every year. Do a handful of them get killed, robbed or whatever? Sure. Just as a random selection of 30 million people in the US are victims of random crimes, too.

Is it more dangerous than Japan? Absolutely. But if you're not putting yourself in high risk situations the statistical difference is minute.

doubleflusher13 karma

What do you do during the rainy season?

Oax_Mike31 karma

We close for the rainy season. This is when we take our vacations and also when we do maintenance, upgrades, etc.

sammidavisjr13 karma

How was your transition back from teaching ESL? I've been doing it in Taiwan for five years, and I'm planning on going back to the States this year with the eventual goal of moving to Mexico. I don't really want to teach in the US, so I'm kind of intimidated about the move.

Oax_Mike12 karma

I mean, we did it just like ripping off a band-aid.

We skipped the "get a real job" in the middle bit, though.

Honestly, part of the reason we started our own business was because we didn't want to continue teaching but knew that a regular job wouldn't provide the freedom we were used to.

Ariquitaun13 karma

Why don't you want to say how much it cost?

Oax_Mike19 karma

Just personal reasons and privacy.

zionentrepreneur12 karma

What is the most difficult part about being self-employed?

Oax_Mike33 karma

Finding the discipline to stick to a routine.

It's way too easy to push off whatever you've got to do until tomorrow when the consequences for doing so are abstract.

nohungernocry12 karma

Besides your already mentioned 'plight of the poo-poo plunger', are there any other unexpected situations that you have found yourself in as hotel owner?

Oax_Mike25 karma

Yes, plenty.

Most of the "best" ones I can't share here because they were people who came from Reddit and have no idea that they're on the "not welcome back" list, haha.

But fortunately our price point and target market keeps most of the riff-raff away.

ktmroach7 karma

I would think this would be a easy platform for them to find out on then instead of showing back up with the drugs and hookers.

Oax_Mike6 karma

There are very few people who aren't welcome back and we'd recognize their names. We only take reservations by email.

MyCoxyNormus12 karma

How did you get into teaching english overseas? Is it online or do you go in person for periods of time?

Oax_Mike50 karma

I googled "Teach English in Japan" and sent my resume off to some recruiters...two hours later I got a call from a guy in Vancouver who told me, "You need one year experience for the job you applied for but I can get you a job in Korea." I said OK. He asked if I could start in 3 weeks. 3 weeks later I was in a classroom having no fucking clue how to teach English :)

I met my wife there, who was also teaching, and the next year we went to Thailand to get some real training (CELTA)....but after 7 years we felt it was time for something new, so we saved like mad and jumped ship. It was actually around year 4 that we knew ESL wasn't the answer forever.

Check out http://eslcafe.com/ if you're interested in giving 'er a go.

cap10wow12 karma

How much Korean did you know before going overseas?

Oax_Mike21 karma

I learned the alphabet. That's it.

I only had 3 weeks notice.

hshinde7 karma

A) Why Mexico, and not some other place, say, like Jawa or Thailand? Was it because of familiarity with Mexico/Spanish? In hindsight, (since you have been to many countries now) do you now feel that you could have done this better in some other place? B) How old were you guys when you started this? How did your families/ close friends back home react when you told them your plans to build a hotel in Mexico? C) How much staff do you have? What kind of work do they help you out with? D) What’s the maximum number of guests you can host?

Oax_Mike9 karma

Lots of reasons.

  1. I already spoke Spanish.
  2. It's close to home for me (wife is from New Zealand so everywhere is far for her)
  3. mid and late 30s
  4. We'd lived pretty different lives prior to this point so families weren't really shocked...and honestly, moving to Mexico means I'm home a lot more.
  5. We have 2 people who work for us. One groundskeeper and one housekeeper.
  6. 4 couples, so 8 total

fallenreaper7 karma

What's the nearest airport? I need to get away 20DEC2019 and looking for nice spots to relax

Oax_Mike14 karma

PXM or HUX but unfortunately we don't have a room available until mid-March.

PitoChueco5 karma

What is the nearest puebla to your hotel? I have driven between Huatulco and PE a few times and don’t recall seeing anything about your place. Cheers

Oax_Mike11 karma

We purposefully don't market our place locally. Honestly, the Puerto Escondido target market isn't really our target market. So we don't have any signage and don't accept walk-ins. The nearest place you'd know is Agua Blanca. You can walk down the beach to Agua Blanca from here.

PitoChueco8 karma

Ah so North of Mazunte. Nice. And envious of you! Livin the dream.

Oax_Mike5 karma

Yeah, pretty much half way between Mazunte and PE.

nso7 karma

You are a stones throw from one of our shrimp farms

Oax_Mike12 karma

We've always heard about these shrimp farms and have been tempted to hunt one down and check it out. Where are you exactly? Do you sell direct?

m_l_ca5 karma

If you could have done the same thing in another country, where would you have chosen?

Oax_Mike12 karma

We also considered Costa Rica and Ecuador but if money was no object, perhaps southern Spain? Or Greece?

m_l_ca5 karma

I have been to both Costa Rica and Ecuador and was thinking the same. I feel that some of the political atmosphere now in central America could lead to opportunity for this type of thing.

How do you attract guests?

Oax_Mike14 karma

How do you attract guests?

You're looking at it.

hi_its_bard5 karma

Are you currently hiring, or thinking of hiring anyone within the next year?

Oax_Mike9 karma

We have a couple locals who work for us but we're a very small operation with just 4 rooms.

fire_tony4 karma

Hey, I'm from Mexico and I've been thinking about doing something like this but in another state. What would you recommend me from your experience?

Oax_Mike7 karma

This is an awfully broad question as I'd need to know more about your business plan and target market to offer any meaningful advice but my number one recommendation would be to really think about your motivations. If you're doing it for a chill life, then it might be the best idea you've ever had - but if you're doing it for the money, it's tough to make a ton of it.

Built_Environment4 karma

2.5 years of construction is a very long time. We can build something like this in +-6 months, at worst 1 year. Why so long?

Oax_Mike11 karma

Because we did it on a very low budget.

We had a crew for about 9 months and then the rest of that 2.5 years it was just my wife and I doing the work ourselves.

chillin-and-grillin4 karma

Has anyone came to your resort has a result of these AMAs or from Reddit in general?

Oax_Mike16 karma

Yes. I won't lie to you chillin', most of our new sales come from Reddit.

The number two driver of business is return guests coming back with their friends.

catmom815194 karma

Did you rescue your dogs?

Oax_Mike15 karma

Yes. We found Prime Time at the dump 7 years ago tied to a motorcycle and Mike Jr. as a puppy begging outside an Italian restaurant.

All 5 of our cats are rescues, too.

nsein3 karma

Was surprised to see this post, we are planning go to this area somewhere in January. What is the beach access like? Can you fish from the beach? Or are there fishing excursions locally that you would recommend?

Oax_Mike8 karma

Yes, you can fish from the beach. We've never had any luck but the locals sure do....without poles! Just line wrapped around a chunk of PVC pipe and live bait.

And yes, we used a guy named Levi when people want to go deep sea fishing. It's about US$50/hour with a minimum of 5 hours but that's for the whole boat, up to 6 people (2 can fish at a time)...he does either close to shore trips for Spanish Mackerel and Skipjack tuna or deep sea trips for mahi mahi, sailfish, marlin, etc. Depends on the season.

RaccoonTycoon3 karma

Did you speak any Spanish before this process? If not, how has it been to buy property, manage a major construction project, and (presumably) integrate with the community in Spanish?

Oax_Mike6 karma

Yes, I spoke fluent (not native level but fluent) Spanish before we arrived, which was part of the reason why we chose Mexico and not somewhere in Southeast Asia.

Managing construction and business stuff is easy (language-wise) and integrating language-wise is easy, too.

As I mention elsewhere, the hardest part for making truly local friends is the economic/educational divide....but a Mexican from a big city who moved to our village would find the same challenge. All of our "real" local friends are not from this area but from Mexico City or similar.

chicahhh3 karma

In your opinion, what is the best Mexican breakfast and why is it chilaquiles with salsa verde?

Oax_Mike4 karma

The last time I had breakfast out I ordered chilaquiles con salsa verde y huevos estrellados.

So you know your shit :)

We serve a fusion breakfast that's huevos rancheros with bacon on a buttermilk biscuit with chipotle mayonnaise that's fucking out of this world, though.

ridinderty2 karma

I travel to Central America as well as some spots in Mexico for sure. Is your destination a good one for an experienced surfer? Can you be a bit more specific on the waves than what's mentioned on your site?

My wife and I love small hotels with decent surf and have nothing but free time :)

Oax_Mike4 karma

Puerto Escondido is a world class surf destination but that's 28km away and very few of our guests are surfers. The break that's out here is for intermediate to experienced only and zero of our guests have ever surfed there except for a group of pro-surfers from the VANS team who stayed here 5 years ago to film a video.

Theoretically, if an experienced surfer wanted to surf right here, you'd be looking at a 10 minute walk down the beach and then the break is pretty far out.

We're not surfers, which means we don't really know what we're talking about, haha...but there's usually a truck or two of surfers coming down the main road every day to surf out here and so it's both popular and hidden.

_and_there_it_is_2 karma

what precautionary measures have you taken to ensure against harassment from the local authorities and/or the local criminal element?

Oax_Mike2 karma

There has been zero harassment from authorities or criminals.

_and_there_it_is_2 karma

are you ever afraid there may be at some point, or is your area relatively safe?

Oax_Mike2 karma

Sure. Of course it's something we think about.

onewaybackpacking2 karma

Nearly booked some time down there this holiday season but couldn’t sell the wife on the safety of southern Mexico. Maybe next year? Somehow Nicaragua seemed more safe...I dunno.

That said - remember seeing you in the /r/travel sub way back in the day of my round the world backpacking days and glad to see things still generally working out.

As far as questions go: any issues with the cartels or mob down there? Curious if people have come by asking for you to pay for protection or anything similar?

Oax_Mike3 karma

No, we've never had any sort of issue like that.

I can't speak on how Nicaragua would compare to Mexico safety-wise other than to say that they're both equally safe :)

75mjb2 karma

What’s your average occupancy rate over last 3 yrs and what’s the min you need to keep the doors open?

You mentioned the hotel closes 3mos a year, does all that time get allotted for travel or is there work you guys do in the property in that time as well?

Oax_Mike9 karma

We don't track occupancy rate but it's low, haha.

It's hard to explain to people how we both care and don't care how we do business-wise. As long as we're making enough to live well then we don't need to drive as much business as possible. More customers also means a LOT more work.

So it's a balancing act. Between taking enough bookings to meet our financial needs while also keeping in mind the real reason we came here, which is to live a more chill life by the beach.

For travel, we each take off for 1 month each summer (give or take) and yeah, there's plenty to do around here during those months with regards to maintenance and upgrades...but plenty of time to dick off and play video games, too :)

warriorofinternets2 karma

I’m trying to get an active travel hotel started in Italy and am wondering what your experience was with regard to return on investment from # of rooms. Does it make sense to start small w few rooms and less debt, or go big at once and aim to keep them filled as best I can from the start?

Oax_Mike6 karma

It may sound strange but we're probably not the best people to ask.

We run our hotel in many "wrong" ways that make us happy but make us less money.

adorablecyborg2 karma

You might not be answering much anymore, but when I read your OP to my husband, he noted to me that foreigners can't own land in Mexico. He says this was absolutely 20-ish years ago, so we're curious if that's changed? Are you leasing it or were you guys able to actually buy it due to you or your wife being nationals there?

Oax_Mike6 karma

We formed a Mexican corporation and then the corporation owns the land. This is a common approach for people starting a business here.

forestdude2 karma

Have you ever pooped yourself as an adult?

Oax_Mike9 karma

Yes.

I had a strange stomach issue for about 2 years that they categorized as IBS but then it just went away one day.

I was driving back to Seattle from Vancouver and shit my pants with the worst diarrhea you can imagine, in the car, in line at the border.

It was awful. Imagine driving through immigration sitting in a puddle of your own watery shit and then driving all the way to Seattle in that cold mess.

Thanks for reminding me.

languagelover171 karma

Do you and your family speak great Spanish now?

Oax_Mike2 karma

I spoke Spanish before we got here and my wife's Spanish gets better by the day. She uses an app called Memrise that works great.

71NZ1 karma

I'm visiting Puerto Vallarta with my boyfriend in 2 weeks. What are the MUST to do things for Both/Solo? Safety? Pro tips on navigating? Are there electric kick scooters? Do I need a Mexico burner phone to use maps for the easily lost? We have hospitality.

Oax_Mike3 karma

I've never been to Vallarta so I can't offer any travel advice on things to do. For safety, the main thing is to not look like a target. While violent crime is pretty rare, things like getting your purse snatched or your expensive camera nabbed off your neck by a passing scooter do happen. If you bring an expensive camera, keep it in your bag. Don't wear jewelry that looks valuable, even if it's not.

Your regular phone is fine but don't hold it out so a passerby could grab it.

That said, you should take care to not look flashy and wealthy when you're traveling anywhere, whether it be Vienna or Vallarta.

No idea about electric scooters.

fuckueatmyass1 karma

Are you Mexican? How did you purchase land on a Mexican beach? There are laws in Mexico that prevent foreign investment into beach properties.

Oax_Mike2 karma

No, we are not. It's relatively simple to navigate. You form a corporation and then the corporation buys/owns the land.

So our land is in the corporation's name and then we are the only shareholders.

It's a very common setup.

Veldron1 karma

How's your weekend going?

Oax_Mike3 karma

Great. We finally went out for a sit down meal last night at our favorite pizzeria in town to try their pasta (always just get pizza to go) and it was amazing.

cretter1 karma

I'm an electrical contractor living in Belize for the last 24 years. Electrical and Plumbing here is set inside the cinder block of walls. It is a bizarre thing to see a freshly built 6 inch block wall and the following day a plumber or electrician (usually the same guy) smashes it to pieces and sets in a bit of wiring or a shower manifold that is then concreted into place. This of course makes servicing or adapting any plumbing or wiring impossible in the future. It still drives me mad to this day. Did you find the same methods used on your development?

Oax_Mike2 karma

Yes.

And the first time I saw them smash through the foundation with a sledge hammer to put plumbing pipes in I was like, "Oh, no...not for the next building."

So we'd sink chunks of larger pipe in the concrete to have access points to pull pipes through and our crew looked at us like we were wizards from outer space.

Hard to avoid the wall smashing for outlets/lights, though. Best we could do is buy a diamond cutter to keep the grooves cleaner and minimize the sledge hammer portion!

9vdJK7N1 karma

What’s the security situation like? Any issues? Never anything good on the media re the situation in Mexico with cartel-related violence. Thank you : )

Oax_Mike3 karma

It's very chill where we are.

Slinky6211 karma

Where and how long did you teach English overseas, income amount, benefits and expenses, and how did you go about it (finding how to teach abroad) and finally, what kind of certifications or whatnot was needed?

Oax_Mike2 karma

We taught in Korea, Vietnam and Chile for 7 years. You need a 4-year degree in something in order to get work visas and we also had a CELTA certificate but this isn't required.

Check out eslcafe.com for up to date information as we've been out of the industry for almost 10 years now.

AfraidKaleidoscope1 karma

How did you get over the fear of the possibility of it being a total flop?

Oax_Mike4 karma

Meh...we all end up as compost before we know it.

Also...the nature of our investment meant that if it had been a total flop we could have recovered most, if not all, of our startup capital. Just developing the land and building the property meant that we had a concrete asset that could be sold for at least what we put into it.

Worst case scenario would have been that we'd not get ALL of our money back but most of it.

Lavatis1 karma

How does the area compare to Mexico City's suburbs? My fiancée and I spent 5 days in the Mexico City area and it was....kinda rough. I'm not sure we could live down there. Where are you originally from? What have been the most difficult challenges for you? Just saw this answered in another thread.

Is your building 99% concrete like the rest of Mexico?

Oax_Mike1 karma

For all intents and purposes, yes, 99% concrete.

You can't compare here to Mexico City's suburbs...that's like asking how rural Nebraska compares to NYC's suburbs. It's a totally different world in every way. Some good ways and some bad ways.

I'm from a small town a couple hours from Seattle on the coast and my wife is from New Zealand.

WafflesTheBadger1 karma

What did you and your wife teach prior and how have those skills transferred to owning a resort?

Oax_Mike3 karma

We were teaching English in Korea, Chile and Vietnam.

None of those skills transferred, haha.

aquic1 karma

Starting a business in countries like Mexico normally involve some off the books deals. Sometimes with local government, sometimes with local gangs, etc. How did you learn to navigate those?

Oax_Mike1 karma

We were lucky enough to never have to do this.

We had opportunities to "speed things up" but preferred to never pay a bribe or similar.

I'm not saying all of Mexico is like this but we have been able to do everything by the books...but yeah, it's slower this way.

rattalouie1 karma

Serious question: how was it navigating the bureaucracy/permits/bribing structures during the build? Are you Mexican or do you speak Spanish? Was it a shock for you?

Oax_Mike2 karma

We never had to pay a bribe.

Honestly, it's not difficult to navigate this stuff if you speak Spanish (which I did before we moved here and is part of the reason we chose Mexico for this project) - what you need more than anything is patience.

You're always short one stamp or one paper or one photocopy...so you have to come back another day and try again....but unlike the States where you need all this shit in advance, in Mexico you can be here and be working while you're sorting this stuff out. So it's like, as long as you're trying you are good to go.

None of it was a shock, though. The bureaucracy was not that hard to deal with. The biggest shock was how hard construction itself would be. We thought we'd be open in like 14-15 months and it took us 2.5 years to finish.

bartdelmar0 karma

Mexican here. Been really interested in buying off some land on some nice beach. What's the process?

Oax_Mike1 karma

If you're a Mexican citizen there's really no process at all. You just find the land you want and buy it and put the title in your name.

One thing I can tell you is that a LOT of Mexicans come down and buy land when they're on vacation during the dry season and don't know that the cheap land they bought floods during the wet season. I'd shop for land in the middle of the rainy season to see what it looks like at its worse.

There's a development near here where seriously 1/4 of the lots are unusable and will be under 1-2 feet of water for 2 months a year. But if you're here in the winter the land looks great.

hemiones0 karma

It seems like the cats chose you :). Were you able to befriend any local humans? And was there anything culturally that was hard to adapt to in the new area? Obviously the cats helped your street cred.

Oax_Mike3 karma

2 of our cats (Potato and Eddie) are from Korea and then Maya, Eredos and Elkietjie are from Mexico. Both our dogs, Prime Time and Mike Jr. are also from Mexico. They are all rescues.

We have plenty of locals we are friendly with and some local "friends" but to be honest, any of our local friends are from Mexico City or similar and are also transplants to this area. The cultural/economic divide between us and the local locals is very wide and so it would be hard to find enough common ground for a proper friendship. But this is more about education and economics than culture...if a Mexican moved to our village from even somewhere like Oaxaca City they'd likely find it hard to relate to the locals here on a deeper level.

So lots of smiles and chit-chat but the reality is that if we were to invite a goat farmer to come to our boutique hotel for a night of wine and discussion of international politics, it would just be an uncomfortable situation all around.

If we lived in a bigger city it would be totally different.

black_flag_4ever0 karma

Were you able to buy the property in Mexico and incorporate?

Oax_Mike1 karma

Yes, we had to form a corporation to buy the land.

vishwa17000 karma

How do you teach and invest at the same time?

Oax_Mike2 karma

We quit our teaching jobs before moving here.

Anonymous_Anomali0 karma

Has the recent cartel activity caused any issues for you or your guests? My father lives in Mexico (different city) for work, and he has had a couple close calls with different cartels recently. It’s quite sad seeing as it’s such a beautiful country with wonderful people.

Oax_Mike1 karma

No, we're far from any hot area.

That's not to say it's not something we're keeping an eye on but so far it hasn't been a concern.

Uneducated_melon0 karma

What kept you going & motivated all these years especially the times when your hopes were low?

Oax_Mike2 karma

Our hopes haven't been low for a long time...it was only during the first few years that it was a true struggle.

Honestly, we didn't have a choice but to stay motivated. We put ourselves into a "no choice but to make it work" position on purpose.

Now_runner-1 karma

Good morning! Do you buy any chance have an air bnb in Austin?

Oax_Mike1 karma

Nope. This is our only property.

GenderAssumer9001-5 karma

Did the dogs communicate with you in English or Spanish?

Oax_Mike7 karma

English...but both our dogs are Mexican.