Husband and wife team Todd and Allison Nevins found each other in Dallas, Texas, got married, moved to Mérida, moved back to Texas and now, finally, are digital nomads discovering Mexico, one city at a time.
Both entrepreneurs with their own Internet-based businesses, the Nevins are determined to see all of Mexico, moving to a new city every three months or so, using co-working spaces and the ubiquity of Airbnb.
“Airbnb has been a really glorious thing for us because it allows us to hop from here to there,” Allison Nevins, 46, told us. “We don’t have to have stuff. When we left Austin last year, we sold everything that couldn’t fit in our car. When we show up at an Airbnb we know there is going to be a coffee maker, linens, sheets, towels, television, Internet connection and all the other things we need.”
She was born in Boston but raised primarily in Texas where she graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in psychology and speech communications to prepare for a career in sales. She graduated in 1994 and headed straight to Dallas.
Dallas was also the destination of Todd Nevins, 49, who was born and raised just outside of Springfield, Illinois. He graduated with a marketing degree from Southern Illinois University in 1992 and hopped on a plane for Dallas the following day.
“My first job was with a company that went under after three months,” he said. “After bar tending for another six months, I started in sales with TeleCheck, a company that scanned checks at retail stores. That’s where I first met Allison in 1995. We got married in 2001.”
After TeleCheck, Todd started his own executive recruiting firm focused on financial services companies, while Allison went to work for a pharmaceutical company, a beer and wine company and a records management information firm. In 2010, they decided to move to Mexico.
“I just said ‘screw it.” I vote we go now,” she said. “We have enough money, so why don’t we?”
The couple had visited Mexico every chance they got, vacationing in a different city each trip to test the waters. They started in Playa del Carmen and then moved on to Mazatlán, Manzanillo and other cities before landing in Mérida in 2010.
“We needed a place that would allow me to continue my work and had direct flights to the U.S.,” Todd explained. “Mérida just kept coming up through our online research and conversations with expats in Mexico. We always had a dream of living on the beach and Mérida is just 30 minutes from the beach town of Progreso.”
They rented a home and began looking for a place to purchase, finally finding one in Centro, just three blocks from Paseo de Montejo, the grand boulevard of Mérida.
“We bought it for just US$79,000 and spent about six months renovating the home,” Allison said. “It was a beautiful three-story, two-bedroom and two-bath home with a garage, swimming pool and wonderful terraces.”
While furnishing the home, Allison realized it was difficult to find the Mexican furniture and accessories she loved, so she began asking where she could find them. Everyone said the best came from Central Mexico.
“Ding! A light bulb went off in my head,” she said. “I got together with an American girlfriend of mine and we decided to open El Estudio, a store that sold home décor and fun stuff from Central Mexico. We began in a small space, but soon moved to a large store on Paseo de Montejo where we added souvenirs to our mix because of the increasing tourist trade in Mérida.”
Meanwhile, Todd had transitioned his online recruiting business into a Google AdWords agency – ClickPlacement – to capitalize on the fast-growing online advertising business.
“When we moved to Mérida, our Internet connection wasn’t that great and it was more challenging then because we didn’t have UberConference and other apps that now make it easy to do business all over the world,” he said. “After nearly four years, we decided it was necessary to move back to Texas to really get this business off the ground.”
Allison sold her share of El Estudio to her partner when they moved, but started TexMex Fun Stuff to import her favorite artists from Central Mexico into the U.S.
During their two-year stint in Austin, the couple formed a U.S. limited liability company (LLC) with two DBAs, one for Todd’s business and one for Allison’s.
“Before we moved from Austin in early 2018, we built a business infrastructure and got everything in place,” Todd said. “On paper, we’re still in Austin. We have our bank accounts there and it’s our corporate headquarters.”
But with significant infrastructure improvements in Mexico, they decided to return, but with a major difference: Instead of returning to Mérida, they put a plan in place to live in a different city in Mexico about every three months. They started in San Miguel de Allende and then moved on to Guanajuato, Mexico City, Puebla, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and now, Querétaro.
“My clients are located all over the U.S. and some in Canada,” Todd said. “I can now do everything online using a wide array of apps and other communication tools. If I need a face-to-face meeting, it’s easy now to fly almost anywhere.”
Back in Mexico again, Allison switched her business from importing to exporting.
“One of the benefits of hopping around Mexico is finding great things we can export,” she said. “My artists ship to a guy that I have in Laredo, Texas who does all of the packaging and labeling and helps move the products across the border into an Amazon.com facility. I drive people from Facebook and Instagram to my website and when they click on an item, it takes them to my storefront on Amazon. It has worked so well that I now market to Europe through a company in Puebla that helps get everything together and then shipped to Amazon in London for European distribution.”
Moving around Mexico is a piece of cake for the Nevins. They meticulously plan each move, first locating a co-working space to rent for about US$100 a month and then finding a nearby Airbnb home to rent.
“In Querétaro, our work space has a fast Internet connection, around 130 Mbps, conference rooms and easy access to local coffee shops and restaurants,” Todd said. “That same office package in Austin would easily cost US$350 a month.”
Home is a short Uber ride away. They share their three-story townhome with their sixty-pound bulldog, who enjoys the home’s sunny courtyard.
“We’re paying US$1,700 a month for the short time we will be here,” Allison said. “Our place is very modern with lots of space, 24-hour security, our own parking space and it’s just a five-minute walk to Centro.”
With just a few months in most stops along the way, it’s easy to get a good feel for life in each city, but hard for them to spend a lot of time with local expats, although Querétaro has a large and growing community. But they love their lifestyle and the work/life balance it brings.
“We love the digital nomad life and are planning to live in most cities in Mexico,” Todd said. “We have been living here on tourist visas, but are now finally getting our temporary visas. By this time next year, we will have lived in Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, Mérida and Puerto Vallarta. What a great life!”