He was never a Mexico guy. He was a Hawaii guy who owned a timeshare to escape Canada’s cold winters. But things changed for Parrish Kondra a few years ago when a good friend called and said, “You’ve got to come check out the condos I’m developing in Yucatán.”
“I took a flight to Cancún and I still remember to this day my first time in Mexico,” Kondra said. “His project was in Mahahual, a remote and beautiful beachfront village about a four-hour drive south of Cancún. It was dark by the time we arrived. I just remember waking up in the morning and being awestruck. I was just in love with the area.”
Kondra knew at that moment that he wanted to go into business with his friend of nearly 20 years, but it took another year-and-a-half before he finally made his final decision.
“I sold just about everything I had, including my house in Saskatoon,” he said. “Whatever was left went into storage containers. I moved to Mahahual with two suitcases and zero Spanish. I had never lived anywhere else before in my life until three years ago. It was a pretty wild time.”
Kondra, who just turned 40, was born and raised in the Canadian city of Saskatoon and attended the University of Saskatchewan in his hometown for three years before deciding he was not really interested.
“To be honest, my parents wanted me to go to university, but I really wanted to take some time off to explore my options and figure out what to do with my life,” he said. “I quit after three years and dove right into sales.”
His first sales job was with Rogers Wireless, Canada’s largest wireless telecommunications company. He stayed with the firm for 12 years before deciding to try his hand as a territory manager with a large agricultural firm in Saskatoon, his last job before heading south to Mexico in 2015.
The sleepy village of Mahahual is just two miles from the Costa Maya cruise port and a short distance from the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef offshore. About 1,000 people live in the area, but it is attracting more vacationers and some expats.
The Mahahual project sold out quickly so Kondra and his partner moved north to the Yucatán coast on the Gulf of Mexico for their next condominium project.
“Our company purchased land on the beach in San Crisanto, which is about 20-minutes east of Progresso and a 50-minute drive from Mérida,” said Kondra. “It was a good decision. We sold most of the 16 units right away, primarily to Canadians who liked that it was much less touristy and more tranquil than the Riviera Maya. Phase two is now underway.”
Kondra told us that the area is much more affordable than beachfront properties in Cancún and other Riviera Maya locations. A penthouse in their building sells for US$250,000 compared with US$600,000 in Cancún and points south.
Smaller than Mahahual’s population, the tiny fishing village of San Crisanto charms with beautiful beaches, azure water and friendly people. For shopping, most expats drive 20-minutes west to Progresso, a popular beach town for Mérida expats and a cruise ship port.
“There are a few small markets in the area with beautiful fresh produce, but Progresso has supermarkets and much better shopping,” Kondra said. “Mérida, which is less than an hour drive away, has Costco, Sam’s Club and other stores for most items beyond fruits and vegetables.”
Kondra rents an apartment in a new complex on Mérida’s north side and makes the 50-minute drive to the condo development as needed. His apartment is 1,100 sq. ft. with two bedrooms and two baths. He pays around US$600 a month, which includes all utilities except for electricity.
“I chose to be on the north side of the city because of its proximity to work and the beaches,” he said. “Most expats in Mérida live downtown, attracted to its beauty, shops, restaurants and the historical old colonial homes the city is known for. The property market in Centro is on fire right now. In fact, one of our buyers bought a penthouse from us and a colonial fixer-upper downtown for US$80,000. They are going to improve the property so they can rent it out and have a place to stay in the city when they want to be in Mérida.”
Kondra and his girlfriend Elisa Cortes, whom he met in Playa del Carmen, enjoy the city’s nightlife, including Mercado 60 and the cantina, La Negrita. He admits, though, that they do not go out as often as they used to. She is from Monterrey and is fluent in English.
“This is going to sound funny,” he said, “but my Spanish skills were better before I met my girlfriend. She speaks English so well that I have kind of gotten lazy with my Spanish. I need to start taking lessons. That’s my goal this winter.”
He is constantly on the go, so his involvement with the local expat community, he said, is minimal. Kondra travels to Canada three or four times a year and is frequently in Playa del Carmen with his girlfriend, a drive of just over three hours.
For someone who had never visited Mexico before three years ago, Kondra has taken to the country like a Canadian duck to water.
“There is so much to love here,” he said. “Obviously, the climate is wonderful, which is a big help for someone who has had bad allergies and asthma since my teenage years. My doctor told me that the only way for me to improve would be to live by an ocean. I feel better and breathe better here. The climate is wonderful, but so are the people. When you are in San Crisanto, you’re in touch with the locals, so you interact and bond with them. All of our workers are from this area and I know them all on a first-name basis. That’s what I really enjoy.”
After living in Mexico for three years now, Kondra said he has found his new home.
“I can’t see myself living in Canada again. I love where I’m from, but Mexico is my home. My future is definitely here. I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity. I still remember where I come from but I love my life here. This is now my place.”