When I think of Canadians who travel seasonally to Mexico, I think of affluent people looking for comfortable temperatures all year round, but Jessica Collins flips that stereotype.
And the nomadic side of my personality is enviable.
Collins spends about six months in Mulegé, Baja California Sur, where he runs an unusual Airbnb business and the other half works waaaaay in the north as a cook for miners and ice truckers.
Essentially, she admits, she’s an “adventurous overgrown student,” who has been leading this kind of life for about 20 years.
I first interviewed Collins because I was interested in his business of creating and renting old trailers reworked as a hotel space.
About three years ago, she, a sister, and her Mexican brother-in-law realized they could buy broken-down trailers and RVs for just a few hundred dollars because their owners don’t want to take them north. . They are fixed and rented via AirBnB under the name of Trailercito Caracol.
The Collins sisters’ connection with Baja came from the fact that they traveled the area for many years as teenagers and in their twenties. Her sister met and married a Mexican from Mulegé, and her family’s land became the base of the Collins family in Mexico.
The idea for the trailer has only been active for a few years, but they have two that are commendable with a third on the way. Making them habitable usually includes replacing floors, painting, deep cleaning, and fumigating to make sure you get rid of the infamous scorpions and other critters in the area.
Although they are an important part of their lifestyle and a unique way to experience Baja, the hotel income does not yet support the family. For economic and personal reasons, Jessica still travels north every year for work, but not necessarily in the summer when the weather is better in Canada.
Instead, her migrations depend on the concerts she gets during the year, which include cooking in mining camps and for ice truckers. The latter, in particular, means working near the Arctic Circle during the colder months of the year.
At the time of the interview, Collins was working at a mining exploration camp near the Alaskan border. Like a good Canadian, she was dressed in a flannel shirt and heavy boots. Even though it is summer it was only 4C and it was raining there.
The money she earns, and her sister earns working at Canadian resorts, is used to develop land in Mulegé and their general living expenses in Mexico. For Collins, this may mean that his Baja months are not when normal snowbirds are “in season,” but rather the hot summer months. Its annual migrations can put it at temperatures between -40 ° C and 40 ° C, but it would not have done so otherwise.
COVID-19 has put a strain on their trailer rental business, but not in the sense of people wanting to rent. In fact, the isolation of the caravans and the natural beauty attracts those looking to get away from the madness.
But providing proper showers and bathrooms means a separate outdoor structure that’s shared between trailers, and that sharing is currently prohibited by city officials. Currently, they can only rent one trailer, but they hope that will change soon. Collins says “… there is nothing like showering at night under a million stars.”
Outdoor bathrooms and kitchen areas are common in Mulegé. It is very often too hot to cook inside and never too cold to bathe outside. Additionally, the area’s sewer systems tend to back up and this setup prevents the smell from entering the home.
Using old trailers, including one they renovated in the 1960s, is a great idea not only because it appeals to the same adventurers who come to Mulegé off the beaten track, but because it reuses something who if not sit in a junkyard.
The time the two sisters spend in the north is more than money to complete their life in Baja. They use this time to promote Baja and understand exactly what their target market is and wants. One aspect is understanding how important the internet is, even for such a small business, even though access for them may be sketchy.
Although tourism in Mulegé began to develop from the 1976 construction of Mexican Highway 1, 12 hours from the nearest border with the United States, it did not develop like Los Cabos or even Loreto.
Nonetheless, Collins is very optimistic about the future of the idea for the trailer. She believes that in the post-COVID world, “people will want the experience rather than the resort flash.”
And when they’re ready, so will the Collins family.
Leigh Themadatter arrived in Mexico 18 years ago and fell in love with the land and culture especially its crafts and art. She is the author of Mexican cardboard: paper, paste and fiesta (Schiffer 2019). His culture section appears regularly on Mexico Daily News.