Another perfect day in Costa Rica. It’s bright and sunny and the temperature is a comfortable 72 degrees. A hummingbird flutters outside the window. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s one of my tica friends (the name Costa Ricans use to identify themselves). She’s come to visit, walking 2.5 miles to get to my house.
When I made the decision I was going to retire in Latin America, I decided to learn the language. A brief stint living in Mexico in my early 30s with zero Spanish skills made me realize I was missing out on the full experience…and I didn’t want a repeat. After three years and four scouting trips to Latin American, I am thankful I took the time to learn.
“You can learn to scuba dive,” my friend said. “You can learn to repair diesel engines. You can learn to do your own taxes. People will teach you how to do just about anything… but nobody teaches you how to retire.” My friend was an attendee at our last Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference in Las Vegas.
I bet you’ve imagined it before: the sun is slowly rising over the palm trees, its morning rays glistening across the water as far as the eye can see. The birds are waking up and singing their morning tunes to welcome the day. They’re not early risers because everything here is on island time. A cool breeze blows in from the ocean to balance the warm sun shining on your face.
It’s been 18 months since I moved to the tropical land of my dreams, Costa Rica, and I am still smitten with my new surroundings. Every time I return to the States for a short visit, I am reminded of how intensely I’ve transformed my life…and I realize I could never go back to my previous, mundane reality in Maryland.
I’m single. And you wouldn’t believe all the questions I get about living abroad on my own. “How do you do it?” people ask, as though there was some secret formula. And, yes, “What’s the secret?” is another question I get. In part I get so many questions because so many singles are thinking of moving abroad. And to them I have one short, sweet piece of advice: Just do it.
With a tropical climate, excellent quality health care, and a low cost of living…there are many reasons why Panama is a great place to live. Panama has been named the best country in the world to retire to in International Living’s 2014 Annual Global Retirement Index. This is not a new revelation as Panama has topped the pole an astounding seven times. It also boasts the benefits of being a short flight away from the U.S. and the U.S. dollar is the official currency in Panama.
Mexico City is like a large European city with a tropical jungle twist. It’s also one of the largest cities in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from the cool, calm atmosphere that presides over the Roma Norte neighborhood where I am staying for a few nights. My life has a travel writer takes me to great places like this all the time. I’ve explored the bohemian cafes of Prague…the seductive beaches of Portugal…a seaside village in Turkey…and the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.
When I quit my job to travel the world for a year‚ the last thing I wanted to do was work. Well, at least not in the capacity that I used to as an editor in Manhattan. In fact‚ part of the reason I left the country was to take a break from the New York corporate rat race. When I first moved to Quito, Ecuador in 2012‚ I worked at two language schools teaching English. But after several months‚ I wanted to explore another way to make money.
When my wife Jen and I chose Costa Rica as the country we would retire to, like many moving to a tropical climate, we had visions of morning runs on the beach, learning to surf. We imagined ourselves fishing and snorkeling in crystal clear waters, and watching the sun sink into the ocean as we sipped cocktails with friends. In short, we envisioned beach life.
One of my favorite surprises upon moving to Costa Rica was the open-air ferias or farmer’s markets. They can be found all over the country, and offer delicious fresh fruits and vegetables at very affordable prices. For example, at my favorite market (located in the town of San Isidro de General and held every Thursday and Friday), you can buy three pineapples for $2, mangoes for less than a dollar a pound, and a head of lettuce for 50 cents.
On a crisp, cool morning I met several Spanish friends next to a golden brick church in Salamanca, Spain. We were on our way to tour a bodega, a local winery, in Castile Leon. After a tour of the facilities, a cozy dining hall with dark-colored wood and long tables bedecked in white linen awaited. This homey room had been set aside just for the group to try more wines not available at the tasting, accompanied by rich, savory Spanish cuisine.
Do you have any regrets? That’s a question I often ask my friends who are living overseas. And I’d venture that 99.9 percent of the time I get the same answer. “I wish I’d done it sooner,” they say. “If I’d only known back then what I know now…”
My husband and I just returned from a trip back to the USA, to spend quality time with our family. After such a trip it’s natural to reflect upon why we relish our lifestyle in Belize…and there are many good reasons. We first visited Belize in 1999; almost a decade later, in 2008, I moved permanently to Ambergris Caye.
When Warren Ogden started planning his life overseas, there was never any question that he would call Nicaragua home. He felt a connection with the land and its people. “I grew up among Nicaraguan immigrants in the U.S.,” explains the Seattle native. “I came to live with their extended family in 1999, to work for an NGO, and study Spanish. During that four-month visit, I fell in love with the place.”
I regularly meet readers who are smart and cautious when it comes to buying a property back home. They hire an attorney, they check their sale contract carefully, and they investigate every little thing that could affect the value of the property. But for some strange reason, when they’re buying overseas, these same people forget their common sense.
Have you ever thought about visiting or even living in a place that could be described as “rustic”? Where there are no traffic lights, and where you can buy fresh lobster at less than $7 per pound?It’s a place where horses roam the streets and kids walk home from school using the airport runway as their sidewalk. A tranquil piece of terra firma where you watch the sun rise out of and set into the Caribbean Sea…
She’s a wanton woman with a feather beneath her skirt, cause for her constant state of libidinous arousal. Men and women alike are smitten with her overpowering beauty and limitless energy. But she has a temper, this one. When her flirtations are not returned, her anger boils and she quite literally blows her top like nothing you’ve ever seen.
I’ve always lived near the coast. But in Florida, where I’m from originally, a trip to the beach wasn’t always fun, thanks to crowds, noise, and looming hotel towers. But during my recent trip to Nosara, a Pacific-beach community on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, I found the polar opposite of those overrun Stateside beaches…and a place unlike any other I’ve visited during my two years in this country.
Mangoes are falling, ripe, to the ground. A light breeze flutters through the fruit-laden trees, and a yellow tanager takes flight. A couple passes me, wearing tank tops and shorts. I’m at one of Panama City’s many parks, thinking life just doesn’t get much better than this. It’s warm, the sun is shining, and everything around me is dripping in rainforest green.
We’re both 50 years old, we live on a Caribbean island, and we love running our restaurant,” says Jackie Feldman, who—along with her husband, Adam— moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, three years ago. “We have great friends and our family regularly visits to share our experiences. Isn’t that what so many folks dream about?”
If money were no object, what would your dream retirement look like? This fall, we’ll show you where you can easily make that dream your reality…for a lot less than you think. Your own cottage on a quiet beach…an apartment in a city vibrant with concerts and cafés…a mountain villa where the air is crisp…
How easy is it to adapt to life in a new country?” Well, the answer is going to be different depending on who you are and how adaptable you’re willing to be. I’m a planner by nature. You know, one of those people who likes to make lists, check things off, and know that all is going according to plan.
When Edward Shelton worked as a journalist, he had no idea how to make a pizza. In fact, it was the furthest thing from his mind in the years when he lived between London and New York. Today, he owns and operates a pizza restaurant and B&B in the coastal Chilean city of Valparaíso, known for its hills, colorful homes, and bohemian vibe.
As luck would have it, Judy’s sister and her family had moved to Ambergris Caye before “Temptation Island” put it on the map… Judy notes, “We chose San Pedro because we had been visiting my sister and her husband since they moved to Belize about 23 years ago. We fell in love with the island through those many visits.”
Writing for International Living over the years has inspired me to take a pretty hefty interest in all things related to retirement. And, having just celebrated my 60th birthday, that interest has sharpened. After all, moving abroad is one of the most intriguing ways to improve your retirement situation…or to lay the groundwork for an active, interesting, and affordable retirement if, like me, you find retirement rushing at you faster than ever.
We enjoy a busy social life here in Las Tablas, Panama. That’s partly because eating out is so inexpensive. We indulge several times a week and it’s easy for friends to join us. Dinner for the two of us averages about $15, and lunch can be as little as $2.50 apiece for the menú del día, which includes a soup, the main dish, and a beverage.
What makes for a happy expat? This is something I think about often, because honestly…not everyone is cut out for the expat life. The rewards are tremendous and it’s a wonderful, life-changing experience, but there are challenges—and most are easy to get beyond. From my experience (and I’ve been an expat for 13 years now), those who thrive living overseas are those who are well prepared ahead of time. They’ve done lots of research and they know what they’re getting into. Overall, they have positive, optimistic perspectives about most everything…
Why would anyone move abroad? Truth be told, nobody would move abroad…if they were completely happy with everything about the place they currently lived. If everybody lived where the weather was perfect, the cost of living affordable, the taxes low, the health care quality high, the people friendly, the food and water clean, the crime rate no problem, the politics sane, and the culture and geography interesting enough to satisfy an adventurous spirit of discovery…nobody would move anywhere.
Whenever I meet new expat or Tico friends in Costa Rica, the question invariably comes up: “Why did you move here?” The answer is actually pretty simple. We were looking for a better lifestyle than we had in south Florida, where we were living before we moved. We found it—and our new and improved quality of life has meant that my wife, two young sons, and I are still here and happy two-and-a-half years later.
Oklahoma…Montana…Minnesota…Chile. Neil Sander has lived in numerous destinations, been involved in countless projects, and has had a plethora of careers…but since arriving in Panama in 2004 he has had no desire to live anywhere else. He was approached to move to this beautiful Central American country and supervise the designing and building of a retirement housing development in a virtually uninhabited area of Bocas del Toro.
I’m sitting at a pastel green table on one of Italy’s most beautiful piazzas watching people parading to and fro for an evening stroll. Children scamper away from their parents, a group of elderly gents stand in the middle talking politics, and young couples, coiffed and stylish, stroll about greeting friends and meeting for drinks. The waiter arranges a glass of chilled wine and a plate of nibbles in front of me and I sigh contentedly.
Picture this: You’re sitting with an iced glass of banana/mango/papaya smoothie in your hand, in a comfy chair on the terrace. A slight breeze tickles your skin as you enjoy a symphony of birdsong, the chirping of geckos on the walls, and iguanas nibbling the grass in the yard in front of you. You might even see a giant green leaf bug perched on the chaise lounge.
Nicaragua is a very cool country…and it’s not the temperature I’m talking about. With its smoking volcanoes, clear blue crater lakes, fantastic surfing beaches, and a turquoise swimming hole in the middle of the forest on a mysterious island, it’s a magical place to be.
The crystal-clear emerald surf rolls gently onto the white sandy beach. Combined with the pungent salty air and gentle sea breeze, it’s nearly lulling me to sleep on my towel under one of the empty palapas on the oceanfront. Except for a local dog frolicking along the water, I’m the only one on this stretch of beach, as far as I can see. That’s not because I’m here in “low” season. The town of Progreso, Mexico, is on the Gulf of Mexico, and it hardly matters when you go to the beach. With a yearly average high temperature of 83 F and average low of 73 F, there are no bad beach days in this paradise.
Chicago natives Brad and Christine Schofield have always loved the beach and the water. As their children were growing up, family vacations always seemed to be centered on the sand and sea. As time marched on, their dream to own an inn on the beach headed toward reality. Brad (56) was a manager in the restaurant industry, and most recently general manager of a Chicago environmental company that processes waste cooking oil for the restaurant and hotel industries. Chris (53) owned her own interior design and room renovation business.
It’s a good time to be in Belize. I’m on the beach, in the shade of a palm tree with fronds swaying in the breeze, looking out over azure water. In front of me is a Caribbean lobster, fresh off a grill made of an old propane tank and welded together Rebar for the legs. The lobster is just right. Eric, the dreadlocked grill man, has been doing this for years. Sides of rice and beans cooked in coconut milk and a mellow cabbage and carrot coleslaw complete the package.
When I was 10 or 11 years old I had a vision that I would grow-up be a freelance writer, and live on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. My vision has come to fruition in Venice Beach, California, for $2,500 a month…St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for $800 a month…and most recently in Sesimbra, Portugal, just 30 minutes south of Lisbon, for $400 a month.
On our recent trip to France, my family and I rented a charming house in the countryside near St. Rémy. When we moved on to Paris, we settled into an apartment owned by an American expat currently working on a project in Seattle.
These days, Shawn McCool and his wife Danielle couldn’t be happier. They live with their two children on a quiet street next to a park, in the exquisite university city of Utrecht in Holland. It’s a far cry from the life they left behind in Nashville, Tennessee. As a professional software engineer, Shawn can develop web applications from anywhere in the world.