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International Living Daily Postcards
A symphony of monks chanted as we sat kneeling on the grass. I held the wire rim of my enormous cylindrical paper lantern and waited for the cue. Finally, in one synchronized movement, a sea of hands—belonging to individuals from countless countries and cultures—let go.
From the first time I flew from the mainland to Ambergris Caye—in a small turbo-prop plane—I was hooked on Belize. Gazing down onto the crystal clear Caribbean waters, and at the waves breaking on the Mesoamerican Reef, I was overwhelmed by the scenic beauty around me…
- Perfect Weather in the Heart of the Central Valley, Costa Rica
Posted on March 7, 2014 by Jason Holland
My wife and I were enjoying coffee on our back porch the other day when we turned to each other and said, almost simultaneously, “Can’t beat this weather, huh?” And really, here at our home in the heart of the Central Valley, in the hills above the town of Grecia, I have to admit the weather is perfect. (My apologies to all those reading this up north who still have snow on the ground.)
- Bali…Paris…and Arctic Glaciers — The Joys of Travel Photography
Posted on March 6, 2014 by Linda Popovich
When my husband and I wanted to escape the rainy Seattle winter weather in 2012, we planned a trip to South East Asia and spent a month on assignment exploring luxury resorts and spas in Bali, Indonesia. Last summer we relaxed on a luxury barge floating down the Burgundy canal, sipping French wines, visiting local villages and eating fine food along the way. And we did some other business while we were in the neighborhood—in Paris, London, and Wales (nice neighborhood!).
- “A Low Cost of Living, Perfect Weather and Other Reasons Why We Moved to Salinas, Ecuador”
Posted on March 5, 2014 by Denver Gray
When Jo realized I was serious and that our move was a matter of weeks away, she said something I heard more than once before leaving the U.S: “I could never do something like that!” Of course, people have different reasons for thinking that way. And I’ll grant you, our move to Ecuador wasn’t what’s called “normal.”
We sold the house and had to decide what to do with all that stuff. So we took inventory—stuff we wanted to keep on one side of the ledger, stuff for the garage sale on the other. The idea was to get rid of all the things we didn’t need and keep all the things that we thought gave our life meaning and stability…the stuff we absolutely couldn’t live without.
In our years abroad, my wife, Suzan, and I have met expats who told us clearly that it was their intention to live someplace where they never saw another expat again. Although I admire the spirit and determination of this kind of total immersion, I can’t help but recall what an expat in the real estate trade in Mexico told us many years ago.
- Tasty, Filling, and Healthy: Five Foods to Try in Costa Rica
Posted on March 2, 2014 by Jason Holland
Costa Rica doesn’t get much attention as a culinary destination. The national cuisine (known locally as comida tipica) hasn’t extended across borders. And you won’t find Costa Rican restaurants anywhere but Costa Rica. Yet, most tourists and expats find that this country is actually full of some great food. It’s tasty, filling, healthy, and, in most cases, very reasonably priced.
- How to Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends in Ecuador…
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Edd Staton
I recently watched the Grammy salute to the Beatles commemorating their performance on the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago. Yes, I was among the 73 million households glued to the TV set on that historic night. A song that Paul and Ringo performed on the show, “A Little Help from My Friends,” got me thinking about how getting things done where I live in Cuenca, Ecuador is so much easier when you are open to the assistance of others.
- Travel to Croatia: One of the Most Beautiful Places in Europe
Posted on February 27, 2014 by Gigi Griffis
Before I arrived in Croatia, people told me that it was one of the most beautiful places in Europe. “If you love Italy, you’ll love Croatia,” they said. “After all, the Croatian coast is where the Italians go to vacation.” Most of Croatia’s coast is along the historic Dalmatian region—a place that perfectly meshes Italian and Eastern European inspirations in architecture, food, and even language. I based myself in Split…
John Sklute, a retired English professor from California, has lived just about everywhere—from sunny Spain to spacious Sweden. So when he says that Berlin has a special something, you know he’s done the legwork. John’s love for Berlin started when he spent a summer there in 1994 and fell in love with a local. The relationship didn’t work out, but John’s passion for Berlin never waned.
It’s great to have step-by-step guides, especially for big and potentially complicated tasks. Moving yourself out of your home country to a completely new and different culture…and language…certainly qualifies as a big and complicated task. It involves many more steps than just five, but considering only the preparatory phase—the phase before the actual move—here are five essential steps to take before you move to Ecuador.
- Life Lessons from 12+ Years’ Experience Living Overseas
Posted on February 23, 2014 by Suzan Haskins
As we approach our lucky 13th year of living overseas, my husband, Dan Prescher, and I are fortunate to have shared so many wonderful, memorable experiences in so many far-flung corners of the world—from Southeast Asia to Europe, and nearly every country of Latin America. We’ve lived in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Ecuador… In fact, we’ve lived in more than one destination in some of those countries. We’ve learned to speak Spanish, we’ve bought and sold property…
My adventures in pursuit of stories have taken me to strange and wonderful places. The spice-scented bazaars of Istanbul were memorable, as were the breweries of Dusseldorf on the banks of the German Rhine. I have haggled with gypsies, queried stamp investors, “borrowed” a speed boat to check out real estate, and handled shotguns in London worth $100,000 each.
Cynthia West bounced through the door vibrating with the news she was about to tell her husband Robert. He listened with mounting glee as she explained her medical company’s plan to inject some younger blood into the workforce. They were offering an early retirement package—one that would give Cynthia “an avenue of escape” from her high stress, 10-hour-a-day job in Silicon Valley. She grabbed the opportunity. Though Robert, 62, was working part-time…
- Savor Life on Ambergris Caye, Belize: One of the Best Islands in the World
Posted on February 18, 2014 by Ann Kuffner
Every morning, when I wake up and hear the birds singing outside my window, and watch the sunbeams that stream into our bedroom, I thank my lucky stars for being able to live a more laid-back life on the little Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When my husband and I left California behind, I promised myself that we’d make time to socialize in Belize. Our busy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area didn’t leave much time for socializing…and we were dreaming of a more simplistic lifestyle
There’s a big difference between how a tourist sees Panama City and how a potential resident views it. If you come for a visit, you’re likely to note the sparkly, spiky skyline. Even back in the 1990s it was impressive—no other city in the region could compete. And these days there are more than plain old skyscrapers here. There are some true architectural specimens, like the Trump building (sail shaped, like that iconic hotel in Dubai).
But nature abhors a vacuum, and I know of no one here simply staring out the window wondering how to spend their time. During four years of living in Cuenca I have been amazed to observe the many creative outlets foreign residents dream up to be active and productive. Free from the yoke of employment (although many expat-run businesses have sprung up) folks are starting foundations and volunteering, learning Spanish and teaching English, tending animals and growing food, traveling in Ecuador and far beyond its borders.
- Moving to Ecuador Saved Chuck and Kathy’s Retirement
Posted on February 15, 2014 by Wendy DeChambeau
Most mornings Chuck and Kathy Baumgarten can be found leisurely sipping coffee and enjoying the sunrise from their porch. It’s easy to see why if you visit their home. They have one of the most scenic vistas in all of Ecuador. Mount Imbabura seems to rise from their backyard. A 180-degree turn showcases Mount Cotacachi’s golden-hour glow. All the while the market town of Otavalo is nestled beneath them in the valley below.
- Costa Rica: The Top Wedding Destination in Latin America
Posted on February 13, 2014 by Jason Holland
There is business opportunity in overseas weddings…and Costa Rica is emerging as the new place to be. It’s estimated that about 8% of U.S. weddings are held overseas, with Mexico being a perennial favorite due to its proximity and established tourist infrastructure. But Costa Rica is now rated the top destination in Latin America by wedding website TheKnot.com. With 36% of the destination weddings in the region, it’s second only to Mexico in terms of numbers…
- A Stress-Free Life (and a Money-Making Business) in Costa Rica
Posted on February 12, 2014 by Emily Shea
Moving abroad is so much more than a change in location; it’s a complete shift of lifestyle. That’s what Penny and Marshall Watne have learned over the last six years in Costa Rica. Their path from North Lake Tahoe to jungle-woven Manuel Antonio was a short one. Once they achieved the idea of general success—complete with two kids and a house full of almost everything they could want—they realized they needed something different…
- The Best Days of Your Life Are the New Normal in Ecuador
Posted on February 10, 2014 by Donald Murray
The place was packed; festive and noisy with a funky, thumping rhythm adding to the party atmosphere. It was a mixed crowd—some retired gringos along with a younger North American group accounted for about 60% with the rest a mix of European travelers and locals. Everyone was having a great time. My wife Diane and I were fortunate to snag a table. At the very moment a group stood to leave, I moved quickly to claim the space.
When I first discovered Sora, I had been looking for someplace quiet to spend a weekend away from Panama City. I wanted a place that was an easy drive from the capital. Somewhere with a cool climate and little noise or light pollution. I wanted to be able to look up and see the stars, maybe wear a light jacket, and have a relaxing weekend.
Countless people dream of retiring in France—and for good reason. France offers a seductive blend of old-world sensibilities and modern living, all wrapped up in one beautiful package. While it’s true that most people don’t retire to France to save money, life here can nonetheless be surprisingly affordable. So, where in France you should think about retiring? Consider these five prime towns and regions: 1. Bordeaux: A Lower Cost of Living in “Little Paris”… Bordeaux is a beautiful port town of 239,000 people lying along the Gironde river…
There are people who plan carefully for the future—folks who weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of major decisions, then make life changes in careful, graduated steps… My wife Ann and I are not those people. When we announced to family and friends that we were selling our home and moving to the beach town of Salinas, Ecuador, they were—to put it mildly—shocked. Looking back, I can’t say that I blame them.
- Escape to a Tropical Island (and Live on $1,500 a Month)
Posted on February 5, 2014 by Keith Hockton
Thomas O’Neal had never been to Malaysia. In fact he hadn’t been anywhere in Asia, which made his sudden decision to move to the tropical island of Penang a brave one. “I figured that I’d take a chance and move lock, stock, and barrel. I could have just visited but where is the fun in that? After just a few months here I love it. It’s home for me now. New York has changed over the years and although I’ll always be a New Yorker I needed to travel.”
- Finding Opportunities in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Posted on February 4, 2014 by Elisha MacKay
Five years ago, fun-loving Canadian cowgirl Blue van Doorninck was searching for a place to put down roots. “I had been living in Vietnam, but there weren’t good opportunities to own land. And I wanted to be in the same time zone as my family. I also wanted to be in a culture more similar to my own. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama all made my short list,” says Blue.
Tom Vercillo is paid to know the best places to wine, dine, and sightsee in scores of cities in the countries lining the Mediterranean. Regularly sampling the region’s finest offerings is just one of many perks in a career that sees him cruising around the Med’s warm waters seven months a year, stopping at exotic new locations almost every day.
People come to live in Panama for lots of reasons. It’s one of the world’s best destinations for retirees, and if you’re keen on running your own business, it’s got much to offer. But if your dream is to establish a winery, then most folks will tell you to look elsewhere. David Feinstein and Kersti Landeck are not most folks.
Steve Doane is a guy’s guy. A retired member of the NYPD, this keen surfer has an athletic physique and likes his rock ‘n’ roll. So when he describes his new life in Panama as “like falling into a Walt Disney movie,” there are no raised eyebrows. Rather, there are nodding heads. “What I mean is everything’s so intense…the sights and sounds,” he says.
Proximity to Panama City and to beaches like Coronado makes El Valle one of the world’s rare “have-it-all” locations. Here, you can live right in the middle of a display of nature’s bounty, teeming with life…and yet be close to important conveniences. And the number of expats discovering this tiny town is growing. Over the course of my visit I encountered quite a few of them and counted many nationalities. Ask them why they choose to live here, and you’ll hear a range of answers.
As a travel writer, I am constantly seeking to discover hidden gems, places the majority of travelers don’t know about and unique adventures. My recent trip to eastern Germany was no exception. Everyone knows about German beer, but did you know Germany’s State of Saxony has an 850-year-old wine-making history?
One of the places my wife, Suzan, and I have lived since moving abroad in 2001 is Panama City, Panama. And I must say, if it was a big, modern city I was after as an expat destination, Panama City would have to be it. The idea of craving the amenities of a big, busting metropolis as a place to retire or have a second home strikes some people as odd.
According to the “critical period hypothesis,” it’s easier to learn a language before the age of 13. That theory says that’s when you have a better chance of achieving fluency and being accent-free. When I started studying Spanish two-and-a-half years ago, I was already 40 years past that window, so I wasn’t sure how my attempts to learn Spanish would play out.
If you ask expats living in Colombia why they fell in love with the country, most will say because of its warm and welcoming people. But once you settle in, you’ll discover that hospitality is just the icing on the cake, because there are endless reasons to retire to Colombia. In Colombia, you can find unbelievable deals on homes and the cost of living is downright cheap. You can choose a town or city in which to live based upon the type of climate and lifestyle you most enjoy. Best of all, you’ll be able relish your retirement…
- Did You Know Learning Spanish is Easier Because of This?
Posted on January 22, 2014 by Jason Holland
We had a friend from Florida visit us here in Costa Rica recently. She’s been a regular guest during our time down here—she loves travel, and Central America in particular. But it was her new husband’s first time in the country, even though he’s from Nicaragua, just to the north. He doesn’t speak any English, although he does recognize a few words and phrases.
- In Pictures: Uncovering the Charms of Pedasi, Panama
Posted on January 21, 2014 by Jessica Ramesch
The first time I visited Pedasi, I thought to myself, “Is this it?” Small colonial homes line the main strip, behind which you’ll find a small plaza flanked by a neat little white church. There are usually a few old-timers sitting under the gazebo, wearing the same sombreros pintados (painted hats) their fathers and grandfathers wore.
- Top Climate Year-Round: One of the Best Reasons to Move to Panama
Posted on January 19, 2014 by Linda Card
Wherever we live, whatever lifestyle we choose, our lives typically fall into a rhythm. Here in David, Panama, where I live, the weather is a major factor in the rhythm of daily life, and the things we do depend on whether it’s summer or winter. Winter in Panama? Yup, that’s what we call it, el invierno in Spanish.
As I sit here sweating in the middle of January it’s hard to imagine that it’s cold somewhere. Our friends back in the U.S. are still working, yet I’m only 53 years old and happily retired now for two years. The past two and a half years have gone by quickly as we’ve settled into our new life in Panama.
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I am single and a year-and-a-half ago one of your postcards mentioned a San Pedro Condo on the beach in the center of town for sale at US$99,000. I visited San Pedro and bought the condo. I manage to live very nicely here on my Social Security check & a small 401K, for about $2,000 per month.