International Living Daily Postcards

Cuenca, Ecuador  

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The Benefits of Living in San José, Costa Rica

I have a pretty standard morning routine. I’m awakened very early by roosters but stay in bed for a while as the sunrise filters into the bedroom. I start the coffee, open the sliding doors, step out to my deck, and look down into the valley below. I usually see hummingbirds buzzing around my flowers, sometimes a blue-crowned mot-mot. Some mornings one of my neighbors, a farmer, has been up even earlier…


Ask the Expert: Public or Private Health Care Overseas?

Many budding expats are excited at the thought of moving to a country with good, cheap health care—especially when it’s one of their biggest expenses back home. Often one of the least expensive options is a country’s nationalized health plan. But is it right for you? And when might you want to use it? Here are the answers. Q. How do I even qualify for a country’s public (nationalized) health plan?


A Doctor Explains: What the Affordable Care Act Means for Expats

October 1, 2013 saw the beginning of the enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Along with the news about glitches with the health care website came lots of questions for expats: Do expats have to enroll? Will there be penalties for expats who do not enroll? Even if expats are not required to enroll, is there a benefit to enrolling?


Is Ecuador the Right Place for You?

Ecuador has been at the top of so many international retirement indexes and lists in the past few years that folks are beginning to wonder if there isn’t some kind of conspiracy at work. After all, how can a single country meet every one of the requirements that retirees are looking for overseas? Simple answer—it can’t. No place can.


We’re Thriving on Ecuador’s Coast

On Tuesday, I will open my Ecuadorian bank account. No big deal; just a savings account with an ATM card. So, why am I so excited? When we arrived in San Vicente, Ecuador nearly 18 months ago, my wife Diane and I were as prepared as we were able to be, which is to say: we had a lot to learn! We had done our best to get ready for our transition, while attending to the myriad tasks necessary when making an international move.


Getting Paid to Live the Italian Dream

I stood in the window of my apartment in Lucca, Italy, concentrating on painting the scene below. The narrow street was filled with the usual locals who were doing their daily marketing and stopping briefly in a centuries-old church to light a candle. As I tried to capture this slice of life on canvas, I looked out to see a pair of tourists aiming their camera at me—the artist in the window above. Once the shutter clicked, they smiled and waved and I waved back. But my own smile was followed by warm satisfaction that I was living a dream: spending several months in Italy so as to really experience the culture and become part of the fabric of local life.


Living in Cuenca, Ecuador, Has a Downside…

A lot of folks look forward to and truly enjoy the change of seasons. Spring blossoms…the warmth of summer…fall foliage…bundling up in winter. I would not be included in that group. I’ve never been a fan of cold weather. Whenever it snowed I enjoyed walking around and throwing snowballs for about an hour. Then I was ready for it to go away so I could put on a bathing suit.


A Laid Back, Low Cost Lifestyle in Punta Gorda, Belize

Every now and again, when life feels hectic or I fear I’m getting into a rut, I think of little Punta Gorda, Belize. It’s become one of my favorite places to dream of visiting again. Right down near the southern tip of Belize, Punta Gorda looks out on the blue Caribbean. The barrier reef and its wealth of marine life—one of Belize’s main claims to fame—is 30 miles offshore here.


We Restarted Our Lives in Belize

Veronique McKenzie didn’t exactly choose to make her home in Belize…more like, Belize chose her. In her former life, Veronique was working in sales, marketing, and advertising, splitting her time between Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Her job gave her the opportunity for plenty of travel…but as the years progressed, she knew she needed to make a change. She considered moving to Marseilles in France where she is originally from…but before she did that, she decided to take a vacation.


5 Weeks in Portugal’s Surfer Paradise

We sold our house, re-homed our furniture, and put the rest in a storage unit over two-and-a-half years ago. We’ve been living internationally in rented apartments and houses ever since, and we have never regretted our decision to spend our retirement years exploring the world. By the time we reached Portugal, our ninth country, we were practically on automatic pilot.


Checking Out of the Rat Race to Travel the World

Two years ago we were both on the corporate treadmill—my husband Michael as a consulting engineer for some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, and I running my own business. While dealing with the challenges of an ever-increasing workload, a dear friend died. It was then that we realized that we had to find the “off” switch for the treadmill.


Find A Property Bargain in Ecuador

You’ve got the options of a cosmopolitan lifestyle in cities like Quito, Cuenca, and Salinas… or a more quiet existence in any number of smaller enclaves where you can garden with a view. And your choices extend to the kind of home you’d like as well—from the convenience of a modern high-rise condo…to the space afforded by a single-family home with a yard…to raw land on which you can build your dream escape.


Roving Retirement, Italian Style

Bill and Carol Sansone are the envy of their friends. Acting on their passion for Italy they have gone back year after year to explore regions up and down the peninsula. Since 2005 they’ve taken six different destinations for a “test drive” in search of a future retirement home. “We’ve rented in Tuscany, Umbria, northern Lazio, Lake Como and Torino, settling into life in each locale, opting to walk or take public transit rather than drive…


How 15 Years – and a New Career – Changed My Life

My wife Suzan and I used to get dressed to go to work. No, really. Although we’re writers and have been for most of our professional lives now, there was a time when we’d have to put on the nylons and skirts and ties and slacks and sit in offices for hours on end. Flash back about 15 years. The clients we wrote for had Big Offices where they did Important Stuff that we would turn into brochures…


The Costa Rica You See in Pictures…

I first visited Manuel Antonio on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast as a newlywed back in 2005. It was everything I’d read about the country and seen in pictures: White-sand beaches lined with palm trees and green-blue Pacific Ocean with jungle-covered mountains as the backdrop. And let’s not forget the wildlife. Capuchin monkeys. Three-toed sloths. And dozens of birds with vivid plumage.


Falling in Love with This Charming Colonial Town in Colombia

As the bus rounds the bend, a town appears in the distance—perched majestically atop a mountain, surrounded by deep green forests, cattle ranches, and coffee farms. White-washed walls reflect the golden afternoon sun and a church bell tower rises into the heavens. This is where expats go to live a stylish country life.


It’s Easy to Make Friends in Boquete, Panama

Penny Ripple is perhaps Boquete’s most enthusiastic resident. “The landscapes here just blow you away. I can see Volcan Baru, a dormant volcano and the highest point in Panama, from my window. We’re about 3,500 feet above sea level in Panama’s Chiriqui province, near the Costa Rica border. I love it here,” she says.


A Very Affordable Beach Lifestyle in Phuket, Thailand

Nothing quite prepares you for the beauty of Phuket, especially when approaching the region by air…the sparkling, turquoise waters and jungle-topped mountains, the rocky outcrops and white-sand beaches. The country’s largest island is paradise for many expats.


Ecuador vs. United States

My wife and I just returned from a three-week trip to the States to visit our family. We babysat the grandchildren, ate some wonderful meals out, and purchased clothing and other provisions to bring back. We have lived in Cuenca, Ecuador for three-and-a-half years, and with each journey (there have probably been more than 10 by now) we come to appreciate more and more how fortunate we are to embrace the best of both worlds.


Work Less, Play More in Ecuador

For us, the daily grind in the States had begun to require too much work for too little reward. Expenses were rising and both my wife and I had reached a level of dissatisfaction with our careers. It was time for a major change. It was time to slow down, work less, and enjoy more of life! This would not happen by accident. We made a plan. After some months of research, Ecuador emerged as the location for our next chapter. Having spent many years in Alaska…


Fast Track Your Panama Visa

Few countries can boast so romantic a history, so pleasant a climate, so friendly a people, and so dynamic and modern an economy as Panama. Panama City is the largest offshore and regional banking center south of Miami, serving all of Central and South America. The country has more than 80 well-regulated banks, 50 of which are multinationals, that collectively hold an estimated $100 billion in assets, with liquidity impressively high at an average 30%—far better than in the U.S.

Costa Rica

Live in Paradise…and Get Others to Pay

When Karen McCrea, 56, and Axel Santana, 46, were looking for an ideal spot for their guest houses, they had a few criteria. The location had to be unspoiled, yet with amenities their guests might expect like hot water, high-speed Internet, and quick access to grocery shopping. The couple found their spot during a trip to the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica in 2006. The region, also known as the Southern Zone…


We Found a Way to Make Our Island Home Pay

My husband and I landed in the vacation rental world by accident. Fifteen years ago, we moved to our new island home with four suitcases, one black Labrador and a naive plan to stay for one year. The Turks and Caicos Islands were our top choice of destination because of the consistently good weather, pristine beaches, close proximity to the U.S., reliable Internet service, and lack of quarantines for dogs. It is a British Overseas Territory where we drive on the left yet the U.S. dollar is the local currency and Miami, Florida is only 90 minutes away by plane.


I’m Not Like Other Expats…

I have a confession to make. I don’t like the beach. I know tropical beach is supposed to be the dream of every sensible expat. We’re supposed to want to swing in a hammock on it, listen to the surf gently lapping on it, stroll barefoot on it, drink ice-cold beer under umbrellas on it, and walk out of the front door of our seaside bungalows directly on to it.


In Pictures: The Best of Beach Living in Brazil

Brazil’s national volleyball team trains in Saquarema. You can see some world-class players practicing and competing. Beach volleyball is also extremely popular with amateurs. The most popular tourist stop is the Nossa Senhora de Nazareth church, located atop a hill with sweeping views of both the ocean and the lagoon. It’s a great place to watch the sunsets.


Buying a Boat in Panama Could Save You Money

After landing in Panama City, Mike traveled to Shelter Bay Marina—situated at the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal—to meet up with the owner and check out Escapade. Mike was thrilled with the vessel, so, after getting the green light from Ann, he bought it. The boat-buying process works about the same way as purchasing a house.


Live on an Island: Seven of the World’s Best

Islands are places where the stars shine bright at night. Out in the ocean, a profound quiet exists (no traffic jams, hassled commuters, sirens). And because not everything is always so easy to get on an island, one tends to care less about “getting” at all. Life really does become simpler. That stretch of water that separates an island from the mainland is nature’s moat. It keeps these places special…apart.


A (Junior-High) Dream Come True in France

My French adventure began in the ninth grade—in a classroom with a tall bearded French teacher called Mr. Kavanaugh. Mr. Kavanaugh adored la belle France—often showing us French films or playing the music of Edith Piaf—and his enthusiasm for the country was infectious. I nursed those fanciful high school moments into a dream of visiting and maybe one day, living in France.


A Zero-Stress Lifestyle in Panama

Cero estrés. Zero stress. It’s a constant refrain in Panama City, where I now live. It refers to the idea that hiccups are meant to be taken in stride. That if both sides remain calm, all will be well. That there’s no need to “stress out.” Take the other day for example. I’d ordered a few hundred photocopies, but when I went to pick them up I realized I‘d left my wallet at home. The supervisor said “cero estrés,” and let me take the copies anyway. I went back to pay the next day.


Exploring Turkey’s Historic Turquoise Coast

Called the “Turquoise Coast,” the water really is turquoise—usually a brilliant shade of the color. You may argue that it’s cyan, azure, or a shade of blue-green, but you won’t dispute its beauty. If you like sailing, you will love it here. Until the 1970s, access to most villages was by sea only. There are still beaches and hidden spots you won’t reach without a boat. You can easily and affordably take a cruise aboard a traditional wooden gulet (a type of sailboat), or charter one and go it alone.


Costa Rica: A Relaxed Beach Lifestyle

It’s like it was fate that brought Sandy, 69, and Chip Bublik, 75, to their home on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast nine years ago. First, their step-son offered to give them land to build a home. Second, Sandy had just retired and the going-away gift from her employer—she was a receptionist at an ad agency—covered the cost of a container to ship their household goods to Costa Rica.


New Adventures Overseas

My wife and fellow writer Suzan Haskins and I moved abroad 12 years ago…and took our work right along with us. We were writers back home, and our job now is to write about the places expats go and the things they do when they move overseas. And since we’re expats ourselves, we’ve always had a special interest in the ways other expats earn a living abroad as well.


Paris: Europe’s Greatest Retirement Haven

No, Paris is unmatchable. It has bragging rights that other cities can only dream of. For centuries, people have traveled to Paris from all corners of the world to sip from its cup of sophistication and knowledge.


Living in Ireland: An Insider’s Guide

Maybe it’s the music. Or the breathtaking landscapes. Or the witty humor and long, effortless conversations. Even without a drop of Irish blood in your veins, it’s easy to fall in love with Ireland’s charms, traditions and strong sense of community. The recession that followed the Celtic Tiger boom hasn’t altered the essentials that make the Emerald Isle special. I’m one of those people who prefer a cooler climate with four distinct seasons.


The Good Life in Aix-en-Provence, France

With a stylish, international population, 300 days of sunshine and a rich heritage, Aix-en-Provence is a refined town drenched in sunlight and culture. Full of surprises and delights, Aix celebrates its history yet evolves with the times.


France v. Italy: Round Three

Mon ami, you painted a pretty picture of life in southern Italy. But something is lacking—the sophisticated delights of duck confit, sweet onion preserves, foie gras and garriguette strawberries. You Italians are obviously clueless about food.


Italy v France: Round Two

France is nice, I guess. Lavender fields and a vast wine country surely hold a certain appeal. But it’s Italy that captures the heart and feels like home. My cousin bought a house in a lovely little village in southern France, but when she comes to Basilicata, Italy she feels a pang of regret. How could she not, with so much home-spun seduction enveloping anyone who sets foot in the region?


Italy v France: Round One

Mi dispiace, France. I’m sorry. It’s no contest. Even in your rainy-day Brittany region, you can’t come up with a two-story house that a buyer could move into for 18,000 euro ($24,000). We can. It’s not a doll’s house either—there’s 1,290 square feet of living space.


A Step Back in Time in Montevideo, Uruguay

“Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (Old City) is as close to time travel as I can get,” says expat Madeline Parmot. Madeline’s home is on a pedestrian street of restored colonial buildings, just a few blocks from Plaza Matriz, Montevideo’s original plaza.


We Took a Gamble on Ecuador

Our journey to Ecuador started a few years ago. First the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy…and the equity in our home vanished in a few months. Then I had my second heart attack and lost my job—just about the time that retirement was looming.

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