International Living Daily Postcards
Each day we uncover some of the most desirable--and cheapest--retirement havens on earth. In International Living's free daily postcards, you'll learn about retirement, property, travel and lifestyle opportunities from around the world.
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In Costa Rica, you’ll find plenty of expat hangouts throughout the country. It’s usually a restaurant, café, or bar, often owned by an expat, that acts as a gathering place and meeting spot for clubs and groups. Saturday morning coffee and breakfast might be the big time… or Friday night dinner, it really depends on the place.
From rosé wines to summer sunflowers, there’s nothing gray about France’s sunlit south. If you love art, history, kind weather and good food, the pleasures of Provence are almost endless. And what’s more, the Mediterranean is its playground.
I’d never traveled with a celebrity before. When we arrived at the airport in Costa Rica, it was a madhouse. People kept coming up to take pictures with my companion. Customs officials rushed us through the line after a cursory check of our documents. Baggage handlers competed to grab our luggage.
Exhaustive research turned up a city we’d never heard of called Cuenca in the highlands of Ecuador, a country we knew next to nothing about. But Cuenca appeared to meet all of our criteria, and a “look/see” trip confirmed this could be The Place, so we took the plunge… our standard of living exceeds the lifestyle we enjoyed in the States with two six-figure incomes.
Friends in Ecuador couldn’t decide between the mountains and the beach. So they chose both. Because Ecuador may be the most affordable expat haven ever, you can do that here. For $114,000 total, our friends bought two condos—one beachfront and one with a mountain view. And their monthly expenses are less than $900.
An affordable lifestyle was definitely one of the reasons why my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I became expats more than a decade ago. The opportunity to halve our cost of living and still get better weather, healthier food, lower-cost medical care, and a truly relaxed, “off the treadmill” pace of life was one we couldn’t pass up.
David and Wendy DeChambeau had what many people considered an ideal life in northern Idaho…beautiful natural surroundings, two handsome and talented young boys, a nice home with all the trimmings that make up the American Dream. Yet, they were searching—seeking better economic opportunity, a lower cost of living, and a better climate.
I put down the phone, not for the first time that sunny Sunday morning, and gazed out of the wide lounge window that looked out over Quito’s skyline. The rugged eastern cordillera of the Andes shimmered in the distance under a tropical sun.
She and her partner, Derek Pearce, gave up a champagne lifestyle as successful IT consultants and moved to the Greek island of Crete six years ago. And, they’ve found a quirky way of earning a living…which took the locals even more by surprise.
Mitzy and Bill Martain moved to Panama from North Carolina in search of a simpler, yet better lifestyle. “Our standard of living had deteriorated,” says Mitzy. “We lost our pensions and our medical, and were going to have to survive on social security.” In contrast to these stark words, Mitzy today is the picture of contentment, shelling peas on her tidy, sun washed porch as she shares her story.
A three-bedroom, two-bath home in central Boquete was just listed for $90,000. At approximately 2,900 square feet, it’s spacious, and the lot is over 5,300 square feet. Excellent value for a home with mountain views, indoor laundry room, storage room, and large patio.
A night in a mid-range hotel can cost $300, and if you want to stay awhile, then renting a 645-square-foot apartment will set you back around $3,000 to $4,000 a month. But there’s another way that I’ve discovered. It’s easy, it’s free, and you can do this anywhere. It all started over a year ago and many miles from here. In the midst of a year-long volunteering adventure in the Philippines…
But things started looking up first thing in the morning. Out the window, I spotted a hummingbird circling a cactus flower. And soon a brilliant blue tanager perched on a branch nearby. Sun shining, blue skies, a light breeze, and a temperature in the mid-70s F.
Given the proximity to Paris, property prices are less than you might expect. In Meaux and nearby villages, 120,000 euro – 250,000 euro ($151,000 – $315,000) delivers plenty of individual houses, some spacious enough for a small B&B. For example, 209,000 euro ($263,000) buys a restored, 1,400-square-foot stone house with a garden and small swimming pool in a village 20 minutes drive from Meaux.
If you’re looking for affordable property in Costa Rica, Lake Arenal certainly warrants a closer look. The 1,200-square-foot villa that has the lake view in the photo above is $195,000.
A medieval village of stone-built houses and vaulted passageways, Villars sur Var fits my idea of “the real France.” Following the farming community’s rhythm of the seasons, life probably hasn’t changed that much for decades.
In one week, I saw more of Taiwan than anyone would as a tourist. That’s because the trip was planned and paid for by the Taiwan Tourism Board. I heard the Tourism Board was looking for people to come and photograph and write about their country, so I decided to apply.
Even most Ecuadorians haven’t been to Loja, despite the fact that it’s one of the country’s oldest and most historic cities. Spanish conquistadors set out from here in their search for Andean gold and to explore the Amazon River basin. The great Simón Bolívar himself visited Loja in his campaign to unite Gran Colombia, and it was from Loja that Ecuador declared its independence in 1820.
If I stand in my living room and look out over Panama’s Pacific coastline early in the morning, I can see the local boats of the Gorgona fishing fleet heading east toward their favorite fishing spots. Later in the day, I hear the purr of outboard motors as the fleet returns home to Gorgona beach. Some boats travel far out to sea while others stay just off shore.
I squeeze the brakes of my handlebars and skid to a stop at the edge of the plateau overlooking Peru’s Sacred Valley. More than 2,000 feet below us is the Urubamba River. A small town nestled on its banks was our destination for the evening. My wife and I were at the start of six weeks of unpaid leave from our jobs to travel in South America. That brief moment in time epitomized what we were seeking.
Knowing what I know now, it’s possible that Uruguay may be the best retirement destination you could treat yourself to. Not the cheapest…but the best. (And still at about half the cost of living in North America these days.) Uruguay offers the very best of Latin America and Europe all rolled up into one surprisingly appealing package. Unlike much of Latin America, it comes with a stable government…
Vilcabamba, Ecuador is a place that’s pristine and natural. It just makes you want to slow down and enjoy life as long as you can. Some scientists believe the clean, mineral-rich water that flows from mountain streams and springs is akin to the fountain of youth.
I have to admit that I’ve been totally wrong about Uruguay. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do…figured it would be just another South American country struggling to catch up to the First World. I could not have been more mistaken.
It all started when she and her daughter, Nadine, were sitting in a café in San Francisco. They were talking about the tiny island of Boracay, which they had loved during multiple visits to the Philippines. Known for its bright white sands that never get hot even in 100 degree weather, Boracay is the very picture of perfection.
A Boulevard St-Germain landmark, Café de Flore is one of Paris’s most hallowed literary cafés. I adore art deco elegance, but it isn’t somewhere I’d frequent regularly. Not after seeing the prices—$6.86 for a cafe crème, $8.45 for hot chocolate, $11.22 for a small beer. If it’s the hangout of the next Simone de Beauvoir or Picasso, I’d be astonished.
I’m sitting poolside as I write this, enjoying a cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee and a scrumptious plate of fresh tropical fruit. A kaleidoscope of tropical flowers, the sweet singsong of birds, and the colorful flash of hummingbirds buzzing from flower to flower surround me. This is an average day in my Costa Rican paradise.
I asked for a room with a view and wow, did I get it. This is the sight that greeted me as I stepped out onto the terrace on my first morning in Vilcabamba, a small village in southern Ecuador. Come to think of it, this was the scene I awoke to every morning during my visit…a wake-up call I could definitely get used to…
The Pacific Coast towns of Montanita, Olon, Playas and Salinas in Ecuador are worth exploring. Continuing north along the coast, two other areas of note are Ayampe and Puerto Lopez. Both are of the picture postcard variety, where luxuriant green hills close in on the beach. Puerto Lopez has been one of my all-time favorite Ecuador beach towns since I first saw it in 2001.
Since our move to Ecuador a few years back, interest in this country has exploded. We get questions about how best to travel the country and what not to miss…we’re asked which is best: mountain or beach living…and how Ecuador compares to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama…
Everything is old in Loja. Of course, that’s not literally true…but stroll through the historic colonial heart of this city in southern Ecuador and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. If you wish away the cars and buses and try not to see the youngsters with their stylish hair-dos and piercings (this is a university town, after all), you can sense what this city must have been like, oh…nearly 500 years ago.
St Tola goat’s cheese and organic leaves with a tomato, basil and vodka jelly…roast hake on a risotto of pearl barley with a truffle salsa. For a story about eating and drinking stops along Ireland’s river Shannon, the Purple Onion gastro-pub in Tarmonbarry is definitely worth including.
This place boasts the world’s best climate…averaging daytime temperatures in the mid-70s every day of the year. So where am I? In Loja, a manageable city of about 180,000 people in southern Ecuador. At 6,750 feet above sea level, Loja is at a lower elevation than many of the country’s other major cities perched along the spine of the Andes mountain range.
It’s 8.00 a.m. on a Friday morning and I’m in Gouyave, on the west coast of Grenada. The beach is crowded with fishermen at work. Some are fixing their nets and sharing stories. Others are already out in the water in their canoes.
While on a working vacation in France, I decided to take a week-long side-trip to Spain. I had some friends from the Catalonian region in the north of the country and they invited me to visit. I’d never been there before, so I jumped at the chance to see a new part of the world.
Rent overseas before you buy. That’s good advice for anyone looking to try a new country on for size. Despite its incredibly low real estate costs, Ecuador is no exception. Fortunately, rental costs in Ecuador are very affordable, too.
Ecuador is a retirement paradise. Yes, it is the winner of IL’s Global Retirement Index 2012. But you don’t need an index to tell you that the climate is incredible…and varied—lush mountains, dense Amazon jungle, sun-drenched Pacific beaches…
Just a few decades ago there were only two ways to reach the natural paradise of Las Terrenas, on the Dominican Republic’s Samana Peninsula. You could take a horse, or a boat. Then, word spread among Europeans about a place with stunning waterfalls cascading down from lush green mountains, and shady woodlands touching on miles of palm-fringed, white-sand beaches.
“We’re right on the beach and we love that,” says expat Cynthia Kelley. “We can hear the ocean at night and we love to watch the sunset over the water in the evenings.” It’s easy to get the feeling that you’re a million miles away from the rest of the world in Canoa, on Ecuador’s northern coast.
Ever since settling in the Toledo district of the country in 2005, Chris and his wife Sue have been surrounded by a tropical wonderland of flowers, trees and animals. Life is simpler in Belize. Unobtrusive government, healthy food, a friendly, laid-back population, and a cheap standard of living make life easier all-around, says Chris.
I had to work last Sunday. I was up by 7.30 a.m. But don’t feel bad for me just yet. Once out of bed, I slipped into my swimsuit, cover-up and flip-flops and checked out of my room at a hotel I was staying in at the mouth of the Rio Dulce in Livingston, Guatemala.