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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Campana National Park may well be Panama’s best-kept secret. That’s amazing considering its location—just an hour west of Panama City, a big sign marks the entrance. It’s on the Pan-American Highway, also known as Highway One, which spans the isthmus (in fact, it runs from Canada all the way down to Argentina, with just one “gap” between Panama and Colombia).
I’d always wanted to be a writer. It was something I yearned to do for a living. I had worked in banking all my life but in 2008, aged 47, I decided that it was now or never—I would take a chance. So, I quit my job, sold my house, gave away my two cats (to a woman who adored them) and moved lock, stock and barrel with my wife to Malaysia.
“You’re out of your mind!” This was one of the milder things people said when I announced that after 30 years of living in the paradise of Maui, Hawaii, I was moving to South America. And at 80 years of age. Alone. Without speaking a word of Spanish.
As a lawyer for many decades now, I know how important it is to read and understand what you read. I also know from experience that Americans have been bombarded for years by class warfare politicians attacking wealthy people as if success in life was a crime.
I like to travel. I work much of the time from my home in Colorado (where my tax-deductible office is exactly 11 steps from my bedroom and has a million-dollar mountain view). But, I’ve also worked from Vail, Denver, and Leadville… I’ve toted my computer to France, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Germany, and the list goes on (and on).
Saturday night in Murcia City, southern Spain. I’m in El Secreto tapas bar, trying to summon up the willpower to eat a sea urchin. It looks absolutely bizarre. And in all honesty, absolutely vile. But as all vacationers need to eat, food stories are a travel writer’s staple.
Ashley and Jason Bartner were beginning a new phase in their lives. The couple had planned to settle down and buy a home in New York, but during their honeymoon, exploring cozy cafés, cobblestone avenues, and seasonal fruit markets, they fell in love with Italy.
We’re looking for someone to spend a month in the world’s top retirement haven—on us. If you like the idea of relaxing in a spring-like climate, exploring a colonial University city, making new and interesting friends from all over the world, trying new things and maybe even reporting about your adventures…this could be for you.
“Lazy” isn’t quite the right word to describe the village of Santa Fe de Veraguas, located in Panama’s Veraguas province. Other words come to mind: “bohemian,” “quirky,” and “effortless.” A town of about 3,000 people, Santa Fe has no traffic. Even on the main road cars pass infrequently. And everyone—every single person—says hello or buenas as they pass.
Amid the towers of steel and chrome waft the tantalizing smells of seafood and spices. Argentine, Cuban, Swiss, German, Thai, and Indian are only a few of the offerings you’ll enjoy today in Panama City.
Six years ago, I received a birthday present worth over $70,000. No, I’m not friends with Oprah. We had recently fallen in love with—and bought—a crumbling, pigeon-infested, 150-year old maison bourgeoise in northern Burgundy, France, only two hours away from our apartment in Paris.
You can volunteer at an organic farm next to the Podacarpus National Park in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, or on an apple orchard and organic bakery in Mendoza, Argentina. Help make goat cheese on an Irish farm near Ballyvaughan, County Clare in Ireland, learn about wine making on a vineyard in Italy’s Piemonte district while staying in a village house with a view of the Alps…
You’ll often hear the phrase “Same Same… But Different” in places like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. And that phrase sums up the freelance copywriter’s lifestyle in Southeast Asia almost perfectly. Here’s why.
I work in Paris, France with plenty of free time to explore this phenomenal city with my children, because of my career. As a copywriter, I work a few hours a day, three or four days per week, and I can think of no better place to live.
Five years into my expat life, I look forward to downsizing. In fact, I recently bought a small, manageable, lock-and-leave property in Guanajuato, in the Colonial Highlands. It’s a far cry from what I thought I wanted when I first moved to Mexico… Then, I’d wanted a good-sized house, instead of an apartment as I’d had in the U.S.
When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I moved overseas in 2001, we had no idea how much we didn’t know about living abroad. But we learned quickly. I still remember trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of Spanish hardware…literally.
We’ve pinpointed three locations with strong rental potential. Two of them would make fantastic second home destinations. The third would suit investors looking for a mix of good potential rental yield and appreciation.
After a few years spent teaching in Ecuador, Brazil, Australia and Thailand I returned to England to catch up with family and friends, but I missed the adventure, learning a language and the creative energy of life overseas. And that’s how I ended up in Spain.
I’m not a professional photographer, but for over five years now I’ve used stock photography to supplement my income and help cover travel expenses. One of my favorite trips in recent years was to La Paz, Bolivia.
For one of the most breathtaking experiences in the Scottish Highlands, take the A87 highway from Fort William to the Isle of Skye and descend into Glen Shiel to Loch Duich. A few miles farther along the lakeshore, you’ll suddenly come across the iconic sight of Eilean Donan Castle sitting on an island at the point where three of the great Scottish sea lochs meet.
Expat Juliette Cunliffe gets up at sunrise to enjoy the view from her bedroom. With a home perched high on a ridge above Lake Phewa Tal, she can gaze out at the snow-capped Annapurna mountains, look down at the town of Pokhara along the lakeshore, and plan her day in the lush foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas.
These islands are an independent country joined in “free association” with New Zealand. It has its own government and court system, the New Zealand dollar is the local currency, and it definitely qualifies as what used to be called a “tax haven,” now replaced by the politically correct term “offshore financial center.” Fifteen in all, their beaches are of white-powdered sands, the waters aquamarine and turquoise, and the climate ideal.
When you buy international real estate you can generate income in another currency. All your eggs aren’t in one basket. If the value of your dollar goes down, for example, you might be very happy to have an income stream in Brazilian reais…or Colombian pesos. Diversification…particularly in turbulent times…is just plain common sense.
Go for the Canal…Stay for Everything Else. That’s what the New York Times is saying about Panama. The publishing giant’s travel section listed Panama as number one out of 45 Places to Go in 2012. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones don’t disagree. They are on vacation in Panama this week with their family.
There’s a highland village in Panama you probably haven’t heard of yet—a handful of North Americans are only beginning to establish a bohemian community. Pines and flowering shrubs, beautifully paved roads and neatly painted houses, where no-one locks their doors and everyone has reliable Internet.
Several years ago, my wife and I took a quick trip to Calgary, Alberta to visit some close friends who had recently given birth to twins. As an avid photographer, and someone who was breaking in the world of stock photography at the time, I couldn’t go without my camera.
I’m in an SUV in La Paz, in Mexico’s Baja California Sur. The sun is hot and we’ve rolled down the windows as we drive through town. We go at a leisurely pace, stopping at street corners to obey the four-way stop signs; La Paz is too low-key to need many stop lights.
In 2004—the day after returning from a sailing adventure in Placencia, Belize—Lucky made a routine trip to the doctor’s office. “His blood pressure was normal. The doctor was shocked,” says Erin. Belize was the reason. That helped focus the couple on a permanent move. They sat down and made out a five-year plan, developed a strict budget, and began downsizing.
Months ago, our far-flung editors and in-country advisers began collecting all the data and details that inform our just-released Global Retirement Index 2012. For the Index, we narrow down the countries we focus on to the top 19, and consider each across eight crucial categories: real estate, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate.
The country that takes the number-one spot in the Annual Global Retirement Index 2012 is also the clear winner in our cost of living category. A couple watching their spending here can live well on $800 a month.
Look at the right places beyond our borders today, and you’ll find you have more good choices than ever for a comfortable—even a pampered—retirement. In any one of our top 19 havens for 2012, a lifestyle well beyond your reach in the States could be yours for pennies on the dollar.
No matter where you choose to live in the country that takes top honors in IL’s 2012 Annual Global Retirement Index, there is no better retirement haven in the world. Across all eight of our crucial categories it scores strongly. It outright wins two.
The quiet turquoise waters of the Caribbean…a mountain retreat with views of snow-capped peaks…an elegant pied-à-terre in one of the world’s most historic cities…where is your ideal “live overseas” location? Take our 45-second quiz and instantly discover your ideal overseas haven. Plus, you’ll get a free country report you can use right now. It takes less than a minute.
Richard Brady goes by Ricardo these days…he’s been in Panama since 2001 and has no plans to return to Florida. That’s probably because he spends his days surfing at one of the best sites in the region. When he’s not surfing, he’s out on Elizabeth, a gleaming white 25-foot skiff, from which he’s spotted everything from manta rays to howler monkeys.
“It’s my favorite wave on earth,” says Jon Hanna, a championship surfer who’s seen more than a few waves in his travels around the world. He’s talking about Santa Catalina, a little surf town in Panama that was once a well-guarded secret.
Erica and Kevin Moore didn’t want much…a quiet setting where they’d be able to run a business and be a part of a welcoming community. In Panama, they found dozens of towns with potential…but the tiny village of Santa Fe de Veraguas called to them.
Years ago we’d talk confidently about the benefits of Mexico versus Argentina…or Ecuador versus Costa Rica. I’m finding that we don’t do that as much these days.
It’s easy to find yourself surrounded by lush green jungle, a kaleidoscope of flowers, and a menagerie of animals. You can have this in your backyard if you wish. For me, this is a huge part of the magic of Costa Rica and the main reason I chose to live and work here.
We’re closed for Christmas Day. All your editors will be spending the holiday with family. Wherever you find yourself today, we hope you’re among friends and family, too.
When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I visited the Ecuador coast recently, one of the nicest surprises was Bahia de Caraquez. It’s hard not to describe this little city of 20,000 people as a gem.