International Living Daily Postcards
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When Brian and Stephanie Gough went on vacation in Tamarindo, a stunning stretch of palm-fringed shoreline on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, their lives changed forever. They had such an incredible time that they couldn’t bear the thought of going back to their old lives. So they bought a local restaurant. “We fell in love with Tamarindo,” says Brian.
Formed 5,000 feet above sea level in the western highlands of Guatemala, the 11-mile long Lago de Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America. It plunges to depths of over 1,000 feet. Three volcanoes dominate its southern fringe—Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro; the latter two emerging from the lakeside. The lake itself changes as wistful breezes or surly gales whip up its sleek, glassy surface. The ever-shifting light reflecting off its belly…
It’s 5.00 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Time to start thinking about winding down the work day and getting ready to crawl home in rush hour traffic, then spending a few hours at home hopefully relaxing before going to bed… and getting ready to do it all over again on Tuesday. Except I don’t live that life anymore.
One thing that’s sure to make you homesick when you live overseas is the holiday season. Of course, one reason we left the States was to escape mall parking lot traffic jams, overcrowded superstores, and buying things we didn’t really need just out of habit. So I am glad to be away from the crass commercialism of Christmas shopping and constant TV commercials…
When I first moved to Paris, France more than a decade ago, I had high hopes for my first Christmas season. I just knew that this special city, already so magical, would transform itself into something extraordinary.
Known in Ireland as “the Kingdom,” County Kerry is spellbinding. A land of legends, lakes, and mountains, it comes with color-drenched little towns and craggy promontories that jut into the Atlantic. Fishing boats return at evening with catches of haddock, mackerel, monkfish, and scallops.
When my husband and I first started dreaming about taking a six-month “family sabbatical” with our four young kids somewhere in Central America, we’d considered Costa Rica and Panama as well as Belize. But then I met a British couple who lived in southern Belize. We stayed in touch and they often gave me advice about our unfolding plans.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about the Mayan apocalypse, due to take place tomorrow—December 21. Whatever happens, I figure I’m pretty much at ground zero for it: I live in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, home to the Mayans.
At just 25 years old, Emily made a decision it takes most people years to make. She was working 50 plus hours a week in a stuffy office building in Boston. Although her work in the field of environmental advocacy was interesting, Emily realized she was settling into a typical career path of long hours and little sunshine. She wanted something more…
Puerto Rico at Christmas time also gives me an opportunity to photograph beach scenes, rainforest landscapes and holiday decorations all in one trip. As an extra bonus, the weather is warm and I get to enjoy some of the best seafood found anywhere.
The story of how most expats ended up living in Costa Rica is so similar to mine: “I came to Costa Rica on vacation, fell in love, and decided to stay.” But fell in love with what exactly? What is it about Costa Rica that entices someone to leave their home country and start all over in a foreign land?
As soon as the mercury heads south, most photographers head inside. After all, who wants to photograph in cold, snowy conditions when you could be enjoying a hot drink in front of a roaring fire? Successful photographers who know the money-making tricks, that’s who.
Here in Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, everybody knows everybody. Long-term expats number in the hundreds. It’s a walkable little ‘burg—we can’t stroll through town without stopping several times to talk with friends—and the “Main Street” is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants run by Costa Ricans, Israelis, Argentinians, Italians, Americans, Canadians…
Among the top retirement spots in the world this year, you’ll find great variety in the cultural offerings, climates and lifestyles. Each destination is desirable in its own way, but they all offer something increasingly hard to come by at home: A good quality of life for a reasonable price. Among these 22 destinations, you’ll discover places where you can save tens of thousands of dollars…
Imagine being able live wherever you want…or taking off on months-long vacations whenever the mood hits you. You sure can’t do that with a regular 9-to-5 job. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Copywriting allows you to live exactly this type of lifestyle…because your workplace becomes anywhere with an Internet connection. Plus, you get to answer to the best boss of all—yourself.
Just 28 miles across the river from Buenos Aires (a 50-minute ferry ride) and a two-hour drive from Montevideo… through the richly fertile Rio de la Plata riverbed and past some of Uruguay’s famous farmland and vineyards… Colonia de Sacramento (or just “Colonia,” as it is commonly called) is right off a picture postcard with its cobblestoned, well-shaded sycamore-lined streets.
Shern Darcheville has a pretty nice deal. He splits his time between his Caribbean homes in tropical Jamaica and St. Lucia. But Shern isn’t some independently wealthy millionaire. He has a job just like the rest of us. It’s just that in Shern’s line of work, you’re not tied down to any one place. He can clock in from wherever he likes.
Wedged against the Caribbean Sea, Belize has no strategic importance to anyone. Maybe that’s why it has such a peaceful history. Four hundred years ago, pirates would lie in wait among the 200 islands scattered off the coast. But these days, all you’ll find hiding on the cayes and islands are divers, sailors and anyone looking for an affordable way to enjoy total privacy.
The thermometer was already getting close to 100 degrees when we left Las Vegas for Cuenca, Ecuador two-and-a-half years ago. We’d had enough of that scorching heat—as well as the humidity and chilly winters in the southeast where we previously lived… Besides the attractive cost of living, the mild climate of Cuenca was one of our major reasons for moving here.
These days Caye Caulker, a five-mile-long island off Belize’s Caribbean coast, has the laid-back, beach-bum vibe that brought expats to nearby Ambergris Caye 20 years ago. The streets on Caye Caulker are still packed sand. Most people get around by bicycle. And for those who come here, life is all about the water.
The house I was sitting was just outside the town of Atenas in the mountains, about 30 minutes from the capital of San José. Atenas is home to expats from all over the world, and the locals welcome everyone with a friendly smile. The temperatures when I visited ranged from the low- to mid-80s F during the day and a comfortable low- to mid-60s F at night.
I’m in Playa Negra, on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, in a house in the jungle. The black sand beach, empty save for a few guests from a nearby hotel lounging on beach chairs, is a five-minute walk down the trail.
Every time you turn around, another travel piece appears about Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Mainstream travel writers, it seems, are just now discovering what we’ve known for years… that the city is a worthy destination that blends new and old in alluring ways. It doesn’t hurt that Quito is one of the world’s most affordable cities.
I’m just back from New Zealand and the lazy days of early summer in the southern hemisphere. I’m wishing I could have stayed the entire season. No apologies for using capitals: This was The Best Trip Ever. Right now, I’m longing for another day on a fishing boat and lunch under a winery’s leafy trellis. I want to loll in a hot pool listening to the birdsong of the bush…
I arrived in Caye Caulker, Belize by water taxi from Ambergris Caye, as many people do. The trip takes half an hour, costs $7.50, and is worth the money—skimming across the Caribbean’s blue waves, you can watch the island’s white-sand shores, fringed with palms, gradually grow closer. This approach also drives home a reality of life here: On Caye Caulker, you really are away from it all.
Boquete is Panama’s best-known highland town, with mild temperatures in the low 70s to mid-80s F… and misty rains that keep everything carpeted in kelly green. But there’s much more to this highland region. I visit every year and I’ve found a rich tapestry, woven with the bright threads of local culture, welcoming people, and fun activities.
It was November 1, 2001, and we had jettisoned our previous lives to begin anew in Quito, Ecuador. Just as the thick fog that wrapped its arms around us that night, the future felt fresh and full of possibility. Our Ecuadorian friends greeted us with cheers and hugs and loaded us up for the short ride to the home we’d rented for the coming year. In one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, it had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a guesthouse…
Nine years ago I threw in the towel on a 25-year business career and a six-figure income to go in search of adventure. My life changed forever on September 11, 2001. Friends and business associates died that day. They hadn’t needed more money— they needed more time. Suddenly the savings I was working to accumulate for retirement didn’t seem so important. A year later I was on the road…
On a recent visit to Belize’s Cayo District, near the border with Guatemala, I found something interesting happening… It wasn’t the low prices—I expected those. The Cayo has long been popular with expats for its low cost of living, and it lived up to its reputation. In and around the town of San Ignacio, where most expats live, I saw a number of small homes renting for $400 to $600 a month…
Sara, “70 and proud of it,” lives on a former cattle pasture she has reclaimed for Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife. Her 723-acre Finca Dos Lados, or “Two-Sides Farm,” is so named because it straddles the Continental Divide, featuring both Atlantic and Caribbean wildlife habitats. A retired flight attendant, Sara bought the property in 2002. For several years prior, she’d visited Costa Rica…
After a trip to Costa Rica in 2003, Isabelle and Robert knew they wanted to move permanently to somewhere in Central America. “We missed living in nature, surrounded by nature,” Robert explains. “Central America seemed to have the natural lifestyle we were looking for.” They explored Costa Rica and considered Nicaragua. But it was after a visit to Panama that they fell in love.
In Ecuador, every day is a memory maker. But some more than others… Like the time three of us stayed at a friend’s beachfront house in Olón, with a bamboo bar overlooking the ocean. We dubbed it the “Sand Bar,” for its sand floor. (The owner paid just $50,000 for this house, by the way.) Long into the night, the guys played guitars and sang…
It just might be the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica. You’ll find it at the end of the road, literally, in the far southeastern corner, near the border with Panama. It’s on the Caribbean coast, the most undeveloped portion of the country. You drive two hours east of the capital San Jose, on Highway 32, and hang a right at the port city of Limon.
When you decide to go overseas, you don’t just get to enjoy your new host country—you also get the opportunity to experience all the other nations in the neighborhood. So, now that I’m staying in Buenos Aires in Argentina, I recently decided to use the opportunity to take a short trip to nearby Uruguay. It was a country that took me by surprise.
I am not a “dissatisfied” American. I have never had a desire to move out of the country. The freedom and principles of the U.S. are a treasure, but living there has gotten very hard since losing my job in the recession. So imagine my surprise to find that while a Social Security income will give you a subsistence level of living in the U.S.—it will practically give you a luxury lifestyle in Costa Rica…
IL correspondents sometimes share their monthly budgets to help readers get a feel for the ongoing costs of living abroad. Items such as rent, utilities, and food are self-explanatory, but what about that nebulous “entertainment” category? Expenditures can vary wildly from person to person depending on individual interests and taste.
Michigan natives Kristie and Jim Worrel moved to Paris 21 years ago when Jim worked for Total Petrochemicals. Jim’s contract was for five years but rather than leave their adopted country, which they had grown to love, Jim sought another job, and the couple successfully stayed on in France permanently. But it wasn’t until five years ago, as retirement neared, that the couple finally began the search for their dream. “It had always been a lifelong ambition of ours to buy and renovate an old historic house…
Lots of tourists to Belize never make it to little Punta Gorda. It’s just a bit too far off the beaten path for most folks. PG, as it’s called, is way down in southern Belize. It’s small (only about 5,500 people), and—although it’s right on the Caribbean—there isn’t much beach. Yet it’s one of my favorite places in the whole country. And if you love nature, it probably will be one of your favorites, too… Sea and sky seem to go on forever here. And inland is lush green jungle, just waiting to be explored.
I never tire of Bangkok. I’ve been coming here for years and although the city itself has changed, a new building here, a shopping center there, the essential feel of the place hasn’t changed at all…and that’s what I love about it. There’s something in the air in Thailand’s capital. It’s a city for city lovers…partygoers…travelers and adventure-seekers. It’s crammed with exotic, bustling markets…17th-century temples…art-deco hotels and has fast-food stalls on every corner. For 24 hours of the day, people are living and making a living all around you.
In Lakeland counties and villages along Ireland’s longest river—the Shannon—numerous properties are now selling for under $150,000. The starting figure for cottages with a small piece of land is down to the $67,000 level. With the euro tail-spinning, Ireland now looks temptingly affordable for buyers with dollars. A year ago, a 100,000 euro property would have cost $145,000. At today’s exchange rate, it’s $128,000.