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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My wife is the one who first suggested we look for a home on an entirely different continent. We began our research and discovered we could trade in the familiar U.S. retirement locations for more affordable (and exotic) destinations overseas. Over time, we narrowed our target to Ecuador. We wanted warm weather and beachfront property with a view.
County Clare, on Ireland’s west coast, couldn’t be farther from Marilyn’s life in the suburbs of Los Angeles. “There’s no traffic, and none of the noise or the tensions of LA here,” she says. “It’s so quiet here that guests from LA who stay with me can’t sleep that first night because it’s too quiet! Then, when they go back, they can’t sleep because it’s too noisy.” Marilyn first came to Ireland in 1986.
For some it’s the rainforest…for others it’s the beach or the mountains or the city. You may come here and simply fall for the laid-back culture or the smiling people. But these expats all have something in common—they didn’t just listen to their hearts. They also took a good look at Panama from a practical point of view.
I was in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands recently, strolling through a handicrafts fair, when I saw a display of little mirror-compacts with casings made from decorated, beaten tin. I thought they’d make perfect little gifts for girlfriends—a useful item they could toss in their handbags.
I have a bit of an embarrassing problem every time I go to Nicaragua. For at least half the first day, I’m constantly asking waiters to repeat the price for a beer, cocktail, or meal, thinking I misheard. Could it really that low? They give me a weird look and reassure me it is. Then there’s the next embarrassing part—I’ve just come from the ATM and only have big bills— that’s a lot of change…
It’s a Tuesday morning in the Czech Republic and I’m sitting up in the light and airy third floor cafe above one of Prague’s most renowned theaters, trying out their special red espresso alongside a warm slice of juicy, black currant tart. From the long wall of windows to my right, I can see the sparkling Vltava River with its parade of long green, white and red boats.
I’m in Tamarindo, Costa Rica learning how to surf. I’ve hired a local, Ricardo, who we met on the beach a few days ago. Two hours on the water—just $20. It’s a great deal compared to the many surf schools in town. My five-year-old son is on the water, too. And he’s already an expert, riding wave after wave all the way to the shore. I’m wiping out more than anything…but having a great time.
Nearly every expat of retiree age has said it to me: Panama sneaks up on you. The people, friendly and fun loving at first, seem even warmer and kinder when you really get to know them. The culture…so much richer than the cosmopolitan city suggests. And speaking of Panama City, the bustling streets can seem chaotic at first, but the large number of expats here is a testament to the capital’s…
Vietnam might not be on most people’s list of ultimate travel destinations, but if my trip to the Southeast Asian nation was anything to go by—it should be. Amazingly friendly people…deep, colorful history…tropical climate, great value for your dollar—and there is an endless list of exotic things to see and do. One of my favorite stop-offs was the city of Hue (pronounced Way).
Picasso’s Night Fishing at Antibes doesn’t resemble any fishing activity I’ve ever seen. But it’s fun seeing reproductions of art works displayed where they were painted. All along the French Riviera and into the Provencal back country of hill towns, vineyards and flower fields, I kept coming across spots on the region’s Painters’ Trail.
“Ever since I was young I’ve always loved ancient Italian history and ruins. In fact, I was so drawn to Italian history that I remember seeking out Roman ruins on a trip to England,” says expat Cathy Powell. It’s only fitting, then, that Cathy eventually moved to Tuscania, a small town with deep Etruscan roots in the Lazio region of Italy.
Provence in France. Saying its name evokes memories of sun-drenched hills, starry nights, and the scent of sea-salted rosemary and thyme. Birds sing in olive groves, bees drone in vineyards, flowers spill from terracotta pots. In villages with crinkly-tiled roofs, lizards scurry into niches just as their lizard ancestors did in the Middle Ages.
Part of being a travel writer is about finding a special place that can give you a unique experience far removed from the mainstream. It’s about buying a plane ticket to a destination of your choosing and letting fate decide what kind of adventure will dictate your course of action. After spending a few days in Bangkok, Thailand I purchased a flight to the tropical, hilly island of Phuket.
Nobody gets in the way of the Carnival celebrations in Panama. This party is country-wide and a full week long. Businesses close, Panama City is abandoned, and music is everywhere as what sounds like the world’s largest collection of speaker systems comes together to blast pop, reggae, and pop music to the masses.
The travel bug runs rampant in my family. That’s why, when I was headed to France for work, my mom and I decided to turn it into a girls’ getaway adventure. My mom flew into Paris the day after my work ended and our adventure began.
One of the major concerns for retirees considering relocation abroad is being separated from their grandchildren. My wife and I weren’t grandparents when we arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador over two years ago. Now we have a 1-year-old granddaughter and two more grandbabies on the way.
Six years ago, Sue and I saw our home in Vilcabamba, Ecuador for the very first time. Even though it was our first day ever in South America and we hadn’t even seen the town of Vilcabamba yet, we agreed to buy the property five minutes after stepping through the blue steel gate that was the entrance to the property. And, as it turned out, to our new life.
Life in Europe may be less luxurious than the U.S. by the standard measures we Americans often use—the houses smaller, the cars more compact, the utilities pricey—but it often feels richer in quality, more textured, more civilized. It’s easy to glean pleasure from the simple moments there.
Bob Lux sold his business at 62 and retired. But he soon found that Social Security and the small pension he drew from a job in his younger days wasn’t cutting it in the U.S. His wife Stacy went back to work full-time, he was working three days a week, and they could barely make ends meet. “I found I could move down to Costa Rica with my Social Security and pension and live very comfortably…
Roger Hughes and his wife Candace moved part-time to Uruguay four years ago. A big reason was access to affordable health care. “We didn’t fancy curtailing our lifestyle to preserve a great portion of our assets for health care costs,” says Roger. A few countries in the world stand out as places where foreign residents can easily qualify for, and affordably buy, a private health care plan.
South Korea is an ultra-modern society with massive apartment complexes and high-speed bullet trains. Koreans are some of the most tech-savvy people in the world—with smart-phones, outrageously fast Internet connections and a way of doing almost everything online or with an app.
“We have more friends than ever—our kids can’t believe how social we’ve become,” says one expat couple. “I’m busier than ever before,” says another expat in Panama. It’s a constant refrain from those who thought their retirement years might be marked by the restraints of a fixed income and a waning social calendar. Only to find that in Panama, the retiree lifestyle is a lot of fun…
Most tourists give Paris’s 12th arrondissement a miss. But a lack of showpiece landmarks and museums doesn’t mean lack of character. East of the Bastille, this mostly residential neighborhood offers an intriguing taste of Paris without the clichés. Stretching from the Bastille to Place de la Nation, Faubourg Saint-Antoine is one of the 12th’s principal shopping streets.
Many people dream of retiring to a foreign country and starting an exciting new life. But the uncertainty of such a bold transition…and the niggling questions it raises…sometimes prevents those dreams coming true. “What will my life really be like?” “What if I need medical attention?” “What if I miss my family too much?”
What’s the best job in the world for income-minded world travelers? In my opinion, there’s no doubt…it’s freelance copywriting. Copywriters can work from almost anywhere in the world. If you’ve got a laptop and an Internet connection you’re good to go. What’s more, you set your own hours.
In Panama’s Veraguas Province, Santa Fe looks exactly as a Central American village should. After the modern skyline of Panama City—a shock if you were expecting to encounter the Third World—Santa Fe is a relief. The “real” Panama. Ah, yes, here it is. And here, it exists in its most exemplary form. The prettiest mountain views and the most welcoming people. The “best-of-both-worlds” climate…
In Vilcabamba, Ecuador, you feel like you could live forever. It’s no wonder that this boasts of being the “Valley of Longevity,” where long, healthy lives are common and many of the locals claim to be centenarians—living well into their 100s. Perhaps it’s the climate. Just shy of the equator in southern Ecuador and at an elevation of 5,000 feet, temperatures in Vilcabamba average between 65 F and 81 F.
I’m in Playa Samara, on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. I’m enjoying a beer by the pool with Bill Root, the owner of the small beachfront Fenix Hotel, as he tells me the history of the town. He says it’s much more “crowded” since he and his wife, Phyllis, arrived here 14 years ago. But all I see is a laid-back beach town. His perspective is a bit different, I guess, as a long-time resident.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. I dreamed of feeling that epic adrenaline rush as I ran for my life, hoping to make it all the way down the 825-meter course and into the bullring without wiping out on the dew-slicked cobblestone streets and getting trampled, crushed, or gored. Or even worse…
An hour from Montevideo, Piriapolis was founded in 1893 and is Uruguay’s first seashore resort. It is filled with bathers and sun-worshipers for the entire summer. Year-round, people come from all over Uruguay to enjoy its fine seafood restaurants, casinos, cafés, and local museums.
It was while sailing up the Moho River in Belize that Chris Crowell spotted his future. His 40-foot skipjack schooner, Juanita, was cutting through the calm waters as he rounded a point…and saw an abandoned jungle farm for sale. “Looming high above this beautiful property was a huge cotton tree. My breath was taken away and I knew this was where I should be,” says Chris.
To truly get away from it all, head east along the coast of Uruguay to the department of Rocha. Here you’ll find some of South America’s most beautiful…and last, vast stretches… of undeveloped beaches. Yet you’re still within three hours of the international airport in Montevideo. And you’re just an hour, mas o menos, from trendy, celeb-friendly Punta del Este.
Aged 58, Richard Cowley came face-to-face with an unexpected early retirement. He was a man accustomed to being active but what would happen to him now? He was too young not to be productive, but who hires a 58-year-old? It turned out that the most interesting chapter of his life was just about to begin.
During a recent stay in Panama, I took a trip to the country’s under-explored Caribbean side in the hope of getting some photos I might sell. My destination was a little town called Portobello. Christopher Columbus landed here back in 1502, naming it “Puerto Bello” or “Beautiful Port.” It later became a key strategic asset of the colonial Spanish, to export gold and silver.
When my family and I were looking at rentals before our move to Costa Rica, we really had only one solid requirement: Our home had to be within quick driving distance of the hospital in San Jose where my wife was going have our baby. But we didn’t want to be in San Jose—it’s awfully crowded and you should see rush hour.
Waking up to the sounds of howler monkeys quickly reminds me that I am, in fact, in the middle of the Belizean jungle. I’m at Cotton Tree Lodge, an eco-lodge in the southernmost region of Belize in the Toledo District. Why am I here? For the chocolate.
It was time to stop putting life on hold…and time to start living it. “We saw the value of our savings plunge as we were nearing retirement age,” says Edd. “Rather than continue to work for too many more years trying to correct this problem, we decided to retire, relocate, and enjoy the rest of our lives.”
Although southern France comes with a medieval legacy of troubadour poets, I never expected to see a poetry shop. But there’s one in the harbor town of Cassis. Framed and written on marbled paper, there are over 4,000 poems on love, life and friendship to choose from. Dominated by a fortress castle and with a back garden of vineyards, Cassis is the unhyped Riviera…
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.