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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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.
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.