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No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can't live anywhere for free...
But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go?
You could spend half the year in your own cottage on the beach… work in the mornings and snorkel and relax in the afternoons. Maybe spend the other half of the year up in the mountains where it's cool... and get paid while you're at it...
With this kind of flexibility, it doesn't matter where you're based. That means you can travel whenever you feel like it. You could rent a place in Paris or Buenos Aires for a month or two of vacation, work from home a few days a week and spend the rest of your time enjoying the city...
You could earn an income from back home while you go live someplace where the cost of living is much more affordable. That way you put dollars in your pocket, but you spend in a place where those dollars really stretch.
Get Your Free Report on Funding Your Life Overseas Now
Sign up to Fund Your Life Overseas today, and we'll send you your FREE report Fund Your New Life Overseas With These 6 Portable Careers
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Lara Goldman is living her dream in Belize. She lives just 100 yards from the beach for a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S. As a single woman who owns her own home on Ambergris Caye, her outgoings come to just $1,500 a month. She found this perfect home on her very first trip to Belize in 2006.
For several years, former mortgage broker Michael Mack had a successful business flipping houses in Florida. When the bargains began disappearing, he decided to take a break and head to the Dominican Republic to figure out his next venture. He rented a place on the beach, and after soaking up the sun and the lifestyle for several weeks, decided he wanted to stay.
Making something once and selling it over and over again has to be one of the sweetest incomes imaginable. Authors and musicians have been doing it for years…one book, one song, lots of royalties. Now this field of passive income is easier to tap into than ever before. The internet has created a demand for digital products—e-books, videos, podcasts—and technology has put the means of producing them at your fingertips.
A decade after leaving the corporate world and moving to Mexico, the word that best sums up my move is “freedom.” These days I’m visiting five to seven countries a year. I have the freedom to set my own schedule…decide what days are workdays…enjoy lunch at the beach with my feet in the warm sand…or park myself in a coffee shop in an easy-going colonial city.
Right now I live in Tamarindo. It’s a lively but manageable resort town on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Here I enjoy long days at the beach, fresh—and cheap—seafood dinners, sunset happy hours, and mingling with the vibrant expat community made up of Americans and Canadians in big numbers but also Argentinians, Italians, Israelis, French, and a dozen other nationalities. Everywhere I’ve gone in Costa Rica I’ve met a lot of expats who own and run businesses—surf schools, tour operators, B&Bs, beach bars, art galleries, petsitting, microbreweries, catering, food trucks…and more. But despite their varied niches, all these business owners have something in common.
“We could be at the office,” my friend shouts from across the water. It’s 8.30 a.m. on a Tuesday and here we are out surfing on a glorious Costa Rican morning. The sun is shining and the turquoise blue water sparkles as it catches the rays of the morning sun. This is my paradise and also my home. In fact, I only have a 220-yard walk back to the house after my morning session.
As a 5-year-old Canadian spending Christmas holidays in Southern California, I had a lightbulb moment—there were countries that didn’t have snow! Ever since, I harbored a desire to live in one. So when my husband, Tim, and I came to Costa Rica on our honeymoon—and fell in love with it—we decided to move here. With such friendly people, a large expat community, and many English speakers in the area, we felt it would be an easy place for us to transition.
Before moving to Belize, Polly Alford lived a cushy life in southeastern England. She had a lucrative job with an IBM partner company, drove a convertible Volvo, owned a comfortable home, and vacationed several times a year. But she wasn’t content…Whenever Polly returned home from an exotic diving vacation, she wondered what it would be like to live a different lifestyle…in an exotic location…where she could indulge her favorite passion, scuba diving. So in October 2003 she gave in to that yearning.
You notice the difference the minute your vehicle starts lumbering up the excellent road that circles the city. You suddenly feel a cool breeze through the window; everything is green and fresh. You’ve left the hot lowlands behind. You feel like you are somewhere else as you pass acres of coffee beans drying out in the sun, trees that you’ve never seen before, mountain vistas at every turn, and horses and cattle on their ranches eyeing you curiously. Miles and miles of thick forest beckon you to explore.
With its great windsurfing and stunning beaches, the town of Cabarete, on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, draws thousands of visitors each year. Its sand, sun, and surf were what first enticed expat Peter Orr to this part of the Caribbean. And today they bring a regular stream of customers to his business—a beachside hotel. “While working in Barbados in the early 80s, I got to experience the Caribbean lifestyle and windsurfing. I formed a dream of buying a little hotel on a Caribbean island when I was done working for someone else,” says Peter. More than 20 years later, Peter did exactly that.
They say the best way to make a living—if you can—is to monetize your hobby. Sometimes that can be easier said than done. But if you can do it, it can lead to a far more enjoyable and fulfilling vocation. This has been the case for me in the Ecuadorian mountain city of Cuenca. Its beautiful colonial architecture and friendly, colorful locals have enabled me to supplement my retirement income through photography.
Ecuador is a land of rainforests, breathtaking river gorges, and volcanic hot springs, where you can be pampered by affordable spa treatments or simply enjoy the beautiful landscapes. My life has changed over the last 10 years since I discovered how to fund my travels and spend more time there. I feel so fortunate to have had the experiences I’ve logged on my trips.
I used to dream of the benefits of traveling or living abroad. So I looked hard until I discovered a way to make it happen. A way that I know can work for anyone. It’s certainly worked for me. Just last week I was on Mexico’s Riviera Maya savoring the iridescent, blue waters, and endless sandy beaches. I often travel to immaculate colonial towns like San Miguel de Allende where festivals, holidays and celebrations seem a daily occurrence and the summers are cool and fresh. The sooner you start earning a portable income, the sooner you can realize whatever your own dream is and benefit from the lower cost of living, lower stress, and wonder of immersing yourself in a new culture.
I grew up on a ranch in Winslow, Arizona, with Spanish all around me. I absorbed it by osmosis and used it on my first South American adventure…to Argentina. I loved Spanish but it was only when I traveled to Argentina that I discovered I loved teaching. A doctor friend there asked me to help him with his English. We made so much progress that I was soon teaching his friends. And that was the start of my language-teaching career.
Costa Rica can feel like a dream at times…especially the mornings that I wake up to the deep aroma of fresh-roasted coffee, harvested just a few miles from my house…or the days when my weekly errands are put on hold for a stroll on a white-sand beach. Finding adventure is easy here. My boyfriend, Pablo, and I have climbed a volcano in the morning only to be at the beach by afternoon. We’ve dined on world-class seafood prepared by European-trained chefs, but our favorite are meals with the locals where the stars are black beans broiled over an open fire and ripe plantains fried until they’re caramelized.
Retiring to Lake Arenal in Costa Rica almost four years ago was one of the best decisions my wife Beaty and I ever made. We lived in the little East Texas town of Crockett and the kids were all graduated from college. After practicing dentistry for 38 years, I was hitting the point where I was ready to get out. Beaty had already retired from her physician’s assistant job.
The idea of moving to Europe can conjure up images of running a business in pasta heaven Italy with its postcard-perfect hill towns…in France’s castle-dotted countryside…or perhaps in the bustling urban centers of Amsterdam, Berlin, or Barcelona.
After a long and grueling career in the restaurant industry in New York and New Jersey, Anthony Chalas was ready for a change. He wanted his own place, where he could fulfill his vision of a seaside restaurant serving Greek food. And he found it on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, in the sleepy fishing village and expat haven of Puerto Morelos.
When our children found their various paths in the world, my wife, Jane Ann, and I watched them launch into their own trajectories in the world with pride…but also with some jealousy for their new adventures. I spent my career in healthcare and financial services, while my wife managed dental practices: staff, patients, and finances. We were well planted in our traditional professions, our community, and our home in Seattle. And we had now become empty nesters.
Sunday morning, San Miguel de Allende. From a dead sleep, the cacophony of clapping, singing, and unusual musical instruments wakes me out of a deep sleep… “It’s really close!” I think to myself. I amble down the stairs in the direction of the sounds, they get louder, in fact they seem to be just outside my front door. I had arrived home the night before, after a long week of both business and fun, into a thunderstorm-ish airport.
One of the things I love most about traveling is that it can be a metaphor for other parts of our life. Outside of familiar surroundings, we are apt to be more alert, more conscious. In such situations we frequently gain new skills—like learning how we respond to unexpected delays and distractions. It was a discovery I made after spending 10 days with my siblings in Lucca, Italy. I planned to take a train to Venice, spend a bonus afternoon in my favorite city, and fly home the next day.
I never thought of photography as a way to earn money. It was just too much fun as a hobby. So, you can imagine my elation when I sold my first framed travel photo for $600! And, then, sold two more on the same weekend. I had been a teacher and a programmer, back in the States. But when I began living out of a suitcase—accompanying my husband on his longer business trips—I started photographing my travels
Coming from Tyler, Texas, Harold and Lisa Beasley brought more than clothes and household items when they moved to the village of Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley region. They also brought with them a touch of Southern hospitality. That and home-style cooking is on offer at Kay’s Gringo Postres, a restaurant with a long history in the expat community, which they bought from its original expat owners.
The Honduran island of Roatán has a lot of things going for it: low cost of living, a laidback island lifestyle, sun, sand and, of course, sea. The island has over 95 miles of coastline fronting the rich, warm waters of the Caribbean making it a scuba diving Mecca. This is a fact that expat business partners Gary Carlson and John Hart have been able to take full advantage of with their diving shop, West End Divers.
As a travel photographer, I stayed for free in a vacation rental, a charming little authentic cottage tucked away in the lush green countryside. I photographed the cottage and interesting things one might see and do, both in the immediate area of County Limerick and as far away as Dublin, for the same publication.
It’s been a long time now since I transitioned from a traditional job to a footloose and fancy-free photographer but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Location independent income has become a mandatory part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My friends thought I was crazy when I first started talking about selling my photos. I had no experience and I barely knew how to work my camera. But they have no idea how easy it was to put my travel photos online and start selling them as stock.
The landscape is bucolic and peaceful, with tremendous views of forested river valleys, green-covered hills and mountains, with the red rooftops of villages in the distance. It’s not a bad place to retire…to reinvent yourself in a new country.
Tim Leffel and his family live among the cobblestone avenues, pastel-colored colonial buildings, and leafy plazas of Guanajuato, one of Mexico’s prettiest towns. “I really love the pace of life, the emphasis on family and fun rather than wearing ‘busy-ness’ as a badge of honor,” he says. “Since Mexican cities are geared to pedestrians and people are always out and about on foot, we don’t need a car and all the related expenses. Since healthcare costs are reasonable, there’s no fear of a doctor’s visit costing more than a car payment either.”
It’s almost lunchtime, which means it’s time for the work to end and play to begin. The beach awaits and the dive boat will be heading out soon, leaving just enough time to shut down the laptop and mosey into town. Such is a typical day in Roatan, Honduras, for expat Rika Purdy. Originally from Vancouver, Rika worked as a paralegal for years, obeying the clock, and working to make other people rich. But she came to realize there were new opportunities for earning online which could release her.
A decade ago, I had no idea this type of freedom was possible… I thought I’d spend the rest of my career working for an employer, getting 3% raises each year, hoping for a tiny holiday bonus. I thought I’d be chained to a single location, traveling only during my vacation days. But thanks to the power of the internet, which creates the opportunity to embrace location-independent jobs like blogging, I’m now able to go anywhere I want, anytime I want, for as long as I want.
Peter Roberts and his wife, Sally, were never really intending to move to Panama. They had even less inkling that they would buy a property—specifically a working farm. Two bird enthusiasts, Peter and Sally visited the mountain region of Boquete to take a bird-watching tour.
I don’t like any weather that requires a jacket. My solution is to escape to warmer climates. This past fall and winter, I spent more than three months living in Italy and Spain. Last year I spent almost two months in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. I spent my weekends exploring Cinque Terre and small Tuscan towns like Siena, Lucca, and Cortona. I enjoyed soaking up the Italian history and culture by wandering through cobbled streets, climbing up old towers, and eating more pizzas than I can count.
Ryan Bickle, 33, was exploring the hills around the town of Montezuma in Costa Rica 10 years ago…and it changed the direction of his life. Montezuma is a fishing village turned bohemian hangout on the tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific in the north of the country. There is no large-scale development, no big hotels, no chain restaurants. It’s a simple place, quiet, with a laidback lifestyle that attracts expats seeking a home without resorts or the crowds that come with that level of development.
Start a blog this week—take a couple of days to really set it up right—and it could earn you a full-time income from anywhere in the world you want to be. Sound far-fetched? I’m not surprised. After all, as recently as the year 2000, “blog” wasn’t even a word. But fast forward to today and Forbes cites a woman receiving $5,000 to blog about an iPhone application for seven days…another who earns twice as much as her husband’s annual salary…and another taking all-expenses-paid vacations to Hawaii, Aruba, and Florida.
Bruce Walker has a simple life. Most days you can see him riding along the golden-sand beaches and jungle paths of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast…with guests in tow. He has lived in Playa Chiquita, a small beach community for the past four years and his Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures is one of the most popular activities for visitors to this area, which is untouched by major development or tourism. No big resorts, no big towns. It’s a rural area full of nature. Rain forest borders a turquoise ocean.
The week after I returned from Italy, I was behaving like someone newly in love. I mooned around watching Room With a View so I could see Tuscan poppy fields again. I imagined painting my walls terracotta and adding frescoes, learning to speak fluent Italian. I grew weepy over spaghetti sauce commercials. I avoided anything having to do with running my business. I was a goner.
Exactly one year ago, I was sitting on my couch in snowy Cleveland. At that time, I hadn’t left Northern Ohio for more than three weeks at a time. I was spending my time watching International House Hunter shows and researching on every travel blog and forum I could…trying to find out if living in Central America was a realistic dream for my husband, Dave, and I.
When the cold New York winters got too much for Nino Marzano and Maria Postell, they started thinking about turning their favorite vacation spot into their new home. And, in 2011, they made the transition—letting go of the stress and the cold to live full-time in one of the Dominican Republic’s premier vacation and expat hotspots: Punta Cana-Bávaro. With its white-sand beaches, reef-protected crystal waters, coconut palms, and resort infrastructure, it was the perfect antidote to New York.
The gentle waters of Peru’s Madre de Dios river lap the shore just inches away. A welcoming breeze begins to push away the jungle heat. Iguanas scurry about chasing each other in a game of tag. I am totally relaxed as the resort’s masseuse works on my tired muscles in an outdoor cabana. My morning was spent trekking through the jungle in the Peruvian Amazon where I discovered brilliantly colored plants and heard the unfamiliar sounds of nearby wildlife. Now I’m taking a break for a massage inside the thatched-roof cabana by the river.
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