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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.
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Crackle! Pop! Fizz! It isn’t my morning cereal talking to me. It’s midnight on February 14, and the sound of fireworks has us all running to the balcony. Over Panama Bay, we watch flower and star-shaped formations explode into the night sky, then cascade into the Pacific. Back in the States, Valentine’s Day would hardly be cause for such jubilation, but in Panama it is Carnival season. The dates change every year, so festivities can take place during the four days preceding Catholic Lent. One might say that Panamanians mark their calendars religiously, but Carnival is not about being good or saintly. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Colette Holmes and her husband, Nick, weren’t planning a permanent move from Los Angeles to the Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. “We came because Nick was a baseball coach,” Colette explains. “It was just a seasonal job. But after spending a little time here, we decided that we wanted to make a life in Costa Rica. We wanted a different life—a bit slower, a bit simpler.” And that’s what the couple got.
Since we moved to Panama in 2010, we spend most of our time outside…breathing the fresh air and looking at nature. We eat out on the patio, play games there, listen to music, draw, read, or play darts. In the mornings, my wife and I go to the patio and drink our coffee and look at the garden we have made. We’re keen gardeners and the Panamanian climate is perfect for growing things—all year around. The garden has palms and many other tropical plants. I make bonsai trees and am working on growing more plants to sell to the nurseries. I also have an orchid collection. It’s my first venture into making money from a hobby and I’m looking at a potential $1,000 a month. That goes a long way in Panama.
“I came to Panama 10 years ago on vacation and never left,” says Carl Conway. “I was drawn in by the sunshine and blue skies…the warm water and sandy beaches…the palm trees and bright flowers…it was a tropical paradise.” Now age 43, Carl enjoys a rich and laidback life in the rural town of Santa Fe in Veraguas Province of central Panama.
When my husband, Gary, and I retired part-time to Panama it was to escape bleak Canadian winters. We spend the summer months in Canada and when the first snows come, we fly south. Panama, with its magnificent beaches and warm climate offers daily sunshine…inexpensive living…and leisurely hours just sitting on our terrace watching the iguanas and the birds. If we want to venture forth we can hop in our car and tour the countryside, walk near the village of Cerro Punta in the high country, browse the marvellous and modern library in Boquete, or attend the delightful flea market near Dolega.
Film editor and producer Sarah Tyler was living in New York when she decided she was ready to say goodbye to grueling winters. “I also wanted the experience of traveling abroad and practicing Spanish,” she says. Sarah now lives in Panama City’s Casco Viejo sector, where she feels at home among the cobbled streets and colonial plazas that she loves. “It’s a neighborhood known for its beauty and historical value,” says Sarah. “There’s a great bohemian vibe thanks to the people that live and visit here—artists, wayfaring travelers, investors, and entrepreneurs from all over the world.”
After years of trying to find a way to travel and getting nowhere but frustrated, I was struck by inspiration. Maybe, just maybe, I could create a business that paid me to travel. The more I played with that idea (which seemed outrageous at the beginning), the more determined I became. Gradually, it started to happen. I wrote motivational articles and, after a while, invitations to speak at seminars began to come in. That, of course, meant traveling.
White-sand beaches…ancient wonderlands…and cities full of flamenco music and orange trees. Thanks to my ability to teach English, I have seen them all. And it doesn’t matter what age you are when you start. I’ve had colleagues in their 70s. My path as an English teacher has taken me across four continents over the past 15 years. It has allowed me the opportunity to travel extensively—never being tied to one place for longer than the term of a teaching contract—unless I wanted to extend.
Lying at the meeting point of Europe and Asia, the Turkish city of Istanbul has been attracting people in search of their fortune for centuries. Its markets and steep cobbled lanes have played host to traders since the Greeks first founded Byzantium on the site. A few name changes and a lot of history later, and now it’s one of the world’s most visited cities. Folks come from all over to explore millennia-old places of worship, and walk the spice-scented bazaars in search of an exotic handcrafted bargain.
Paris has always attracted artists. It’s also justly famous for its food and markets. While it was her artist’s heart that brought Los Angeles-native Terresa Murphy to the City of Light, it was food that unlocked the funds to living there full-time. Back in the 1980’s, Terresa says, “I came with my guitar; I played for money in the metro to begin with, then in cafés. Then in the ‘90’s, after much back-and-forth between Paris and the States, I got a job at the city’s International Cinematography Festival through a friend.” But it was food that really drew Terresa’s attention. “I fell in love with French food culture, particularly the artisan approach to both ingredients and cooking. It wasn’t considered artisan at the time,” she says. “It was just the norm.”
It was a day in mid-2012. I woke up to the annoying alarm clock, hastily got ready for my stressful sales job and sat from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the same back-breaking chair, in a dull office. High pay, San Diego sun, the American Dream, right? Wrong! Three years of this monotonous rat race was enough to push me over the edge. I craved a meaningful existence packed with travel and adventure.
Are you tired of the 9-to-5 grind? Would you rather be living it up in a tranquil beach-town paradise…or a vibrant foreign city, complete with museums, street performers, and corner cafés?Even if you’re not working 9-to-5 anymore, you may be looking for adventure and an easy income to go along with it. Well, here’s something you should know. You have a skill that will easily help you start living the life you want. You can live in warmer climates and enjoy low-cost living. You can set up a new home in Costa Rica…Spain…Ecuador…Italy or wherever you choose. I’m living proof.
Rosalind Baitel, 54, is bi-coastal. And by that I don’t mean she subjects herself to long flights to shuttle back and forth between expensive, crowded cities like New York and L.A. “We go to the beach most every weekend…it’s so close that even if we can’t stay the entire weekend, we can go for the day.” An hour and 40 minutes gets her from Panama City on the Pacific shore to the brilliant blue waters of the Caribbean. What she loves most about Panama City is that it’s a world capital…with amenities and entertainment to rival many of the world’s great cities.
Michael, 55, and Julie Rhoda, 52, traded in full-time jobs, a home in Colorado, a car, and the usual creature comforts for a new life in Santa Fe, Panama. “We moved here on New Year’s Day 2014, so we’ve celebrated one year down here,” Michael says. “We love the slow pace and the locals.” But what really attracted the couple and other expats to the area is its natural scenic beauty and cool highland climate.
If you can write a simple email to a friend—and you like to share ideas with other people—you have all the qualifications you need to make a good income, live wherever you want in the world, and be your own boss. Age…experience…location…none of that matters. I’m talking about freelance copywriting. People often think they need a lot of qualifications to become a copywriter. But, the truth is, you don’t need a special education to succeed in this industry. There are successful copywriters who didn’t finish high school.
Back in 2009, I was taking a six-week holiday at a beach resort on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand. Almost everyone there was on vacation, of course. And they were having a great time, enjoying the fun and sun, and spending money. Lots of it. Not earning it. But not me… That’s because I’m a freelance copywriter. That just means I write sales letters, promotional emails, and other communications…just easy, conversational English.
I haven’t always done what I do these days. In fact, during the first year of my new career, I didn’t even know that’s what it was called. It was only after a client told me that “good copywriters are hard to come by” that I realized. I smiled, politely nodded my head, and then frantically googled the term “copywriter” after she left. I honestly had no clue up until that point that the simple promotional writing I was doing was called copywriting. I started out as a songwriter and an artist. But I had an exhaustive and demanding touring schedule that required me to be on the road 51 weeks of the year. After performing and writing for more than 25 years, the passion was gone.
I still remember the day that my plane first touched down in Italy nine years ago. I was a bundle of nerves and excitement, and everything—even the simple train ride into the city—was beautiful to me. And I had the fleeting thought that perhaps I should have studied Italian instead of Spanish for the last few years. But I quickly learned that Spanish was even more widely understood than English here—both because many of the Italians I met spoke Spanish very well and because many of the words in Spanish are similar to, or even the same, as the Italian word for the same thing.
I hear you’re looking for a portable income to help you move overseas. I don’t blame you. Why live where you don’t want to…when you can live anywhere? The beaches of Central American are on your doorstep…Southeast Asia has some beautiful—and low-cost—places where you can set up home…and the cultures of Europe are waiting to be explored.
My Panamanian neighbor, Gabriela Pitti, and I share a love of cats. We discovered this when an adorable and affectionate stray appeared one day, a petite calico female. She explored our yards and, finding a welcoming environment, decided to stay. Gabriela and I speculated about where she might have come from, gushed about our love of animals in general and cats especially. Gabriela adopted the kitty, named her Mini, and together we took her to the animal clinic to have her spayed. Since then Gabriela and I have shared many cat-related and other experiences and it’s a great comfort to have her for my neighbor. But Gabriela doesn’t speak a word of English. It’s my ability to talk to her in Spanish that has enabled us to form a bond as neighbors, friends, and cat lovers.
People from all around the world come to my adopted home town, San Juan del Sur. It’s Nicaragua’s most popular beach town and home to a cheerful mix of folks. Let me give you an example. I once found myself in a bar where visitors and locals often meet up. With a rockin’ band that invites anyone with an instrument to sit in and play, a true mix of Nicaraguans and foreigners, and fabulous local fare, it was so crowded that I found myself sharing a table with strangers. I was the lone U.S. citizen among 12 people from 12 different countries.
Paul Blanford has created a lifestyle income for his retirement. It’s already making money…and occasionally he gets to enjoy it himself. But when he’s ready to retire—which may be sooner rather than later—his new life is ready for him. Paul, a native of New Zealand, works as a pilot in Hong Kong but has always loved boats and sailing. So he decided to buy a junk—a type of traditional Chinese sailboat— and turn it into a business. Second-hand junks are cheap and plentiful in Hong Kong, and Paul had his eye on the tourist charter business along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca.
If you’re the pioneering type, a small business in Bolivia might offer just the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for. You can live well in Bolivia for less money than just about anywhere, and you don’t need bags of cash to start an enterprise here. Historically, Bolivia ranks alongside the poorest countries in the region, but things are changing. Today it is among the most hopeful economies in the hemisphere…its economy is growing steadily at around 5% a year… inflation (5.19% in 2014) and debt (32% of GDP in 2013) are under control. Bolivia’s oil and gas industry helps keep energy costs low.
In 2012, Dani Leis, quit her job in the non-profit health sector and left Portland, Oregon for Thailand with nothing but a single duffel bag and a dream to start a new life. Her intention was to hit the beach and support herself by teaching. But she obtained her TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification miles from the coast in the northern city of Chiang Mai and fell in love with the area. “The people here are friendly, kind, and open-hearted,” says Dani, 55. “They enjoy a culture centered on sanuk, meaning to take pleasure in what you are doing.
When John and Heather Schmit sold their 10-year-old trucking business in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011 they found their dream home amid white sandy beaches, rocky headlands, gentle surf, and inland breezes… Their home in Punta Carnero on the coast of Ecuador “is our piece of paradise,” says Heather. “I can walk along the beach and be the only one out there. It’s so quiet and peaceful.” As they were considering their overseas move, Heather began conversing with a former classmate who lived in Vilcabamba for three years…so Ecuador made it on to their radar.
“This is the best thing I ever did—in so many ways,” Jim Evans says. He’s talking about moving to Ecuador and opening a business. His small shop in the historic downtown district of Cuenca, Ecuador is close to the Concepcion Convent, an institution that traces its roots back to 1599. The rhythm of life surrounding the convent is simple, unhurried, and low-stress—exactly what Jim was looking for when he relocated in December 2009.
On any given evening, you’ll find Kasie Estevez serving up drinks and tasty snacks while laughing with the regulars at the bar she opened in Cotacachi, Ecuador. “I love it here,” she says. “The weather’s good, and you develop friendships like nowhere else. I think people have more time to invest in relationships.” Plus the cost of living is low. A couple can live on as little as $1,600 a month in Cotacachi. Kasie finds that Ecuador’s slow pace allows her to enjoy life more. It’s a far cry from holding down a sales job as a single mother in Las Vegas.
It would be a challenge for anyone to find a more perfect picture of paradise than Vilcabamba, Ecuador. This little valley is surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Andes and is the perfect example of the “eternal spring” that the country is well known for. With warm days, dependable rain, and little change in weather year-round, it is a lush South American Eden. Dennis D’Alessandro is one of the many North Americans who have come to Vilcabamba to enjoy the climate and opportunities presented. As a third generation organic farmer from Pennsylvania he brought his skills and knowledge to Ecuador.
Jamie and Barbara Quinion have no regrets about their move to western Belize. “We’re not just living our dream of the good life,” Barbara says of the couple’s new life in the ancient Maya village of San José Succotz, in Belize’s Cayo District. “We are living the ‘excellent life!’” Five years ago, they decided to sell their winery in Canada and move abroad, for several reasons. “What attracted us to Belize is that it’s English-speaking—that was a big plus—with a good climate, really friendly people, and incredible diversity for such a small country. We live in the farthest point west on the mainland, where we go swimming, tubing, hiking, biking, birdwatching, or just enjoy the great view from our property.”
“We love our life here, meeting new people who come to the resort, fishing when we want to, and relaxing in our new house,” say Texans Rex and Connie Hudson of their new life in Panama’s Chiriquí province. “It’s just about perfect.” Rex and Connie are the owners and managers of Hooked On Panama, in partnership with two other U.S. couples. Hooked On Panama is a fishing lodge and resort in a remote area of Chiriquí province. The property is located south of Puerto Armuelles near the end of Punta Burica, a narrow peninsula that extends into the Pacific Ocean and borders Costa Rica.
I am the only one on the planet with this particular view. The sun is rising over three beautiful islands and an ocean that’s pale aqua-blue turning to turquoise where the untouched coral reef is, then to cobalt in the deep water. I watch the lazy boat traffic and ever changing light from my covered hanging bed. There’s a trick with hanging beds I’ve discovered—get one side slightly shorter than the others, and it will automatically sway.
If someone told my younger self that one day my photographs would rescue me from the daily grind…allow me to spend more time with my family…afford me the opportunity to travel the world…and foot the bill to boot…I would have told them they were cuckoo. But photography has led me to climb volcanoes in Hawaii…go dog-sledding on Alaskan glaciers…drive game safaris in South Africa…and chase storms across the globe! Thirty-two countries have stamped my passport…and that is just the beginning!
Shaking as much from the cold as from my barely contained excitement, I set up my tripod on the edge of the pier and pointed my camera towards the sky. The Northern Lights were silently dancing, dressed in green and purple silk above Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Moments like these are what make me pursue my passion…traveling around the world and capturing the beauty of different environments and cultures through my lens. I had always been told that following a passion or a hobby and making money online was difficult. I had to be a responsible person and have a good job, which in my case, was in the human resources department in a big company in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
With relatively little effort, I’ve earned hundreds of dollars a month, selling photos from my European vacations at art festivals…private school fundraising events…and art gallery shows. I’ve sold my photos through corporate art consultants…and even at a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania. These are simply photos that people want to hang on the wall. I began taking photos during vacations while I was still in a job…sometimes I even took photos when I was commuting. I always carry my camera with me and these days I make a living from it.
There are many things I love about Thailand. First off I love the people. Thailand is known as “the Land of Smiles,” and in my experience the people are some of the gentlest and friendliest people I have met anywhere in the world. I also love the food. While I enjoy Thai food at home in the States, the food here is amazing and took my taste buds up a notch or two on the heat scale. But these are not the reasons I come to Thailand…I don’t come on vacation.
In 2003 at the age of 45, I left my legal career. Since then I have traveled to exotic destinations like Morocco…Turkey…Thailand…and India, as well as closer-to-home locations like the Colorado Rockies, Utah’s great national parks, and the Grand Canyon. The common theme throughout my travels has been photography. I make money from my pictures and it gives me the flexibility to pick travel destinations that suit my passions. Because of my love of history and architecture—for example—a couple of years ago I embarked on a trip to Northumberland, England, an area known for its coastal castles.
When my seatmate on a plane says, “And what do you do?” I’m apt to answer, “I run an excuse-removal service.” I’m not just being flippant, however. Almost everything I do is designed to help others get free of the excuses that are keeping them stuck. Stacy is a woman with a lively past. She’s created small businesses, lived in several countries, and invented a wildly successful product. Once, when we were having lunch in a funky diner, Stacy was oddly defensive.
Colette Holmes and her husband, Nick, weren’t initially planning to move from Los Angeles to the Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. “We came because Nick was a baseball coach,” Colette explains. “It was just a seasonal job. But after spending a little time here, we decided that we wanted to make a life in Costa Rica. We wanted a different life—a bit slower, a bit simpler.” Today, life is a lot different than the stress of the restaurant trade Colette used to work in. Instead of being assaulted by noise and rushing servers, she spends her days in more serene surroundings among Costa Rica’s exotic, colorful flowers.
Paris receives about 30 million visitors a year, regularly placing it among the top three most visited cities in the world and creating an opportunity for the expat entrepreneur. One business model that has low start-up costs, low operating costs, and a potentially simple structure is the tour business. Yes, there are thousands of tour businesses in Paris. But if you develop a creative, dynamic tour that builds upon a personal passion that intersects with the desires of just a fraction of the millions who visit Paris every year, you can find great success despite the competition. For some visitors, Paris is the most beautiful city on earth, and they’re yearning to see its most stunning vistas and picturesque neighborhoods. For others, it is a culinary mecca, and they’re looking to immerse themselves in the food culture. For still others, it is the capital of haute couture, and they long to explore the footsteps of Yves St. Laurent, Chanel, and Dior.
If you’re a freelancer who has been thinking about moving to Europe, Germany’s freelancer visa (Freiberufliche Tätigkeit) could be a good option for you. It is available for people who can easily prove that their profession can be done on a freelance basis. The visa is often referred to as “the artist visa” since usually people in a creative field, such as musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, or graphic designers, will qualify. Most countries in Europe require you to have a job lined up to get a work permit, so Germany is a bit unusual in this way.
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