Everyone wishes that they could open their own business wherever in the world they choose…but nobody actually does it… Do they? Well, the short answer is…Yes, they do. And we’ve met them.
We know expats who run their own B&B in Mexico...opened a bagel café in Panama... started a tour business in Chile...operate a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. The fact is, being your own boss will provide you with the flexibility to work the hours you prefer and pick a schedule that best fits your lifestyle and priorities. So take that leap and open that business of your dreams in an overseas location of your choice.
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Before coming to Ecuador, Robin Stock and her husband, Joe, lived in Wyoming, where she worked at a local diner as a waitress and pie-maker.
They imagined living somewhere exotic where their money would go further and winters would be either milder…or non-existent. So three years ago they moved to Cotacachi, Ecuador, on Thanksgiving Day to begin their expat adventure.
Todd Johnston is an adventurous guy. In his 53 years he’s traveled to Africa… climbed mountains in Peru and Ecuador…and gone scuba diving in exotic locales.
This sense of adventure, along with a desire to live life to the fullest, motivated him to buy a condo in Cotacachi, Ecuador in January of 2012 and eventually move there full-time in February 2014.
For 63-year old Trent Wauson, “Bolivia is a hidden gem.” The former medical laboratory director hadn’t planned on leaving his job to set up a B&B and restaurant in the foothills of the Bolivian Andes, but in 2004 that’s exactly what happened. Eleven years later, he and his wife Rosario couldn’t be happier. “Coming to Bolivia was a fresh start. I always wanted to have a bed and breakfast, and here it seemed like nothing could stop me,” says Trent.
Kate Barron isn’t one to sit still. So far, she has lived in Italy, Thailand, and Africa. Now, her home is in Mérida, the sultry and beautiful capital city of Mexico’s Yucatán state, about three hours west of Cancún. And she’s found opportunities to earn throughout her travels. In Thailand she studied yoga, which she now teaches for a living, and in Italy, she taught communication skills to executives of multinational corporations and UN agencies.
With several feet of snow on the ground not uncommon during winters in their native Calgary, Canada, Warren Schoff and Rhoda Parent were looking for an escape south of the border. “In 2002, we visited Playa del Carmen and fell in love with Mexico. We kept coming back twice a year. In 2009 we started scouting properties on the Yucátan Peninsula. We liked the lower cost of living and the inexpensive, more personalized healthcare. And there’s a party every weekend,” says Rhoda, who adds they wanted to have an adventure while they were still young enough to enjoy it.
Brittney Borjeson first went to Sayulita on Mexico’s Pacific coast to learn how to surf. That was back in 2012, and as soon as the plane touched down, she felt like she had come home. “I was hooked from my first wave. I remember thinking, I could give everything up for this,” Brittney recalls. Coming from New York, with its hectic pace, Brittney found the slower pace of Sayulita to be a complete contrast.
Adrienne made the move to Nicaragua with Pax, her one-year-old son. As a 41-year-old woman, she still had to create an income. Back in Whistler, Canada, she had a successful nail salon business that she sold in 2012. When she arrived in Nicaragua, she had just under $10,000 to invest.
Just south of resort and tourist-packed Cancún, Mexico, lies the small town of Puerto Morelos. Although there are a few small resorts and hotels, it’s still a working fishing village, albeit with a sizable expat population. Anthony Chalas had never even heard of Puerto Morelos until he was online with his brother Nick a few years ago. He was helping plan the annual vacation he took with his family. Someplace affordable. Someplace warm and with a nice beach.
Stephanie Gough can hardly believe how quickly the five years has gone since she moved, with her family, to Costa Rica. “It’s kind of crazy that it’s been that long,” says Stephanie, who lives in the bustling beach town of Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast.
On my first trip to Granada, Nicaragua several years ago, I stopped in a small bookshop in the historic colonial quarter, just a few blocks from the main square. It was evident the owner—an expat from California—was a lover of literature. Classics…science fiction…travelogues…histories…and more lined the shelves. As I chatted to him, it emerged that he got started when he was just passing through Granada and, looking to make a bit of extra travel money…he laid books out on a blanket on the street to sell.
After a long 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. His restaurant, La Sirena, sits on the town square, just across the street from a white-sand beach. Set on the second floor, it allows diners to see the vivid blue sea from the eatery’s open-air deck
“I brew beer for a living. How bad can it be?” asks Dave O’Keeffe of the Boquete Brewing Company in Panama. Dave is originally from San Diego and previously worked as an ER nurse in Oregon. “When I decided I wanted to open my own business brewing beer I started looking overseas,” he says. “The market in Oregon is already saturated but here in Panama it’s just getting started. The annual Brew Fest celebration in Panama City gets bigger every year.”
It wasn’t until Tina Frewer suffered a serious health issue that she discovered how good the medical care was in Mérida, a city of nearly one million people on the western side of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. After receiving excellent care at Star Médica, one of two top-rated hospitals in Mérida, and attention from the area’s top specialists, Tina was inspired. Why not help medical tourists who come to Mexico for low-cost, high-quality surgeries and dental care navigate the city and the system? As a patient advocate/medical tourism concierge, Tina now connects expat patients with doctors and healthcare facilities through her business, HealthItinerary.
We enjoy the beach when we have time,” says Joseph Ader of his new life on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. “I love what I do. And I love the climate here. It’s very similar to Florida, which is one of the biggest producers of ﬁsh for food and the hobby trade. That’s one of the reasons it’s such a good business here.” As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, Joseph helped his grandmother with her tropical ﬁsh aquariums, not realizing he was setting himself up for his future career.
The global rise in demand for craft beer from microbreweries has given birth to thousands of small businesses—brewing, serving, and distributing. In a backlash against mass production, the world wants its beer made in small quantities with great care. It has become a business where manufacturer and consumer are chasing discerning production…and the small operator has a great chance of succeeding.
Every morning Barbara Wastart rises to another glorious tranquil day, surrounded by fruit trees, coconut palms, and exotic tropical birds. As she looks out from her hilltop home, she takes in the spectacular view of the turquoise Caribbean bay below. A fleet of kayaks, and a pontoon boat, are tied to her private dock. A quick paddle through the mangrove forest and she can tie up to a private buoy near the barrier reef, and snorkel in the crystal clear waters abundant with fish, rays, and coral.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ecuador, a place I often travel to, 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. I’m still amazed at how much my life has changed over the last 10 years since I discovered how to fund my travels and spend more time in Ecuador. I feel so fortunate to have had the experiences. And to make it even better, these were business trips. I made far more money than I spent. The priceless memories cost me nothing.
Being self-employed in Costa Rica means Charlotte Viehauser can choose her own hours and spend plenty of time with her family. “Because I’ve chosen to raise my boys in Costa Rica instead of the States, I can have so much more time with them. I make my own schedule, so I can work during their school hours. In our free time, we like to get together with the other American families, play soccer, and travel within the country when we have the chance.”
Joseph Mucaria fell in love with Costa Rica on a short visit. “I was only supposed to come for three months and then return to the States, but I fell in love with the culture and the environment, plus I always wanted to learn another language,” he says. That was 12 years ago. Now, he lives in an ocean-view condo just 45 minutes away from the city of Liberia.
Ryan Gast couldn’t be happier. “At 30 years old, I found a way to semi-retire,” he says. “I’m healthier, happier, and surfing better than ever. I make enough to live here. I live a simpler lifestyle. I work. I surf. I go home. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I love being around like-minded people. I’m where I’m supposed to be.” A typical day sees him sitting in front of his small surf shop. Friends riding by on bikes shout greetings…customers pop by regularly to ask about renting a board or taking surfing lessons…the vibe of this little community has a soothing effect.
I’m a real sucker for pastries. I can’t resist the melt-in-the mouth, flaky pastry of a fresh croissant or better still, a pain au chocolat with its bonus hit of dark, sweet goodness in the center. Of course, eating baked goods prepared by a top patisserie chef while sitting in a glittering salon—and knowing that this is just one stop on a three-day gastronomic odyssey—makes it taste all the more delicious.
People come from all over the world to enjoy life among the paradise islands of Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama. They come for the surfing…for the deserted islands…and for the turquoise sea. Justine and Jeff Catalano also came for the sense of community. “Our favorite thing about living in Bocas is […]
I was recently chatting with friends back in Canada who were trying to shrug off the last remnants of a long, snowy winter…while I was relaxing on my ninth-floor balcony soaking up the Chiang Mai sunshine. I don’t have to wait until spring to feel it…it’s hot here pretty much year-round. My wife, Nancy, and I retired to Thailand a couple of years ago—having spent a few years in China and traveling throughout Southeast Asia. We settled in the northern city of Chiang Mai and haven’t looked back.
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