Fund Your Life Overseas
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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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You roll out of a bed at…well, whenever. No alarm clocks here. Just bird song and the sunlight filtering through your windows. Now it’s time for a bit of coffee and a walk on the beach. Back home, you check some email, update some Facebook pages, scan your accounting software…maybe message your web guy to update your site for the weekend. You do all this from home, or that little café down the street on your laptop as you greet friends who come in for their morning cup of Joe. It takes an hour or so.
“I’m just a beach person,” says Debbie Cooper, 63. With that attitude, it’s no wonder that she and her husband, Bruce, 66, have called the tiny Caribbean isle of Caye Caulker 12 miles off the coast of Belize home for the past 13 years. There are no cars on the island, and it receives a fraction of the tourists that Ambergris Caye, 11 miles to the north, does. Homes and restaurants on the beach face an impossibly blue sea framed by windswept palms. Lobster is a specialty when it’s in season.
Adrienne Greenwood had a choice. Stay in wet and rainy Whistler, Canada, close to the poverty line or go elsewhere. That’s when she discovered the tropical beach town of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. “Nicaragua has everything I need: warm, friendly, family-oriented people and a good yoga-and-wellness community, full of colorful and quirky individuals who have also chosen an off-the-beaten-path existence, and a sunny tropical climate all year round. I love that,” says Adrienne.
Living in Costa Rica has been great since we moved here last year. Each day my wife, Kelli, and I drink coffee—grown on a farm five minutes from our home—on the deck while we watch the birds get their breakfast. Our monthly expenses have been cut in half from what they were in the States, and we’re making plans to build a modest home here to cut that budget even more. And our life has become much quieter in the sense that there is less to worry about.
A couple of years ago, I visited Cassis—a harbour town on the French Riviera’s lesser-known western end. Fishing boats and the crystal-blue Mediterranean, yes. Langoustines and palest pink rose wine, yes. But the last thing I expected to find was a poetry shop. Handwritten on marbled paper, the poet had hundreds of musings on love, life, and friendship to choose from. And his little shop was busy. Maybe the French have a deeper romantic streak than other nationalities, but I think he was tapping into nostalgia. In an age of computers, anything handwritten now has rarity value.
Dick Walton, 53, and his wife, Dawn, 47, have always loved to travel. And they knew for a long time that they wanted to retire to English-speaking Belize…the tiny Central American country on the Caribbean sea. But when Dawn had an aneurysm in 2009, the couple pushed up that timetable to escape the stress and fast pace of life in their hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Over time they visited a few places in the country: the island of Ambergris Caye and the low-cost retiree haven of Corozal. But nothing struck them.
Bella Sirena is a secluded oasis on a strip of land that joins the peninsula of Baja California with the rest of Mexico. It’s right where the sand meets crystal blue waters and the beach goes on for miles. The 20-foot tidal changes uncover delicate creatures like starfish, tiny crabs, and other sea urchins that hide in all the nooks and crannies. Beyond the gates of this upscale resort, lush tropical foliage surrounds the infinity pools and you step into Old-World architecture inspired by Mexican and Tuscan villas.
I love traveling around Europe…and being able to earn as I travel is a real bonus. Last summer I visited eight European destinations and got paid four times from my travels. In total, my trip to Europe earned me $30,500. I had wanted to visit Belgium for some time, particularly the medieval city of Bruges, with its cobbled streets, canals, and perfectly preserved old buildings, so I organized some assignments there. I finally got to climb the 366 steps of the famous Belfry of Bruges and enjoyed a wonderful view over this historic town…I took a canal tour and heard stories about the rich heritage of this prosperous place…I had a wonderful dinner in one of the many canal-side restaurants.
I live an idyllic life on a Spanish island, named Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. Here, the temperatures are between 70 F and 85 F all year round, with 350 days of sun. I am surrounded by beautiful, white-sand beaches and I get to surf the waves every day. This is the ideal base for me. And in just four hours I can be back in Central Europe, where I do a lot of my “work.” As a travel videographer being on the road is just like being a tourist with a list of attractions to visit, the only difference being that I am getting paid for it. In fact, I can get paid up to $4,000 or more per trip by making short videos for tourist boards, hotels, tour companies, spas, and anyone looking to promote a tourist attraction on a website.
I’ve spent my life living overseas, teaching in international schools, and now that I’m retired, I want to travel even farther. I just need a little extra income to do it…and now I’ve found it. As I neared retirement age, I realized that I would have to find a way of making some extra money if I wanted to continue traveling and maintain my lifestyle. My pension, although adequate for a sedentary life, wasn’t going to allow me much freedom. So I began looking for ways where I could earn a little extra money here or there, as I continued to travel. That research paid off when I discovered that I could take travel videos with my regular camera and sell them.
There’s an old joke about the tourist who gets lost on the back roads of Maine. He comes across an old farmer and asks, “Do you know how to get to Portland?” After a long pause, the farmer replies, “E-yup. But you can’t get there from here. The farmer’s nonsensical response offers an important lesson to those who wish to live life on purpose…work at what they love…and follow their own road. I spent seven years commuting 90 miles a day to a management job in a large corporation.
Back in the 1980s, Terresa Murphy arrived in the City of Lights. “I came with my guitar,” she says. “I played for money in the metro to begin with, then in cafes. Then in the ’90s, 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.”
This week I’ve tried to give you some insights into how a simple-to-execute e-book strategy can fund your life overseas. Since I started producing e-books more than 14 years ago, they’ve created an income that has allowed me to live some of the very biggest dreams of my life. That income has taken me to Laurenzana, a small village in the ankle of the boot of Italy, where my mother’s family comes from.
Mexico’s chic beach resort of Puerto Vallarta has been attracting expats for decades, thanks to its warm climate and sophisticated but affordable First-World living. But while many come to lounge by the sea or stroll the cobblestone streets of the city’s Romantic Zone, Canadian Pat Light has found in Puerto Vallarta a moneymaking opportunity. The former hospital administrator has turned her love for exotic handmade soaps into a thriving business. In addition to colorful soaps, Pat also sells shampoos and body creams scented with the coconut, lime, and mango of her new home. Like many businesses, hers grew out of a hobby. A longtime admirer of handmade soap, Pat ran out of supplies after moving to Mexico in 2007. This led her to try to create her own.
Martine Rheaume was 52 years old when she left everything behind in Boston to start a new life in Cusco, Peru, as an English teacher with no prior experience. Three years later, she has more friends than ever before, a dream job with more work than she can handle, and a renewed passion for life that only living in Latin America can give you. “I landed in Peru with only ‘mañana’ and ‘gracias,’ but six months later I was speaking Spanish and had an active social life,” she says. Originally from Montreal, Martine has traveled extensively all her life, fueled by her strong interest in ancient history. It was this that ultimately led her to Peru.
Like many people, I grew up believing the expression that “if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” These days I make big money from e-books—sometimes as much as $5,000 a day—but I don’t do it all myself. I let someone else do the writing…while I enjoy traveling to countries I never thought I’d visit…touring around Tuscany in Italy…or going on safari in Africa.
It was a lovely fall day as we strolled through Radda in Chianti, a beautiful walled medieval town in Tuscany. Seeing an ATM across the road, I decided to top up my supply of euros. Now, millions of people every day who are living or traveling abroad use a debit card from their native country to withdraw cash. But my card is truly international.
I didn’t have a passport until I was almost 50 years old. Of course, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have one, because I didn’t have a reliable source of income that would allow me to use it very often anyway. In fact, for almost 10 years, not only did I not have a reliable source of income…sometimes I didn’t even have an income. That partly explains why my family and I were evicted from our home and the following year lost our last automobile to repossession.
“I wasn’t really looking to make a move at all,” says Deborah Gershon. “I came to visit Boquete in Panama’s Chiriqui Highlands a few times in order to decide whether it might be my ultimate retirement spot.” “Somewhere along the way on my last visit, it occurred to me that there really wasn’t any reason to wait, since I could telecommute nearly as well from Panama as I was doing from California.” Born and raised in Los Angeles, 59-year-old Deborah is an attorney.
Anne Gordon de Barrigón didn’t want to come to Panama the first time she was invited. “But it was a period of transition in my life and I was restless,” she recalls. “So my friend convinced me and I just fell in love with the country and the people. I knew it was the right place for me and I’ve been here ever since.” That was in 2004. Today Anne, age 57, lives in the leafy and tranquil Ancon neighborhood of Panama City with her husband and together they own and operate whale-watching and indigenous village tours.
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.
Mat Lewis treasures the freedom to work whenever he wants, free from the drudgery of waking up to an alarm clock each morning. It was in 2013 that Mat set up an online business for booking luxury home vacation rentals with his partner, Stoewie van den Bulk, and discovered two things. One was that they could take the business on the road in Southeast Asia; the other was that it actually made financial sense to do so. “Traveling in Southeast Asia has really taken the pressure off by reducing our personal expenditure,” Mat says. Low costs have meant the pair can live “an amazing life at a cost that’s kind to the wallet,” yet keep investing in their business.
I started my first eBay bridal business in Spokane, Washington in 1998 after discovering eight stunning and remarkably cheap wedding gowns for sale in a Goodwill thrift store…and sold it six years later for a healthy six figures. Back then, I had quit my full-time job to stay home with my infant son and—as a Goodwill lover and part-time eBay entrepreneur—I was buying clothing, shoes, fabric, sporting goods, and collectibles to sell on eBay. I got the wedding gowns for $20 each. I listed them on auction on eBay for seven days, with a starting bid of $99 each. They flew out the door. Some of them ended up at $325 to $475 each!
“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.
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