Real life stories from people, just like you, who have made the move overseas.
For more than 30 years, International Living has been reporting on the world’s top overseas retirement and relocation destinations. We have editors all over the world, and in this time they have met many people who are living their dream overseas.
Some have retired…others have relocated and started their own business in their new country.
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From Europe to Latin America, International Living profiles tell the inspirational stories of those who have taken the leap and moved overseas. If they can do it, so can you. See below for their stories.
John Sklute, a retired English professor from California, has lived just about everywhere—from sunny Spain to spacious Sweden. So when he says that Berlin has a special something, you know he’s done the legwork. John’s love for Berlin started when he spent a summer there in 1994 and fell in love with a local. The relationship didn’t work out, but John’s passion for Berlin never waned.
- Retire in Florence: The Heartland of the Renaissance
Posted on February 20, 2014 by Susan Toalson
Spring is here, and in the markets plump porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and long, elegant brown pears are giving way to figs and basil and zucchini flowers. In the streets, young women glide along in five-inch heels, leather jackets, and American jeans, chic scarves draped carelessly at their necks. Along the river Arno, newlyweds stroll hand-in-hand in the warm sunshine.
When Melissa Adams stepped out of the airport and into Amsterdam for the first time, it felt like coming home. “The minute my feet hit Damrak—the street leading from Central Station to Dam Square—I said ‘I’m moving here.’ Everything—from the city’s physical beauty to its tolerant vibe and rich history— entranced me.” But while Melissa’s experience of Amsterdam was love at first sight, she also wanted to be practical and make sure her passion had some staying power.
Imagine falling to sleep to the soft sound of waves lapping the base of rugged cliffs. The flash of a faraway lighthouse gently illuminates your room and the mild breeze brings the purest of air in your open window. In the morning there’s bright sunshine and the singing of small birds in the shrubbery outside. A distant tractor can be heard as a farmer carries hay to his cows. There are no cars or sirens. And, as you look outside, the sun shimmers off a hundred square miles of ocean.
If you live on an English narrowboat, you have choices to make. Find another town to explore, with a charming tea shop, an Old-World bookstore or a cozy pub. Take a walk to a church, a castle, or through a field of golden millet or lavender…or find a village in which to stay a while, moor your floating home, and get to know the locals.
Cynthia West bounced through the door vibrating with the news she was about to tell her husband Robert. He listened with mounting glee as she explained her medical company’s plan to inject some younger blood into the workforce. They were offering an early retirement package—one that would give Cynthia “an avenue of escape” from her high stress, 10-hour-a-day job in Silicon Valley. She grabbed the opportunity. Though Robert, 62, was working part-time…
Steve Doane is a guy’s guy. A retired member of the NYPD, this keen surfer has an athletic physique and likes his rock ‘n’ roll. So when he describes his new life in Panama as “like falling into a Walt Disney movie,” there are no raised eyebrows. Rather, there are nodding heads. “What I mean is everything’s so intense…the sights and sounds,” he says.
- Why Wait? “Perfect Weather, Low Costs, Incredible Views”
Posted on January 20, 2014 by Denver Gray
There are people who plan carefully for the future—folks who weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of major decisions, then make life changes in careful, graduated steps… My wife Ann and I are not those people. When we announced to family and friends that we were selling our home and moving to the beach town of Salinas, Ecuador, they were—to put it mildly—shocked.
Most mornings Chuck and Kathy Baumgarten can be found leisurely sipping coffee and enjoying the sunrise from their porch. It’s easy to see why if you visit their home. They have one of the most scenic vistas in all of Ecuador. Mount Imbabura seems to rise from their backyard. A 180-degree turn showcases Mount Cotacachi’s golden-hour glow.
Five years ago, fun-loving Canadian cowgirl Blue van Doorninck was searching for a place to put down roots. “I had been living in Vietnam, but there weren’t good opportunities to own land. And I wanted to be in the same time zone as my family. I also wanted to be in a culture more similar to my own. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama all made my short list,” says Blue.
Alfredo and Yvonne Villoria were just another fast-paced, career-minded couple in Los Angeles. But money-making wasn’t enough. “We felt that something was missing,” says Yvonne. “In 1976, we decided that 1980 was the cut-off year. In 1980, we would leave the United States. All we were doing was chasing the dollar. We wanted more. We thought there had to be more to life than just working and owning things.
Like many parents, my husband David and I have always told our children that they should follow their dreams. We’ve told them that they can be whatever they want to be and live wherever they want to live, but that, most importantly, they should pursue their passions. Of course, deep down we realized that they were never going to follow our advice when we refused to do so ourselves.
It wasn’t long ago that the major streets in the northern Cambodian town of Siem Reap were unpaved. There were no shopping malls, no cocktail bars…in short, it was a place only the most intrepid expats would consider living in. John McDermott, and Narisara Murray, were two of those adventurous expats.
It wasn’t practical reasons like lower cost of living, great—and cheap—medical care, and friendly people that convinced Dave Scott, 65, to move to San Ramón, a town on the western edge of Costa Rica’s Central Valley region.Though the country has all those advantages and more, and while those were factors in the decision, it was something else that drew him.“It was like an invisible string around my neck pulling me here,” says Dave. “It’s more of a heart thing than a head thing. It’s hard to explain. It was just the feeling we had.”
- New Jersey Couple Find Health and Freedom in Placencia, Belize
Posted on December 17, 2013 by Domini Hedderman
At 50 years old, Eugene Upham was too young for retirement. But he was too old for second chances—or so people said. Then Eugene had a heart attack. Though he survived, the part of him that listened to those voices didn’t. As Eugene was recovering, New Jersey was blanketed in several feet of snow. And, as his wife Lynne says, “We knew we had to reevaluate our life.”
For Rebecca and Keith Clower, and their two young children ages three and five, their house by the beach isn’t just an address…it’s a lifestyle. They recently built a home in a development on the Bahia de Los Piratas, or Pirate’s Bay, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, also known as the Gold Coast. They live on a hill, with an ocean-view, and you can see clear to Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal, two nearby expat enclaves. The beach is mere minutes away on foot.
- Living Internationally: How to Enjoy a Roving Retirement
Posted on November 14, 2013 by International Living
Advances in technology have opened up the world. Planes, trains and the Internet are all getting faster and—if you know where to look—you can embrace these changes and make your dream of exploring dozens of overseas destinations come true. Right now, living internationally…
Eleven years and dozens of countries after selling their California house to travel the world, Trish and Marvin Scott say they have never regretted their decision. “We look for places off the tourist track. We’ve set up households in 20 countries, and currently we are living in an old communistera apartment in St. Petersburg,” says 70-year-old Marvin.
It was New Year’s Eve 2012 and the view outside my window was perfect. In the darkness, I could just make out the rolling Italian hills, dotted with brick houses with terracotta rooftops. A lone bell tower rose from a small, ancient church into the sky. And as the bell tolled midnight, the sky lit up with fireworks from three different directions.
I’ve rarely seen such a stunning city…like Istanbul meets San Francisco, with its pastel-colored buildings and the wide river running right under a Golden Gate look-alike and sweeping out to the ocean. My husband Tim and I were in Lisbon, Portugal, on the way to our rented house at the beach in Copa da Caparica. For $1,500 we were set up with a rental for a five-week stay living in this beach town just 15 minutes from the Portuguese capital.
It’s like it was fate that brought Sandy, 69, and Chip Bublik, 75, to their home on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast nine years ago. First, their step-son offered to give them land to build a home. Second, Sandy had just retired and the going-away gift from her employer—she was a receptionist at an ad agency—covered the cost of a container to ship their household goods to Costa Rica.
- No Stress, No Regrets—Living off the Land in Belize
Posted on September 19, 2013 by Domini Hedderman
Alfredo and Yvonne Villoria were just another fast-paced, career-minded couple in Los Angeles. But money-making wasn’t enough. “We felt that something was missing,” says Yvonne.
Penny Ripple is perhaps Boquete’s most enthusiastic resident. “The landscapes here just blow you away. I can see Volcan Baru, a dormant volcano and the highest point in Panama, from my window. We’re about 3,500 feet above sea level in Panama’s Chiriqui province, near the Costa Rica border. I love it here,” she says.
The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh was once called the “Pearl of Asia” for a reason. Wide boulevards, riverfront promenades, and elegant colonial buildings were all signs of the city’s French influence. Its bustling markets, golden temples, and smiling citizens rooted it in a rich and ancient culture.
Our journey to Ecuador started a few years ago. First the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy…and the equity in our home vanished in a few months. Then I had my second heart attack and lost my job—just about the time that retirement was looming.
For some time now, I’ve silently wondered if I am the only one who winces at the frequent admonishment to “go big or go home.”
Why, I muse, would folks smart enough to abandon a large working environment want to replicate that? Why is millionaire status still flaunted as the pinnacle of success? Or home ownership the epitome of the American Dream? It all seems so…well…20th century.
Combine your creative talent with the craftsmanship and designs of another country and you could find an opening for an interior design business. In Jacó, on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, Lynn Gensemer, 56, of Chungo Interior Designs, eschews expensive imported furniture and fixtures from the U.S. in favor of working with local craftsmen to create custom designs.
- Taking Face-to-Face Sales Skills Online in Costa Rica
Posted on September 1, 2013 by Jason Holland
Despite his many years working as a car-insurance salesman in Portland, Oregon—and making good money— Caelan Huntress always considered it a temporary gig. Today he has thrown out the cubicle, tie, and daily commute…and taken his sales skills online. He lives and works from his home in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone—a region on the southern Pacific coast, near the border with Panama. The beach is 45 minutes away. Shopping and quality medical care is just 15 minutes down the hill. And the verdant green mountains of the interior are an even bigger draw.
Moving from New York City to a small town in the U.S. is quite a culture shock on its own. But Rick Macsherry, 60, and Christina Spilsbury, 58, did one better. In 1989, they moved to a small fishing village on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast.
A herd of goats files into the pasture below my patio. The flock leaps over the stream, threading its way through the field. They butt each other in exuberance as I savor my morning coffee and fresh rolls with creamy butter.
- Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia: Three Great Destinations to Live in Southeast Asia
Posted on July 12, 2013 by International Living
Living in Southeast Asia is a lot easier than you probably think…it’s easier to get around, to get what you need, to find a community that will welcome you. While the distance may be intimidating, the reality on the ground is much less so than you may imagine. Expats living in this part of the world report that life is at once exhilarating, comfortable and affordable.
If you want to set up business overseas, you will most likely consider doing it by yourself. But if you don’t have the language and you’re not familiar with the country itself, this can be a daunting prospect. A solution could be partnering with a local.
It’s not every morning you find a monkey eating your breakfast. But it happens. Investigating a noise in the kitchen the other day, my husband John found a Macaque monkey carelessly tossing banana skins onto the floor. After a brief stare-off, the monkey tucked our bananas under his arm and bolted into our garden.
Living on a hillside in San Ignacio, Belize, just a short car ride away from the Guatemalan border, Michael and Amanda Cyphers have finally found the simplicity they looked for so long. “I wake up every day and think, ‘What do I do with all this freedom?’” says Amanda. “At home, we had to do, we had to perform. We had bills to pay, places to go, schedules to keep. So much so that we were up at night worrying about how to get it all done.”
- The Positives of Life in the U.S. for Less in Costa Rica
Posted on June 20, 2013 by Jason Holland
Bruce and Karen Huss’s move to Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast evolved over time. Their first visit was five years ago, when they spent time in the exclusive Los Sueños resort community in Playa Herradura
- Health Care in Ecuador: A Top Haven for Quality Care Overseas
Posted on May 29, 2013 by Edd Staton
Patty and Mike Grimm have been in Ecuador for nearly three years. During that time, “we have pretty much covered the gamut of medical care, including dentistry, eye exams and glasses, emergency rooms, colonoscopy, mammogram, gallbladder removal, treatment for ulcers (endoscopes), and serious back treatments,” says Mike.
Life was good in the States. We had a big house, two cars, and a community of friends in our Pennsylvania hometown. But something was missing. The lifestyle we were living was too stressful, too busy, too unhealthy, and too expensive. We found ourselves accumulating—and worrying about unnecessary stuff.
I checked out of the traditional career path—the “rat race”—about 10 years ago at the age of 35. On the surface, life in Texas was great for me. I’d graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and worked in the advertising business as an account executive (a “suit”) for about 10 years.
When Valerie and Gaylord Townley first visited Tamarindo, it was a simple fishing village. The only visitors were pioneering surfers (Gaylord was one of them) and sport fishermen. There were a few small hotels, only a few phone lines, and no TV. The number of permanent expats could probably fit in one of today’s larger restaurants.
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