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.
- Small Town Life in Atenas, Costa Rica’s Central Valley
Posted on May 23, 2013 by Jason Holland
“I knew when it was time to retire we’d move to the tropics. I was bored with the predictability of life in the U.S….the politics…the franchises,” says 70-year-old Roberta Laidman.
At ages 67 and 72, we became senior nomads. We had taken stock of our lives and realized that we were happier on the road than anywhere else—and that becoming home-free would give us the flexibility we needed to experience life in other cultures. Since then, we’ve lived in nine countries, and we have no plans to stop until the wheels fall off!
So there we were, my husband David and I, retired in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, we had a lovely home in a great development and spent our time remodeling, doing volunteer work, and getting on with our lives.
“My typical day starts with a steaming cup of excellent Panamanian coffee,” says Jade Wills. “I settle down at my desk and work for a few hours then I take a smoothie break using fresh papayas from our yard. “Later, I’ll ride my bike to the vegetable truck or maybe spend some time gardening. I’ve plenty of time for things like yoga and pilates, and some days I’ll pack up my laptop and work from right on the beach. Life is good.”
- “We Have Luxuries in Nicaragua We Could Never Afford Back Home”
Posted on May 1, 2013 by Jason Holland
When Roberto, 63, and his wife Réjane Rojas retired in 2002, they were looking for a retirement destination with warm weather, a low cost of living that would allow them to live well on their savings and pension, and easy access to both North and South America. “We visited most of the Central American countries before we decided on Nicaragua.”
My husband Tim and I are living proof that older people can learn plenty of new tricks. And our errors have been almost as much fun as our home runs. In 2011, we sold our comfortable California house, dumped the furniture, put our small treasures, art, and clothes in storage, and kissed our four daughters and seven grandchildren goodbye. At ages 67 and 72, respectively, we became senior nomads.
When Jack Stewart graduated from culinary school in Toronto, he didn’t anticipate living his dream life in the colonial city of León, Nicaragua. He left Canada in 2001 and started a restaurant in Costa Rica. “When I was in Costa Rica, tourism was dropping. But the Nicaraguan economy was growing and when residence laws changed making it easier to live here, I made the decision and fell in love with what I found here.”
- Natal: A Sun-Worshipper’s Paradise in Northeast Brazil
Posted on April 22, 2013 by John Clites
From the Via Costeira (Coastal Way), I descend the dirt path to the beach. Kicking off my sneakers, I jog barefoot south toward the breakwater. The near-white sand is so soft that it squeaks under foot. Though only 8 a.m., the sun is high, announcing yet another beautiful day.
- Senior Nomads: “We’re Healthier and Happier Since We Took to the Road”
Posted on April 22, 2013 by Lynne Martin
My husband Tim and I are living proof that older people can learn plenty of new tricks. And our errors have been almost as much fun as our home runs. In 2011, we sold our comfortable California house, dumped the furniture, put our small treasures, art, and clothes in storage, and kissed our four daughters and seven grandchildren goodbye. At ages 67 and 72, respectively, we became senior nomads. We had taken stock of our lives and realized that we were happier on the road than anywhere else— and that becoming home-free would give us the flexibility we needed to experience life in other cultures.
- “The Lower Cost of a Retirement in Panama Drew Us Here”
Posted on April 16, 2013 by Terri Marshall
When John and Robyn Cole married in 1990 their 12-year age difference wasn’t a big deal. But as they started to age together, the difference became more apparent… and they started to think about the future. “I began to see what life would look like if I worked until age 65,” says Robyn. “John would be 77.”
Lee’s biggest business is advising people how to build eco-friendly homes out of shipping containers, throwing in alternative-energy systems, like solar panels, if they’re interested. He’s also the go-to guy in San Juan when expats and business owners have computer trouble. And he helps fellow expats transition to life in Nicaragua…
With a love for Latin American culture and an itch to travel, Jaime Johnson struck out for Panama four years ago. His life took a turn when he met a “special someone”—and a year later he found himself living in her hometown of Bogota, Colombia. “That first year, I traveled throughout Colombia,” he recalls. “In Medellin I found one of the most progressive cities I’d ever visited.
We love living part of the year in the province of Chiriquí, in Panama’s southwest corner. Chiriquí is so diverse. Cerro Punta is a mountainous area where most of the vegetables are grown for the entire country. Coffee plantations, orange groves, banana plantations, and cattle ranches are scattered throughout.
- “We Drove 6,000 Miles to Find Paradise in Costa Rica…”
Posted on March 26, 2013 by Carmen Wise
My husband Mike and I loaded up the van with luggage and our two dogs, Dino and Sprite, and set off on our long road trip. One month and 6,000 miles later, we arrived in paradise. Yanina, the owner of the resort, has been our main guide and comforter as we trudge through the red tape of dealing with customs regarding our shipment of personal goods, setting up bank accounts…
- Laid-Back Líbano: A Simple Life in Colombia’s Coffee Country
Posted on March 25, 2013 by Michael Evans
Atamales vendor rides through town blasting his sales pitch over a bullhorn, zipping past rings of children playing marbles on the sidewalk. An old woman sits in a doorway enjoying the cool breeze, as smitten teenagers walk hand in hand to an ice-cream parlor.
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.”
Would you willingly move—lock, stock, and barrel—to a foreign country with your grade-school-aged children in tow? I mean, it’s a big enough leap to move yourself overseas, even if you have 60 or 70 years of life experience and a bit of a pension or some Social Security under your belt.
When the old man waved first, and offered the faintest of smiles, I knew we’d made progress in making Puerto Cayo, Ecuador our home. I begin almost every day with a one-hour walk from our home into town and back. And every day, without fail, I see the same local people, going to the same places in their own morning routine. In the beginning, the Puerto Cayans weren’t unfriendly at all. They just didn’t seem overly friendly.
Cynthia Collett recently celebrated her first anniversary in Ecuador, although she admits she had been working on this idea of “retiring overseas” for nearly a year before she actually made the move. “A friend came to Ecuador for a work-related conference,” Cynthia says. “And she told me I would absolutely love Cotacachi. “That’s when I started the Internet research. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the culture.”
It was the first full day of our vacation in Canada, when my best friend, Sharri, and I got some news that put a different spin on our trip. The company we worked for was being acquired. We spent the next day of our vacation listening to conference calls. Each one basically said the same thing—nobody knew anything about what the future held.
Mark and Amélie had seen many people save a lifetime to spend their retirement sailing the world, only to have illness or some other unexpected setback stop them before they even left port. “We made a decision to leave with an excess of time—not money,” says Mark. Heading south, they sailed the west coast of Mexico for three years, including a year-and-a-half in Mazatlán.
“We first visited Panama in 2005 and joked about moving there. But the more we thought about it the more we realized it ticked all our boxes. In 2008 we spent a month trying out life in Panama City, and we liked it so much we bought an apartment in the San Francisco neighborhood.”
About a year ago, we sold our home and began a new chapter in our lives in northern Italy. We rented an elegant two-bedroom apartment one block from our favorite lake, Maggiore, for just under $1,000 per month. Verbania, Italy, where we live, is home to about 31,000 people. It sits on the western shore at the southern end of the long lake, which snakes up into Switzerland. An esplanade skirts the lakefront, with cafes and bars galore.
My wife Sylvia and I landed in this Pacific coast village of 302 (300 Mexicans, two gringos) six years ago. We bought a half-acre vacant lot in the center to build a modest, hacienda-style place. We had sailed from San Francisco on our 48-foot sailboat, Sabbatical but were easily lured ashore by the tranquil lifestyle.
Take a typical New York City studio apartment, then halve it. That gives you an idea of the living space of 44-year-old Mark and 36-year-old Amélie Meadows and their son, 18-month-old Zephyr. They call The Blue Goose, a 38-foot sailboat, home. Far from feeling constrained by this living or work arrangement, the couple feels it’s helped them strip down to the essentials.
- Why I Never Returned from My 2-Year Trip to Ecuador
Posted on February 22, 2013 by Sarah Dettman
As I meet more and more people who are interested in moving here, I think back to that day in 1984 when Ecuador first came onto my radar… I ran out to the mailbox and saw the letter I had been waiting weeks for—my invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer somewhere in the world. I tore open the envelope and read… My two-year assignment was to be a rural public health nurse in Ecuador.
The moment I arrived in Ecuador I knew my decision to abandon my old life in the U.S. was the right one. With the shrinking economy and very little chance of scratching out a living in the home building business, it was time for change.
As a native New Orleanian, Panama very much reminds me of the city I left behind. Friendly people, a laid-back lifestyle, fun culture, warm weather and outdoor recreation are all part of a full life here. Panama has been my permanent home for almost 28 years now.
- Enjoying Panama’s Cafes, Culture, and City Life (at a Discount)
Posted on February 3, 2013 by Jessica Ramesch
“On an ideal day, I get up, sit on my balcony, and read a bit. Then I exercise or take a swim in the pool, and come back for breakfast. I might check my email or go for coffee with a friend. Later I might play bridge, or go to the National Theater, or meet with one of my clubs. There are just endless things to do,” says Joyce Perrin.
- Coronado: A Popular Beach Town for Expats in Panama
Posted on February 1, 2013 by Erica Mills
Coronado, Panama, is a relaxed community. Only an hour from Panama City, this coastal town—now popular with expats—was once a vacation getaway for Panamanians, who came from miles around to sun themselves on the black-and-white-sanded beach and swim in the Pacific Ocean.
As the day begins and the sun turns the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to gold, my husband Dave and I take a leisurely stroll. With our little dog Magic, we walk along the lake front to our favorite café, where for $4 we enjoy steaming cappuccinos and fresh buttery croissants. Our dog is welcome everywhere here, in cafés and restaurants, on buses, ferries, and trains.
A garrison flag flutters on the peak of Ancon Hill. When you can see that flag, you know you’re in Ancon, the massive district formerly referred to as the Canal Zone. It’s filled with greenery and quiet neighborhoods—a far cry from the nearby city center, known for the skyscrapers that twinkle and sparkle as they tower over the glassy Panama Bay.
The aroma of coffee wafts through the open bedroom door. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and follow my senses to the kitchen, where I find a double espresso and a plate of fresh fruit waiting for me. My husband Gordon is making fresh-squeezed orange juice. He stops what he’s doing to give me a kiss good morning.
Louise Orr finds it hard to stay in. Though she retired early at the age of 53, she doesn’t have much free time. “There are days when I say, thank God I don’t have to be anywhere,” she says. “Days when I can just work in the yard, or read a book.” It’s not that Louise is tied down to a business or a job…it’s just that there are so many fun and worthwhile things to do.
Mark suggested moving to Uruguay. Having only visited once on a day trip from Buenos Aires, I thought he was nuts… but we arranged an exploratory trip around the country. When we arrived in our first choice of Piriapolis, I fell in love.
The land was narrow in front. There was a river, a real river, but no bridge. Then we started to notice the gorgeous trees. We put a ladder over the river and climbed over. As we walked deeper in, the views started opening up. I could see volcanoes in the distance. I knew this was the land I had seen in my mind.”
Just shy of 10 years ago, my wife Laurie and I fell in love with the Vilcabamba Valley, a lush gem tucked away in the Andes of Southern Ecuador. The near-perfect weather, the healthy lifestyle, the low cost of living, and the natural beauty of the valley all contributed to our decision to settle there. And those things have lived up to our expectations.
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Being the first event that I had attended I was a little apprehensive that that I may get the hard sell like these time share people but it didn’t take long to get rid of that feeling. That was done at the first coffee break when I seen that all the exhibitors wanted to do …