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It’s great to have step-by-step guides, especially for big and potentially complicated tasks. Moving yourself out of your home country to a completely new and different culture…and language…certainly qualifies as a big and complicated task. It involves many more steps than just five, but considering only the preparatory phase—the phase before the actual move—here are five essential steps to take before you move to Ecuador.
As we approach our lucky 13th year of living overseas, my husband, Dan Prescher, and I are fortunate to have shared so many wonderful, memorable experiences in so many far-flung corners of the world—from Southeast Asia to Europe, and nearly every country of Latin America. We’ve lived in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Ecuador… In fact, we’ve lived in more than one destination in some of those countries. We’ve learned to speak Spanish, we’ve bought and sold property…
My adventures in pursuit of stories have taken me to strange and wonderful places. The spice-scented bazaars of Istanbul were memorable, as were the breweries of Dusseldorf on the banks of the German Rhine. I have haggled with gypsies, queried stamp investors, “borrowed” a speed boat to check out real estate, and handled shotguns in London worth $100,000 each.
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…
Every morning, when I wake up and hear the birds singing outside my window, and watch the sunbeams that stream into our bedroom, I thank my lucky stars for being able to live a more laid-back life on the little Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When my husband and I left California behind, I promised myself that we’d make time to socialize in Belize. Our busy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area didn’t leave much time for socializing…and we were dreaming of a more simplistic lifestyle
There’s a big difference between how a tourist sees Panama City and how a potential resident views it. If you come for a visit, you’re likely to note the sparkly, spiky skyline. Even back in the 1990s it was impressive—no other city in the region could compete. And these days there are more than plain old skyscrapers here. There are some true architectural specimens, like the Trump building (sail shaped, like that iconic hotel in Dubai).
But nature abhors a vacuum, and I know of no one here simply staring out the window wondering how to spend their time. During four years of living in Cuenca I have been amazed to observe the many creative outlets foreign residents dream up to be active and productive. Free from the yoke of employment (although many expat-run businesses have sprung up) folks are starting foundations and volunteering, learning Spanish and teaching English, tending animals and growing food, traveling in Ecuador and far beyond its borders.
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. All the while the market town of Otavalo is nestled beneath them in the valley below.
There is business opportunity in overseas weddings…and Costa Rica is emerging as the new place to be. It’s estimated that about 8% of U.S. weddings are held overseas, with Mexico being a perennial favorite due to its proximity and established tourist infrastructure. But Costa Rica is now rated the top destination in Latin America by wedding website TheKnot.com. With 36% of the destination weddings in the region, it’s second only to Mexico in terms of numbers…
Moving abroad is so much more than a change in location; it’s a complete shift of lifestyle. That’s what Penny and Marshall Watne have learned over the last six years in Costa Rica. Their path from North Lake Tahoe to jungle-woven Manuel Antonio was a short one. Once they achieved the idea of general success—complete with two kids and a house full of almost everything they could want—they realized they needed something different…
The place was packed; festive and noisy with a funky, thumping rhythm adding to the party atmosphere. It was a mixed crowd—some retired gringos along with a younger North American group accounted for about 60% with the rest a mix of European travelers and locals. Everyone was having a great time. My wife Diane and I were fortunate to snag a table. At the very moment a group stood to leave, I moved quickly to claim the space.
When I first discovered Sora, I had been looking for someplace quiet to spend a weekend away from Panama City. I wanted a place that was an easy drive from the capital. Somewhere with a cool climate and little noise or light pollution. I wanted to be able to look up and see the stars, maybe wear a light jacket, and have a relaxing weekend.
Countless people dream of retiring in France—and for good reason. France offers a seductive blend of old-world sensibilities and modern living, all wrapped up in one beautiful package. While it’s true that most people don’t retire to France to save money, life here can nonetheless be surprisingly affordable. So, where in France you should think about retiring? Consider these five prime towns and regions: 1. Bordeaux: A Lower Cost of Living in “Little Paris”… Bordeaux is a beautiful port town of 239,000 people lying along the Gironde river…
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. Looking back, I can’t say that I blame them.
Thomas O’Neal had never been to Malaysia. In fact he hadn’t been anywhere in Asia, which made his sudden decision to move to the tropical island of Penang a brave one. “I figured that I’d take a chance and move lock, stock, and barrel. I could have just visited but where is the fun in that? After just a few months here I love it. It’s home for me now. New York has changed over the years and although I’ll always be a New Yorker I needed to travel.”
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.
Tom Vercillo is paid to know the best places to wine, dine, and sightsee in scores of cities in the countries lining the Mediterranean. Regularly sampling the region’s finest offerings is just one of many perks in a career that sees him cruising around the Med’s warm waters seven months a year, stopping at exotic new locations almost every day.
People come to live in Panama for lots of reasons. It’s one of the world’s best destinations for retirees, and if you’re keen on running your own business, it’s got much to offer. But if your dream is to establish a winery, then most folks will tell you to look elsewhere. David Feinstein and Kersti Landeck are not most folks.
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.
Proximity to Panama City and to beaches like Coronado makes El Valle one of the world’s rare “have-it-all” locations. Here, you can live right in the middle of a display of nature’s bounty, teeming with life…and yet be close to important conveniences. And the number of expats discovering this tiny town is growing. Over the course of my visit I encountered quite a few of them and counted many nationalities. Ask them why they choose to live here, and you’ll hear a range of answers.
As a travel writer, I am constantly seeking to discover hidden gems, places the majority of travelers don’t know about and unique adventures. My recent trip to eastern Germany was no exception. Everyone knows about German beer, but did you know Germany’s State of Saxony has an 850-year-old wine-making history?
One of the places my wife, Suzan, and I have lived since moving abroad in 2001 is Panama City, Panama. And I must say, if it was a big, modern city I was after as an expat destination, Panama City would have to be it. The idea of craving the amenities of a big, busting metropolis as a place to retire or have a second home strikes some people as odd.
According to the “critical period hypothesis,” it’s easier to learn a language before the age of 13. That theory says that’s when you have a better chance of achieving fluency and being accent-free. When I started studying Spanish two-and-a-half years ago, I was already 40 years past that window, so I wasn’t sure how my attempts to learn Spanish would play out.
If you ask expats living in Colombia why they fell in love with the country, most will say because of its warm and welcoming people. But once you settle in, you’ll discover that hospitality is just the icing on the cake, because there are endless reasons to retire to Colombia. In Colombia, you can find unbelievable deals on homes and the cost of living is downright cheap. You can choose a town or city in which to live based upon the type of climate and lifestyle you most enjoy. Best of all, you’ll be able relish your retirement…
We had a friend from Florida visit us here in Costa Rica recently. She’s been a regular guest during our time down here—she loves travel, and Central America in particular. But it was her new husband’s first time in the country, even though he’s from Nicaragua, just to the north. He doesn’t speak any English, although he does recognize a few words and phrases.
The first time I visited Pedasi, I thought to myself, “Is this it?” Small colonial homes line the main strip, behind which you’ll find a small plaza flanked by a neat little white church. There are usually a few old-timers sitting under the gazebo, wearing the same sombreros pintados (painted hats) their fathers and grandfathers wore.
Wherever we live, whatever lifestyle we choose, our lives typically fall into a rhythm. Here in David, Panama, where I live, the weather is a major factor in the rhythm of daily life, and the things we do depend on whether it’s summer or winter. Winter in Panama? Yup, that’s what we call it, el invierno in Spanish.
As I sit here sweating in the middle of January it’s hard to imagine that it’s cold somewhere. Our friends back in the U.S. are still working, yet I’m only 53 years old and happily retired now for two years. The past two and a half years have gone by quickly as we’ve settled into our new life in Panama.
Sometimes my old friends back home have a hard time understanding why I moved abroad. Just last week I was wrapped up like a polar explorer in borrowed coats, helping a friend I was visiting back home for the holidays shovel the drifting, blowing snow off his driveway. “What’s the fascination with living abroad anyway?” he asked through the scarf wrapped around his face to avoid losing his nose to frostbite.
When I made the move to a small highland town in Ecuador two years ago I knew that my new lifestyle would also come with an education. In fact that was part of the appeal. I would learn Spanish, adopt new customs, and adapt to life in a country halfway around the world. It was going to be great. Guess what? I was right; it is awesome, but not necessarily for the reasons I thought it would be. Sure, my original intentions have come to fruition. My Spanish is coming along nicely and I’ve gained many new friends because of it.
Frances Jones leans back in her chair and motions to the rolling view from her terrace. Forest and coffee field-flecked hills stretch for miles to the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific. “When we found this place the house was simple—no porches—but the view was just killer. Even if it was a tent, we still would have taken it,” says Frances.
I often catch myself being taken aback by the stunning view of the Pacific that greets me from every western-facing window of my home in San Vicente, Ecuador. I don’t know exactly why I still experience a flash of surprise at the sight at this point. Maybe it’s because less than two years ago, such a thing was merely a dream. Like so many when the Great Recession struck, my husband and I were struggling to maintain the lifestyle we had built over the years.
For anyone who’s been there recently, it’s no surprise that Spain is one of the top five destinations in International Living’s Global Retirement Index—our pick of the top retirement destinations in the world. Spain is arguably the best bargain in Europe, offering First-World living at a cost that can compete with some Latin-American countries. Thanks to the ongoing recession, real estate prices in many parts of Spain have plummeted. Buying here is more affordable now than it’s been in decades.
My friend Ben lives in Panama City and wouldn’t live anywhere else. He thrives on the metropolitan vibe, the non-stop activity and being in a major commercial and business center. If you love city life, Panama’s capital has it all, with skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, live theater and music, and cuisine from all over the world. On a much smaller scale, the city of David, where I live, has the commercial and cultural advantages of a city, but in the countryside of western Panama.
Not long ago, I received a note from a high-school friend I haven’t seen in many decades. “Did you follow a dream to South America?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, “but I’m not finished. I’m still following my dreams.” The thing is, I don’t know where my dreams will take me. I have a very full bucket list of places I want to visit. Who knows how long I might be seduced into staying in any one of them?
It’s interesting what you get used to—and what you forget about that you used to be used to. Since moving to Cuenca, Ecuador three and a half years ago my wife and I have noted how much simpler our life has become. For us moving abroad and retirement went hand in hand, so we’ve attributed this phenomenon to no longer having careers with the accompanying stress and pressure.
I first discovered Paris while studying in London. One weekend spent exploring the city of light and I was smitten. Whenever an occasion arose, I would return, to walk the streets that spoke of history, to sit in the charming cafes and watch the passing of time, in this, the most beautiful city in the world. Yes, I dreamed to live there. One day.
“Follies are the only things that one never regrets,” said Oscar Wilde. Agreed. But travel writers needn’t look far to find excuses for their follies. After all, writers have a reputation for eccentricity. Whatever bizarre situation you find yourself in—and if any awkward questions arise—you can always blame it on the job. Why were you buying contraband from gypsies in the Czech woods? (“It’s my job.”) How come you spent half the night in a Berlin anarchist squat? (“It’s my job.”)
In much of Panama, sultry tropical days average 88F…but there are places where you can experience more temperate weather. Think mild and breezy—up to 10 degrees cooler (or more, when the sun’s not out). Places where rain will be your biggest concern…where there’s no hail, or snow, or hurricanes either. The most popular is the mountain town of Boquete, located in the Province of Chiriquí.
The worst part of my week used to be Sunday nights. That’s when I’d sit in my pajamas in front of the TV, a pint of ice cream in my hand, and desperately try not to watch the sun set outside my window. To me, that great orange fireball descending behind the mountains felt like sand in an egg timer bringing me closer to going to work on Monday.
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