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I have never felt spring emerge the way I have in Aix-en-Provence. In April’s infancy, the plane trees were ghostly bare and the shoppers at the outdoor markets were still bowing to the wind, heads down and tucked into their beautiful French scarves.
Ibarra is known throughout the country as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), due to the many whitewashed buildings that line the cobblestone streets. One might think the city lacks color, but nothing could be further from the truth. Brilliant sculptures rise from traffic circles and murals brighten up many a street.
Moving abroad for any reason is a big decision…one that takes some thought and planning. Most people will never seriously consider moving out of their comfort zone in the first place. But for those of us who are willing to go to new places, meet new people, and try new things, the process of picking the right place and moving the right way can seem a little daunting.
- An Expat Secret Revealed: The “Other” South of France
Posted on April 19, 2014 by Nick Daniel
“Gascony’s the real France,” Jean-Jacques said. “Everywhere else—it’s another country.” Jean-Jacques, a local farmer, was leaning from his tractor—behind him, a bright field of sunflowers and the 18th century farmhouse my parents call home. His sun-beaten face squinted down at me. “Gascony is the hidden jewel of France—it’s our best kept secret.”
If you’re planning your first trip to Belize, here’s a list of the top 10 activities you should consider. 1. Experience the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. To truly experience Belize you must see the reef. If you’re not a water person you don’t need to get into, or onto, the sea to appreciate the reef’s beauty. Just hop a local flight to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.
- Looking for Culture, Comfort and Low-Cost Living? Try Guatemala
Posted on April 16, 2014 by Eoin Bassett
It’s largely thanks to these folks that Guatemala has such a rich and unique culture. And it’s this culture that entices many of the expats who have made their homes here. “I love how different it is, and I want it to stay that way, too,” says Jean Johnson who lives in the colonial city of Antigua. “It’s like traveling into some epic or bygone landscape,” says Portland-native John Kin, of traveling around the highlands.
We discovered our colonial highland home by accident. We were on a year’s sabbatical, exploring the popular expat haven of San Miguel de Allende, when a couple we knew invited us to join them on a day trip to the nearby town of Guanajuato. We climbed the steps from the underground parking lot to a view of lively plazas, colonial-style buildings in bright orange and turquoise, and plentiful pedestrian areas. After an hour’s stroll, we knew this was where we wanted to base ourselves in Mexico. After that first visit in 1999, we kept returning.
Two years ago Rob Hamm and Tracey Krause along with their two children relocated from Winnipeg to Cotacachi, Ecuador. Their goal as a family was to experience a new culture, travel, and learn a new language—which they’ve successfully done. But, there was a catch. Rob and Tracey are only in their 40s and still needed to earn an income to support their family. In preparing for their change in lifestyle, Rob took his interest in photography to the point where his photos could provide income. Several months before coming to Ecuador he began submitting photos…
- We Spent a Year Exploring Latin America to Find Our Ideal Retirement Haven
Posted on April 12, 2014 by Tricia Lyman
During our months of preparation, we set about determining the criteria we needed to choose a location. The criteria we chose for ourselves initially were: a good health care system at a much lower cost; a stable government; not wanting a car, a walkable location with a good transportation system; good infrastructure; a Spanish-speaking country because Mike already spoke some but wanted to become proficient; a warm climate year round; and, of course, a lower cost of living.
- When You’re Spoiled for Choices Overseas, How Do You Choose?
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Suzan Haskins
“We’re looking at retirement options,” she wrote, “and I’ve appreciated your insights, particularly on Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay. I know that seems like a lot of countries, so I’m hoping you can help us narrow it down. We plan to take a trip to at least two of these this year; one country at a time. Which country would you suggest we visit first? And can you please suggest some travel itineraries?”
- Live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for $1,200 – or Less – a Month
Posted on April 9, 2014 by Heather Van Deest
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in northern Thailand. There are dozens of rivers like the Mae Ping, which originates in the forest-clad Daen Lao mountain range and flows down through the temple-laden city of Chiang Mai. Waterfalls gush into fertile valleys like Mae Sa, where you’ll find elephant camps, orchid farms, and miles of lush jungle. This is a peaceful—some might say serene—part of the country, where for very little money you can enjoy a high level of comfort. With just $1,200 a month a couple won’t want for much, and that includes rent.
- You Can Have It All in Costa Rica’s Central Valley
Posted on April 8, 2014 by Jason Holland
I live in the heart of Costa Rica’s most populated region, the Central Valley. In fact, I live in the Gran Area Metropolitana (GAM), the name given to the capital, San Jose, and surrounding suburbs. The Valley has about 70% of the country’s population. It’s a center of culture and commerce. And the GAM, which contains towns popular with expats like Escazu, Santana, and Heredia, is honestly a sprawling urban area with traffic and noise.
- Off-the-Beaten Track Homes in Costa Rica…From $80,000
Posted on April 6, 2014 by Jason Holland
Of all the places I’ve visited in Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is the one that feels most like the frontier. It’s a somewhat isolated region, with mile after mile of untouched coastline along the blue Pacific, craggy hills, vast cattle farms in the interior, and mazes of what are often dirt roads running through forests and fields. It’s also one of the world’s Blue Zones, where researchers have found that locals live longer on average due to a combination of diet, climate, and lifestyle.
- I Thank My Lucky Stars That I Moved to Penang, Malaysia
Posted on April 4, 2014 by Keith Hockton
I’m a very lucky guy to be doing what I’m doing, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t remind myself of that. Sometimes I say it to my wife, too, but she already knows how lucky we are. My wife and I moved to the island of Penang in early 2010. A small island—15 miles long and 12 miles wide—on the west coast of Malaysia, Penang, which is connected to the mainland by a six-lane bridge, is just two hours’ drive south of Thailand.
If you’re in the process of planning your move abroad, I’m betting you’ve spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about your future experiences, too. But despite the advantages and excitement that a move abroad brings there was one stumbling block that nearly prevented us from taking the leap: fear of commitment. And we’re not the only ones who have faced this. From talking to other expats it would seem that many people experience a mental block when it comes to making a final decision on where to settle.
I’m writing this postcard from a veranda overlooking the Caribbean Sea on a nearly forgotten tropical island. The ocean is showing off several shades of blue and a slight breeze teases the palms. The piña colada at my side completes the picture. But as my family’s annual vacation draws to a close I’m actually a bit anxious to return home to Cotacachi, Ecuador.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” or “perfect” country for health care—it depends on what you want/need. There will always be trade-offs, just like in the U.S. For example, if you want to live in the country or remote beach towns, you probably won’t find the health facilities you’d expect to find in a big city. But while health care is a major consideration in deciding if/where to move abroad, it’s not the only factor.
Why stare at cold gray skies and dirty snow when you could enjoy warm sea breezes? That was the question I asked myself back in 2008. So I decided to search for an ocean view. I conjured up a vision of an international community in a town with an Old World feel, a tropical setting with hills, trees, and water. I was sure I could find a place to rent somewhere south of the border.
As a busy carpenter and contractor in his native Canada, Steve Quinn relished his regular trips to Costa Rica to relax and unwind on the beach. After six years of short visits, he decided to make this beach lifestyle permanent. He took over a beach bar and restaurant in Tamarindo, a funky surf town on the country’s northern Pacific coast. He’s leasing the property for three years, with an option to buy, which is a great way to test the waters without committing to purchasing property right off the bat.
Brothers Khalil and Abasi Chapman—and friend Rocky Leming—first landed in Costa Rica in 2005. At the time they worked in the restaurant and bar industry in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and heard rumors of the impressive surf down in Costa Rica. They headed south for a vacation somewhere on the Caribbean Coast…but ended up finding a new home. Today they run The Lazy Mon beach bar and restaurant in Puerto Viejo and draw huge crowds…
Most expats who consider moving to Belize dream of living near the Caribbean Sea on a beach. Fortunately for them, Belize offers several beach lifestyle options. Right now, the three most popular beach areas expats settle are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula. Here’s a quick peek at each of these popular beach retreats… Ambergris Caye is the island that I’ve called home for the past six years—and I’m not the only one who has discovered its charms.
Going abroad sometimes comes as a response to a personal shakeup: the end of a relationship, a financial loss, or the passing of a loved one. Getting out of Dodge, at least for a while, can provide the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective and explore your options.
When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I told our family and friends in 2001 that we were selling the house, quitting the business, and moving abroad, we got some looks of sincere concern for our sanity. But I don’t think we were crazy for going overseas back then. Here are the six biggest and best reasons why we’re so happy with our move overseas: 1. Our nest egg is actually growing. That’s because our cost of living is so low compared to back in the States. We still work as writers, and thanks to that lower cost of living we usually have…
- Enjoy the California Lifestyle – for Less – in Coronado, Panama
Posted on March 20, 2014 by Jessica Ramesch
Are you dreaming of a California lifestyle…but think that you’re unable to afford it? If so, you’ll want to consider Coronado, Panama. Just an hour’s drive from the only First-World city in Central America, at first glance you might notice that Coronado isn’t the cheapest retirement choice in the world…or even in Panama. A couple would want a total of $2,000 to $3,000 a month to live comfortably within the Coronado gates (including rent). Monthly rentals can be found for $1,000 to $2,000, and homes sell for $175,000 to $300,000…
There’s a lot to love about Ecuador—the amazing biodiversity; great weather; the low cost of living. And in the larger cities like Cuenca, where I live, the excellent medical care and cultural amenities are an added bonus. I’ve been kept up to date on the miserable winter in the States through Skype conversations with my two children. Right now I’m looking out the window at blue skies and am looking forward to yet another day with temperatures in the 70s.
- How the Seymours Retired at 41 and 44 in Costa Rica
Posted on March 18, 2014 by Jason Holland
Opening a business, moving to a small town, changing careers, heading out on the road in an RV…they considered all these options. But once they started reading about retiring overseas, it seemed the way to go. And Costa Rica quickly rose to the top of their list of destinations because it’s an easy flight back to Dallas and there’s good infrastructure, healthcare, and Internet access. And the climate where they live in the Central Valley is perfect year-round.
I visited San Miguel de Allende recently while working on a video project, and I had a chance to catch up with an old friend from when my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I lived there back in 2007 and 2008. It pleased me to find him doing well and to hear that his two children were growing into handsome, intelligent young adults. Part of the reason for that, he told me, were the chances they’d had to travel.
- Retirees Wanted to Test-drive Life Overseas For a Month—All Expenses Paid
Posted on March 15, 2014 by Jennifer Stevens
We at International Living are sending one lucky winner (along with a friend or spouse) to Coronado, Panama for a full month in 2014—free. The prize includes round-trip flights from the U.S. or Canada to Panama City, furnished accommodation in the beach-resort town of Coronado, plus a living-expense stipend of $1,500.
Belize is well-known for its famous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. For decades adventurous scuba divers and anglers have vacationed in Belize, in pursuit of their favorite marine sports. But this tiny country also has some fine beaches. But they aren’t always obvious to the first-time tourist. Fortunately, the majority of Belize’s beaches are public and accessible. The 60-foot strip of beachfront adjoining the Caribbean Sea is usually public property.
As I tapped away at my battered laptop that morning, sitting outside my beach hut, it came to me that I was living the dream. This was it—and I was doing it! I was living the freelance lifestyle. It was so perfect it was almost a cliché: I had just been for a long walk on the beach, followed by a breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, and muesli delivered to my hut, and there I was, dressed in a bikini and a sarong, sitting in a hammock strung between two palm trees, typing away.
A symphony of monks chanted as we sat kneeling on the grass. I held the wire rim of my enormous cylindrical paper lantern and waited for the cue. Finally, in one synchronized movement, a sea of hands—belonging to individuals from countless countries and cultures—let go.
From the first time I flew from the mainland to Ambergris Caye—in a small turbo-prop plane—I was hooked on Belize. Gazing down onto the crystal clear Caribbean waters, and at the waves breaking on the Mesoamerican Reef, I was overwhelmed by the scenic beauty around me. This stunning seascape was my intro to Belize. What later convinced me I could live full-time in Belize were the vibrant communities and comfortable lifestyle… So what makes Belize so appealing? I’ve outlined the top seven reasons to live here below:
- Perfect Weather in the Heart of the Central Valley, Costa Rica
Posted on March 7, 2014 by Jason Holland
My wife and I were enjoying coffee on our back porch the other day when we turned to each other and said, almost simultaneously, “Can’t beat this weather, huh?” And really, here at our home in the heart of the Central Valley, in the hills above the town of Grecia, I have to admit the weather is perfect. (My apologies to all those reading this up north who still have snow on the ground.) It averages about 75 degrees year-round and, up here at 4,500 feet, it gets cool enough…
- Bali…Paris…and Arctic Glaciers — The Joys of Travel Photography
Posted on March 6, 2014 by Linda Popovich
When my husband and I wanted to escape the rainy Seattle winter weather in 2012, we planned a trip to South East Asia and spent a month on assignment exploring luxury resorts and spas in Bali, Indonesia. Last summer we relaxed on a luxury barge floating down the Burgundy canal, sipping French wines, visiting local villages and eating fine food along the way. And we did some other business while we were in the neighborhood—in Paris, London, and Wales (nice neighborhood!).
- “A Low Cost of Living, Perfect Weather and Other Reasons Why We Moved to Salinas, Ecuador”
Posted on March 5, 2014 by Denver Gray
When Jo realized I was serious and that our move was a matter of weeks away, she said something I heard more than once before leaving the U.S: “I could never do something like that!” Of course, people have different reasons for thinking that way. And I’ll grant you, our move to Ecuador wasn’t what’s called “normal.” At 55 and 62 years of age we were supposed to be settling into a routine, shopping for rocking chairs…
We sold the house and had to decide what to do with all that stuff. So we took inventory—stuff we wanted to keep on one side of the ledger, stuff for the garage sale on the other. The idea was to get rid of all the things we didn’t need and keep all the things that we thought gave our life meaning and stability…the stuff we absolutely couldn’t live without.
In our years abroad, my wife, Suzan, and I have met expats who told us clearly that it was their intention to live someplace where they never saw another expat again. Although I admire the spirit and determination of this kind of total immersion, I can’t help but recall what an expat in the real estate trade in Mexico told us many years ago.
- Tasty, Filling, and Healthy: Five Foods to Try in Costa Rica
Posted on March 2, 2014 by Jason Holland
Costa Rica doesn’t get much attention as a culinary destination. The national cuisine (known locally as comida tipica) hasn’t extended across borders. And you won’t find Costa Rican restaurants anywhere but Costa Rica. Yet, most tourists and expats find that this country is actually full of some great food. It’s tasty, filling, healthy, and, in most cases, very reasonably priced.
- How to Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends in Ecuador…
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Edd Staton
I recently watched the Grammy salute to the Beatles commemorating their performance on the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago. Yes, I was among the 73 million households glued to the TV set on that historic night. A song that Paul and Ringo performed on the show, “A Little Help from My Friends,” got me thinking about how getting things done where I live in Cuenca, Ecuador is so much easier when you are open to the assistance of others.