Bumping along on the back of an ox cart, I’m wondering why some of the locals look amused. “Well, usually it’s the kids who like riding in Domingo’s ox cart,” says my new friend and guide, Adrian. “They don’t usually see a gringo in it.” In fairness, they probably don’t see all that many foreigners anywhere in the beautiful colonial town of Santa María de Fe. On the site of a former Jesuit reduction (mission town), Santa María de Fe is a small town in Paraguay’s Misiones Department, 152 miles south of the capital, Asunción. Paraguay is one of the least-known countries in Latin America. And the little that people do know about this landlocked country at the heart of the continent is often about its history of eccentric dictators and military coups.
I’ve lived in Nicaragua for seven years, and I can tell you that this is one of the most beautiful, affordable, and exciting countries in Central America. You can leave your stressful life behind and relax in the tranquility of a liquid gold-touched sunset, listen to a gentle forest rain, or watch from your patio as thousands of fireflies make it look as though the stars have descended from the sky. And if you like excitement and adventure, Nicaragua will not disappoint. Here are just some of the once-in-a-lifetime activities Nicaragua has to offer, whether you’re stopping over for vacation or staying full-time.
For most of history, home was simply where you were born. It was your tribe. Your family. Your community—big or small. It wasn’t really something you chose. But today, you have more freedom to go your own way. You can—more easily than ever—travel the planet and find a place you’re always glad to come back to. In short, in an increasingly-globalized world, home really can be where the heart is—not just where you end up by default. I could delve into the reasons for this—air travel, the Internet, globalization. But you already know the world is getting smaller, easier to travel, easier to navigate.
When I think about my winter in Italy, I think of cobblestone alleyways sparkling with rain, mist-shrouded cathedrals in the “hill country,” days spent with tourist attractions almost all to myself, and a pleasant chill in the air—cool, but not too cold. I based myself, during my five winter weeks in Italy, in the mid-sized university town of Perugia, which is the capital of Umbria, Tuscany’s lesser known but just-as-lovely neighbor. It’s a place of rolling hills, world-famous wines, and postcard-perfect mountain towns. Because Umbria is nestled in between Tuscany (where you will, of course, find pretty, popular Florence, as well as a sunflower-dotted countryside that has inspired writers, artists, and tourists alike) and Lazio (the region that houses historic, grandiose Rome), it was the perfect place to do a little exploring.
When visiting Costa Rica during a scouting trip, your goal is to figure out which region suits you and your lifestyle best. Even though it’s a small country, about the size of West Virginia, there are many different climates and lifestyles in each area. You might also be trying to determine if the country as a whole is the best fit at all. So you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your journey by gathering as much useful information about your possible new home country. Here are some tips to make for an educational—and fun—scouting trip to Costa Rica.
As North Americans, we have a few myths about Italy. We think of Italian men as Casanovas: handsome, suave, and maybe a little dangerous. We think that every Italian woman is sexy, self-assured, and passionate. We imagine that all Italians are loud, passionate people with hot tempers and strong opinions… And we believe that all Italian food tastes amazing. So when we arrive for that first time in Italy and stumble into a random osteria in Rome or a little café in Florence, we expect the best of the best. We expect to be transported in ecstasy through a taste experience unlike any we’ve had before.
I wasn’t asking for much when I went in search of the perfect place to live. All I wanted was white-sand beaches giving way to crystal-clear tropical seas. For variety, I wanted a choice between a beachfront café, with mellow music playing in the background, and an empty beach where the only sounds are birds chirping and waves lapping against the shore. Oh, and the beaches had to be within easy reach of each other, and I needed to be able to live well on a small budget.
Five years ago, I was the lead copywriter and content strategist at an advertising agency in Denver, Colorado…coming in as early as 7 a.m. and leaving sometimes as late as 9 p.m.—and rarely ever got a real break. Now, I’m sitting in a sunny top-floor apartment in the Swiss Alps, writing this to you. I can see a waterfall from my window and, only a few steps from my door, I could be on a hiking trail that leads to a Swiss ski town or a 360-degree panorama of the mountains. All because I am a travel writer.
Twenty years ago, when I first visited Málaga, it was the ugly stepsister of Spain’s Costa del Sol: a little scruffy and down-at-heels (though with gloriously sunny weather and a seaside location). So it was pure pleasure to return last summer and find it transformed into a Cinderella: one of Spain’s most livable—and affordable—cities for coastal living. Today’s Málaga is clean and bright, with a pedestrian-only city center and a revamped harbor area that is a joy to stroll. The city is brimming with museums, great dining, and plenty of shopping to suit all tastes and budgets.
I’ve never seen so much green…and in so many shades and variations. The tall, jungle-covered mountains of Costa Rica’s Southern Zone dominate the landscape. And many locals and long-time expats say they enjoy these mountain views even more than the ocean, thanks to the lush vegetation that covers them. This region, on the southern Pacific coast, is a land of extremes. Empty beaches, wild Pacific waters, those tall mountains dropping to brief lowlands before turning to a strip of sand, and then blue ocean.
After eight years as Panama Editor for International Living, you’d think writing about the best places to vacation in Panama would be a cinch. But there are so many great places to vacation in Panama that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. In fact, I’m constantly adding new favorites to my list.
The couple explored Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. As their trips were part of a search for a new home, it made sense to stay awhile and get beneath the surface of a place. Ellen explains, “Extended stays make sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the cost of moving about.” But after three years of having no permanent base, they realized that it was actually this roving retirement lifestyle that suited them.
This morning, I awoke to bright blue skies, crisp autumn air, and the slow, muted clanking sounds of cows wearing big metal cowbells and moving down the street just outside my window. You see, today I am living in a small town in the Swiss Alps. It’s October, which means the farmers are bringing their cows down from the high altitudes and into the low fields and warm barns for the winter. The air smells faintly of fields and campfires. And aside from the bells, all is quiet.
I’m on a narrow road that cuts across the bleakest part of Dartmoor. And from here, the view of one of Britain’s most dismally austere buildings is perfect. The road leads to HMP Dartmoor—and HMP is the acronym for Her Majesty’s Prison.
In a place like Penang, food is everything. That’s why this little island off the coast of Malaysia is so often touted as a top foodie destination by big name publications and news outlets. But, unlike many top foodie spots, it’s not because of expensive Michelin-starred restaurants or celebrity chefs.
When Joan Jontilano arrived to one of my seminars a few years ago, she was a young woman with a big smile, a complex work history, and an enormous amount of wanderlust. She had tried conventional employment working in IT and retail, among other things, but showing up at the same place at the same time every day was not working for her.
The North Island of New Zealand holds a treasure missed by hikers who limit themselves to the south Island. It’s the Tongariro Alpine crossing, a day hike among volcanoes—some dead, some smoldering, and all with an otherworldly feel that recalls the moon.
Like so many from the U.S., when I daydream about traveling through Europe, I always imagine myself on a train: speeding quietly through the countryside, over the mountain passes, past charming, ancient towns, or along the shores of a massive glacial lake. Other forms of transportation—with their two-hour pre-flight check-ins, their bumpy, uncomfortable buses, and their too-close-for-comfort seating arrangements—always feel like a hassle.
We want authenticity when we travel. We want the real thing: to step outside our own lives and connect with other peoples, cultures, and ways of life. We want to learn something about ourselves and our place in the world. We want to taste the food, learn the customs and talk to the people, to lose ourselves, at least for a little while.
Over the past 11 years I have worked on quite a number of photo assignments, ranging from a simple shot of a cup of hot cocoa, to a rodeo clown, to a six-week assignment for a Frommer’s travel guide about Puerto Rico. There are many reasons I love doing assignments. For starters, you’re sure to get paid for your efforts. Magazine assignments typically pay about $500 per day plus expenses, though this will vary depending on a variety of factors.
This week I want to talk about a hobby you can turn into an overseas, portable income that will take you to the most beautiful places in the world. And it doesn’t even have to be your hobby now. You can start up—and start earning—before you embark on your travels. The hobby is photography. And while there was a time when there was a clear distinction between amateur and professional photographers, technology has blurred that distinction completely.
My husband and I recently returned from a journey around the world with our three young children. Over the course of two years, our travels took us to 12 countries on five continents and united our family in ways we could not have foreseen. We hiked the Inca Trail…rode camelback through the Sahara…chased flamenco in Andalusía…
“I love the stimulation. Every time I take someone on a tour I learn something new about places I’ve seen hundreds of times before.” So says Helene Kahn who has loved Mexico since she was 10 years old. Now she lives in the artistic hub of San Miguel de Allende and gets paid for something she loves doing: showing people around her adopted country.
When I made the decision I was going to retire in Latin America, I decided to learn the language. A brief stint living in Mexico in my early 30s with zero Spanish skills made me realize I was missing out on the full experience…and I didn’t want a repeat. After three years and four scouting trips to Latin American, I am thankful I took the time to learn.
When I quit my job to travel the world for a year‚ the last thing I wanted to do was work. Well, at least not in the capacity that I used to as an editor in Manhattan. In fact‚ part of the reason I left the country was to take a break from the New York corporate rat race. When I first moved to Quito, Ecuador in 2012‚ I worked at two language schools teaching English. But after several months‚ I wanted to explore another way to make money.
My wife and I moved to Ecuador in 2006 to enjoy the more laid-back atmosphere and travel extensively. The problem was that our taste for lazing around on sandy beaches and spending money in out-of-the-way Quechua village markets was starting to eat into our retirement funds. We needed to develop a new income…one that wouldn’t cut into our relaxed evenings watching gurgling mountain streams from our resort deck.
If you’ve ever yearned for your own Indiana Jones-style adventure, be sure to add Belize’s most infamous cave to your bucket list. ATM—full name Actun Tunichil Muknal—is your ticket to the ancient Maya underworld, or Xibalba. Also known as the “cave of the stone sepulcher,” it’s near san Ignacio in the Cayo District, and it’s where the Mayas of old performed their sacred rituals long before Europeans came.
For many visitors, Baños’s thermal baths are miracle enough. You’ll find several places to soak away to your heart’s content here, in pools of varying degrees of delicious heat. The most popular public baths are right in town at the base of the 260-foot waterfall called Cascada de la Virgen, where Nuestra Señora allegedly once appeared. A shrine there is dedicated to her and her healing waters.
Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s most acclaimed and mysterious ancient ruins. Many of these once-bustling cities and monumental religious sites lay forgotten until relatively recently, jungle-shrouded and known only to a few locals, who thought them the haunts of ghosts and spirits. These marvels of the ancient world are now more accessible to travelers than ever before. Some are well known and easy to reach, others are more of an adventure. Here’s a rundown…
How easy is it to adapt to life in a new country?” Well, the answer is going to be different depending on who you are and how adaptable you’re willing to be. I’m a planner by nature. You know, one of those people who likes to make lists, check things off, and know that all is going according to plan.
“Paris thrives on its glamorous reputation, but discounts and deals are available here just as they are everywhere else,” reports Barbara Diggs, InternationalLiving.com’s France correspondent. “With a little inside knowledge you can enjoy the best of Paris for far less money than you’d think.” Diggs reveals the best places to eat and shop in the City of Light, as well as detailing cultural attractions from museums to the theater, all at a fraction of the price a tourist would expect to pay in a city like Paris.
When I was 10 or 11 years old I had a vision that I would grow-up be a freelance writer, and live on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. My vision has come to fruition in Venice Beach, California, for $2,500 a month…St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for $800 a month…and most recently in Sesimbra, Portugal, just 30 minutes south of Lisbon, for $400 a month.
Slowly the walls rise above us, hemming us in as our vessel sinks into the depths. Barn-sized doors of riveted steel loom above us as valves open and siphon the water away. With a clank, the doors crack open, widening to reveal another chamber. We sail in, feeling as though we’re in a gigantic bathtub…
If your idea of paradise is a tranquil beach where a couple can live comfortably for $1,200, including renting a furnished home, then Uruguay’s Department of Rocha is a place you should definitely know about. A “department” in Uruguay is like a state or province. Rocha covers 4,074 square miles and stretches 112 miles along the Atlantic coast between Punta del Este, the largest beach resort in Uruguay, and the Brazilian border.
The Great Wall in Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors in the western city of Xian, the ice sculptures in the frigid northern city of Harbin: These are the tourist destinations most people think of—and hope to visit—when they travel to China. Magnificent as these places are, you’ll find them jam-packed with domestic and foreign tourists. Due to the ease of visiting the famous sights and of finding English-speaking guides, most foreigners don’t stray too far from the beaten path.
Before setting off on a solo adventure as a woman, one of the biggest concerns—for both the solo traveler herself and her family and friends—is often safety. We worry about pickpockets and scam artists. We wonder if it’s safe to walk home alone. We want to see the world, to shop in Paris, to ride a tuk-tuk through the streets of a Asian city, to learn to salsa dance in Mexico…but we also want to be wise.
If you’re ready to move overseas…with all the promise it holds of warm weather, being your own boss, and working just a few hours a day…but the prospect of actually packing up your worldly goods and getting on that plane sounds intimidating, let me tell you something. You have a sister.
The hotel’s website wasn’t lying. There really was a 180-degree view of the ocean from every room. And the view was amazing—enormous rock formations dotted the coastline, crashing waves, seabirds everywhere. We arrived just in time to shoot the sunset and get a feel for the place, before settling into our suite for the night.
Last November I turned 10 years old as a travel photographer (in human years I am now 55). Before that, I practiced law for almost 20 years. I changed careers about 20 years before I intended to, but being a full-time travel photographer has been a fulfilling experience; I no longer think of myself as a lawyer.
The sun was setting in Northern India as we crested the hill, making our way to Ranthambore Fort. Birds exchanged their evening chatter from the treetops, now turning gold in the low sunlight. Along the path, a bearded man appeared in a temple door, inviting us to remove our shoes and receive a blessing.