“When my 2016 vacation plans with my girlfriend fell through at the last minute, I looked for the cheapest flight to go on a trip by myself,” says 52-year-old Rob Abshear. “I was coming from Fort Lauderdale and I got a great price on a flight to Medellín, Colombia.”
The city really struck a chord with Rob, a Winchester, Kentucky native. “I thought it would be a pueblo (small town),” he says, “but I was pleasantly surprised.” Medellín is a large cosmopolitan city with over 3 million residents, however, it still retains much of the charm of a smaller community. “I love Medellín because it’s like the old way of life in the 50s and 60s in the U.S.,” explains Rob. “You know your neighbor, kids play outside and are social—not too many video games—and life is geared towards knowing and talking to people.”
Rob was so enamored with the city that he made several trips back and forth during vacations from his job as a systems engineer. “When I got laid off from my job, I decided I had to go somewhere I would be able to live on my Social Security,” he says. “So, I gave my furniture to goodwill, donated my food to a foodbank, and moved to Medellín in January 2017.”
Rob had made connections via Facebook with other expats living in the city prior to his arrival. At first, he rented an apartment in the expat-popular Laureles neighborhood, and while it was a wonderful experience, he wanted to reduce his expenses even more and live more like a local.
“I found a room to rent in the large home of a Colombian family for only $300,000 pesos a month ($100 dollars), and I have use of the whole house,” says Rob. “It was the best thing I ever did.” Now he has a very low cost of living and is totally immersed in the local culture. “I have developed a relationship with the family,” he says. “They are part of my life and take care of me. And I get to leave my dog with them during the day.”
Since he won’t be eligible for Social Security for more than a decade, Rob needed to find a way to earn income so that he didn’t continue to deplete his savings. “I found a gap in the market and I had the skills, so I started a technology service business,” he says. “Basically, if it plugs into a wall, I can help you.”
Rob provides onsite service and support for your computer and networking needs, whether it is for your home computer, or for your business. He works on wired or wireless networks, security cameras, home theater systems, and Kodi boxes (a device that allows people to stream shows and watch them on their computer, smartphone, smart TV, or tablet). These are particularly popular with expats. Rob laughs, “I even once helped a customer with a washing machine problem.”
“Most of my customers are from the U.S.,” Rob explains, “and I follow U.S. business rules. I show up on time and my services and prices are transparent.” His business continues to grow by word-of-mouth, referrals, and requests on Facebook expat pages. With the steadily increasing number of expats moving to Medellín, Rob has an ever-growing client base.
“I support myself on what I earn, I don’t really need very much to live,” Rob explains. “With the very low rent, I can live on $1,000 per month.” His daily life is a blend of enjoying his surroundings and interacting with his clients. “I tend to eat at home and buy my groceries at the local tiendas (small stores). But when I do eat out I can get a good menú del día (set meal) of local food for less than $3. I also enjoy walking around the city because you see so much more that way.”
Rob is covered by EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud) which is the public health insurance program. He pays only $35 per month for his premium and $1 for his copays.
For anyone considering moving to Medellín, Rob’s advice is to do research first; “then take an exploratory trip for about two months. If you have the mindset, like I did, to venture out of the heavy expat areas, you will find a life you can still really enjoy.”
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