“I’ve been around, and Pereira is the best place I’ve ever been,” says Lawrence Neal of his home in Colombia. “My life is so much better here, in every way.”
For 14 years, Lawrence lived in Thailand, in a style that was the envy of his buddies back in the States. After a long-term relationship ended in 2009, he boldly packed up everything and moved to Pereira, Colombia. And seven years on, it’s a move he’s never regretted.
Pereira was the perfect size, about a half-million people (a million if you count the surrounding suburbs). It’s small enough to be a walkable city without overwhelming big-city noise and traffic congestion. Yet its big enough to have several modern malls and the convenience of U.S.-style, big-box stores. Nestled in the hills of the coffee zone, the climate is one of eternal spring. Even better, Pereira has somehow remained off the main expat and tourist radar, keeping prices amazingly low.
Within five days of arriving, Lawrence had rented a new, two-story penthouse apartment in one of the city’s best neighborhoods. His four-bedroom, five-bathroom apartment has 2,000 square feet of living space, a terrace with a Jacuzzi and sauna, wrap-around balconies, panoramic views of the city to the west and the mountains to the north.
Amazingly, Lawrence pays just over $800 a month in rent and that includes all his utilities, plus a full cable TV, phone, and internet package. “It kind of makes me smile to get all this for so little,” he comments.
His other regular costs include $30 a month for a Stateside-quality gym, complete with about 100 work-out machines plus all the usual yoga, dance, and aerobic group classes. He averages $200 a month for groceries and eating out at a nice restaurant costs about $6.
Lawrence’s healthy lifestyle is easy in Pereira since fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, and free-range eggs are readily available. A raw and natural food lover, Lawrence says, “For about $20 a week, I have fresh, raw, unpasteurized milk, kumis (a local fermented milk drink), cream, butter, and cheese delivered to my doorstep from a farm up in the mountains about an hour away. I get so much I can’t use it all myself, but it’s so inexpensive. I keep the same order and give away the extra to my maid.”
When asked what else he likes about Pereira, Lawrence replies, “I don’t need a car or a motorbike here. I really love that. Downtown is only a 15-minute walk away. There are three ultra-modern, multi-story shopping malls within a 10-minute walk. If I get tired, a $1.50 taxi ride gets me home from just about anywhere in the city.”
Lawrence says that in Pereira “the people are friendly, respectful, and welcoming. You’re often invited to dinner since they want to get to know you. It’s quite easy to integrate into the community.”
Although Lawrence moved to Colombia without having visited first, he doesn’t advocate that approach. Instead, he advises, “Get in touch with someone who lives here, someone who knows the city and is willing to show you around. Spend some time before you decide.
“Pereira is an ideal location for couples and singles alike, but for a single, mature gentleman like me, Pereira is pure paradise.”
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