Around the World in Search of Our Perfect Retirement Home

My husband Joseph and I didn’t set out to be rambling retirees. Each and every one of the four retirement homes we bought in various parts of the world was intended to be our “permanent” residence for the rest of time.

We had fallen in love with the Mexican colonial beauty of San Miguel de Allende…which we then deserted for the charms and exotic locale of Buenos Aires, Argentina…then gave that up for Panama City, Panama, and its warm weather and proximity to the U.S. And then quickly launched ourselves to Barcelona, where the lifestyle, cost of living, and prime location in Europe have made us extremely happy and contented for the last three years.

What gives? Maybe it was destiny, or reactivated habits of our childhoods as military brats, or—perhaps most likely of all—a sense that we had done what we wanted to do in a given place and were ready for different adventures.

Along the way, we’ve realized that there’s no rule that says you have to retire in one place. You don’t have to pledge the rest of your life to a single location. What if you outgrow your chosen spot? Or you find it wasn’t exactly what you had anticipated? What if you have a hankering to live a different lifestyle? It’s not a mistake to say “I tried it, had a great time, and now I’m ready to move on.”

Of course, any international move—much less multiple ones—are not for the faint of heart, but as a reader of International Living you’ve already identified yourself as an explorer who wants to see as much of the rest of the world as possible before you leave it.

The good news is that the whole process gets easier and easier with the second, third, and fourth moves. We’ve learned a lot from those moves.

For one thing, after the first move you know the paperwork game: the kind of documents that are needed to obtain a residence visa, get a shipment through customs, open a bank account, and how to get your hands on them. Our four retirement countries required many of the same papers: passports, apostilled birth certificates, earnings records, police records, and health certificates.

The process varies, of course, from one nation to the next and you do have to find your way through that.

There are some challenges to a rambling retirement. The costs of physically moving yourself and your household goods can easily add up but we’ve learned to cull our possessions down to the essentials. And we’ve learned that to navigate in a new locale and find reliable vendors and service providers may take some time and energy. Plus, there’s the task of finding housing and setting up your home…though the amateur home decorator in me views this as a golden opportunity for creativity.

But the rewards of this type of retirement far outweigh those challenges. Chief among them: living life like a local—or as close to one as you can get—in different places that have captured your imagination for whatever reason: climate, culture, history, architecture, cost of living, lifestyle.

From our perspective, the time, energy, and money that we have invested with our multiple moves have been well worth it. Why? Maybe because we finally found the perfect place after all.

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