When my wife, Suzan, and I became expats 17 years ago, one of my reasons for leaving my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, was pretty simple. I never wanted to shovel snow again, ever.
Expats living all over the world, during the holiday season have one thing in common—their adopted countries have Christmas traditions that are likely very different from those back home…if they have Christmas at all.
Back in 1997, my wife and I were married in the sunny glass-covered atrium of the Don Carlos Hotel in San José, Costa Rica. The hotel provided a musician who played keyboards and a notary public who handled the paperwork and shared with us the bottle of champagne the hotel included in the wedding package.
Ever since my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I wrote our book, we've been getting the same question from book reviewers and interviewers. The name of the book is The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget: How to Live Well on $25,000 a Year. And the question is: "What do you mean by 'well'? What kind of lifestyle could you possibly have on just $25,000 a year?"
I was born in the 50s, so magazines played a huge role in my life. Of course, I cut my teeth on the magazines my parents always had around…Life, Reader’s Digest, Look, Mechanics Illustrated, Field and Stream, and the like.
My wife, Suzan, and I were in the U.S. for a conference when Ecuador was hit by its biggest earthquake in decades. We learned of it immediately from our friends and neighbors in our hometown of Cotacachi in the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador, where the quake was felt but caused no extensive damage. The story was different on Ecuador's northern Pacific coast. Entire towns have been flattened. Hundreds... perhaps thousands... of people have died, and thousands more have been injured or left homeless.
Valentine’s Day may be the most romantic day of the year, but it’s undeniable that some locations have a certain "je ne sais quoi", which adds that something special to the occasion. International Living ranks the top five most romantic locations on their beat—great places to visit with a loved one or to strike out and find love anew.
The year was 1997, and my wife, Suzan, and I had just gotten married in a civil service at the Hotel Don Carlos in San Jose, Costa Rica. She remembers that it was my idea, and I remember that it was hers. But whoever thought of it turned out to be a genius, because it set the travel bar pretty high for the rest of our lives.
There’s something about Costa Rica that just makes you think they have the whole lifestyle thing figured out. While every other country in the Western Hemisphere is trying to come up with a snappy marketing slogan to draw investment and tourism, Costa Rica just says “Pura Vida” (“Pure Life”) as they’ve been doing for years. It isn’t even a marketing slogan per se…Costa Ricans actually say it all the time—and they mean it.
It took a trip to hell to show me all the heavenly delights Belize has to offer. It's probably not the hell you're thinking of, and I didn't get there the way folks usually do. This particular hell is Xibalba, the Maya underworld. And I got there on a raft. My wife, Suzan, and I love scuba diving, and Belize has always been a favorite destination. The second-longest reef on the planet runs along Belize's Caribbean coast, and the diving is world class.