If you’re of retirement age and you’ve decided to retire overseas, lucky you. And smart you. Not only are you about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, but you’ve likely made a very wise decision.
My husband and I traveled with a 90-pound chocolate lab when we first moved abroad 15 years ago. We like to say that our dog, Jack, had more stamps in his passport than most of our friends. He traveled to Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and again to Mexico with us over the course of his life, with trips back to the States in between. And while pets don’t really have actual passports, they’ll have scads of documents. Honestly, we’d be all for it if there were such a thing as a pet passport that allowed pets to travel as easily as people do.
I’m often asked what advice I would give to would-be expats as well as to “already are” expats, so I created this “Top 10” list. This really is a favorite subject of mine and I have much advice to give (just ask my husband!), so let’s get started with these 10 “tip of the iceberg” tips: Examine your motives. Make sure you’re contemplating a move overseas for the right reasons. As the saying goes, “Take your luggage but leave your baggage behind.” You might want to escape a bad marriage, debts, or the toxic political and economic environment of home. And that’s okay. But don’t just run from, but to something. Make this about finding adventure and an overall better lifestyle and that’s exactly what you’ll do.
In 2007, Robin Moulyn and her partner, Rob "literally sold the farm" near a small town in British Columbia to move to Ecuador. "We decided we needed an adventure," says Robin. Rob had done some research and found that Ecuador offered a low cost of living and ranked highly in terms of safety and medical care. For six weeks, they traveled the country, visiting all the likely places they might want to live.
If you love colonial architecture, as I do, there’s a little city in Ecuador that will speak to you. Located in the heart of the Cuxibamba Valley, Loja, has two major universities, a law school, and assorted arts and technical institutes, it has a young, vibrant flavor. People are friendly. And they’re happy here.
Is the idea of retiring overseas just a bit intimidating? You’re not alone if you think so. I meet hundreds of expats every year who feel just as you do. They’re excited about the chance to squeeze every bit of fun and adventure out of their retirement years by exploring new cultures...and yes, saving tons of money...and living a more carefree life in a pretty-as-a-picture, fair-weather destination overseas.
Donna McNichol says that moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, has been a grand adventure. But the truth is, the move to Ecuador is just the latest in a series of adventures... "After being widowed at age 58," Donna says, "I spent part of a year traveling the U.S. on my motorcycle, covering 42 states and riding 27,000 miles alone. In another two years I sold everything I owned, bought a used Class C motorhome and started traveling full-time."
Not long ago I found myself suffering a major sinus infection. My head was pounding and I had a cough that kept me (and my husband) awake all night...I was exhausted. Nothing I was taking over-the-counter was helping. I needed to see a doctor. Unfortunately, I was visiting the States. At the doctor’s office in Omaha, I got right in. I did the interview with the nurse about my prior health history and what my symptoms were.
My husband Dan Prescher and I were in the States for the Christmas holidays last year—the most frenetic and stressful time to visit. There’s so much pressure, so much to do, so much to spend money on…and it’s icy cold! Temperatures for a few days running while we were visiting in Omaha hovered at about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. I hate to admit this, but there were a few days when I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. I’m no longer used to (or very tolerant of) those kinds of bone-chilling, life-threatening temperatures. And that’s not to mention that the sun depressingly slips away at 4:30 p.m. on a winter afternoon.
What’s the weather like where you are right now? And what do the upcoming months have in store for you weather-wise? Are cold northerly winds, deadly ice, and heavy, wet snow part of the forecast? (And that’s not to mention the darkness.) I used to dread winter in the U.S.—when the sun didn’t show itself until well after breakfast and then slipped away again before the afternoon rush hour traffic even thought about getting started.