In the heart of Spain, nestled between mountains, sunburnt hills, and row after row of thriving olive trees, sits Madrid. Despite being the third largest city by population in the European Union, Madrid maintains the feeling of tranquility and neighborliness that is so often replaced by the rushed and stressed life of other big cities. That’s precisely why I, a fast-walking, fast-talking girl from New York, stepped off the plane and into the blaring July sun of Madrid, took a look around, and traded it all in for a slowed-down, low-stress life in Spain’s metropolis.
Three years ago, I left the United States and moved abroad as a divorcée with five kids. As a writer, I could live wherever I had an internet connection. As the breadwinner for a family of six, I needed a lower cost of living to maintain the standard of living I wanted. And, as a mother, I wanted my children to have the enrichment that comes from experiencing a new culture.
It's 8 a.m. on a typical morning in my oceanfront condo in Salinas, Ecuador. My wife Rita and I have just returned from our morning exercise walk...down the malecon (boardwalk) beside the Pacific, past Chipipe beach and around a lovely old church and back. With that two-mile circuit done, we're sitting out on the balcony enjoying our coffee and fresh fruit breakfast. The sound of the waves on the sand is accented occasionally by the call of flocks of parrots as they fly by, and by the splash of pelicans diving into the surf for their first meal of the day.
Life is a balancing act, but Dave and Sherry Johnson have found what they've been looking for in Cuenca, Ecuador. Before his first exploratory trip, Dave imagined a Third World country with old, worn-out buses, chickens and cargo hanging from every inch, and people riding on the roof. What he found instead when he arrived in Cuenca a year-and-a-half ago was a charming colonial city with cobblestone streets, wrought-iron balconies, majestic churches, and friendly people. And Dave's first bus ride wasn't at all like he had imagined; it was a Mercedes bus that he says was more lavish than most airplanes he has been on.
Even if your coffers are bare, you can take a six-month trip if you save $10 a day for two years, or save $13 a day for three years to globetrot for a full year. You may have a healthy savings account already, but there are always ways to cut your expenses and make some extra cash. And it doesn’t have to be difficult, either.
As a young man, Bill was in the Navy and afterward went to work for the airline industry. “Eventually I became a supervisor and thought I had it made—good job, great benefits, nice pension, the works.” But that all changed when the economy went bad, the airline downsized, Bill lost his job…and all his benefits and pension. “We had expected to live on Bill’s pension when we retired, and when that was gone, everything changed,” says Mitzi. “We had to find an affordable place to live.”
Deciding where to live in Ecuador can be a daunting yet exciting prospect. Though the country is only the size of Nevada, the choices in lifestyle are many. You’ll need to decide if you’re a beach bum, mountain lover, or maybe even a jungle dweller. Do you want to reside in a large metropolis, a small city, or a quaint village? Those are all important things to factor in to your decision and ones that only you can answer.
My husband and I had no intention of retiring to Mexico when we came to Lake Chapala for a visit nearly three years ago. Our original plan was to spend six months traveling the U.S. in our travel trailer and six months outside the country, in an exotic location. But that changed when we came to Chapala. Lake Chapala is paradise for retirees like us, who want to be active and be involved in the community. The area has a large expat population, so we were able to find many options for Spanish language classes, local tour groups, and social organizations. We felt “plugged in” right away. By the time we had been here for three months, we had joined a church, enrolled in Spanish classes, and found volunteer opportunities.
Before moving to Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, my husband and I lived in Chicago. We were accustomed to brunch as the key to socializing with friends. If you set a weekly date with someone or made plans to catch up with an old friend, oftentimes you would do it over a weekend brunch. We had to re-learn some of the “rules” to socializing when we moved to our little beach town. When we began to meet people, it struck us as odd that the common invite for social gatherings was to go and watch the sunset together…but we quickly learned why.
Ever since I’ve known my husband, he has declared 72 F to be the perfect temperature. When we arrived on the Costa del Sol on Spain’s southern coast, we knew we had found 72 F at its finest. The Costa del Sol averages 320 days of sunshine per year and there are plenty of long, powdery, white-sand beaches on which to enjoy that warm weather. We had come to Southern Spain to explore what was on for offer for a long-term stay…and what we discovered was an abundance of sunshine and bargains. We decided to base ourselves in the popular coastal town of Benalmadena Costa due to its proximity to Malaga (it’s just a 30-minute drive on the highway) and access to the glittering Mediterranean Sea.