If you don’t have thousands of dollars to pour into a Galapagos cruise, consider Isla de la Plata (Silver Island), affectionately termed the Poor Man’s Galapagos. The island supposedly derives its name from the centuries-old buried treasure of Sir Francis Drake, but my husband, Mark, and I haven’t found it—yet. Isla de la Plata is about 25 miles—an hour’s boat ride—from Puerto Lopez in the Machalilla National Park and contains some of the same flora and fauna found on the Galapagos…except the price tag is far less. In fact, the total cost for the day’s “cruise” is only $25 to $35 per person.
I'm sitting on my roof terrace looking out at the beautiful Pacific Ocean. It’s an absolutely picture-perfect postcard kind of day here in my new home of Olon, on Ecuador’s coast. And I'm basking in the feeling of being on a permanent vacation. If I turn around, I can see the coastal mountains awash in various shades of green. While much of the coast here is desert-like, the weather is perfect most of the time, creating a micro-climate that is quite pleasant for people, animals, and the large variety of birds that fly in and out of the terrace and the garden below.
At the heart of the Ebro Valley, and with a population of around 150,000, Logrono is surrounded by mountains but still well connected. It’s just two hours from San Sebastian’s clamshell shore, three hours from the center of historic Madrid, and four from lively Barcelona. It’s better known as the capital of La Rioja, Spain’s smallest region, which produces some of the country’s finest wines.
There are many reasons my wife Jen and I love living in Costa Rica. We enjoy the slower pace compared to the busy lives we led in the U.S. We enjoy the pleasant temperatures provided by living in the mountains of the Central Valley. But mostly, we love the abundance of nature and wildlife that exists all around us. I enjoy taking a hike each morning. I usually do one of three hikes I have found that take me through coffee farms, over rivers, and up into the mountains that surround Poas Volcano, near where I live.
After a vacation in Spain, Karen McCann and her husband returned the following year to study Spanish. The Ohio residents were especially enchanted by Seville. "We spent four spring vacations in Seville, staying for longer and longer periods," says Karen. "Of course, moving abroad—or moving anywhere—has its challenges. But you don't have to wait until all the stars are aligned, the dog passes away, the grandkids are all happily married, and you win the lottery."
When Toni Munoz, 53, visited Panama in 2014, she did what no one should. "I came just to look around, but I ended up buying a house!" she says. Conventional wisdom says it's best to visit a couple times and maybe even rent for a while before buying but Toni's spur-of-the-moment decision to buy in the beach resort of Coronado turned out to be a good thing. "I just fell in love with the community," she says.
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.
My wife, Suzan, and I hear from a lot of people asking about the actual cost of retiring and living overseas. After almost 15 years of doing that ourselves, we can honestly answer, “As much or as little as you want.” A lot of these questions arise because of some extraordinary claims about how cheap it is to live overseas. Many of the people who ask us about this can’t figure out how a person could possibly live on a single Social Security check each month. And there are good reasons they can’t figure it out.
Do you want to retire in one of those places that looks like a postcard? I know you've seen those picture perfect cards with the turquoise waters, white sands, and a single palm tree stretching towards the bluest sky. Those places do exist, even without the aid of Photoshop. Not only are they real, but there are many countries in Asia where you can find those beaches. I spent three weeks exploring some of the best beaches in Thailand and found three beach areas where you could send home those kinds of postcards, but with pictures you’ve taken yourself.
As a retired expat and current resident of Mexico, I frequently get asked if Mexico is a safe place to live? Media outlets in the States are fond of highlighting occurrences of cartel-related violence near the U.S. border, leading many to conclude that all of Mexico is a scary, unsafe place. Further, the U.S. Department of State does a great job of issuing real-time warnings to travelers regarding upticks in violence in various Mexican locations.