It's another hot day in Battambang, Cambodia and what better spot to linger than at a downtown sidewalk bistro with a platter of cheese and a chilled glass of French wine... Cambodia's second largest city moves at a slow and lazy pace. Maybe it's the heat, but I get the sense that Battambang is like this every day of the year. People stroll down the sidewalk, taking time to stop and chat along the way. No one is in a hurry.
Having grown up a military brat, I was no stranger to living overseas. After working for corporations for over 30 years, when retirement came around my wife Mary and I had become unhappy with the way things were going in the U.S. So we decided to find somewhere else to retire to. We made a list of 15 countries including some in Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, and Asia. We spent a year doing research, eventually settling on Ecuador. We took a couple of scouting trips and finally moved to Quito in February 2015.
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’ve interviewed a lot of expats over the years, and no matter what that interview is about, I try to ask one important question. If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently? The answers are a treasure trove of advice on what to avoid when planning and executing your plan to move abroad. And there are a couple of common themes worth mentioning.
You never know what can happen when you move to another country, particularly one where the language is different to your own. And when you learn the language, it can help you to build relationships with the people in your new local community. I often run into people I taught Spanish to 10 or 15 years ago and I always ask them how their Spanish is going. Mostly the response is the same: “My Spanish is horrible but I get along just fine. The Power Verbs take you a long way.” (With Power Verbs, students learn to say “I need... I want... I am going to... I can… and combine them with 100 verbs. This gives them to skill to express their needs and want.)
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.
“We have horses, pigs, geese, dogs, and one chicken,” says Deb Swansburg. Caring for so many animals may not sound like a relaxing retirement to everyone, but for Deb it’s the perfect life. Deb spent the last 20 years in New Mexico...
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.