The sun is setting, giving the beach a golden glow. Moments ago the water was a cobalt blue, and I could see the tail feathers of the seabirds gliding above. Now a single cormorant bobs close to shore. I kick off my sandals and walk along the surf, letting it roll over my feet. The water is the perfect temperature. A bit cooler than the air around me, it feels refreshing…inviting.
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.
Each year, my husband and I spend six months of the year living in Panama’s Chiriqui province. One of the many reasons we decided to live our snowbird lifestyle here was the lower cost of living. And it’s something I often hear from expats…affordable and good-value cost of living was one of the main factors in their decision to live here.
Santa Catalina is not one of those cute little towns you’re likely to stumble across as you explore Panama. That’s because it’s literally at the end of the road where the pavement meets the sand of the Pacific shoreline. From Santiago, the capital of Veraguas Province, it’s about a two-hour drive to get to the town of Santa Catalina. But why would you want to go? I visited there myself recently to answer that question.
Just a few months after getting settled into life in Guayaquil, Ecuador, back in 2013, I discovered one of my new favorite pastimes—going on viaje (a short vacation).
On a sunny spring day last year, I spent a pleasant hour or so shopping at my local market. The produce was fresh and appealing, the fish and seafood incomparable. My produce included goodies like ripe tomatoes; big bunches of fresh greens; tender artichokes picked so young that they have no fibrous choke; and juicy oranges and plums. On top lay my purchases from the fish hall: a pound of small shrimp and another of freshly caught tuna, from which I got three thick tuna steaks. I filled two large shopping baskets with food, for a total cost of about $18.
About a year ago, we sold our home and began a new chapter in our lives in northern Italy. We rented an elegant two-bedroom apartment one block from our favorite lake, Maggiore, for just under $1,000 per month. Verbania, Italy, where we live, is home to about 31,000 people. It sits on the western shore at the southern end of the long lake, which snakes up into Switzerland. An esplanade skirts the lakefront, with cafes and bars galore.
Just three years ago, I would not have believed it possible. In spite of a family income of six figures, we were still not able to put much toward retirement. We were living in a great waterfront condo in Maryland, but at a cost. Our monthly expenses were over $6,000. Our HOA fees alone were almost $900. On top of that, property taxes were about $5,000 a year. We were happy living there, but I was resigned to working until I was 65, at least.
By choosing to retire in one of the world’s best bang-for-your-buck destinations, Rob enjoys a lifestyle well beyond his reach if he had stayed in the U.S. Every day he can choose to relax on the beaches around his home in the town of Sihanoukville, on the Cambodian coast, dine on fresh French croissants…rent a sailboat or go fishing on an offshore charter…
When you meet a local in Penang they’ll ask you two questions. Firstly, “How are you?” And then “sudah makan?” which roughly translates as “Have you eaten yet?” It’s asked when you get a haircut…when you get a taxi…when you shop at the market… And they truly want to know. If you answer yes, they will ask “What?” and “Where?” and then proceed to tell you their favorite food and where to get it. It's a conversation, not just a question. Food is that important in Penang. (And don’t worry, people speak English…you only need to know a few words of Malay.)