Why Our Far-Flung IL Family Really is the Best

It’s been a busy year here at International Living. Hundreds of thousands of air miles have been clocked up…lots of ground has been covered…and dozens of the world’s best retirement havens have been scouted by our far-flung team of editors and correspondents.

I started my own year with a round-trip in Panama. Our Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch brought me on a guided tour of her home of Panama City…and being the real foodie that she is, she also made sure I was well fed (my favorite meal was in a Japanese restaurant she took me to where I had fish cakes with a mouthwateringly delicious peanut sauce, which along with a glass of rich red wine, that cost just $13).

When I hit the expat favorite of David, IL Chiriqui Correspondent Lind Card pulled up in front of my hotel and welcomed me to her town with a huge hug and a plan to show me around. She took me to her home and over the most delicious rum and ginger ale drink I’ve ever tasted, she and her husband Al regaled me with stories of their life living on their boat before they eventually settled in David (if you ever meet Linda, ask her about those years on the high seas and the cheeky little souvenirs she used to pick up).

In Ecuador, Salinas Correspondent Jim Santos ventured to the south coast to explore the port city of Machala. Not well known by expats right now, Jim says “it has plenty of shopping and services, including a new, modern mall. Machala also has several attractive squares and parks, and a beautiful riverfront malecon.”

He also dropped into the southern Andes city of Loja full of pretty squares, colorful colonial buildings, and a small, but growing expat community. With rents starting at $350 a month and a cool climate, Jim’s even toying with spending a few months there.

From the highlands, IL Correspondent Wendy DeChambeau, hit up the cloud-forest town of Mindo and hung out with expats in Cuenca, the country’s most popular retirement destination.

I spent time with these guys too. Jim and his wife Rita made me jealous with stories of living right by the beach in the coastal city of Salinas and they’re already trying to get me back to Ecuador so they can show me more of what attracted them there in the first place. And over cocktails, Wendy and I got the chance to shoot the breeze about how things are in her home town of Cotacachi and she filled me in on the escapades of her two boys and her husband on their farm in the Intag Valley.

Half the world away, IL editors Eoin Bassett and Barbara Ross were eating their way around Southeast Asia hanging out with our regional correspondents there. Steven King’s lived in Cambodia for over a decade and rents a comfortable apartment in the best neighborhood of the capital Phnom Penh for $460 a month. Wendy Justice is based in Hanoi, Vietnam, from where she’s taken several scouting trips, and Chicago-native Kirsten Raccuia is living it up in Penang, Malaysia. Kirsten and her husband Mark had planned on a move to Costa Rica until they attended an IL event in 2012 and met IL Malaysia Correspondent, Keith Hockton. They didn’t need much convincing and now they’re his neighbors enjoying everything cosmopolitan Penang offers.

Another IL reader turned Correspondent, Don Murray traveled from his home near Cancun, Mexico, to make friends in the expat communities of Lake Chapala and Puerto Vallarta. Chapala boasts one of the best climates in the world and a couple can live well here on around $1,500 a month. Don’s a personable guy and he came back with a hefty list of contacts.

IL Editor Glynna Prentice took her now-annual trip to Europe for the summer. She spent a few weeks in the medieval town of Cuenca in Spain’s interior. “It’s one of my favorite Spanish cities, a place I’ve been visiting for more than 25 years,” she says.

She also took some time to explore Spain’s often overlooked neighbor, Portugal. The country’s second city of Porto caught her eye. One of Europe’s most popular “vacation break” destinations, it has now begun to grab expats’ attention, too, she says, “thanks to its low costs; cool, mild climate (similar to the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest); seaside location; many English-speaking locals; and an ambience that is both friendly and sophisticated.”

And our Roving Latin America Editor Jason Holland has been doing justice to his title this year…he took a trip around Mexico’s Colonial Highlands most popular towns, explored Peru’s best havens, and took several trips around Costa Rica.

Jason is no stranger to Costa Rica. He’s lived there and has been all around the country seeking out the best and most up-to-date, on-the-ground intelligence.

I’m going to take advantage of Jason’s network and contacts when I get to Costa Rica. I’ll also meet up with our Tamarindo Correspondent Jackie Minchillo and Central Valley Correspondent Greg Seymour. I’m excited to catch up with them both and check out their towns of Tamarindo and Grecia.

It might be scattered all across the globe, and seem far-flung, but that’s exactly the advantage of the IL circle of editors and correspondents. They are on hand everywhere, ready and willing to advise, and they investigate every nook and cranny of the countries they live in, as well as the countries we think are up-and-coming destinations

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