It was 2013 and I was already two years past the mandatory retirement age. I was finishing the last six years of my career in China and my wife, Nancy, and I had to make a decision on our next move. We had grown to love the climate, the people, and the food of Southeast Asia. In addition, my son had followed in my footsteps to the other side of the world and now owned a bar/restaurant in China.
At the time, Thailand seemed a good fit. We had visited Chiang Mai several times and really liked what we saw. With its low cost of living, great healthcare, and tropical climate, it met all our initial criteria.
So for three glorious years, we lived in the ancient city of Chiang Mai. We enjoyed a big-city life for small-town prices. Chiang Mai had it all…English cinemas, a plethora of international and local restaurants offering a huge variety of tasty cuisines, and an active expats club providing many opportunities for a busy social life. There are over 40,000 expats in Chiang Mai alone.
We rented a modern, one-bedroom condo minutes from the famous Night Market for $500 a month and were able to swim in the pool almost year-round. Although the city is at least an hour’s flight from the nearest beach resort town, there is plenty to explore in the surrounding countryside, which we did on our trusty scooter.
However, we soon got restless again. When I was invited back to China for a few months to work, we decided that the time had come to make another move. We had lived in Asia for almost 10 years and were ready for another adventure…in another part of the world. Neither of us had ever been to Latin America.
We made a short list and then fairly quickly narrowed it down to Arequipa, Peru. In July of this year, we packed our life’s belongings into four suitcases and two carry-ons and made the trek back to the other side of the globe.
Retiring in Peru couldn’t be easier. It only takes $1,000 a month to qualify for a Rentista visa…which is good for life. No mandatory bank deposit, no minimum age requirement, no annual renewal. And we can obtain permanent residence, or even citizenship, after two years if we so choose.
So far, we love it. Daily temperatures hover in the low 70s with over 300 days of blue sky and sunshine per year. Wedged between the Andes to the east and the Pacific coast to the west, there is lots of new country to explore. A series of three towering volcanic cones dominate the city skyline and the tumbling Chili river crosses the central part of the city from north to south.
Arequipa’s one-square-mile historic center radiates out from the picturesque Plaza de Armas, one of the most beautiful city squares in South America. Filled with decorative colonial houses and churches, interesting shops, and an assortment of amazing restaurants, this area is the center of activity for Arequipa residents.
Our modern, furnished three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo is located 10 minutes away from the plaza and no more than a 15-minute walk from anywhere we want to go on a daily basis. Although it costs us $700 per month, we could have rented the same condo unfurnished for half as much. We can dine out at a traditional picanteria for as little as $2 for a three-course lunch or splurge at one of the more expensive places in town. Even then, it is rare for a couple to ever spend more than $50 for a nice meal at a high-end establishment, including drinks.
Peruvian cuisine is renowned as some of the best in South America and Arequipa has some of the tastiest dishes in Peru. Add in the huge selection of inexpensive local wines, cheeses, chocolate, and baked goods and it’s a foodie’s dream.
I’m not sure if we’ll stay in Peru forever. But I have a feeling we’re going to be here a long time.
What our overseas journey so far has taught me is that your first choice doesn’t have to be your last. It may take you a few tries to find the spot that feels right for you. But if you’re anything like us, the journey to get there will be a blast.
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