It has been my experience that retiring after years of hard work, as well as raising a family and running a home, requires a huge change of mindset. Too often new retirees, especially those who retire overseas, find themselves at loose ends. I cannot stress enough—tie up those loose ends.
After exploring your new country, getting settled in your new home, and beginning to find time weighing a bit heavy on your hands, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. After all, you moved to a new country for adventure and fun, right? Or to pursue activities you did not have time for during your working years. So do not allow apathy to hold you back.
Join an expat group in your area. Explore new recreational activities, whether physical or intellectual. Learn the language of your adopted home, if applicable. Join a group that pertains to your special interests, whether it be bird watching or knitting, painting or playing bridge.
It is important to keep physically active as well. Take a yoga or aerobics class, participate in local hiking groups, or simply explore your neighborhood. These types of activities not only provide healthy exercise, but also interaction with like-minded people.
Do volunteer work. No matter where you live, volunteers are unfailingly needed and appreciated. Whether it be helping out at the local animal shelter, working with the disabled, or delivering meals to the housebound, you will invariably find your niche.
Above all, take an active interest in your new home and surroundings.
After living in Chiriquí, Panama for nine years I know of what I preach. Very often expats get settled in and then become sedentary.
Some days my husband and I love nothing better than to relax on our terrace and watch the birds, squirrels, and iguanas frolicking in our yard. Often that includes a glass of wine for me and an icy cold beer for him. However, we make sure to never let it become a constant (either the sitting or the sipping).
If we do not feel like venturing out anywhere new, or have no commitments, we will play a couple of games of darts on our outdoor dart board, go for a walk around the neighborhood, or read a good book. Next day, it’s back to activities to challenge our brains or our fitness level, or to volunteer at something which benefits the less fortunate as well as improving our own well-being.
Our province has countless opportunities to participate in all of the above. An amateur theater group, bridge clubs, bird watching groups, painting, photography, cement art classes, and garden clubs are available in Boquete and David. My husband took the cement art course and, even though never very “arts and crafty” came home with a lovely cement birdbath. A fellow Canadian couple we know joined the garden club in Boquete and besides learning about the flora of the area, also made many new friends.
In addition, there are coffee tours, a tour of the orchid farm, visiting such fascinating places as the animal rescue center in Volcán where you can cuddle the baby sloths, and, also in Volcán, a spectacular pre-Columbian archeological site. Both of these activities are terrific and we enjoyed them immensely. Besides the loving sloths there are coatimundis, kinkajous, monkeys, and more at the rescue center. All animals that you just don’t get to see in Canada.
Larke and one of the cuddly sloths at the rescue center.
For exercise, there are yoga, Pilates, and hiking groups. Swimming in the local rivers or in the ocean at nearby resorts is also an option. One great place to go for the day, or even overnight, is Rio Encantado, between Boquete and David. There is a beautiful swimming pool, two swimming areas in the lovely Caldera River right on site, and even a “seniors’ zip line” where people like us can swing out into the center and drop into the river. Now that is refreshing! As if that is not quite enough, there are hot springs nearby. Beautiful scenery, great exercise, and relaxation, all within a few miles of our home.
More active, physically fit folks can enjoy river rafting, zip lining, climbing to the top of our highest mountain Volcán Barú, golfing, or horseback riding. I can say from experience that the view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking.
In short, when you live somewhere as beautiful as we do there is absolutely no excuse for not living an active, healthy lifestyle during your retirement years. After all, these are the best years of your life. Enjoy them—you have earned them.