Early retirement gave me the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream: to move to the tropics as a full-time writer. Doing this alone was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off like a winning lottery ticket.
This is the first time in my life I have the freedom to write without other commitments. And after finishing my second novel I found a new distraction with copywriting. Not only does copywriting let me indulge in the pleasurable pastime of putting words on a page, it can be quite lucrative if you want it to be.
Though, I don’t have a six-figure income, I’ve met copywriters who do, and I believe that if I wanted to, I could too. It would just involve putting in more time. But right now, I’m enjoying the freedom of my low-key, overseas lifestyle too much to put in that extra effort.
Selling my home in Atlanta paid for my tranquil home overlooking the Rio Zarati river in Panama. That just leaves me with my monthly bills to pay. With no need for heat or air conditioning—and thanks to my pensionado discount—electric, cable, internet, phone, mailbox, car insurance, a housecleaner, and incidental bills run less than $400. Food costs run $200 to $400, depending on how much I splurge. This includes my 92-year-old mom living here too. We split our $1,500 total monthly budget, so we get to spend as frivolously as we want.
My home in Atlanta was a nice two-bedroom home on a small lot. Here I bought a 10-room, 3,000-square-foot home for half the price. When my mom came down for the winter in 2014, she fell in love with life here. The open courtyard design of the house allowed me to create her private apartment. Using one corner room and adding two more rooms, her door opens to the courtyard, yet is secure inside my home. The air conditioner I put in her bedroom has only been used twice in over three years.
From her private porch, she loves looking out across the yard at all the tropical fruit trees we have growing. The dozen varieties are progressing at different rates. The bananas and papayas are currently producing fruit. The avocado and orange may fruit later this year.
Choosing a tropical lifestyle, where my needs are few, allows me to not work full-time. As mornings are my productive time, that’s when I do most of my work. Afternoons are left free for family, home projects, or to simply sit on my back porch. Watching the river and birds, and basking in the cool breeze is a priority for me. Spending time with friends and family—especially my mom—is more valuable than gold. I feel living here has extended her life as she approaches her 93rd birthday.
Having the freedom and flexibility to create my stress-free lifestyle is a priceless gift. Because I work from anywhere, and as many hours as I want, when life presents new opportunities I can grab them. Last September I got to go to Santa Fe Arts Institute on a writer’s retreat grant. This wonderful experience was not hindered by my copywriting. My laptop was my office. The few hours set aside for my clients did not affect the work on my new novel.
This life is a dream come true. Working enough to fulfill my needs and still leaving sufficient time to enjoy life is the perfect balance.
I found work I enjoy, that does not interfere with my freedom, and I am my own boss. Though I can choose my own workload, it may be increasing soon… My daughter wants to come start working with me. But that is another story…
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