As I sit at my writing table on my oceanside veranda, staring at the lapping waves of the Pacific, gentle breezes blowing my hair, I am a 65-year-old, extremely happy roving retiree.
The path I’ve trod across Latin America over the last year or so has been incredibly rewarding. Along the way, I’ve explored lonely expanses of pristine beach, walked cobblestoned colonial streets, and ascended the steps of ancient pyramids.
And, I did it all for just $1,500 a month, all in, including stays in private rooms from just $13 a night and delectable Latin American cuisine for as little as $2. For most of my adventure, I’ve traveled solo…attesting to how safe it can be to navigate this region.
When I first set off as a roving retiree to Southeast Asia in 2015, I planned to find an affordable place to live and enjoy my retirement. I’d been a working woman all my life…and it was beginning to wear on me. I had trouble accepting the idea of working until I died, as living on my Social Security would truly be poverty living in the States.
I explored Southeast Asia for eight months, on my modest Social Security income of $1,300 a month. I truly loved several places, but none inspired me to relocate permanently. So, after returning to the U.S. for a few months, the wanderlust once again took hold. This time, Latin America was in my sights.
In Costa Rica, I hit the funky little beach town of Playa Brasilito, where I enjoyed leisurely strolls on the beach, and napping in hammocks. Next was Monteverde, literally the “Green Mountain.” It’s a hilly village with coffee plantations, rainforest canopies teeming with life, and zip-line tours galore. A long hike through rainforest with eight different suspended bridges over the forest floor was the highlight of my stay. Then the expat-haven village of Potrero, where I easily made friends.
From Costa Rica, I headed for Nicaragua, and the colonial city of Granada. With streets lined with historic homes of every pastel color, the city is a feast for the eyes. I managed to eat for very little in Granada, usually spending less than $2 a day. For a night out, I’d walk to the Calle de Calzada, where I shared a bucket of six beers for $4 with newfound friends. Most were backpackers from the hostel I stayed in. They stayed in the $8 dorm rooms, but I opted for a private room with shared bathroom for $13 a night. My month in Nicaragua, cost me just over $900.
I then made my way to Guatemala, by way of a two-day, $65 bus trip from Managua (Nicaragua’s capital) to Guatemala City. I stayed in the highland gem of Antigua, and then Panajachel, the largest city around the beautiful volcanic crater lake of Atitlán. Here I found incredibly cheap accommodation, at $200 a month for a studio apartment. Food prices were affordable at the local fresh market, where I bought a week’s worth of fresh vegetables and fruit for under $5 every week.
I hadn’t expected to head to Mexico next, but the airfare was ridiculously inexpensive, at just under $200. Five nights in Mexico City was just right for sightseeing. I then spent 10 days in Oaxaca, and three weeks in Guadalajara, before busing myself to Manzanillo, where I’ve found my personal paradise.
This beach city has a long stretch of nearly empty sand. The section I’ve lived in for three months, Las Brisas, has an almost constant breeze, which keeps me cool when the humidity pipes up. My two-bedroom, fully furnished apartment costs me just $300 a month. My cost of living, including my insulin, runs about $650 a month.
I’m about to return to the States for a few months, but I plan on coming back every year for a six-month stay. I’ll limit my roving to just a few months each year. I truly enjoy wandering, but I’m happy to have found a base I can return to each year, and save up for more adventures to come.
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