I retired abroad almost 10 years ago. And since then, I’ve re-retired and relocated a few more times, just to continue the adventure I started back in 2001.
I’ve accumulated a large body of personal knowledge about where to retire…and how to evaluate retirement destinations.
When choosing the easiest places in the world to retire, IL talks about criteria like being English-friendly…ease of travel and proximity to the US…availability of rentals…a strong social infrastructure, with a well-organized expat community…climate…healthcare.
So taking all that into account, I’ve arrived at the world’s easiest place to retire for North Americans. It’s Arkansas. I’m serious.
If “easy” were your overriding criteria in choosing a destination, I think Arkansas could be great. It offers loads of English-speakers, warm and friendly people, beautiful mountains, broad rivers, access to good health care, a low cost of living, and excellent infrastructure.
But if you wanted to retire to Arkansas, I doubt you’d be reading this e-letter.
What’s wrong with Arkansas? I say: It’s too familiar. While it’s easy, comfortable and affordable to go there, it’s too similar to our cultural norm to offer the excitement and adventure I think most folks considering a retirement overseas hope to find when moving abroad.
And the same holds true for many overseas destinations that are easy places to retire to. The easier they are, the more like Arkansas they tend to be. If you have lots of English-speakers, Walmart, Burger King, a large expat group and U.S. Cable TV, then retiring there may be easy. But a year later, it may not feel like much of an adventure anymore.
Now does that mean I think you should consider only destinations I’d categorize as “hard?” No. But you should consider that an offshore destination’s “easiness” offers most of its advantage during the settling in period…the time when you’re hooking up the utilities, finding a dry cleaner, and don’t know how to say “screwdriver” in a foreign language.
In my experience, once you’re settled, “ease” is less important. The wonder, awe, and adventure of your new land become more important. And the more unfamiliar your surroundings are, the more adventure and excitement you’ll feel. The most-successful expats I know didn’t necessarily become successful because they went to “easy” places.
They’re successful because they went overseas prepared, with reasonable expectations, and with a sense of adventure.
Things like language study, learning the culture and prepping yourself on issues like visas and legal matters will do wonders for your ease of integration. Any retirement destination can be easy if you’re well prepared…while most can be difficult if you’re not.
Reasonable expectation is important because it’s tempting to build a false picture in your mind about what life in a foreign land is like. Then if you don’t see what you’ve come to expect, you could be disappointed. A number of advance visits will help keep your expectations real.
Your sense of adventure, however, is probably your most important ally. It allows you to laugh at and surmount almost any obstacle. By contrast, if you rely too heavily on “ease,” you may find yourself at a loss.
Remember that adventure, by its nature, is the antithesis of “easy.” I recently met an expat couple living in a small, local town on Nicaragua’s central coast. The infrastructure is shaky, they’re the only English-speakers, and the nearest supermarket is over an hour away. They’re one of the most well-adjusted and happiest couples I’ve met abroad…even though their destination is anything but “easy.
On the other hand, I also visited a well-known expat destination, where English is widespread, and many live in planned communities filled with North Americans. Here I met a handful of guys who spend most of their time complaining.
In the first example, both members of the expat couple were classic adventure seekers.
In the second, the expats sought familiarity…and what they found came up short.
We’re all different when we move abroad. Our dreams are different…and the places that make us happy abroad will span the spectrum of the globe. What’s more, the perfect place for each of us may change over time, as we grow and evolve.
In my view, the “right” place needn’t necessarily be “easy,” as long as it’s a place that’s familiar enough to let you get your feet on the ground…but different enough to allow you to face each day with anticipation of adventure, excitement, and wonder.
Editor’s note: At International Living’s Live and Invest Overseas Conference, we’ll examine in detail 54 towns and cities around the world…from Asia to Europe to Latin America…where you can live well from $697 to $2,500 a month. From the “right” place for you to the easiest places anywhere, we’ll have it covered. The Conference is sold out. But don’t worry if you couldn’t make it: we’re recording every presentation, recommendation, and destination revealed. Here’s how to listen in.