Picture this… You’ve just risen from a good night’s sleep to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. You slept like a baby because you’re free from your old worries. The smell of salt water permeates the air and an ocean breeze tickles your cheeks.
Coffee in hand, you step out onto your patio and now you can see your dream clearly; the deserted shoreline of a turquoise bay. One peaceful soul is on the beach, walking his dog down the sand, tossing a piece of driftwood every so often.
Maybe your dream doesn’t live at the ocean, but instead in a small country town in the Andes mountains, or nestled in a quaint, affordable, and vibrant foreign city.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve always dreamed of a life overseas, but don’t really know where the best fit is.
At 64, widowed, and on Social Security, I began a life of traveling the world in search of a place to land in my retirement years. This has been my path for a year now, but before I left I did an enormous amount of research into where I could find the most likely spots to call home.
A chance encounter with a Filipino passenger on the shuttle bus I drove for a living got me thinking about how much further my dollars would go overseas. So I did some research to see if I could afford to live in the Philippines on my $1,300-a-month Social Security check. With housing for as little as $140 a month and fresh fruit to be had for $1 a bag, living in the Philippines seemed like a solution to my struggle to survive in the U.S.
I then began looking into other countries and doing more research. I checked out blogs, library books, and read everything I could find…then I hit upon International Living. And that’s when the possibilities really began to open up for me.
I had no idea there was a huge expat community out there, others who have chosen to live outside the U.S. for various reasons, or that there was a magazine dedicated to helping them find the perfect spot to live out their dreams.
After exhaustive research on many different affordable countries—which almost always began with a story in International Living magazine—I narrowed my own countries of interest down to the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Nicaragua, and Portugal.
In September 2015, after quitting my job and selling all my possessions, I set off on my retirement-scouting adventure. My trip started in the Philippines where I bounced around from the capital Manila to a mountain town and finally to a haven of white-sand beaches. While there, I discovered that travel between the countries in Southeast Asia was cheap, with international airfares as low as $28, and an overnight train trip from Thailand to Malaysia was just $14.
So next I checked out Chiang Mai, Thailand, where my food costs ran $3 to $4 a day and I had a wonderful homestay for $10 a night. I then moved onto Cambodia where I enjoyed a sunset cruise along the Mekong River for $9 and got to see the stunning Angkor Wat. From there I moved on to Vietnam, Bali, and Cambodia.
I’m now on my own tour of Latin America, which I started in Costa Rica. I rented a place by the beach for $250 a month, that came fully furnished and equipped with internet and cable TV. I found it through a friend who was the night manager at my favorite hangout—The Shack—where I would have lunch or dinner several times a week for $8 to $10 for a full meal. Often, there’d be good live music playing too…something I’d expect to pay a cover charge for in the States.
In my travels, I’ve learned the best thing you can do when exploring your retirement options is to make friends with some locals. They can tell you everything from where to find the closest ATM to how to get to the mall, and what it will cost you to rent or buy in the area.
If you have this dream of living overseas, whether permanently or just for the experience, I urge you to begin your research now. And the very best way to start is to become part of the International Living community.
Because I’m still on the lookout for my perfect spot, each issue of the magazine is truly useful. I find out about locations I’m considering and get specific details on the costs and quality of housing, food, utilities, and most importantly healthcare…which is critical for me, as I’m a diabetic.
My advice for anyone looking at retiring overseas is to pick a few places that seem to fit the bill and travel there. Or if you’re completely nuts, like me, just shut down your old life and jump on a plane for a retirement adventure.
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