I’ve often said that Ecuador offers expats and retirees some of the best bang-for-buck affordability in the Americas. But it’s not simply low prices that earn it that title in my book. “Bang for your buck” means getting top value, and Ecuador is simply an unparalleled value in so many ways.
With another Fast Track Panama Conference under our belts, I'm amazed once again by the appeal and the staying power of this magical country for U.S. and Canadian expats. I get to come here every year for our Fast Track conference, and I've heard many of our presenters, experts, and expats tell their stories of life in Panama before. But sure enough...with an audience of several hundred folks soaking up the information and opinions about retirement in Panama for the first time...it's almost as if I'm hearing it for the first time myself.
The year was 1997, and my wife, Suzan, and I had just gotten married in a civil service at the Hotel Don Carlos in San Jose, Costa Rica. She remembers that it was my idea, and I remember that it was hers. But whoever thought of it turned out to be a genius, because it set the travel bar pretty high for the rest of our lives.
There’s something about Costa Rica that just makes you think they have the whole lifestyle thing figured out. While every other country in the Western Hemisphere is trying to come up with a snappy marketing slogan to draw investment and tourism, Costa Rica just says “Pura Vida” (“Pure Life”) as they’ve been doing for years. It isn’t even a marketing slogan per se…Costa Ricans actually say it all the time—and they mean it.
It took a trip to hell to show me all the heavenly delights Belize has to offer. It's probably not the hell you're thinking of, and I didn't get there the way folks usually do. This particular hell is Xibalba, the Maya underworld. And I got there on a raft. My wife, Suzan, and I love scuba diving, and Belize has always been a favorite destination. The second-longest reef on the planet runs along Belize's Caribbean coast, and the diving is world class.
My wife, Suzan, and I rarely know too far in advance where we’ll be for the holidays. We haven’t lived in the U.S. for a dozen years now, but around about September or October we start making the decisions about what to do for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year…whose family back in the States we’ll spend which holidays with…and which holidays, if any, we’ll spend by ourselves at home, wherever home happens to be at the time.
I was asked again the other day what I love most about Ecuador, and as I answered it occurred to me how retired I sounded. I'm not retired, of course, but as I was going over my three big pluses for this country...the weather, the cost of living, and the variety...I realized that all three of these qualities appealed directly to my Inner Retiree.
When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I moved abroad 12 years ago, we had some decisions to make. We owned a large house and garage full of the usual collection of furniture, cookware, tools, books, rugs, electronics, knickknacks…all the flotsam and jetsam of American middle-class life.
Would you willingly move—lock, stock, and barrel—to a foreign country with your grade-school-aged children in tow? I mean, it’s a big enough leap to move yourself overseas, even if you have 60 or 70 years of life experience and a bit of a pension or some Social Security under your belt.
When my wife, Suzan, and I heard that we could get what is commonly called an "executive health assessment" in Quito, Ecuador, we decided to give it a try. Our primary care physician, Dr. Davalos, works with Hospital Metropolitano in Quito to put together a comprehensive package of tests that cover all the health bases over a two-day period.