When I first arrived in Panama in 1990, I was surprised at the level of comfort and convenience that I found in everything from shops and supermarkets to telecommunications services. That was in 1990—things are even better now.
"Not only were the meds I needed easily available, but the low cost of healthcare literally saved my life.” That’s what expat Roger Carter has to say about the excellent healthcare he’s found in Southeast Asia.
For my husband Mike and me, our new lives in Medellín, Colombia’s “City of Flowers,” could scarcely be more different from our old lives back in the U.S. Our cost of living is less than half of what it was in Maine.
The French healthcare system, legendary for its excellence, is about to become much more accessible and affordable to expats. This is because in January this year, France instituted a new universal system of healthcare, called the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA). This system grants an automatic and continuous right to healthcare to those who legally reside in France in a “stable and regular” manner. This means that, if you’ve lived in France for three consecutive months and are a permanent legal resident (that is, you live in France at least 183 days a year), you’re eligible to apply for public healthcare coverage.
“For the good of my health, I had to make a change,” says expat Jennifer Enright of her decision to relocate to the Colombian city of Medellín. “I had to reinvent myself businesswise. After working for years as an executive head hunter for high-tech companies in Seattle, I had had enough. Too much rain and cold, and I injured myself from too much repetitive motion.”
I moved to Roatán for the warm Caribbean waters, white-sand beaches, lush jungles, and laidback island lifestyle. But despite all the island’s attractions and its low cost of living, many would-be expats are concerned about healthcare. What’s it like on an island off the coast of Honduras? Well, through my eight happy years here I’ve become well acquainted with all aspects of healthcare on Roatán. And I can tell you that your healthcare options are affordable…and about to get a whole lot better.
When people tell you why they want to retire abroad, a few big reasons crop up again and again: the lower cost of living…escaping the worst of the North American winter…finding a more adventurous life…access to excellent, affordable healthcare. But there are other benefits to embracing a life abroad—benefits most people don’t even think of. Many expats are pleasantly surprised to discover that you can also find a healthier lifestyle overseas—without even trying.
“We have dropped an incredible amount of weight,” says expat Armand Brodeur, who lives with his wife Joyclyn in Las Tablas, Panama. “And we’re not even eating as healthy as we ought to.” The Brodeur’s story is not unique. They’re just two of the many expats who come to Panama and lose weight without even trying. “I didn’t realize I was losing weight” is a constant refrain here. The outdoors beckon…there are produce stalls, fish markets, pristine beaches, and rainforest parks to visit. In much of the country, walking is the preferred method of transportation. So much so, that many expats here don’t even have cars. Imagine the effect on your waistline…
Some places around the world really stand out in terms of the healthy lifestyle they have to offer. So much so, that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner has even discovered special spots—Blue Zones—renowned for the longevity of their populations. In these Blue Zones you’ll ﬁnd plenty of people living past 100. What is their secret to long life?
Retiring abroad is easier and more affordable than ever before. These days it really is possible to spend your days relaxing beneath palm fronds on a Caribbean beach, enjoying farm-fresh produce in a mountain haven with year-round spring weather, or wandering the storied streets of a historic and cultured European city…or all of the above. But with so many choices available, finding the right one can seem daunting.