Living in Costa Rica has been great since we moved here last year. Each day my wife, Kelli, and I drink coffee—grown on a farm five minutes from our home—on the deck while we watch the birds get their breakfast. Our monthly expenses have been cut in half from what they were in the States, and we’re making plans to build a modest home here to cut that budget even more. And our life has become much quieter in the sense that there is less to worry about.
Mat Lewis treasures the freedom to work whenever he wants, free from the drudgery of waking up to an alarm clock each morning. It was in 2013 that Mat set up an online business for booking luxury home vacation rentals with his partner, Stoewie van den Bulk, and discovered two things. One was that they could take the business on the road in Southeast Asia; the other was that it actually made financial sense to do so. “Traveling in Southeast Asia has really taken the pressure off by reducing our personal expenditure,” Mat says. Low costs have meant the pair can live “an amazing life at a cost that’s kind to the wallet,” yet keep investing in their business.
I started my first eBay bridal business in Spokane, Washington in 1998 after discovering eight stunning and remarkably cheap wedding gowns for sale in a Goodwill thrift store...and sold it six years later for a healthy six figures. Back then, I had quit my full-time job to stay home with my infant son and—as a Goodwill lover and part-time eBay entrepreneur—I was buying clothing, shoes, fabric, sporting goods, and collectibles to sell on eBay. I got the wedding gowns for $20 each. I listed them on auction on eBay for seven days, with a starting bid of $99 each. They flew out the door. Some of them ended up at $325 to $475 each!
Paul Blanford has created a lifestyle income for his retirement. It’s already making money…and occasionally he gets to enjoy it himself. But when he’s ready to retire—which may be sooner rather than later—his new life is ready for him. Paul, a native of New Zealand, works as a pilot in Hong Kong but has always loved boats and sailing. So he decided to buy a junk—a type of traditional Chinese sailboat— and turn it into a business. Second-hand junks are cheap and plentiful in Hong Kong, and Paul had his eye on the tourist charter business along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca.
If you’re the pioneering type, a small business in Bolivia might offer just the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for. You can live well in Bolivia for less money than just about anywhere, and you don’t need bags of cash to start an enterprise here. Historically, Bolivia ranks alongside the poorest countries in the region, but things are changing. Today it is among the most hopeful economies in the hemisphere…its economy is growing steadily at around 5% a year… inflation (5.19% in 2014) and debt (32% of GDP in 2013) are under control. Bolivia’s oil and gas industry helps keep energy costs low.
In 2012, Dani Leis, quit her job in the non-profit health sector and left Portland, Oregon for Thailand with nothing but a single duffel bag and a dream to start a new life. Her intention was to hit the beach and support herself by teaching. But she obtained her TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification miles from the coast in the northern city of Chiang Mai and fell in love with the area. “The people here are friendly, kind, and open-hearted,” says Dani, 55. “They enjoy a culture centered on sanuk, meaning to take pleasure in what you are doing.
Colette Holmes and her husband, Nick, weren’t initially planning to move from Los Angeles to the Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. “We came because Nick was a baseball coach,” Colette explains. “It was just a seasonal job. But after spending a little time here, we decided that we wanted to make a life in Costa Rica. We wanted a different life—a bit slower, a bit simpler.” Today, life is a lot different than the stress of the restaurant trade Colette used to work in. Instead of being assaulted by noise and rushing servers, she spends her days in more serene surroundings among Costa Rica’s exotic, colorful flowers.
Paris receives about 30 million visitors a year, regularly placing it among the top three most visited cities in the world and creating an opportunity for the expat entrepreneur. One business model that has low start-up costs, low operating costs, and a potentially simple structure is the tour business. Yes, there are thousands of tour businesses in Paris. But if you develop a creative, dynamic tour that builds upon a personal passion that intersects with the desires of just a fraction of the millions who visit Paris every year, you can find great success despite the competition. For some visitors, Paris is the most beautiful city on earth, and they’re yearning to see its most stunning vistas and picturesque neighborhoods. For others, it is a culinary mecca, and they’re looking to immerse themselves in the food culture. For still others, it is the capital of haute couture, and they long to explore the footsteps of Yves St. Laurent, Chanel, and Dior.
If you’re a freelancer who has been thinking about moving to Europe, Germany’s freelancer visa (Freiberufliche Tätigkeit) could be a good option for you. It is available for people who can easily prove that their profession can be done on a freelance basis. The visa is often referred to as “the artist visa” since usually people in a creative field, such as musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, or graphic designers, will qualify. Most countries in Europe require you to have a job lined up to get a work permit, so Germany is a bit unusual in this way.
Ten years ago while stationed as a volunteer nurse in Archidona, a small community not far from Tena in Ecuador’s jungled east, Michelle Klein found the accommodations to be lacking. “I rented a room for $50 a month. But there were up to nine people at times competing for the bathroom, the shower didn’t have hot water, and the windows didn’t have screens. It was dark. And there really wasn’t any other good place to stay,” she says. It was easy to spot the gap in the market.