"As the sun peeked over the horizon, I heard the bells of the cathedral ring out, welcoming in the day,” says Pat Buff of the moment she fell in love with Granada, Nicaragua. “I went out onto the hotel balcony to enjoy my cup of coffee and watched as the city came to life. It was in that magical moment that I realized this is where I wanted to live.”
Patrick Dobbins has found the perfect European retirement, full of art, culture, and excellent weather. He enjoys lush, green winters that feel like fall and hot, sunny summers. His apartment, which has two balconies, costs him just $600 a month, and from here he can indulge his passion for watercolor painting and go on adventures across the Mediterranean. This is the charmed life he now enjoys on the English-speaking island nation of Malta.
"Within four blocks of where we live on a quiet, hillside neighborhood of condo-lined streets, there are at least a dozen of the best restaurants in the city,” says expat Wayne Bustle, 73. “There’s Asian right down the street, there’s seafood, there’s a great pasta restaurant, a hamburger place up on the hill, sushi places…the restaurants are so varied that it is hard to describe them all. This past month we found a new one in the Mariscal district we didn’t know was there. It was like a gentlemen’s club in England—the food was outstanding.”
“My favorite activity during the warm months is going to the beach in the late afternoon,” says Mel Potter of his new home in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam. “If you want to get away from the rat race and be near the beach, with a decent nightlife, this is the place for you. You can have the lifestyle you want here, even live like a millionaire if you want.” And with monthly living expenses of $600 or less, it’s easy to see Mel’s point. Mel, a retired correctional officer, first came to Vietnam as a soldier in 1967.
Since arriving in the beach town of San Juan del Sur this year, Marisa Francis has come to appreciate life’s simple pleasures. She loves riding bikes with her kids to the pulpería (convenience store) down the street to buy candy. “I have such fond memories of my sister and me doing the same thing when we were kids and visiting our grandparents,” she says. “I love that Nicaragua feels like the ‘old days.’” Nicaragua opened up a whole new world for Paul, Marisa, their two kids Owen, 11, and Abigail, 8, and their three dogs…not least in slashing their cost of living.
“If you’re making $1,000 a month, even as little as $8,000 a year, you can live like a king—more than comfortably,” says Stephen Nagy of the low-cost retirement he’s found in Sucre, Bolivia. “I mean renting a nice place, shopping at the supermarkets for the foods you are used to, and enjoying eating out and entertainment. A single person who is more frugal can live on as little as $500 a month pretty easily. The beauty of this city and the warmth of the people only amplify the value.”
"I can’t believe this is our life now,” says expat Jane Holdren of her retirement to Mexico’s Lake Chapala. “All Frank and I have to do is walk a few yards to our stable, saddle up our horses, and we can ride for hours in magnificent, rolling country with breathtaking views in every direction. “We can see the entire eastern half of the lake from our ranch. We can also see the mountains to the north and east. We look out over an agricultural area between our ranch and the lake. It’s a breathtaking and gorgeous place to ride.”
I take the bend on the winding and steep mountain road, and a patchwork of forest, farms, and pasture is spread out on the valley floor far below. A river, with large rocks creating whitecaps, cuts through the landscape. Beyond it I can see Lake Cachí, glittering in the mid-afternoon light between the shield of pine trees that lines its shore. The tall, thin poro trees are in full bloom. Their orange flowers look like autumn leaves at a distance. They’re a favorite of local farmers, because when their nitrogen-rich seed pods fall, they act as a natural fertilizer.
“You could hike every day here and see something different,” says Kristin Simmon-Lowman of her new home in the highlands of Ecuador. “My friends and I just hiked Fuya Fuya (an inactive volcano), which was wonderful. Now we’re working up to doing Mount Imbabura (one of Ecuador’s most iconic mountains), so we’ve been getting a training system going to get in shape for that. There are waterfalls all around and a lot of lower foothills.”
“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.”