"For years, my husband and I talked about the idea of doing something new and different in retirement," explains Nancy Kiernan, "of moving to a new country where we could create a whole new life. Each year, as we struggled through another Maine winter, we'd daydream about starting over someplace where we'd never had to deal with snow and ice again."
But their discussions, Nancy remembered, always contained a number of telling phrases:
"Wouldn't it be nice..."
"Maybe after... after we've saved more money... after we're able to sell the house..."
Their daughter spotted the problem. "You guys are never going to do it," she told them, "not really."
"Our daughter was so confident in her position," Nancy says, "that it stopped us. What did she know that we didn't, we wondered. So we asked her.
"You're never going to do this," she told us, "because you haven't decided you're going to do it. You're talking about how maybe someday you'll make a move, if, if, if... but you haven't decided that you're going to do this no matter what. I know you guys. That means you're not really going to do it."
Nancy and Mike realized that their daughter's insight was the most critical one of all, and, finally, they made their decision. They weren't going to think about retiring overseas anymore. They were going to retire overseas.
"I see that now as the first step in this process," Nancy says. "Now that we've made the move, I see five steps in total, as follows:
Step #1: Decide
Step #2: Research
Step #3: Plan (with contingencies, because nothing is going to go as you plan)
Step #4: Test (put your boots on the ground)
Step #5: Plunge
"Steps 2 and 3 depend on understanding what you want. You have to make a list. What do you want your new life to look like? What's important to you?
"We made our list, and it led us to think that four countries in particular might be what we were looking for -- Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.
"We proceeded to Step #4 by planning an extended trip that would allow us to spend time in each of those four countries. We started in Ecuador, where we realized something pretty quick. That country wasn't for us. It was more Third World than we wanted. However, on that trip to Ecuador, we met another American who'd retired to Latin America years earlier. We told him our plan, explained what we were looking for, and he made a recommendation. Go look at Colombia, he told us, specifically Medellin.
"So we adjusted our plan and, rather than moving on to Panama, Costa Rica, or Uruguay, we hopped a plane to Medellin. We intended to stay two weeks but ended up staying for two months. In those two months, we fell in love. This city was everything we were looking for. We rented an apartment for a year and started shopping for a place of our own. Now here we are, about a year-and-a-half later, in a place of our own in a city we love more every day."
Today, Nancy and Mike are well installed in their completely remodeled home, which features a large terrace perfectly positioned for watching the sunset each evening.
"Vine...vi...y me quedé," proclaims Nancy today, proudly. "I came...I saw...and I stayed."
Of course, the move wasn't quite as easy as that simple declaration might suggest. Nancy and Mike had to disregard and overcome a number of outdated stereotypes and resistance from their family and friends in the States. They were warned about drug lords, kidnappings, and the dangers for women overseas, especially in a city like Medellin, Colombia!
There were legitimate obstacles, too. Neither Nancy nor Mike spoke Spanish when they made their decision to relocate to Medellin. But the couple ignored the stereotypes and tackled the practical hurdles with determination.
Today, Nancy and Mike are officially residents of Medellin, installed in their completely remodeled home, which features a large terrace perfectly positioned for watching the sunset each evening. They've embraced their new lives completely. Nancy's Spanish is quite good. Mike's had less time to study, but that doesn't stop him from engaging most anyone in conversation. The couple has an active social life.
The big hurdles are behind them. Now their biggest decision each day is determining which wine to enjoy while watching the sunset.