While living in the San Francisco Bay Area my husband and I both worked long days, and too many weekends. We rarely bumped into our neighbors, had little free time for socializing, and even less energy.
I wake up naturally, no alarms needed anymore. The sun greets me, as it does every morning, and my French doors open onto my patio, where I can watch the waves crash over the rocks in the bluest of oceans. Birdsong mixes with the calls of howler monkeys, letting me know that they are somewhere in the trees. My yard looks like a jungle -- coconut palms, fruit and avocado trees.
Over the past three decades I've been writing about Belize. I've regularly borrowed Morley Shafer's line from the mid-80s, when he traveled to Belize City to film a segment for 60 Minutes."The good news from Belize," Morley said looking up from a little wooden boat in the middle of the Belize River, "is no news from Belize."
If there is one thing we know, no matter the country we expats live in, we will never be 'locals.' We can get legal residence status and even become full-fledged second-passport carrying citizens of any of these countries if we so choose... but we will never ever be Mexican or Ecuadorian or Nicaraguan or Costa Rican or Panamanian...
Costa Rica, often dubbed the 'happiest place on earth,' has long beckoned expats from North America and elsewhere who long for a more laidback lifestyle and warm tropical breezes.
After 13 years living overseas, we sometimes forget to acknowledge these differences... these cultural anomalies that make up our national identities.
Relocating to a place where your neighbors speak English and share many of your same life experiences and objectives at this stage can ease the transition and make the whole proposition of retiring abroad far less intimidating.
Years ago, a friend in Belize told me that a country never escapes its origins. The United States, he said, is a land of puritans. Belize is a land of pirates. And Istanbul is a land of traders.
Uruguay is not a medical-tourism destination or a place where people come for the health care alone. However, if you fall in love with Uruguay, as I did, and decide you want to live here, the chances are good you will be able to get quality health care at an affordable price.
The other day I was stopped on the Ponte Grazie by an Italian couple looking for directions to Piazza Michelangelo. It's always a moment of smug pride when I am mistaken for Italian, and it's always short lived! As soon as I started to speak, make eye contact and gesture, they knew. I am not one of them.
After a long career in Silicon Valley, Robbie Felix, 58, was ready for a change. "I showed up there in 1978 right after they broke up the telephone monopolies, and it was booming," says Robbie, who worked as a headhunter specialized in staffing start-up companies. "I loved it. It was fascinating, but extremely stressful."
A funny thing happened recently at one of the local watering holes in our little Ecuadorian town. A bunch of Yanks gathered around the television to watch something other than basketball, baseball, or American football.
For some of the more obsessive-compulsive among us, it has also become a point of honor to be able to pack for weeks or even months on the road in a matter of minutes...
Weather was a huge factor in our decision to move abroad. Not that we don't dearly love our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. But there are times when it gets so cold or so hot that going outside simply isn't an option.
Moving abroad to a place with better weather, a lower cost of living, and decent health care sounds like a no-brainer. It's a wonderful option for anyone looking to improve their current lifestyle and spend less money to do it -- especially for retirees on a limited budget.
When you retire abroad, you're in a different country and culture -- meeting new friends -- and you finally have time to do all the things you've looked forward to doing. Now from a distance, that can seem an almost intimidating prospect. But it's also an invigorating one.