It was a good plan. And like all good plans, the Universe laughed while we made it.
A home in Merida, the beautiful and utterly unique capital of Mexico's Yucatan state... and a summer place in Cotacachi, the little craft village up in Ecuador's northern Andes with the best weather we've ever experienced, anywhere.
Merida -- big, bustling, endlessly diverting, brimming with a fascinating mix of Maya, European, and Caribbean cultural influences... but fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk hot in summer.
Cotacachi -- quiet, relaxing, perfect weather year-round, brimming with a fascinating mix of Quechua and Spanish cultural influences...but about as cosmopolitan as Mayberry.
Winters in Merida, summers in Cotacachi.
Seemed like the perfect plan, especially as real estate prices and carrying costs for taxes and utilities in both locations beat the costs of comparable locations in the U.S. by a mile.
And it was the perfect plan for several years, until life happened. Our work and travel schedules found us more and more in Ecuador, less and less in Mexico... until the Universe, still chuckling, planted us firmly in Cotacachi.
Ah, but now a New Year opens up before us... lots of travel already on the schedule for 2014, and among the stops, several places in Mexico, including -- Merida!
Merida, where we still have a boatload of friends, where the music scene includes more than three bars, where beautifully remodeled colonials litter the real estate market, where white-sand Gulf Coast beaches are just a 30-minute drive away, and where the international airport is even closer than the beaches... right in town, in fact.
Photo by Eoin Bassett, InternationalLiving.com
But before we go too far down this road, we think it only fair to say that two days ago we went through the same thought process about Panama. Hub of the Americas, incredible capital city full of everything imaginable, magnificent beaches only minutes from town, a condo market that seems to add a new residential tower every week, fond memories of living there and being endlessly entertained by the vital, exciting Panamanian culture...
Photo from InternationalLiving.com
And a few days before that it was Tulum... heart of the Riviera Maya, with some of the highest-ranked beautiful beaches on the globe, several new residential communities gaining traction, an international airport and one of the most popular vacation playgrounds in the Western Hemisphere just up the road, and one of the fastest-growing cities in the Americas even closer at Playa del Carmen...
And just last week it was the central valley of Costa Rica...the place where we were married and had our first extended travel experience together, with another international airport right in the capital, nearby highland towns where the weather is ideal, beaches that have been magnets for surfers and adventurers for decades, one of the best national health systems on the planet...
So we know it must be Spring, because this seems to happen to us every year about this time.
It's one reason we call ourselves "serial relocators." No matter where we currently happen to be living, we'll start to think about someplace else given enough time. Greener pastures and new adventures beckon, usually right after the holidays. And every so often... seven times in the past 12 years, in fact... we actually do something about it and move somewhere.
The good news is that, throughout much of Mexico and Central and South America, the cost of living is affordable enough overall compared to the U.S. to allow us to seriously consider moves like this... and even to maintain two places, as some of our other expat friends do. Because between daydreams, we realize that we really have no intention of giving up our comfy little hidey hole in Cotacachi if we can help it.
The bad news is that... well, there really isn't any bad news. Just the realization that, even as we're scheming and daydreaming yet again, we know the Universe is getting another big, fat grin. The past has shown us that the future probably won't bear much resemblance to the one we imagine.
But that's worked out pretty well for us so far.
Living Internationally: How to Enjoy a Roving Retirement
Living Part-Time in Panama
How to Enjoy Your Retirement On the Road
For more than 30 years, InternationalLiving.com has been researching the best retirement havens in the world…and every January the annual Global Retirement Index is released—highlighting the best places for you to retire. This Index ranks the top 24 countries in the world for retirement in 8 categories. The top 10 countries that feature on the list this year each bring spectacular benefits for retirees living overseas—from great health care and ideal climates to a low cost of living and financial perks for retirees. Starting with number 10, here are our top 10 retirement havens for 2014. 10. Thailand Thailand is number 10 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Gilded temples are not the only treasure that Thailand has. White-sand beaches, jade and turquoise waters and swaying coconut palms all add to the splendour of Thailand. The beauty of the country is not the only attraction for retirees, who enjoy a low cost of living and great health care here, too. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
9. Uruguay Uruguay is number 9 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Uruguay may be the perfect place for those wishing to retire in an overseas destination that has similar cultural values to back home…and a fantastic climate. It also offers retirees the chance to bring their household goods into the country duty-free. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
8. Malta Malta is number 8 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Anchored almost in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, 60 miles from the Italian island of Sicily, Malta isn’t a mainstream destination for North American tourists. But if you’re looking for a safe place to retire with English-speaking locals, you should put this small European country on your retirement list. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
7. Mexico Mexico is number 7 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Mexico scores highly across the board in this year’s Index, but excelled in ease of integration--settling in becomes easier when you’re just a short trip from your family and friends. But with great weather, low prices and a rich culture, you may not want to leave. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
6. Colombia Colombia is number 6 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Colombia is beautiful, dramatic, and diverse. It offers sparkling colonial cities in the highlands and world-famous (and safe) resorts along the Caribbean. Colombia has a lot to offer—like a low cost of living, inexpensive properties, and a colorful and diverse culture. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
5. Spain Spain is number 5 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Spain is arguably one of the best bargains in Europe at the moment. Ranking high across the board in this year’s Index, but especially in the entertainment and amenities category, Spain is an ideal destination for retirees who wish to enjoy the delicious tapas on offer or soak up some European sun...all at an affordable price. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
4. Costa Rica Costa Rica is number 4 on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014. Popular with expats, Costa Rica remains firmly on the list of best places to retire. The country offers a great program for retirees, top-notch, affordable health care and if you find it difficult to choose which climate you prefer, you will be glad to know that the mild temperatures of the Central Valley are just two hours by car from the tropical beaches of the Pacific Coast. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
3. Malaysia Coming third in the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014., Malaysia is the best retirement haven in Asia. Scoring highly across the board, Malaysia offers a low cost of living, world-class health care and a great climate year-round. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
2. Ecuador Coming a close second on the InternationalLiving.com Global Retirement Index 2014, Ecuador has an ideal climate, stunning-scenery, and offers a low cost of living for retirees. If you’re looking for relaxing beach living, quaint mountain towns or exciting city life in your retirement, Ecuador has it all. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
1. Panama Panama wins first place on InternationalLiving.com’s Global Retirement Index 2014. The combination of value and variety, convenience and beauty and its Pensionado program (the best in the world) have ensured Panama’s place at the top. Photo: InternationalLiving.com
Fortune says Santa Fe is the top choice for retirees looking for sunny climes because of its extensive cultural offerings and easy access to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Check out Fortune's other top picks for sun worshippers here.
Fortune says Charleston is the top choice for retirees looking for a small city, because of its rich history, gastronomic offerings and sandy beaches, as well as opportunities to take classes at the College of Charleston. Check out its other top picks for retirees who crave culture without the hustle here.
Fortune says Bend is the top choice for retirees looking for a home in the mountains because of its extensive outdoor offerings, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and golf, as well as its relatively affordable home prices. Check out its other top picks for outdoor enthusiasts here.
Fortune admits New York City is a surprising choice for a top retirement destination, but it defends its choice with hard data: there will be over 1.2 million people over the age of 65 living there by 2025, says the magazine. New York is a top choice for city slickers because, well, it's New York: there's no need for a car or even a kitchen, and you can't beat its entertainment options. Check out Fortune's other top cities for retirement here.
Fortune says Cuenca is a great choice for retirees open to the idea of retiring abroad (it's becoming an increasingly popular option, says the magazine) because of its low cost of living, great weather and modern healthcare. Check out its other top picks for globetrotting retirees here.