12/22/2013 07:33 am ET Updated Feb 21, 2014

From Beachfront In Brazil To Parkside Montevideo -- How Lee And Julie Used Real Estate Overseas As A Strategy To Realize The Retirement Of Their Dreams

A friend, Lee, a retired engineer from New York, bought a beachfront home, a place right on the sand with the surf just feet away, for less than $62,000.

Then he furnished the 2,000-square-foot house and moved into it with his wife Julie. The couple proceeded to have one of the most enjoyable times of their lives together, living in that house, enjoying a retirement that their dreams had long been made of.

This house was situated on a bona-fide tropical island that happened to be located off the northern coast of Brazil.

After Lee had been retired a few years, he and his wife decided they would like to live at the beach. They knew they couldn't afford the kind of beach house, directly on the sand, that they wanted in the United States, so they began looking farther afield. They found just the house they had been dreaming about, at a price they could afford, in Brazil.

"It was one of the best years my wife and I have spent," Lee told me. "We'll always remember that time."

If the experience was so special, why did Lee and Julie walk away from it after just a year?

It wasn't long after the couple moved into their dream home on the beach that word got out. Other foreigners from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom began to discover the place. These folks, too, were attracted by the low cost of owning a home directly on the sand and bought up the remaining beachfront properties on the little island. As inventory dwindled, prices went up. At the same time, the dollar's value fell against the Brazilian real, making Lee's property more valuable in dollar terms. After just 10 months, Lee and Julie found themselves in an unexpected position.

"I wasn't counting on the price going up when I bought the house," Lee explains, "but, only 10 months after we'd moved in, I realized I'd be able to sell the place for nearly twice what I'd paid for it. Julie and I had had a wonderful time in this house, but we couldn't resist the chance to make that kind of a return on what turned out to be one of the best investments of our lives."

Lee and Julie found a buyer quickly and took their profits. But they didn't return "home" to the States. Instead, they used the money from their Brazilian adventure to fund another one.

Having enjoyed beach life for a year, the couple decided for a change.

"I grew up in the countryside," Lee told me, "but living and working in Manhattan at the end of my career taught me to appreciate the fun and convenience of life in a big city. I enjoyed having great dining and entertainment and all the amenities of city life at my fingertips, without having to own a car."

So Lee and Julie went in search of a city with all those kinds of cosmopolitan offerings where the cost of living and of buying a home was nothing like the costs they'd faced living in New York.

"We knew we couldn't afford retirement in Manhattan," Lee remembers, "but the money we'd made from our experience in Brazil was enough to buy in another city that really appealed to me -- Montevideo, Uruguay."

So that's where Lee and Julie headed next. In Montevideo, the couple found and purchased an apartment in a building situated on one of the city's most attractive parks. Living there, they were an easy walk to tango clubs, orchestra, theater, street fairs, and some of the city's best dining.

The apartment Lee and Julie bought was two bedrooms, making it a great place to invite guests. Again, this apartment wasn't an investment. It was fulfilling another dream this wandering couple shared.

Lee and Julie owned this place for four years. Then they had the same realization they'd had about their island home in Brazil. Their apartment in Montevideo was worth about 75% more than they'd paid for it. They'd had a wonderful time living in Uruguay, but they decided they were ready to try another location on for size. So they listed their downtown apartment for sale and found a buyer in just one day. Now they had an even bigger nest egg to fund the next chapter in their retirement story.

Where did Lee and Julie head next? Medellin, Colombia. That's where you'll find them today, enjoying life in this pretty city of parks and flowers in a city-center apartment that is already worth maybe 20% more than they paid for it.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

AARP's Top 10 Quirky Places to Retire