A friend sent me a Facebook message a few days ago and posed this really thought provoking question. Over the past year, Suzanne and I have chris-crossed the country twice, spent a week in Mexico, two months in Ecuador and a month in Thailand and came to the decision that Cuenca, Ecuador will be our retirement home. Some of our friends think we're a little nuts, some are envious of our adventuresome spirit, some simply say "great for you, but not for me". On this blog we've shared snippets and photos of our process and our experience. What we haven't done is really answer the question my friend Debbie just posed...maybe it's about time we did:
|Cuenca, Ecuador as seen from the Turi Overlook|
Once we arrived, recovered our breath (both literally and figuratively) and had spent the first three weeks in Cuenca, we knew this was going to be home. It met all the expectations we had going in, the inevitable negatives that arose were easily adjusted to to and dealt with. Most of all, we discovered a climate of friendliness and sense of neighborhood among both the ex-patriot as well as the Ecuadorian people we met.
|Roger and Suzanne in Cuenca, Ecuador|
That's why, today, we are back in Arizona, USA making the final document and personal property preparations for our permanent return. One more cross country trip. a holiday visit with family and then it's off to Cuenca to make it our home.
This kind of retirement isn't for everyone and it can be absolutely overwhelming in scope for those wanting to try it, so let me finish my answer to a friend's question by offering some tips on how to decide if retiring overseas is for you and how to choose a spot.
1. Know what you want to do in retirement.
If your priorities are fishing, golfing, long walks in the park, etc.; then there's plenty of great spots here in the USA for that. Despite what the idiots are currently doing in Washington, this is still the free-est and most prosperous country on the planet. But if you enjoy, desire and can handle a real change in lifestyle, go hunt for it and find your heart's desire.
2. Run the numbers, do the logistics:
Lots of people look at ex-patriate retirement because they hear it's cheaper. It is in many areas, but there are also hidden costs most of us don't think about . It's also seldom as affordable as those mailers and magazine cover headlines lead you to believe. Also realize that more affordability only comes with some adjustments and/or concessions in return. You can't find suburban Scottsdale, Arizona living for 25 cents on the dollar anywhere on the planet. Do some realistic financial planning for your retirement. Be sure to include how you can accommodate relocation (and a possible return back to the US, if needed).
3. Go to school and do your homework!
Learn everything you can about any locale you're considering. You need to know about the cuisine, the customs, the culture, the geography, the economy...everything you can. You are going to have to adjust and adapt to a new and different environment, because that environment is NOT going to adapt to your expectations. Make sure the expectations you have are realistic ones. There's lots of resources for information ranging from the library to you tube videos from google earth to bloggers. (Debbie, tell your friends that www.southofzero.wordpress.com is a great source for exploring the Ecuadorian blogosphere and they list a number of good reference sites, as well)
4. Visit, if possible, do a trial run:
Nothing beats mixing with the people, walking the neighborhoods, attending a social function, shopping for groceries, etc. to see if a new land might be suitable for home. If your visit is a short one because of budget, be careful to NOT make it a typical cram as much sightseeing as we can and take all the tours we can, vacation kind of trip. While you will need to satisfy some of the tourist in you, remember that the purpose of the trip is to discover if you can live daily life there, not just enjoy yourself. I can have a great time in the Big Apple but I sure wouldn't do well living there full time!
5. Finally, enjoy the process!
Preparing for retirement can be daunting but it shouldn't be!. This is a special time of life. Make it special by enjoying the process of getting ready for it. Treat each and every day, each and every task during the preparation as a significant step on what is probably one of the most important journeys you'll make in life. It's not always where you are going, but with whom you travel and how you travel that makes the journey exciting and fun.
I hope that helps and hope each of you can have as much fun as we do, juntos en el camino de la vida!