The following is a guest post from Suzan Haskins.
"How did I get here?" I wonder that often.
Here is a small Andean mountain village basking under the equatorial sun in a green valley 8,000 feet above sea level between two extinct volcanoes in northern Ecuador.
And of course, I know more or less how I got here. Almost a dozen years ago, my husband, Dan, and I sold our house in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved south - out of the U.S.
We weren't close to retirement age then, but now, 12 years later, we're getting closer. And even after all those years, after living in seven different places in four different Latin American countries, we have no plans to return to the U.S.
We're right where we want to be for retirement and beyond.
For many U.S. retirees, living outside the U.S. makes a huge amount of sense, and not just because it can be far more affordable than retirement in the States.
In fact, I think there are three big reasons for the appeal of retiring abroad... I call them the ABCs of overseas retirement.
A = Adventure. From experience, I can tell you that living in a foreign country is one way to make sure that you encounter something new, interesting and challenging just about every day of your life. Whether you're already an adventure seeker, or are finally ready to bring some new faces and faraway places into your life, living internationally is about the surest way I know of to literally broaden your horizons and do something you've never done before.
B = Better Lifestyle. Do you want to eat better? Breathe cleaner air? Exercise more? Be more involved in the community? Leave the rat race? Never shovel snow again? All of the above? By changing your latitude, you also change you attitude...and more. The local fruit and vegetable market in the village where I live is full of produce that was grown on local farms. Much of it was still in the ground yesterday... and it was brought to the village by the farmers themselves.
We're miles from the nearest factory, highway, power plant, or landfill. The air doesn't get any cleaner. We can walk from one end of the village to the other and back home in about an hour, and at an elevation of 8,000 feet, it's a great daily workout.
Along the way we meet and talk to an extended circle of friends and neighbors, both local and expat, so we're always tuned in to what's happening in the community.
And the high school track team runs the only races around here. The pace of life here is relaxed and unhurried. Dan and I feel like we not only quit the rat race... we left the cage. And snow? Only on the mountaintops here...daily daytime temperatures hover between 60 and 70 degrees.
C = Cost of Living. We love the U.S. and are proud to be U.S. citizens. In the States you can get 30 varieties of anything you want, any time you want, anywhere you want.
But variety is only one of the spices of life, and when we realized that we could enjoy this fantastic for about half the annual cost of living we were paying back in Nebraska, the logic was hard to deny. In most places popular with U.S. expats, the food, property taxes, utilities, and medical care (including health insurance) are significantly cheaper than in the States. And in most of those places, local services and infrastructure like Internet, satellite TV, and good quality hospitals and doctors are readily available.
So where are the best places to retire outside the U.S.? As you might expect, after 12 years of living throughout Latin America I have some personal favorites. I'll tell you about them in coming weeks.
But make no mistake, U.S. expats are retiring in an ever-growing number of places around the world, many of which stand out for a variety of reasons. You can find some of those places and some of those reasons in The Global Retirement Index, published each year by the magazine and website that my husband and I write for, InternationalLiving.com.
Will we live here in Ecuador forever? Who knows? Right now, I think Ecuador is also one of the best value-for-dollar propositions in the hemisphere. It's one of the most affordable and beautiful destinations in Latin America, and it also has almost all the amenities and infrastructure you could want. But a great big wonderful world of adventure awaits.
Along with her husband, Dan Prescher, in 2001, Suzan Haskins sold everything she owned and moved south...far south, in fact...to Latin America where she lives and writes on behalf of International Living magazine.
Photo is of the Andes in Ecuador by Flickr user Teen Wolf.