Tag Archives: Peru

5 Considerations When Taking the Expat Plunge


Are you considering moving outside of the country and becoming an expat after you retire? You may be dreaming of new adventures, the excitement of living in and experiencing a new culture. Or maybe you are looking to find a place where you get more bang for your buck.  Whatever your reason, the world awaits. It is a big world and making the decision as to where to land is difficult at best.  You may decide to move to where every other expat is moving these days – the “latest” location touted by those expat retirement blogs – or you may do a personal search to find the location that works best for you.

In my search for the “right” location I have found a few cities that would offer me much of what I look for. I fell in love with Antigua, Guatemala years and hoped to live there someday. Then there is Cuenca, a beautiful, colonial city high in the Andes of Ecuador, that captured my heart as I wandered through el Centro on my very first visit. They are both viable options, but I am not yet convinced where I will hang my hat and I plan to continue my search… Guatemala, Chile, Spain, France, Sicily, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand…the list goes on and on.  So many locations to consider!

If you are thinking about becoming an expat here are five things to consider, besides location, before making your move:

Dig deep and ask the tough questions.

Why are you thinking about doing this? What is important to you? What do you need vs. what do you want?  Can you be happy with only the needs being fulfilled?  Are you willing to accept they way they do things in your new country or will  you expect they do it the way to which you are accustomed? Can you live without that red licorice or your favorite barbeque sauce?

Friends and family. How will you keep in touch? Will you be happy not seeing them in person on a weekly or monthly basis? Can you be such a long way from your grandkids?

Is this a forever move or will you only be going for a few years and returning or moving on?

All these questions and more need to honestly answered.  A trip to explore your potential expat city will help to answer some of these questions.  Digging deep and reflecting on your values, adaptability and flexibility will help clarify your reasons, expectations and likelihood of success.

Do your research.

Blogs abound about moving to and living other countries. The bloggers share their experiences and offer a myriad of suggestions for you to chew on.  Then there are sites like numbeo.com that provide costs and living expense comparisons, a very useful tool in seeing how far your resources will stretch.

Facebook has many groups for expats living in different locations around the world.  It’s a great place to interact with and ask questions of people who have already made their move. You will find those who have adapted well, some who are less than happy for numerous reasons, and still others who after a couple of years are heading back to their home country.  These pages generally give a pretty balanced perspective on living in that city or country and honest answers abound to any question you may ask.

Think about visas, residency requirement, and citizenship, if you are interested in going that route.

Healthcare. What are the options? Is there a government program with an option to purchase private insurance instead? What will it cost out of pocket and would that be within your budget?  Will you keep supplemental insurance for when you go back home to visit? Or will you just have travel insurance?

Then there is your best bud. Are you able to bring your beloved pet? What are the requirements to make that happen? Are there vets available and what does their practice look like? What is the culture of pets in the community?

Is the expat community active and welcoming? Starting by making some expat contacts and broadening your community to include the locals as well will only enhance your experience.

Make a plan.

A solid plan will take before, during and after the move into consideration.

Long before ever packing your bags, make a plan. How will all the “at home” requirements be handled? Will everything be handled by electronic mail?  Banking, credit cards, taxes, financial planning all need to be considered. How will those be handled? When will you move?  Do you need to sell a home before you leave? Or will you rent it…just in case?  What will your move look like? Will you only take a couple of suitcases and start fresh?  Or will you pack up your entire household and all your belongings and arrange for them to be shipped?  How will you stay in touch with family and friends?  Will emails and Facebook suffice or will you want to have more personal contact through Skype?

There is so much to consider and a written, detailed plan will only make things go so much smoother. The logistics related to the move need to be considered and fully understood. Stress mixed with excitement and anticipation will be high, so having all your ducks in a row before you hop on the plane will be critical to a smooth transition.

Set a few routines.

Set a few routines when you arrive to get you out into the community so you can begin to make connections with expats and locals alike.  Each morning after breakfast while living in Peru I would enjoy a leisurely cup off coffee in the house courtyard, and mid-morning I would stroll across town to the open air market to get exercise, enjoy the sights and sounds of the city and inevitably I would run into someone I was acquainted with.

While living in Guatemala City I had a routine on the weekends. Having taught school all week, I liked to take the bus to a nearby town, Antiqua, for the day and occasionally overnight on the weekends.  It became a favorite place to go to unwind, and I became familiar with the town and it with me.

If a weekend getaway isn’t an option, consider a Saturday morning walk along the river, ending with coffee and pastry at that quiet little bakery on the other side of town. Or maybe you will join a group with like interests, volunteer to read to children at the local school or help out at an animal shelter.

Setting a few routines at first to get out and about in a normal ‘I live in this town’ kind of way, not ‘I am here as a tourist’ kind of way can normalize your new life. It will provide you opportunity to meet people in those shops, restaurants, schools, clubs and overtime relationships will evolve and friendships will grow.

Create community.

For some this will be easy.  For others who may be a little more introverted or reserved this may feel like a daunting task.

Most cities where expats reside have welcome lunches or gatherings that are held weekly or monthly. Go to the expat hangouts to start the interaction.

Get to know the locals in your neighborhood. Understand that some cultures, though very friendly, may not invite you to their home for a long time. I lived in Peru for two years and I never made it past the parlor in friends homes where guests were welcomed to visit.

Walk softly, observe and learn. Local friendships will evolve naturally over time and more often than not, expats will welcome you with open arms.

Moving to another country can be a real adventure.  Having a well thought out plan and having fully considered your reasons for moving and expectations of the experience can make this new adventure fun and exciting.

What have you done or what are you doing to make your expat move smooth and successful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expat Retirement: Torn Between 2 Loves


Are you considering expat life as your retirement nears?  Maybe you already are an expat who has moved to the country of your dreams?  As I circle around all my options for retirement, I think about the allure of living the life of an expat.  I have lived outside the country before, so I have realistic expectations of what expat life in my retirement years will look like and get very excited about that option.  But then I think about my friends and family who would remain here, while I ventured on.  Conflict.  Torn between two loves.

I suspect if I were one half of a couple that this decision would create less conflict, but I am not sure.  Maybe it is even more difficult for a couple, because of the ties that each have.  There is a pull between affordable adventure that will allow me to save money, travel home for visits while putting money away for long term security, or living downsized on a tight budget, with little to no disposable income, but the closeness of friends and family.

When I lived in the Peruvian Amazon in my late 40’s, after an adjustment period of 6 months, I bought a very simple house outside of the city of Iquitos, in a joven community, a newly established community, near the little airport.  Most of the houses in that community were made of slatted boards with dirt floors, but mine was created of cement blocks, a little more upscale than the majority of the others in that area. It had belonged to a local judge who was moving to Lima. There was no window glass or screens and it was protected above by a corrugated tin roof that sang loudly when it rained.  I only paid a few thousand dollars for it, which I thought was reasonable, although local friends, on the other hand, repeatedly told me  “You paid too much. You paid too much.” I was a “gringa” after all, so I expected that I would pay more than a local.  I was fine with that.  I liked having my own home and that’s what mattered.  It was quite simple and required a dropdown ceiling be installed, only because rats racing across the cross beams while I slept was way outside my comfort zone.

I did enjoy living there, even though the community was located 15 minutes outside of town and I would need to hop the chicken bus, take a mototaxi, or drive my 20 year old beater of a Volkswagen Bug that I called “Broken Down” to get into town. Broken Down was guaranteed to die daily, at least once, as I went to and from the city center. I found myself running back and forth to town throughout the day, and most evenings, and often Broken Down and I would end up waiting for my dear friend Waldermar to come and fix my car that seemed to prefer sitting on the side of the road rather than moving down it.

In Guatemala, I lived in the city, in a hotel, not far from the center, that had been converted into small, but efficient apartments. Things were closer and buses were frequent, so reliable transportation was never an issue and I didn’t have a temperamental VW Bug to deal with.  The hustle and bustle and energy of the city was palpable. I loved urban living.

Eights years from now is my target retirement date, so I spend a lot of time considering what lifestyle would be best for me when retirement comes, as a single woman in my seventh decade of life and beyond.  I am healthy and get around easily and anticipate that will continue, so neither health nor mobility impacts my decision.

In this moment, I am leaning toward a secure apartment in a bohemian or artsy type neighborhood in a city, so that I can walk, have ease of access to transportation, easily visit the market, restaurants and entertainment. The idea of walking to the market, to my favorite coffee shop, arts and entertainment events, and an evening strolling along the river or malecon as the day comes to an end means a full life, daily exercise and continued health.  Those are important considerations.

I think I have decided that I will live in the city if I, ultimately, decide to live abroad.  But the song “Torn Between Two Lovers” keeps coming to mind.  Well, maybe not “lovers,” but loves.  My love for adventure and foreign cultures tugs at me.  It calls to me during my sleep and my waking hours. It never leaves me. It calls for me to come.  Those calls and tugs trigger my senses to recall international living, the smells of traditional foods being cooked in open air storefronts, the scurry of activity in the market as vendors set up for their day’s work. I hear the chatter of a language that becomes more familiar everyday and cherish the experience of being in a different culture, in a foreign land.  I love.

On one side of the coin the love of a new life adventure calls, while on the other side of that same coin there is a whisper in my ear asking about the love of my family and friends, tugging at me to stay.  I feel torn.

When I was in my late 40’s and early 50’s, I would just make up my mind to move, sell off all my belongings, hop on a plane, and be in another culturing living the life I dreamed of.  It was a blink of an eye decision.  It seems funny to me now, that in just a decade’s time, the same decision that was made 10 years earlier isn’t as simple and clear cut as it was back then.

If I stay in this country, then the question to be answered is equally complicated.  Sell the house and then what?  Will I still be around friends and family or will I move to a different state to live in a 55+ community or travel the country in an RV?

I know these questions will be answered over time, but for now…my head spins around my two loves…life as an expat in a foreign land or life here with family and friends.

Are you experiencing any of these same questions that tug and pull as you think about becoming an expat?  How are you reconciling the question of “two loves?”

 

 

 

The Day that Ricky Martin and I Met the Amazon Queen


Living in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, in the city of Iquitos, Peru, I stood in the living room of my traditional house with Ricky Martin hanging on my neck.  No, not the singer Ricky Martin, instead a baby monkey that the neighbor girl had brought to me.  It clung to my neck, and clung, and clung…continuously clung.  It was apparent that I had become the baby’s new  mother.  Every few minutes, I would feel a dampness running down my chest and back.  I was sweating ferociously because, well, I was in the Amazon after all, but I knew this particular warm stream of dampness was not sweat and this was not something I could live with until Ricky reached adulthood.  I had to do something.  A few days later, it became apparent while showering, with Ricky still attached to my neck, that I needed to return him to the jungle.  He belonged there.  It was his true home.  And, to be honest, I just couldn’t handle the intermittent trickle down my back any longer.

I spent several days with Ricky attached before I learned that there was a non-profit lodge in the jungle, near the source of the Amazon, that rehabilitated monkeys and returned them to the jungle. Perfect!

If I said it was an adventure getting Ricky to the lodge, it would be grossly understated.  Leaving in the early hours of the morning, I hopped on a launcha, a barge type boat with hammocks hanging all over, and up the Amazon River we went until we disembarked in the darkness of night.  I say we, because not only was I traveling with my sidekick, Ricky, but I was accompanied by a so-called jungle guide. I found out not much later that he had taken guide training in Lima and had never been to the jungle before.

dugout canoeAfter the launcha docked and we made our way to shore, we hiked about an hour through the jungle in the darkness of night (not the best idea under any circumstance!) until we arrived at a tributary.  The mosquitoes were the size of Volkswagens and all I could hear was the incessant buzzing around my head.  On the edge of the tributary, hidden in the overgrowth near the shore, we located a dugout canoe.  The guide climbed in, followed by me.  We adjusted our seating, so as to balance ourselves. In this carved out log, we headed off into the a darkness like I had never seen before.  As he paddled the canoe forward, all that I could think was that this was not the best idea.  Really, not the best idea.  Here I am being guided by a city guide through crocodile and piranha infested waters.  If we were to tip over, it would be all over, except for the crocodile’s burp and a smile on the piranha’s face.

After about a half hour of slowly moving down the tributary, we arrived at the lodge.  By this time it was about 4 o’clock in the morning.  Down the steps came the lodge manager.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.  “I was told you would take this baby monkey.”  He looked confused and said, “I know nothing about it.  Follow me.  I’ll take you to a hut to get some rest.  We can talk about it at breakfast.”  Oh, this is great. He didn’t even know I was coming.

After a few hours of restless sleep, I arose with Ricky still attached to my neck, and after a very much needed shower we headed to the main lodge for breakfast.  I was offered pancakes.  Ricky got a banana.  We were both starved.

I looked up from my pancake to see a beautiful woman entering the dining room.  She seemed kind and gentle.  She greeted me warmly, quietly sat down and began eating.  An American, I thought.  She seemed very calm and content.  I, on the other hand, was in the process of a heated circular conversation with the lodge manager.  “I was told that you would take this monkey,” I said.  “No, I will not take that monkey.”  “But I came all this way…so you have to!” It continued. He said firmly this time, “I am not taking the monkey!”  Yes, you are.  No, I’m not. Yes.  No. Yes. No. There was a long pause.  We were at a standoff.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I was annoyed and frustrated.

Ricky Close UPFinally, after some time of staring each other down, he looked at me and said, “OK, fine.  I will take the monkey.”  I responded immediately with “No you won’t.”  “Yes,” he said,” I will!”  “Well, you didn’t want him a minute ago, so you I am not leaving him now.”

Finally, I bolted from my seat to leave with Ricky, my permanently attached monkey, and a very confused jungle guide.  As we exited the dining room, the woman who had entered earlier and who quietly watched this contest of wills said, “Do you mind if I go back to Iquitos with you?” I turned her way and calmly replied,  “Sure. Not a problem.  Are you ready to leave now?”  She collected her belongings from her hut and for the next 18 hours we reversed the sequence to get back to Iquitos…dugout canoe, jungle hike with giant mosquitoes and a very long and very hot boat ride back to Iquitos on the launcha.

It was during this time, as the boat moved slowly along the Amazon River, that the woman that I came to call the Amazon Queen and I had a chance to talk.  She had spent a month at that jungle lodge, volunteering at a local clinic, and I was in Peru doing startup work for a non-profit that I had founded.  Diana and I talked endlessly throughout that journey about life, the jungle, the needs of the people in Peru, and volunteering.  I ultimately returned back to the United States after coordinating a nutritional program for 12 communities along the Amazon.  And, the Amazon Queen?  She stayed on. She made Lima her home base and created a successful ONG that provides very much needed medical education and community medical care through volunteer efforts for the people of the river communities of the Amazon.

And that is the story of the day that I met the Amazon Queen.

What happened to Ricky Martin you may ask?  Well, upon my return from the jungle, I connected with a young man who was involved with the University of the Peru in the Amazon.  He arranged for Ricky Martin to be returned to the jungle to live out his days.  I guess that would have been the easier route to get him back to the jungle in the first place, but then again, if I hadn’t taken the route I did, I wouldn’t have met the Amazon Queen!

Have you volunteered in a foreign country?  What was your experience like?  Comment below.

To learn more about Diana Bowie and DB Peru’s medical projects and volunteer opportunities in Peru, CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2014 Budget Retirement / Debra Zulawski All rights reserved.