Comparing Various Latin American Cities and Towns for Retirement Living

Q&A with a Reader

Hi Gustavo,

I have written some answers and suggestions to your questions below.

I’ve enjoyed reading your many articles.  Right now my wife and I (both Mexican citizens) are living in Los Cabos, but we’re increasingly tired of dealing with the long hot and humid summers. The older one gets the less one is able to tolerate sticky heat, it seems. We also really miss trees!

We’re thinking of moving to Comitan de Dominguez, because of your favorable comments. Do you think it’s a good town to live in as distinct from simply visiting?  By any chance, do you happen to know whether non-sprayed vegetables and free ranging chickens and the like easily available there, and whether the crime rate is low? Here in Cabo, at least, my wife can shop alone without worry, and kids walk to school and home unaccompanied. This is priceless. Unfortunately, there is very little info about living in Comitan in the way of expat blogs and the like.

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Comitan offers good weather (chilly in the winter, but not like San Cristobal), affordable cost of living, fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, some culture, and both the Colonial architecture (in El Centro Historico) and more suburbs and neighborhoods outside the Centro. There aren’t many Gringos there at all, which is probably why you have not been able to find expat blogs on this city.

Comitan also has shopping malls and a Wal*Mart, movie theaters and that sort of thing as well. There is good, affordable public transport which can take you most everywhere by bus and certainly anywhere by taxi. With a city this size I imagine that there are health food stores where you could get the non-sprayed vegetables and free range chicken you desire. We generally stay in El Centro because we like the Plaza, the activities, the music, the restaurants and cafes, and food shopping is right there. But we have taken the bus outside of Centro for other kinds of shopping, like for electronics and such.

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This city is also close to Guatemala if you wanted to take a break from living there in Comitan. The nearest international airport is in Tuxtla, but you can take a shuttle to Guatemala, no problem.

We have found Comitan to be very safe and it seems family oriented and friendly.      

We also considered San Cristobal, but it’s a little too high and cold for our tastes, and probably not too good for my asthma. Also considered Tepic, but it too has too warm and humid a summer, since the altitude is only around 900 meters. I think one has to get above at least 1200 meters, and preferably around 1400-1600 for ideal weather in the tropics (think Cuernavaca at 1500). However we love the fact that wonderful beaches are so close for the winter months. We considered Chapala, but it’s too overrun by North Americans (no offense) which affects both the culture and the prices.

You might also consider Oaxaca, Mexico. Weather there is decent, and while it is a city, there are cozy neighborhoods available to live.  Medical care is abundant and affordable, markets have all the fresh items you might want. There are museums, close access to the Maya ruins of Monte Alban, and lots of restaurants to choose from.

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We just spent a month there not long ago, and to break up our trip, we took a short, 30 minute flight from Oaxaca City to the beach. This was also affordable and it is an option for a change of scenery or for a vacation. 

Many Expats enjoy San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. There are lots of things to do, many restaurants, art stores, and a thriving Expat population.

We’ve also considered the Volcan area in Panama and the highlands of Guatemala. I liked your interview with Jackie Lange, and one thing that seems to characterize her area is that it is quiet! That is very difficult to find in Mexico! [I’ve lived in Mexico City, Colima-Comala, and Pto. Vallarta] The countryside looks really lovely (we are small-town types, not big city).

Also, the highlands in Panama are close to beaches. The downside might be that rentals are high. Nicaragua would be much cheaper, but the highlands are too far from the coast compared to Volcan or Boquete, and are probably a bit deficient in internet speed and reliability.

You might also consider towns like Antigua, Guatemala and the Lake Atitlan area. Xela is way too cold and windy, but Antigua is more of a pocket sized city with beautiful architecture, good restaurants and food markets. There are medical services available, but for very specialized care, one must travel to the capitol city of Guatemala City.

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The Lake Atitlan area is tiny, naturally beautiful, filled with Mayans, peaceful, and there are about 13 villages around the lake from which to choose to live. Basic medical care is available here, but for anything more complex, one must go to Antigua, Xela or Guatemala City.

If you absolutely couldn’t return to the States, where would you pick to settle?

Thank you and best wishes.

Gustavo

We are still looking around for that “perfect place” but we would probably settle in the Lake Atitlan area, Antigua, Oaxaca or Lake Chapala. Not necessarily in that order.

We like mild climates also, and natural beauty. We look for good cost of living and easy access to medical care. We absolutely must have access to fresh food – fruits, vegetables, meats and fish. We enjoy going out to eat at restaurants and having a good cup of coffee. Having an international airport close by is definitely a plus.

I hope this information is useful to you.

Let us know if you have more questions.

Best Regards, and thank you for your interest in our website.

Akaisha  

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The Holy Mushrooms of Huautla, Mexico

Q&A with a Reader

Dear Billy & Akaisha,

I loved reading your page on the life in Huautla. I am planning to visit there with family (all adults) for the Christmas break. Do you have any guidance for us on where we can stay, and how we can experience some of the authentic culture of the place? We are also interested in participating in any traditional rituals, if possible.

I look forward to your advice.

Regards,

Delip

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Hi Delip,

Thank you for writing.

In our experience of Huautla, Mexico, it was easy to find a hotel room, and we stayed in Hotel Santa Julia. It was basic, and clean. I don’t know the current price of it, but with the current Peso exchange to the Dollar, it probably is still very affordable.

In terms of experiencing local culture and specifically Dona Julieta’s mushroom “tour,” you can ask at the front desk of the hotel room. (I am assuming that Dona Julieta is still alive). Everyone in town knows about Dona Julieta, and the mushrooms and so on… but let me simply say that this is considered to be a very respectful topic. No laughing, no taking advantage, it’s completely reverent. It is their pathway to God.

If you are going to do the mushroom trip, I would certainly make plans to protect your gear, your identity papers, your money and so on. I don’t know how long the “trip” lasts or what she does or where it is held and so on. Truly, do not be careless.

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Other local culture things, I’m sure the hotel desk can direct you.

When we were there, we witnessed a wedding parade, and went to a local bar where the bar tenders were wearing Maria Sabina tee shirts. If you don’t know anything about her, be sure to look her up online. I am also sure that the bartenders know about how to experience the local culture too.

Again, I would be respectful and careful.

The best of luck and have a GREAT time. The town is an interesting stop. Reference to mushrooms is everywhere. The drive to Huautla is quite twisty, so bring Dramamine or whatever you use for motion sickness.

Best Regards,

Akaisha

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Worried about defining your identity once retired?

Guest post by Katie Evans. Check out her website here.

It’s Saturday morning; you’re at a coffee shop and you get talking to the person next to you in line to pass the time. You talk about the weather, exchange names, and then they turn and ask you, “so what do you do?”

Most conversations with new acquaintances quickly turn to the topic of our occupation. We assign stories and make judgments based on people’s careers and therefore, our jobs often come to define a core part of our identity. So, what does this mean upon reaching retirement?

I’ve worked with numerous people over the years who are struggling with exactly this question.

Reduce your cost of living. Pay less for medical care. Find better weather. Create a healthier way of life.

They’re financially prepared for retirement but uncertain about their purpose post-work and how this may affect them emotionally. The question I always ask is: how do you want to be remembered?

The topic of legacy can sound morbid but it’s a misnomer that this should only be considered late in life. Reflecting on how, and for what, you would like to be remembered is something you should do whilst you have the time to craft the story you want to. So often, we rush through our younger years without contemplating the bigger picture; retirement offers the perfect time to pause and envision. Identifying your answer is the crucial element to finding a sense of fulfillment and a new vocation during retirement.

Okay, but what if I don’t know?

The best place to start is to consider your values and what you are most passionate about. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:

What in life is most important to me?

  • Take this a step further by asking “why?” to each item you write down e.g. for money the “why?” may become security or freedom. Select the 5 most important why answers – these will be your values.

What are my 5 best talents or skills?

  • Consider both your resume and personal life. You can ask friends and family too as they may have an interesting perspective and highlight things you had not considered.

What causes am I most passionate about?

  • This can be on the global scale or local to your neighborhood and family. Try not to exceed 5.

Once you have completed these questions, review your list of answers and use this as inspiration to craft a sentence or two that encapsulates how you want to be remembered and the contribution you would like to make.

Next, you want to plan the next steps to work towards your ideal vision for yourself. You may want to start drawing word clouds or doodles to help you process ideas. This could include:

  • Volunteering for a cause. If there’s no suitable volunteering opportunity locally, could you set one up? Or, if travel is another passion, could you volunteer abroad?
  • Mentorship. This could involve teaching and sharing your experiences, or consulting within your industry of expertise.
  • Family. Supporting and nurturing family is a valuable contribution. Perhaps you were not around much when your kids were young and so you would like to spend more time with your grandkids.
  • Creativity. Do you have the desire to build, invent, create things to bring people joy or solve problems?

Once you have a strong sense of the legacy you’re working towards, the next time someone asks what you do, you can answer with passion and pride.

Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Heart Song, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Life Between the Tweets, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Medical Billing- How to Save Money and Reduce Healthcare Bills

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What Do You Require to File a Lawsuit for Medical Malpractice?

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Thank you for your interest in our site!

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Traveling to New Zealand: Where to Start?

Q&A with a Reader

Hi Billy and Akaisha!

We hope you are well and we know you are having a great time!

My husband Carl and I are taking off for New Zealand for 3 months.  This is our first big  slow traveling trip.  I know that you have been to NZ and I was wondering if you made reservations at hostels ahead of time or did you just wing it as you went.  We don’t know where to get started with the planning and if you could offer some suggestions, we would really appreciate it!  We are taking the hop on hop off buses and going from there.

Thanks so much!  You are an inspiration to us!

Carl and Cheryl

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Hi Carl and Cheryl,

Thanks for taking the time to write and congratulations on your trip to New Zealand! It’s a gorgeous country.

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When we went there, this is what we did.

At the time, Magic Bus was running, but now I believe the Kiwi Experience has taken their routes and bought their business. I imagine that there are some things that are the same.

When we were on the Magic Bus, the driver would call ahead to the hostels and he would make reservations. He would give us a list first and we all would “x” the hostel we wanted, and then put how many people we were, and how many days we wanted to stay. In this way, the hostel knew who was getting off and how many days they were staying and Magic Bus knew how many people they were going to pick up later. It was a very efficient system.

At the time we were there, Lord of the Rings had just come out, and there were lots of tourists, so the hostels always seemed to be jamming. We did feel pressure to make reservations and to keep moving because the rooms (at that time) were not guaranteed farther down the road.

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I don’t know that you will have this same problem. Because of this “pressure” we saw both islands in 5 weeks which was waaaay too fast for us. We would have loved to have taken at least 2 months to do this trip.

Also…  we used our student ID and joined  YHA hostel system, getting a discount on all our stays in the hostels in their system. You could do the same thing for the BBH system too.

One last thing I would mention that really worked for us. When we got off the bus to go to the hostels and set up, for us at that time it was a bit of a “mad house.” Lots of people running to the hostel desk to get the best rooms, the cheapest rooms, the bottom bunks, the private bathroom or what have you. It didn’t take us long to figure out that I should “run” ahead to the check in desk to pay, check in, and get the best deal at the time. Meanwhile, Billy stayed with the bus and got our luggage off. I would either meet him back at the bus to help with the backpacks or he would meet me at the check in desk with the luggage.

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In this way, we were not always on the top bunks, or in the crampiest of rooms, and we could have a choice of shared bathrooms or private ones.

I hope this information helps you. I’m sure you will have a super time in New Zealand!

Keep in touch.

Best Regards,

Akaisha

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A Traveler’s Questions on Healthcare, Cost of Living, Apartment Hunting and More

Q&A with a Reader

Hi,

First of all, thank you so much for being such a wealth of information for people just starting out on the path to early retirement.  I’m just wrapping up my first year in the workforce after graduation, and while I’m loving it, I also love the idea of the freedom that comes with financial independence.  Hearing about people who’ve done it is so encouraging.

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I listened to your interview on Mad Fientist last night and loved it.  Coincidentally, I’m currently in Panajachel and couldn’t agree more.  It’s one of my top five places I’ve ever visited.  If you have any recommendations of things to do or places to visit, I’d love to hear them.  Of course, just sitting and looking at the lake is always a good choice.  😀

Thanks again!

Best,

Jane

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Hi Jane,

GREAT to hear from you. Feel free to write any time regarding questions on financial independence, travel or medical tourism – these are our specialties. And thank you for your kind words regarding our interview on MadFientist. We appreciate that!

Panajachel. Great place. Below you will find links to stories, photos and things to do. Below that you will find some info on Antigua — another must see.

Enjoy!

Akaisha and Billy

Things to Do in Panajachel, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan Travel and Info

Our Guatemala Page

Fun things to do in Antigua, Guatemala

Our Antigua Home Page and Directory

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Hi,

I hope my email finds you well.  Once again in Pana and even more motivated to make this a permanent thing.  🙂

I wanted to ask you about calculating expenses.  How do you do it?

For example, we’d like to slow travel, which implies renting.  How do we get an idea for cost of living across a wide range of places and account for that in our “number”?

How do you handle health insurance?

How about emergencies/emergency fund?

Thank you for your help!

Best,

Jane

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Hi Jane,

Nice to hear from you again.

In terms about calculating expenses, you might take a look at our Relocation Page. There you will find listed sites such as City Data, Earth Costs, Great Retirement Spots, Numbeo, and all sorts of Expat forums. These sites will give you cost of living in various locations, and the expat forums are places where you can ask direct questions of people on the forum (many of whom are living in these locations) and receive the answer. For instance, you could ask about the price of a local apartment.

Housing is the largest expense in any household, and if you can get a handle on what you spend for lodging, you can live just about anywhere. In that case, you might also consider house sitting, Couch surfing, living in a hotel room at a monthly discount, apart-hotels, renting a room in a private home, use Airbnb or exchanging lodging for some sort of work that you would contribute. When you arrive in a location, find a notice board at a cafe, restaurant or expat library where rentals are advertised and begin there. Take a look at our Travel Housing Page for other suggestions.

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Regarding Health insurance, we purchase local services in the country in which we are traveling. You might consider taking out traveler’s insurance, say, from World Nomads or another provider, but that can be very expensive. We have found medical care to be very affordable and accessible everywhere we have visited, so we simply pay out of pocket.

In terms of funding an emergency, since we live well below our means as a lifestyle, we would fund any emergency from our on hand cash in our accounts.

I hope you find these answers to your questions to be useful.

Best Regards, and take care.

Akaisha

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A Typical Day in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico

Q&A with a Reader

What was a typical day like in Oaxaca City?

V&H

Reduce your spending footprint. Increase your lifestyle and financial longevity.

Hi V and H,

A typical day in Oaxaca…

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In the city of Oaxaca, we would get up, have some coffee in our room and a bit of breakfast. We would do some internet work, then walk the few blocks from our hotel to the Santo Domingo Church Plaza to a cafe where we would meet up with a friend we have known for several years.

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After that, we might take a walking tour of the town, go shopping for miscellaneous items, take photos, check out restaurants for a meal for sometime in the future, see a botanical garden or art museum, watch a parade, food display or a native dance routine or go visit the Maya ruins of Monte Alban.

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Then back to our room for a quick refresh and then go out to lunch. Back to the room for a nap, and then back out once again to sit in the many plazas and parks around the city. We might have happy hour somewhere at one of the various wine bars or mescalerias, sitting at a rooftop location and watch the people below. Depending on how big our lunch was (our largest meal of the day) we would either have something small in our room or go out for something like a salad or share a sandwich or have a giant quesadilla and share it.

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We were able to arrange for a 30 minute private flight to the beach, Puerto Escondido, so we stayed there about a week. That, of course, was a different routine. The morning was the same as far as the coffee and breakfast, and then we would walk the few blocks to the beach and stay there for several hours, having fresh seafood for lunch.

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Back to the room to shower, have a siesta or read, and then back out for happy hour and/or a meal on the beach at another restaurant to watch the sun set.

Pretty laid back, generally, but then again, we maintain our website and continuously write articles and answer correspondence, read the news and such, so we tend to stay mentally active.

Hope this helps!

Best,

Akaisha

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Divorce after 50 – Financial Mistakes to Avoid

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Thank you!

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How to Make Friends and Build Your Social Network When You Travel Solo

By Charli Moore

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“It must be difficult to make friends, don’t you get lonely?”

More often than not this is the first question I’m asked when I tell people that I travel the world solo, pet sitting through TrustedHousesitters.

In reality I actually find it very easy to socialize when I’m on the road. By stepping into the shoes of someone local to the region I’m visiting and caring for their home and pets, I also inherit their friends, relatives and neighbors who form the basis of my social circle and help me integrate into the community during my stay.

After over five years of traveling in this way I’ve a wealth of experience arriving at new destinations unsure of what my time there will entail. How can you make friends and build your social network when you travel solo?

Here’s my guide.

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Make Connections Outside Of Your Usual Social Circle

Solo travel taught me social independence, how to leave my insecurities at the door, and encouraged me to “put myself out there”; but I must admit it wasn’t until faced with the prospect of traveling alone that I realized these were skills I lacked.

When you start planning your trip look for ways to connect with local people who can help you make the most of your stay.

During one of my first pet sits in America I joined a local quilting society after the homeowner had told me she was a member; by the end of my first class I’d an invite to a birthday party taking place a few days later. While there I met a yoga instructor who invited me along to her weekly class, and through her I was inducted into a fabulous group of friends who met once a week for an evening out.

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After just a few days I had a network of people I could socialize with and call on for support. I no longer felt like an outsider just visiting, but a local experiencing the true culture of the region. These and other relationships I’ve made whilst pet sitting have lasted long after I’ve left the sits, and consequently I now have a number of lifelong friends in countries all over the world!

Find Safe, Free, Home-From-Home Style Accommodation

One of my first concerns when considering a solo trip was where to stay. As a single female I’m considerate in my choice of accommodation and have a checklist of features I look for. My main concern is security, but comfort and location fall in close behind.

For the budget savvy, hostels and out of town options are often first choice. However I’m never enthused by the idea of sharing a dorm with 20-something travelers and a night bus home after an evening meal doesn’t appeal, so until I discovered TrustedHousesitters I found I had to dedicate more of my budget to central accommodation options.

As a pet sitter I am offered free, home-from-home style accommodation and have the security of neighbors and friends to support me during my stay. I’ve also saved thousands on the cost of my trips, not only through the fact that I now stay for free in beautiful homes all over the world but also because I no longer find myself paying exorbitant prices for tourist-trap attractions; instead I’m taken to hidden gems by the locals I meet during my stay.

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Opt For a More Meaningful Itinerary

We all travel to get a better understanding of the world, to enrich our own lives, and add experiences to our Curriculum Vitaes, however I’ve found that in reality my travels are far more rewarding when I’m helping or enriching the lives of the people I meet.

Choose to donate your time to a charitable organization, teach, or directly benefit the local community while you’re away and more often than not you’ll find you’re soon connected to a network of like-minded people with whom you can spend time during your stay. You’ll also be rewarded with a more meaningful and enriching experience.

While pet sitting in Costa Rica I stepped into the shoes of the homeowner and took over her position as a voluntary veterinary nurse for a grass-roots animal charity. Spending my Saturdays spaying and neutering upwards of 100 animals I could see that my time there was having a direct impact on the community I was visiting.

I’ve also found that pet sitting itself offers similar rewards. Every time a pet owner returns home to an obviously happy and contented animal I feel a huge sense of satisfaction. The owner’s gratitude is worth far more than any fee I could have been paid to take on the same role.

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Feel Like a Local When You Travel

There’s nothing better than feeling like a local while in the places you visit, yet this can be a difficult task if you’ve only just arrived.

As a solo visitor there are a handful of things you can do to blend in; don’t walk around with a map or stand in the street looking lost, tailor your clothing to match local fashions and learning a few phrases in the local language can really help. However I think one of the most effective ways to look and feel like a resident is to head out and about with a dog.

While pet sitting in Australia I took to walking everywhere with the two dogs I was looking after. From our early morning constitutional along the local beach, to short trips into town for groceries, we were inseparable. And consequently not only did I feel like a local but I was treated like one! People would stop me in the street to ask for directions, cafe owners would engage me in conversation about local affairs, and other dog owners would approach me for a chat whilst out in the local park.

I never felt lonely and I certainly wasn’t without entertainment! So if you’re keen to make new friends and build your social network when you travel I highly recommend that you become a pet sitter. You’ll find you can easily explore new locations with confidence and will always be in good company with a pet by your side!

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