Investment Style and Active Adult Community

Billy, I saw your article regarding retirement and investing, pertaining to the 4% rule. I was wondering, you say its fairly simple to do your own investing for yourself, is the book a simple enough approach for the average guy to understand and apply without much risk?? I am not very interested in giving my broker 1% every quarter for the rest of my life. Please advise.

Thank you,

Chris  P.S. Where can I get a small house like yours in an adult community?

Hi Chris,

I understand about you not wanting to give your broker 1% per quarter when you can and should be doing this yourself. I address this in our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, and how we set up our portfolio back in the early 90’s when we retired.

Times have changed and so have we. We are now twenty years older and after going through the last/lost decade of returns, we are taking a more pro-active approach to our investments. Of course our plan is not for everyone and you need to define your risk tolerance. Your age and net worth should be part of this analysis.

You can do this yourself and your first step should be to read as much as you can. I am NOT talking about day trading, but educate yourself with any number of investment tools and how they interact. Besides our books, which by the way in The Possible Dream, 20 Years Later, we update our investment approach, I would suggest you take a look at Sy Harding’s interview. Write to him and tell him I sent you and he will send you a free copy of his newsletter. I respect his work. Sy keeps thing about as simple as you can get.

Active Adult Communities can be found all over the United States.

On our Housing Page you will find links to income tax friendly states, A Resource Page for Active Adult Community Living, Top Retirement Places and more.

It would help if you knew what you were looking for in terms of climate, size of town, and what is most important to you (entertainment options, what your cost of living preference would be, do you want to live in a university town, a country town, a larger city?). This narrows your search.

You can also Google Active Adult Communities and request information from most of the sites that come up and they will send it to your home. Or research their site online.

It starts with knowing what you want, what is most important to you, what your financial outlay can be, whether or not you want to own the land or lease it, and those sorts of things. Go from there.

I hope this information is useful to you. Feel free to write any time.

Best regards,


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A Reader’s Commentary on Health Care in the U.S.

Hi guys,

I’ve been meaning to write to you since I read your piece on medical care in Guatemala.  Interestingly, I never considered Guatemala as a place to visit or spend a few months in until I read your piece.

My elderly mother, 87, has a fair number of medical conditions to deal with.  Last July she started having chest pains and a rapid heartbeat followed by a very slow heartbeat.  I called the EMT and they took her to the ER.  They released her and two days later the pains returned and this time she was admitted into the hospital.  After a few tests the cardiologists determined she needed a pacemaker and some meds to keep the heart from racing.

Okay, not so terrible.

Going to the hospital can be a traumatic event

She was there for nine days in what I thought was a normal room with nothing to indicate any special level of care. In fact, my mother and I found her care to be quite sub-standard and at times abusive.

To learn about health insurance options, private, national and international, click here.

I actually had a huge fight with a PA on the floor when she refused to attend to my mother when the alarm connected to her heart sounded for ten minutes.  I begged her to look at what was happening and she told me the nurse would do that.  The nurse wasn’t there and my mother’s heart was racing to over 160 bpm.  I screamed for help and the PA (Physician’s Assistant)told me she would call the guards to have me thrown out of the hospital.

Needless to say I wasn’t going to take that nonsense.

I called the CEO’s office of the hospital.  They promised me someone would come down to talk to me and although that never happened, they did switch PAs and the care was a bit better.

My mother has dysphagia, a swallow disorder and despite the signs above her bed warning that she needed all liquids to be thickened, she and I had to fight to get the thickening agent at her bedside.  They grudging gave her one or two little packets a day and when I asked for more they told me there was none available on the floor.  I suggested they call the dietary department to ask for more, but that was met with glaring and hostile remarks.

Pills, pills, pills

I’m telling you this story because when we got the bill from the hospital stating she owes a deductible of $350, the bill was itemized.  Apparently she was supposedly in an intensive care unit (I never saw any indication of that) and the cost of the room alone was $9,000 a day.  The total cost of the nine day stay was $170,000 and from what I’ve been told the cost of the insertion (a separate bill from the doctor’s office) was around $30,000, for a total of approximately $200,000.00.

I can tell you this is not an isolated incident.

For access to a health library, or to learn about nutrition, prevention and wellness click here.

 I’ve been caring for my two elderly and very sick parents for seven years now and my father was hospitalized many times when he was alive and my mother has been in hospital every year for the past few years, sometimes twice a year.  I suspect their medical bills easily topped a million, maybe more.

I can honestly say for the most part the care in all of those hospitals ranged from decent to substandard to downright abusive and neglectful.  The actual medical care was pretty good in all of those hospitalizations although sometimes I had to laugh when they suggested certain treatments.

Once a cardio guy called me to say he wanted to put a pacemaker into my father.  I asked him why he would consider doing that to a man in the end stages of Alzheimer’s.  He hung up on me and told my father’s doctor I was hostile and refused the pacemaker.

Once a psychiatrist called me from the hospital to say he had spoken to my father and he was hostile, uncooperative, and obviously had psychological problems.  I asked him if he knew my father was in end stages of Alzheimer’s and perhaps that was the problem.  He wasn’t pleased with my question and again reported to dad’s primary care doctor I was also hostile and uncooperative.

To find international dentists, clinics or Johns Hopkins affiliates, click here.

So, when I read your article about Guatemala and your experiences with the medical care system it led me to another path I might consider.  Mom is relatively stable now (after another horrible medical problem caused by hospital staff that almost killed her two weeks ago) and she wants to get out of here ASAP. Our finances are not so good, but I think we could easily afford to live comfortably in Guatemala to hang out, veg out and think about our next moves.

Health care delivery affects us all

It’s become impossible for me to think clearly here.  I’m stressed out and upset all the time.  I think we’ll try to get our lives here wrapped up as much as possible and head for Antigua so I can perfect my Spanish and hang out a little while.

Thank you for your great articles.  Believe me, I blocked them all out because of wanting to go elsewhere until I read the medical care piece.

Warm regards,



Want to know about bio-nutrition, Naturopathic Doctors, sports medicine, preventative care or leading edge medical approaches? Click here.

Hi Ellen,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We always appreciate hearing from our Readers.Your first-hand stories about caring for your aging parents sound uncomfortably similar to some of the experiences we had of hospital stays and doctor care in the States, either for ourselves, siblings or for our own parents who have since passed on.

It is my firm belief that someone in the States who is receiving serious medical care needs a health care advocate to navigate them through the system. This was the position I found myself in more often than not. I would be sure my loved one received adequate attention in their hospital stay, I monitored the pharmaceuticals they were being administered, I accompanied them in their follow up appointments with the doctors, took notes, asked questions, picked up their prescriptions and waded through the massive paperwork from insurance and hospital offices that followed.

In our experience, the questions we asked doctors about the medications loved ones were receiving or the procedures that were recommended to them were not always received openly but were sometimes taken as an attack on their job performance. This was not our intention and I understand that doctors are often not questioned. However, neither Billy nor I are blind followers and we want to know what is going on around us and we deserve an explanation for care that we are paying for. We research side effects of medications and consider alternative approaches to health conditions. We have found that US doctors normally don’t look kindly on this involvement.

Patients unite for better care!

We have spent a good deal of time out of the U.S. and have therefore received medical attention in various places around the globe. These occurrences have afforded us a different perspective on receiving the “care” part of the health care equation. We are grateful for that perspective as it has solidified options for us. Instead of feeling that we have no choice but to pay exorbitant prices and deal with annoying attitudes, we know that we can receive quality care given by human beings to other human beings in a compassionate environment.

You mentioned moving to Guatemala. That would be an enormous change for you and your mother if neither of you have traveled before. However, that being said, there are numerous places in Latin America where one could live comfortably, regroup, get involved in the local expat and indigenous activities and allow yourself to enjoy your life without the intense focus of becoming bankrupt over receiving reasonably good health care. Guatemala has been advertising Medical Tourism options but of course, Mexico has good quality care also. We have friends who rave about Argentina, Chile and Columbia.

You may want to take a look at our Medical Tourism Page and see what appeals to you. There are some excellent companies listed there.

Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you and of course we wish you and your family the very best.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.



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Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected” Laws

As Angela has demonstrated, there are lots of reasons to house sit if you would like to add travel to your retirement lifestyle. Take advantage of what she knows by reading her points below.

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

Save $$$$

I’m not a cheap traveler. I like my luxuries too much and I don’t mind admitting it.

When I tell friends “Yes, I’ve camped,” it’s out of ear shot of my daughter. She always pipes up with, “Camp! A four poster bed, carpet and hot shower!”

Well, it WAS a tent, I assure you. I’m no prima donna – I’ve lived in many challenging places around the world, made do and survived, but I these days I want five star accommodations on a budget.

House sitting provides exactly that with no nasty bills on check out!

Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground info here.

No overcrowded holiday resorts

The kinds of resorts I want to stay in are painfully expensive. I don’t want crowds either. I’ve raised my children and don’t wish to holiday with the children of other people. No, I’m not a grumpy old woman, just a mature woman with a hearing level that’s very sensitive. I love a good party but like to go out to find it, not have it thrust upon me, especially when I’m trying to read a book or sleep.

House sitting gives me the choice to go out to find entertainment or to stay at home and enjoy my peace and quiet.

A house sit job in France

No Going “Home” to the Children

Do your children want you to come home to their houses? As much as we love them and they us, couple of days or even a weekend is great but longer… I think not. We get house sits near them and it’s great. We get to stay as long as we like and we don’t have to share anything we don’t want to; beds, bathrooms, kitchens, remote controls… What’s really good is, with the home owners’ permission, we can entertain them all, even look after the grandchildren, but we get to send them home when it’s time.

House sitting ticks all these boxes – we get to see our children and still maintain our privacy and quiet.

Sharing wonderful pets

We love animals and choose house sits where precious pets need us. What better way to spend time than giving TLC to pets who are missing their beloved humans and giving peace of mind to their absent owners? No need to go to the boring gym either. Three walks a day with a four legged companion is much more entertaining. It’s doggy soup for the soul. If you visit my website you can see some of the lovely pets I’ve shared my time and joy with.

House sitting brings animal joy into my life and I love that.

Pets add to the feeling of being at home

Making new friends

Home owners start out as “Clients” and invariably become friends. This is a really great way to connect with like-minded people. The world of house sitting is a growing community and embraces everyone who “moves in.” I speak both as a sitter and home owner who engages sitters from all corners of the world. I’ve made wonderful life-long friends through house sitting. When you’re a more mature nomad, making friends is sometimes more difficult.

House sitting opens both hearts and minds and making new friends isn’t optional.

Rewarding new “Career”

I’m a frustrated Professional. “Professional what?” you ask. Well, I’m professional at everything I do. I may be 60-something but I feel 21. My brain’s not caught up with my body yet! Like most people, I need to feel excited, motivated, useful, and still be able to contribute. Like most, I have the need and desire to use this amazing amount of knowledge, experience and skill I have doing something worthwhile.

House and pet sitting is my new career! I love it! In fact I love it so much, I’d do it for free – which of course is what I do – and, yes, I’m excellent at it. I approach each new sit as a professional would. My home owners deserve nothing less.

House sitting gives me “job satisfaction.”

Amazing choice of properties and locations

Wherever or whenever you want/need to go, you’ll find house sitting opportunities available. Any and every kind of accommodation is offered and any and every length of stay, from two or three days to a year or more. Just browse the listings.

All different sorts of houses and in many countries

House sitting provides the most amazing travel opportunities, all year round.

Deluxe Self-Catering

Imagine your home in a suitcase unpacked at the other end! Better still imagine your home is waiting for you at the other end. You can still cook, or not, do laundry, or not, barbeque, or not, have your own bedroom if you want. Freedom to do exactly what you want to do, freedom to go to a restaurant, because you want to and not because you have to.

House sitting is self-catering at its very best.

Explore local lifestyles

They say the best way to learn a language is to live in the country. The same applies to learning about a different town, city, country, or culture. The best way is to live in it. You don’t find “real” in the confines of a resort complex.

House sitting offers you the opportunity to become a “local.”

Save $$$$

Back to number one. No hotel bills, apartment or villa rentals, very often no expensive car rental. No overpriced restaurant food and the list goes on. My husband and I are retirees on a fixed income and house sitting is the only way we can travel as often and as far as we do.

Last year we traveled for seven and a half months across three oceans and on four continents all from the money we saved on accommodation, eating out, car rentals and more.

House sitting allows us to indulge in our passion for travel and we’ll keep on doing it until we have to hang up our House sitters hats.

Related Articles:

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Traveling? Find Someone to Look after Your Home and Pets Cost-Free

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Travel Tips and Insight, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Packing Tips

Hi Akaisha and Billy,

As always, I enjoy your regular reports. We just returned from a trip to the Philippines, Thailand & Japan – not spending nearly enough time in any place. It was a great experience, but due (primarily) to the travel time and travel cost to and from the USA, we still think Mexico/Ajijic is our favorite retirement option.

Having just dragged a large suitcase and heavy backpack (each) through three countries. I would be interested to see how much you carry with you as you travel from one country to the next. I assume you’ve found ways to minimize what you carry. Any packing tips for our future travels would be appreciated.

Thanks, George

 Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground info here

Hi George,

Always great to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Yes, the travel time and expense to get to Asia from the U.S. is a deterrent, especially if one only stays a couple of months. That is one of the reasons when we go to the other side of the globe, we like to stay a year or more. This amortizes the cost of the plane fare over a longer period and we don’t have to worry about dealing with jet lag twice in such a short time.

Plus, once over to the Pacific Rim, there are so many fascinating countries to visit all within reasonable flying time. It’s easy to spend a year having so many options.

That being said, you are correct to say that Mexico/Ajijic offers a lot and is so much closer to the States. We love the Lake Chapala area also.

Now in regards to what we pack and how we limit what we carry, in our first book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, we listed every item that we carry, and divided it into categories such as clothing, digital office, kitchen, first aid, and such. You can check out Chapter 22 for a more detailed list.

On trips of a year or more, we generally each carry a Kelty backpack, a day pack and a rollie. For shorter trips, we forego the rollie.

Obviously, having to pack for different climates (mountains, rain, snow, mist along with hot, humid, beach areas) adds to one’s weight to carry. We try to only do one sort of climate at a time. Otherwise, you are carrying heavy weight pants, sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, etc. to the beach and beach gear, shorts, and such with you to the mountains.

Color coordination and layering helps. Bring clothes that work together so that you are not carrying so many options. Plan on doing some laundry when you are traveling, instead of bringing all different outfits. Women can carry scarves and lightweight jewelry to change the look of an outfit they have previously worn.

Watch the number of shoes you decide to take. Shoes are incredibly heavy, so always wear your bulkiest pair on the plane. Try to bring only one other pair if you are able.

Jeans are favored by a lot of people, but they, too, are heavy and in cold, damp weather they take a long time to dry. Better to utilize some of the newer, lighter materials for travel clothing.

Hope this short list of tips helps and thanks for keeping in touch.

All the best,

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Traveling? Find Someone to Look after Your Home and Pets Cost-Free

Guest post by Rachel Martin of 

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

An old conundrum

Planning a vacation or a longer trip away can throw up a few dilemmas.  Leaving your home empty could be a security issue and if you have pets, who will care for them?  Traditionally, homeowners would either leave their home empty putting their cats and dogs in kennels/catteries or pay for expensive house sitting services. However, today there is a more ideal solution. You can find a trusted house sitter – free of charge – who is willing to care for your home and pets while you are away, no matter if you leave for short or long periods of time.

Win-win solution offers hundreds of experienced house sitters who are happy to house sit in your area, with no charge to you.  It’s a win-win solution. The homeowner gets peace of mind knowing home and pets are cared for, and the house sitter gets a free retreat and the chance to love pets as if they were their own.

As a home and pet owner, there are stressful pet concerns and housing costs that you can’t ignore even if you leave on vacation.

House sitting is a win for the home owner and a win for the sitter

Pet stress

According to British Veterinary Surgeon Katie Blackburn, taking pets out of their home environment can be traumatic for both owners and pets, and it is well-documented that pets prefer to remain in their natural environment rather than in kennels. Cats in particular can get highly stressed when out of their natural environment, especially when put in close proximity to other cats. Having a house sitter will ensure that you’ll return to calm and contented pets.

Even if you do take pets to kennels, this can be a costly venture and can expose them to unwanted illnesses such as kennel cough. Sometimes finding an ideal kenneling facility locally can be a challenge.

Home security

Whether you live in Mexico, Costa Rica, the USA or anywhere else in the world, leaving your home empty can expose it to burglars. Having a house sitter is a great deterrent, and if your pets are staying at home, this can prove to be an impediment to thieves too.

Depending on where you live, insurance coverage can be void if you leave your home empty for 30 days or more.

For travel guides, tips, photos, packing lists, travel insurance and more click here

Home maintenance

Who will look after your plants and garden? Both indoor and outdoor plants are at risk of withering away if left without water for anything more than a few days. If you have a lawn that needs attention, it doesn’t take long before the grass grows and provides a natural advertisement to potential burglars that your home is empty.

Having a house sitter is also a perfect solution for keeping your second home in good condition. If your cottage or vacation home is left unattended for long periods of time, do you really want to spend your vacation time cleaning the house and maintaining your garden when you really just want to relax?

If you have a pet or love pets, this option is for you

Why impose on family or friends?

It used to be that you could ask a neighbor, a friend, or a family member to look after your home when you go away. But sometimes this can be an imposition, especially if you want to be gone for longer than a week or two. Having a person committed to caring for your home and pets enables you to come home to a spotless house, a happy pet and, more often than not, dinner waiting for you so you don’t have to cook after a long journey!

With a trusted house sitter, home maintenance issues – anything  from burst pipes to the air conditioner breaking down – can be dealt with efficiently so you can return to a fully functioning home with no surprise maintenance problems. This can make your entrance home from vacation a seamless event.

Choose your sitter or become one

Having to pay traditional style house sitting agencies can cost anything from $50-100 per day to look after your home and pets. Trustedhousesitters not only offers sitters that don’t charge, but you get to choose your sitter too.

Profiles of many experienced house sitters, including veterinary staff, retired police, magistrates, animal rescue centre workers, medics, retired FBI special agents and air force personnel as well as retired professionals keen to look after homes and pets to save on the cost of vacation accommodation are all available on site.

Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground info here

Hundreds of retirees who are happy to house sit long term may be looking for a cost effective way to enjoy their vacation time while you are looking for a dependable and experienced house sitter while you enjoy your own travels.

Homeowners can securely advertise and search for house sitters, read reviews from other house sitting assignments and relevant pet sitting experience. They can also view references, photos, video profiles and police check information to help give peace of mind.

House sitting provides a great solution for anyone needing to find an ideal sitter when they go away – they are also a fantastic resource for finding a wonderful and ideal retreat worldwide – the chance to visit a region or country that you may not have considered going to before.

We love the opportunity to care for people’s pets, as if they were our own.  It offers us a chance to live somewhere different, be part of a community and live like a local rather than the usual uninspiring hotel room.  It’s an added bonus to us to have pets to love, as we no longer have our own and the emotional attachment we develop gives us so much joy.  When we leave an assignment we always ensure there are fresh flowers in every room and Val prepares a wonderful meal for the owner’s return. – Ed and Val, seasoned sitters

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Lodging and Local Happenings in Panajachel

Hi Akaisha and Bill

Enjoyed reading about your very pleasant-sounding stay on Lake Atitlan.

Would be interested to know about your living situation. Are you renting an apartment for this long stay? Is that easy to do there? Would you mind revealing how much you pay per month, and also if finding somewhere to live for a few months that has an internet connection is difficult. Thanks for any information on all this.

I’d love to hear how the expat community (and you?) are involved in local happenings!

My husband and I will be starting our world travels, open end, as of January 2013. (Exciting and a little scary too…………..)

Thanks for your help.

Stay well


Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground experience here.

Hi Regina,

Thanks for taking the time to write. We appreciate it.

Lodging is easy to find here at Lake Atitlan. We are living in Panajachel and hotels, homes, and apartments are all available. It depends on what style of living you would prefer.

Other towns around the lake (each with their own distinct personality) also offer lodging of various sorts and you can find this information posted – usually at restaurants, cafe’s, and certain sundry stores. Or just ask around. Everyone is interested in renting out a unit to someone.

Pana offers natural beauty and social engagement

Apartments can run from $250USD a month to $800 a month + and homes are a bit higher – from $350 to $1,000 month +. Some include furniture, some don’t, but most will require you to pay for utilities and internet. Several hotels will allow you to live full time or for months on end and can provide you with an affordable monthly rate. Depending on the hotel, it can run $200 to $500++ per month. Some hotels will give you access to cooking facilities. These hotels and other accommodation are available all around the lake.

The positive about living out of a hotel room is that most will supply wifi connection, Cable TV, maid service and of course your linens. Some apartments and homes will require you to provide your own linens and your own cable connection and wifi. Dongles (a thumb-drive satellite internet connection) are available here and that will cost you about $100 a month, or you can visit an internet cafe.

Many places (hotels included) have lovely views of gardens, the volcanoes or the lake.

Gardens and pool are offered at this hotel

I can’t imagine being bored here at Lakeside. “Local happenings” include live jazz, salsa, and Latin music, indigenous cultural events, parades and markets among other things. Some expats start their own businesses producing honey, locally made coffee, or they open a cafe, a restaurant, a small specialty grocery store or an import/export business selling the high quality Maya weavings or beadwork.

Opportunities for volunteer work runs the gamut and is incredibly interesting. There are those who are working with the Maya midwives around the lake and are teaching the young midwives a combination of Maya healing techniques along with Western medicine nursing approaches. Teaching English as a second language, or helping to install solar coffee bean driersfor the indigenous, teaching locals about sanitation practices, or helping to install purified water systems or solar light bulbs to villages are all projects that are useful and satisfying.

Cross the lake for a different perspective

If volunteer work is appealing to you, this is an area of interest and a location where you can make your own mark because the need is great here. One young couple has a small organic farm from which they sell their vegetables and teach classes on sustainability.

Turning Trash into Beauty explains a volunteer training program to teach literacy and financial management to mothers in Guatemala City. While this one particular project is based in Antigua, the idea could be utilized anywhere there is a town or city garbage dump.

All of the above are only examples and there are dozens more.

I hope you find the information which I have offered you here to be of interest. Good luck, and do keep in touch.


Pana will offer you peace and projects

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Housing, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Q & A From our Readers, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Is the Best Place to Retire?

Hi !

I would like to know which location do you consider to be the best place to retire early as being a healthy, quiet, cheap, quite warm temperature and sunny place … basically I am not sure where to start … I have heard about Vilcabamba …

Thank you !

Best regards,


Hi Jean-Marc,

Your question is a good one.

We have found that the places with the most consistent temperate climate seem to be the ones at high altitude in tropical latitudes. Take a look at our Relocation Page and you will find several Expat websites which give you direct access to those who are already living in various locations around the world. You can join these forums and ask them questions about the cities and towns they would personally recommend from first hand experience.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador is a lovely place – a smaller town more like a neighborhood – with a focus on nature, spa activity and with a 1970’s feel.

Panajachel and the Lake Atitlan, Guatemala area would also fall into the category of sunny climate (especially during the dry season) with a small town feel and with lots of different perspectives depending on which town around the lake you would prefer to live.

San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico is another international type of place with plenty to do and, except for a few months during the winter where it does get cold (about 40-50 degrees and sometimes rain), it is a beautiful and convenient location.

There are relocation websites (also on our Relocation Page) where you can answer a questionnaire about what matters to you the most: climate, size of town, availability of libraries, culture, fine dining, etc.) and then they come up with suggested towns and cities that fit that description. They might have an international section, but for sure, they will give you a list of North American options.

The most important thing is to know what you are looking for and what matters the most to you. The second thing is to know what you are willing to trade off in order to have most of what you want in a retirement location.

I hope you find this information useful.

Please feel free to write any time and let us know how things are going for you.

All the best,

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Identifying Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Hi Billy and Akaisha,

I admire your free spirit, and hope to travel in Latin America someday.

One thing that concerns me is reports of apparently friendly people in Latin America who turn out to be surprisingly evil. For example, there’s “Wild Bill Cortez” and his wife, Americans who befriended people, then killed them, took their belongings, and took over their properties. (Stealing Paradise)

And Javier Martin, who became friends with Don North, after Don rescued Javier after his boat sank in a storm. Javier later killed Don for his property and money, and also killed a French boat owner for his property. (Dark Side of Paradise)

I know bad things happen everywhere, including the US, but with the social support of friends and family, we have a little more resources for dealing with some of these situations, compared to being in an unfamiliar location and at the mercy of strangers. I also recognize that the majority of native Latin Americans, as well as expats are goodhearted peopled. Do you all have any suggestions about how to identify these wolves in sheep’s clothing?


Find great retirement spots, learn about retirement overseas, aging in place, women in community.

Hi Joan,

Your questions are excellent ones and we thank you for taking the time to write.

We are familiar with both of those stories, the one about Wild Bill and the one about Javier Martin. In fact, a few nights ago we just watched the TV story about Don North being killed by Javier.

Several years ago I read a book by Gavin de Becker called The Gift of Fear.

Mr. De Becker takes the position that violence isn’t just ‘random’ and that clues and access to information which can prevent us from becoming a victim is available to us beforehand. He explains that caution is different than fear, with fear actually being a gift that can save our lives. He explains how gut instinct is much different than an over-active imagination.

The information in this book is good, solid advice to use anywhere, including your own home town.

A very high percentage of victims of violence will admit that they knew ‘something wasn’t right’ or that they felt strangely before violence struck. They shushed themselves up and went ahead into the dangerous situation anyway. In other words, we as human animals ‘know’ but often don’t take our warning signs seriously.

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Violence doesn’t normally happen to someone who looks confident, or appears to know where they are going and walks with a purpose. Perpetrators look for someone who is distracted or lost, seems weak, has their purse, money bag or belongings helter-skelter while they are looking at a map. They could have their hands full and generally they appear worried or look down at the sidewalk when they walk. Criminals seek the weak not the strong.

If you are lost or trying to get your bearings, step inside a building and gather yourself, then go back onto the street.

Distraction or desperation brings with it a high probability for trouble. Walk confidently and with a destination in mind. Give the impression of being self-possessed when you are traveling and walking around in unfamiliar locations.

Desperados don’t want trouble, they want an easy take.

In most situations, using common sense is … well… common sense.

Keep a low profile, avoid being loud or argumentative, and if you meet friends at a bar, don’t get so looped that you can’t find your way back home. Too much alcohol consumption contributes to situations we call ’leaving your brains at the border.’ Keep a certain ’situational awareness’ about yourself at all times. This situational awareness is probably your #1 defense mechanism – that, and how your gut feels about anyone you meet, no matter how nice they seem to be.

When complete strangers get overly chummy or street or beach vendors ask politely ‘Where are you from? Where are you staying? Where did you have dinner?” realize that these people want to know this information for a reason. Vendors (and criminals) have years of experience sizing up tourists in order to see if you are a good target or estimate what price they might be able to extract from you for their goods – they are not ‘just being friendly’. When you divulge too much information about yourself, your whereabouts and what kind of money you may be carrying, you are clearly asking for trouble.

If you travel dripping of jewels, yielding loads of cash, staying in high end resorts with a false sense of security, brandishing an attitude and generally not aware of the impression you are giving to poorer locals or those with mal-intent, you are setting yourself up to be a target for theft or worse.

Remember, in most circumstances you are not at the mercy of a stranger. You make decisions every day with confidence. Be willing to use all of your abilities — the rational, conscious mind as well as the subconscious mind which picks up hundreds of clues and thousands of bits of information in seconds, processing them more quickly than the rational mind is able to do.

Do not be taken in by a stranger in strange circumstances. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a duck. Politely and quickly disengage yourself from the situation and get out of harm’s way.

Violence and the unexpected can happen anywhere, including your own home city, with or without your loved ones being nearby.

Put things into perspective, trust your abilities and enjoy your life wherever you are.

Thanks again for taking the time to write, and I hope you find these tips and the insight I have offered to be useful.

Stay well, and keep in touch.


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Installing Solar Coffee Bean Driers – Guatemala

Bored in retirement? Enjoy this guest post by Ben Etnier who helped install solar coffee bean driers at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for the local Maya coffee workers. Mix adventure with helping others.

Our first day

Breakfast was served to us at 7:30 a.m. by Erma, the wife of Rufino, and her sister.  It is common practice for the Maya women to be service oriented, and these two sisters cooked us breakfast and lunch on every day except for Sunday. The days we worked in Godinez, supper was provided for us when we returned home.

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After eating, we began to assemble both ourselves and our equipment. To begin making the solar driers, we needed to take the lids off hundreds of 12 ounce soda cans that had been collected by our host, Rufino, and his family.  It takes 289 cans per solar panel and we were making two panels. Right away we found out that these aluminum cans were not the same as we have in the States.  It seemed like almost every can was different and this part of the project proved to be a bit more work than we anticipated.

Solar Coffee Drier 4

Soda cans in tight rows and columns

A glimpse into the future?

The best part about opening the cans was to see Jonathon and Carlos, Rufino’s children, interact with us and wanting to help.  We were so happy to see the children interested in our project!!  Our entire group from Illinois Central College knows that it’s the children who need to be taught, and they are the ones who need to take a hold of our concepts and implement them as they grow older.

At this point we volunteers split into two groups. One worked on opening cans, while the other began to assemble the 4 ft. x 8 ft. solar panel frame to hold them.  The wood here in Guatemala is harder, more crooked and more brittle than the kiln-dried wood we are used to in the States, so because of this, we had to make some adaptations to our frame.

Solar Coffee Drier 2

Completed panels side by side

By the end of the first day we were able to have one panel frame constructed and accomplish a good start on the aluminum can columns.  We will need 17 rows with 17 soda cans per row, painted flat black. Feeling good about the progress made, at this point we were looking forward to another day closer to assembling our panels.

Little did we know what was only a few hours away.

Mother Nature brings a glitch

The morning of day two brought about a windstorm carrying 54 mph sustained winds and knocked out the power in several villages around the lake for 36 hours.  Because we couldn’t use the electricity to cut the wood needed to make our second panel, we couldn’t assemble our cans and paint them.

We didn’t expect this glitch from Mother Nature but decided to make the most of our down time. Since we are in coffee country after all, why not take a trip up to the coffee Co-op and investigate the drying process already in place? These local Maya workers would have knowledge regarding the agriculture here, and that information would help us in creating a better finished product.

A commercial operation

We were able to see the system that is already in place and were elated that it was so efficient.   The locals were very eager to share their knowledge with us about the coffee bean drying process and took the time to explain in detail the procedure from beginning to end.  The manager of this commercial coffee operation has been schooled in agriculture and in speaking with him, that education was very evident.

The manager and his staff of 10 take the wet coffee bean inside a cherry-like shell to a dried product ready to be roasted. The beans are placed on a concrete patio and the workers rake the coffee every 30 minutes by hand throughout the day to rotate them. With dry weather, this drying process can be completed in 6 days.

How the solar panels make a difference

The solar panels we were installing were for the benefit of the smaller Maya farmers. With these panels they are able to dry the coffee beans themselves before they send them to be processed at the above mentioned facility. Having the solar panels to dry their beans saves the smaller farmer money. He does not have to purchase fuel for a diesel powered drying machine nor do they have to pay the large Co-op to do the drying for them.

Solar Coffee Drier 3

Fan directs heat from solar panel to chamber

Rufino and other small farmers were excited to have this new idea. With a little more working time and a bit more instruction on the project, this would be an easily transferable skill to other workers.

Related Posts:

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Turning Trash Into Beauty


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A Reader Asks About Volunteering in Chiang Mai

Hi Akaisha and Billy,

We’ve spoken in the past and I’ve found your encouragement and information valuable. While I’ve moved to San Miguel de Allende, I’m currently exploring SE Asia. I find myself in Chiang Mai, enjoying the city but, after Vietnam, a little tired of the tourist routine. 

I recalled some photos you had of working at a nearby village with children. Could provide contact information for a person or organization there? I’ve seen some listings in which you pay several hundred dollars a week for the privilege, but I’m really just wanting to contribute a little bit during the next couple of weeks. I could tutor English — or whatever.


Hi Dan!
GREAT to hear from you again! As you know we love Asia. Surely hope you are having a good time checking things out. Did you find someone to watch your much loved canine companion while you are on the road?

RE: volunteering in Thailand…  We never went through a group or organization – we always did things on the fly or as we saw the need. However, you could do several things:

Check out the Chiang Mai Expats Club and see if they have a project going on where you could join in or contribute.

Contact Hugh Leong of Retire 2 Thailand and ask him what is happening with any kind of volunteer projects. Hugh has lived in Thailand for some years and is married to a Thai – so he would probably have some inside scoop. If you would like an email introduction, just let me know and I’ll do that for you.

Speaking of email introductions, I know of 2 other gentlemen who live in Thailand full time and who are great conversationalists, musicians, writers and such… if you would like email introductions to them, just let me know and I’ll do that right away. They’ll answer any questions you have about living in Thailand and specifically, CMai.

Also, you could go to any Wat and see if there are projects you could get involved in or go to any school and volunteer your time. There are 2 prisons in Cmai – a men’s and a women’s prison — and my experience in that category is that these people are starved for conversation, interaction and any kind of training that you could give.

For the women’s prison, I gave material and patterns for the women to make things and then they sell those things for extra spending money for toothpaste, combs, shampoo or snacks…

This should keep you busy for a little while. Let me know if you have any other questions or would like any introductions.

Best of luck and have a great time there in Asia.

Thanks for staying in touch,

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