David and Alexandra Landis researched the idea of retiring overseas for over a dozen years. But they just couldn’t bring themselves to take the leap. The idea of selling everything they owned in the United States and abandoning their current lifestyle completely scared them. Then they realized something. An abrupt change wasn’t their only option. They could become part-time retirees abroad and still maintain a place in the States.
Not only was this idea much less intimidating, but, for David and Alexandra, it was a more cost-effective strategy. The couple has worked to organize their lives so that they’re able to travel overseas three or four times a year, typically for two or three-week periods.
In each place, they rent a little apartment and try to experience living there as a native. It’s a lifestyle that allows them diversity and adventure and a safety net. “In some places where we’ve spent time, we have noticed important negative changes,” says David. “As much as we enjoyed our time there, we’re glad we didn't buy and settle in full-time.”
Step one was to sell their big home in the States. They got rid of their vehicles too. David and Alexandra downsized to a 1,400-square-foot condominium overlooking a lake in Winter Haven, Fla. Their U.S. home base is in a gated community, so they don’t worry when they’re away for extended stays abroad. They also don’t have to keep a car because they live within walking distance of shopping and restaurants.
A 500-bed hospital is seven minutes by car from their door. “We are getting older, and I can’t imagine getting sick or incapacitated living full-time in Central or South America,” says David. “I know many have done it, but, for me, it would be a nightmare.” David and Alexandra’s home in Winter Haven is also only 40 minutes away from Orlando International airport. This allows them to come and go from their overseas retirement adventures easily and often.
These are all good reasons why the couple chose this part of Florida as their U.S. base. Another is the cost of real estate. In the wake of the collapse of housing prices in this state, condos in this area are now selling in the $40,000 to $90,000 range. And there’s plenty of updated inventory to choose from.
Relocating to a place like Winter Haven and going on regular adventures in Central and South America, Europe, or Asia can be the ideal way to enjoy the benefits of a retirement overseas, without actually retiring overseas. Your life can become richer, more interesting, and even more affordable overseas. But you can return home anytime you want.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.