For an Ideal Retirement Overseas, Divide Your Time

You don’t need to limit yourself to a single location for retirement.

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There are many sunny, safe, and affordable places around the world to enjoy retirement. But what if you can’t choose among them? You don’t have to.

Retiring overseas doesn’t have to mean moving to and living full-time in any one place. The idea for retirement that my husband Lief and I have been cultivating is to spend three months of the year in each of four places: Paris, France; Medellin, Colombia; Istria, Croatia; and on the Pacific coast of Panama. We want to follow the seasons and to embrace very contrasting lifestyles—cosmopolitan, mountain, and beach—on an ongoing basis.

[See The 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Spots.]

Lief and I have been working toward this plan for more than 13 years, and we're probably 7 or 8 years away from realizing it in full. We aren't jet-setters. We're average people. We're just a little further along in our retire overseas process than you may be right now.

Having a lot of money isn't the secret to living the kind of part-time-here, part-time-there retirement life that we're imagining. To realize a lifestyle like this, what’s required is a sense of adventure, an appetite for discovery, and a plan. And we aren’t the only ones working toward this kind of perpetual retirement. Here are three other individuals and couples who are spending their retirement years in several different locations.

[See 18 Questions to Find an Ideal Retirement Spot.]

Uruguay and Brazil. Lee and Julie Harris are a couple of 50-somethings who move each year between residences they’ve established in Uruguay and Brazil. Lee retired young from a life in New York to build a new one in Cuenca, Ecuador. Lee and Julie enjoyed Cuenca, but what they really wanted was the beach life. They launched a search for the perfect beach that led them to Uruguay and then Brazil. Today, they divide their time between Punta del Este, Uruguay, and the northeast coast of Brazil.

Part-time Panama. George Sanders has chosen to base himself in Volcan Baru, in the highlands of Panama, where he enjoys a spring-like climate at a very low cost-of-living for six months a year. The rest of the year, Sanders travels the globe. Sanders retired from a Miami-Dade county government position in July 2010, after 33 years of employment. One month later, he flew to Panama City. Three months after that initial visit, he moved into a cabin in the mountains of Volcan Baru. Sanders’s plan is to use his new home in Volcan as a base, from which he can come and go and travel the world. He intends to spend six months each year somewhere else, as his imagination dictates.

[See 12 Overseas Retirement Spots Ranked.]

Two Mexican cities. Jonathan and Arleen Pacel divide their year between two very different retirement lifestyle options in Mexico: La Manzanilla del Mar, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and Lake Chapala, in the highlands. Jonathan and Arleen retired in 2003 at ages 54 and 53, respectively. Two years later, they moved to San Antonio Tlayacapan on Mexico’s Lake Chapala. They realized quickly that this was not a place where they wanted to live full-time. Mexicans like their fiestas, and, in this festival town, the fireworks blasted up to 16 hours a day for up to 15 days at certain times of the year. They now sublet their $320-per-month, two-bedroom house at Lake Chapala for 6½ months a year and spend that time at a house they purchased in La Manzanilla del Mar on Mexico’s Tenacatita Bay. “Around the middle of July, when the beach grows oppressively hot and humid, we head north to Chapala. We return during the off-season, which is our favorite,” says Jonathan. “We’ve found that, for us, this is the ideal life, splitting our time between the dolphins and whales of a gorgeous and pristine bay and the mountain waterfalls and beautiful expanse of the largest lake in Mexico.”

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.