Late Friday afternoon I made the trip across Paris from our office in Montmartre to CNN’s Paris Bureau studio on the Champs Élysées for a live interview.
“You’re speaking about living and owning real estate in Europe?” the producer confirmed as the crew was setting up the shot.
“Europe is your focus?” she wondered.
“In fact,” I explained, “we cover the whole world… but lately, thanks to a relatively weak euro, Europe has offered a window of opportunity for North Americans…”
Historically in these dispatches, we’ve given a lot of virtual ink to Latin America. That’s because it’s nearby to North America (from where most of our readers hail) and because it can be cheap and sunny… two things most would-be expats and retirees abroad actively seek.
But there’s a world beyond these Americas that can also offer good weather and a low cost of living… plus, in some cases, some things you won’t find in these Americas.
Asia boasts perhaps the most cost-friendly places anywhere to call home right now. Pockets of India and Vietnam, for example, can be absurdly cheap.
Living on this side of the planet, you’d also have access to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Your life would be full of the exotic, the unexpected, and the adventuresome. That is to say, the culture shock would be significant. For some, this reality is thrilling and invigorating… for others, intimidating, even terrifying.
In Asia, as well, you’d have a long plane ride between you and your family, friends, investments, and business concerns back home.
That’s why Asia can make a great part-time choice. Create a new-life-overseas plan for yourself that allows you to enjoy the benefits of Asia (super cheap and super exotic) during the best months of the year to be in that part of the world (outside monsoon season, for example).
How about three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where your retirement budget would stretch far indeed, followed by a few months in the south of France?
Which bring us to Europe. Most would-be expats and retirees abroad have long dismissed Europe as too expensive. In recent years, though, as we’ve been doing our best to highlight for you, the strong dollar has made this less true than it’s been in decades.
Plus, parts of the Old World are more affordable than you might ever imagine. We’ve lately been shining the spotlight on our two favorite budget-friendly corners of the Continent—Algarve, Portugal… and Abruzzo, Italy.
One of the big advantages of Europe, compared with other regional retire-overseas options, is the opportunity it affords for what a friend last week referred to as “high culture.”
Every country in the world has local culture, but not everywhere has world-class museums, opera, and live theater, for example. If you’re interested in a life that includes what are conventionally recognized as cultural offerings of the high-brow variety, look to the Continent.
Which is not to say it’s impossible to enjoy an Old World Continental lifestyle anywhere else. Some cities in South America offer a fair imitation—Buenos Aires, for example, and Medellín, Colombia, to name two. Both are cities of open-air cafés, classic-style museums and theaters, art galleries and antique shops.
And both, you’ll note, are in South America, not Central America. The differences between these two regions, even between Panama and Colombia, just next-door, can be striking. I’m speaking generally and could name exceptions to every point, but, again, generally speaking, South America offers what I’d call more polished options. Not everywhere. It’s possible, of course, to retreat to a lifestyle that’d qualify as modest, even basic, on this continent.
Central America, by contrast, is, everywhere, very rough around the edges. These are small, developing countries with nonexistent budgets for things like art museums.
Making for a way of life that is, for some, charming. Romantics (like me) in Central America focus on the potential for what could be rather than the reality of what sometimes is. Others find Central America frustrating, disappointing, even appalling.
Not everyone is cut out for life in the developing world. Identifying the right place for you to reinvent your life overseas is all about understanding the pluses and minuses of each spot you’re considering versus all the others on your list.
The very good news right now, as I reported in my interview Friday afternoon, is that the many pluses of Europe can be much more affordable than you might fear.
If it’s the Old World that captures your imagination, you owe it to yourself to take a closer look right now.