The decision to quit our jobs, rent out our two homes, sell our cars, and give our children most of our furniture so we could relocate to the Dominican Republic puzzled and stunned our family and friends.
Perhaps my wife Katherine and I are becoming real adventurous… or, maybe, as some have suggested, we have simply lost our minds.
Whatever the reason, the die has been cast. Since August 2015, we have been making the Dominican Republic our home and teaching English our occupation.
Certainly it has not been a perfect transition, but any difficulties have been offset by the Caribbean breezes, the almost constant blue skies, and the genuine warmth of the Dominican people.
Like many before us, we were lured to this beautiful island by frequent vacations to the tropical paradise of Punta Cana. We could easily see ourselves enjoying our later years in such a setting.
However, when we made our move, we decided to base ourselves in Santo Domingo, at least to start. We felt that the capital city, the cultural and business center of this country, would be the ideal location for getting the lay of the land and exploring all the options this country offers for retirement living. We’ve been able to visit many fantastic beach towns, including Samaná, Las Terrenas, Juan Dolio, and Cabarete.
The island is small enough to make travel anywhere convenient but large enough so we don’t think we’ll fall prey to island fever like others we’ve known living on smaller Caribbean islands.
The DR is unique in its geography for this part of the world. The central part of the island has lovely mountains, scenic rivers, and many waterfalls. And all of these natural attractions are only a short drive away from white-water rafting, kiteboarding, fishing excursions, and afternoons enjoying ice-cold Presidente beer beneath a coconut tree.
Before the Dominican Republic, my wife and I lived in South Carolina, where we were blessed with a favorable climate. We had to endure the occasional thunderstorm, some snow once every few years, and a hurricane every decade or so.
Here in the DR the weather has been the best I have ever experienced. No need to watch the weather report. Practically every morning brings blue skies and that glorious Caribbean breeze. Daytime temperatures are 75 to 80 degrees year-round. No need to bring your winter clothes.
In the rainy season, we have evening showers several times a week and a brief daytime shower once or twice a week. It makes it easy to plan outdoor activities or to go for a long walk or pleasant jog.
We’re particularly happy to be here this time of year. How nice to be able to have lunch in January at one of the many outdoor cafés.
We love the convenience of the colmados, the neighborhood corner stores found on almost every block. Not only do they stock almost anything you might need, but they will deliver it right to your front door for no extra charge.
Should you need one more egg while cooking, have a sudden craving for chocolate ice cream, or have unexpected company and realize you need another bottle of rum or a few more beers, all you have to do is pick up the phone and in a few short minutes your order is at your door.
Many of the other stores and restaurants here, including U.S. chains like TGI Fridays and KFC, also deliver.
Some of our family and friends have worried about our safety, and my wife and I realize that our lack of Spanish fluency could make us easy targets for being taken advantage of.
I’m pleased to be able to report, to you as well as to our family back home, that, as yet, nothing like this has been the case. We have been treated with nothing but kindness and consideration. Most everyone we’ve met seems sincerely to want us to be happy in their country. They go out of their way to help us any way possible.
This move would have been a lot more difficult a few decades ago.
Our biggest misgiving in pursuing this adventure was knowing how much we would miss family and friends. This has been eased by the technology now available in the DR. For US$48 a year we have MagicJack service on our phones, allowing us to have daily conversations with the folks back home.
We also have many affordable package options for cable TV and internet service, all with good selections of the major U.S. networks and channels, including HBO, Lifetime, Discovery, History, CNN, and Fox News.
When we want to watch a movie out, we can walk to theater complexes to see an American movie shown in English.
Currently we are renting. We thought this would be the best choice for us while we’re exploring all of our retirement options.
For only US$660 per month, we have a huge three-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath seventh-floor apartment with a balcony view of the Caribbean. We enjoy the sea breezes from our comfortable Dominican rocking chairs every day.
These breezes are not only a great pleasure but mean we only have to use air conditioning in our bedroom at night. This helps to keep our electricity cost between US$40 and US$60 a month.
Our rent really is a great deal when you consider the quality of the place we’re renting. We have beautiful marble floors, crown molding, and wonderful woodwork throughout our home.
No need for a car here, as public transportation and taxi services are readily available and quite affordable.
Although we enjoy the local Dominican foods, occasionally it is nice to be able to walk to American chains such as Tony Roma’s, Chili’s, Hooters, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs… they’re all here. Being from South Carolina we were stunned and thrilled to find a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts a block-and-a-half away.
No, not all is perfect in paradise. Santo Domingo is not a quiet, relaxing place to call home. The Dominican Republic offers those kinds of places, both at the beach and in the mountains. Santo Domingo, though, is more like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago on steroids.
Traffic is heavy and traffic laws merely advisory in nature. The sounds of motorbikes, honking horns, and street vendors may be too much for some. Our ability to ignore loud noise has proven an advantage living here.
And, for the first time ever, I can play my own music at whatever volume I choose without worrying about disturbing anyone. Hopefully my Dominican neighbors are enjoying my Carolina beach music and the sounds of Memphis, New Orleans, and Nashville. No one has complained!
Despite some of the difficulties we’ve experienced to do with adjusting to a new culture, not being fluent in Spanish, and mastering the currency exchange rate, we feel we have made the right decision to leave the stress of our old lives behind and look forward to all of our new adventures.
We’ve made great friends here. Really, we have never been happier.
Charles C. Fritz
Originally published on May 24, 2016.