Nancy Kiernan’s 5 Critical Steps To Retire And Move Overseas

The Most Critical Requirement For Realizing Your Dream Of A New Life Overseas

For years, my husband Mike and I talked about the idea of doing something new and different in retirement, of moving to a new country where we could create a whole new life.

Each year, as we struggled through another Maine winter, we’d daydream about starting over someplace where we’d never have to deal with snow and ice again.

But our discussions always contained a number of telling phrases:

“Wouldn’t it be nice…”


“What if…”

“Maybe after… after we’ve saved more money… after we’re able to sell the house…”

Our daughter spotted the problem.

“You guys are never going to do that,” she told us, “not really.”

She was so confident in her position that it stopped us. What did she know that we didn’t, we wondered. So we asked her.

“You’re never going to do this,” she told us, “because you haven’t decided you’re going to do it. You’re talking about how maybe someday you’ll make a move, if, if, if… but you haven’t decided that you’re going to do this no matter what. I know you guys. That means you’re not really going to do it.”

Our daughter recognized the flaw in our plan. It was theoretical. We weren’t going to make the move we were dreaming about because we hadn’t committed to doing it.

That insight, we realized, was the most critical one of all, and it was that insight, finally, that pushed us to make our decision for real.

We weren’t going to think about retiring overseas anymore. We were going to retire overseas.

I see that now as the first step in this process. Now that we’ve made the move, I see five steps in total, as follows:

Step 1: Decide

Step 2: Research

Step 3: Plan (with contingencies because nothing is going to go as you plan)

Step 4: Test (put your boots on the ground)

Step 5: Plunge

Steps 2 and 3 depend on understanding what you want. You have to make a list. What do you want your new life to look like? What’s important to you?

We made our list, and it led us to think that four countries in particular might be what we were looking for—Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.

We proceeded to Step 4 by planning an extended trip that would allow us to spend time in each of those four countries. We started in Ecuador, where we realized something pretty quick. That country wasn’t for us. It was more Third World than we wanted.

However, on that trip to Ecuador, we met another American who’d retired to Latin America years ago. We told him our plan, explained what we were looking for, and he made a recommendation. Go look at Colombia, he told us, specifically Medellín.

So we adjusted our plan and, rather than moving on to Panama, Costa Rica, or Uruguay, we hopped on a plane to Medellín. We intended to stay two weeks but ended up staying for two months.

In those two months, we fell in love. This city was everything we were looking for. We rented an apartment for a year… and here we are, about five years later in a place we love more every day.

Today, we are well-installed in our completely remodeled home with its large terrace perfectly positioned for watching the sunset each evening.

Vine… vi… y me quedé…

I came… I saw… and I stayed.

Of course, the move wasn’t quite as easy as that simple declaration might suggest. Mike and I had to disregard and overcome a number of outdated stereotypes and resistance from family and friends in the States. We were warned about drug lords, kidnappings, and the dangers for women overseas, especially in a city like Medellín, Colombia…

There were legitimate obstacles, too. Neither of us spoke Spanish when we made our decision to relocate to Medellín.

We just ignored the stereotypes and tackled the practical hurdles with determination.

Today, we are official residents of Medellín. We have embraced our new lives completely.

Our Spanish is improving, and the big hurdles are behind us. Now our biggest decision is determining which wine to enjoy while watching the sunset… each evening…

Nancy Kiernan