Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pondering the Options

Where to go? Where to go?
I have the whole world at my toe tips. Where should I go?
Here's the thought process of ruling things out.

The first Google search I did was: best countries to run away to.
This came up with strange results about "countries without extradition", "how to erase your life", and "escaping the law". Um, yeah, not quite what I was looking for. :)
But buried in those results were a few that said something like, "best places to retire". Hmm, let's check those out.
That line of searches led to International Living's Best Places to Retire 2014. I have used this list as my guide for places that are worth really looking further into. I like their ratings and the thoroughness of their research.
International Living's Best Places to Retire 2014
The first thing I noticed about that list was that it was split between South/Central America, Europe, and Asia. I immediately ruled out Europe and Asia because of three reasons: the distance, the newness, and the time difference.
If I'm working online with North American countries, I need to be somewhat in the same time zones, not five or six or 12 hours off!
"The Newness" means "I've been there, done that." I traveled around Europe when I was in my 20s, so moving to Europe doesn't have the same appeal to me as other places. But "newness" also means, "I don't want to go someplace TOO new," which rules out Asia. The language and culture barriers are too damn high!
The distance factor is just me thinking that it's too far to fly to Europe or Asia. Somehow going over an ocean changes everything.

So we're down to Latin America. Here are my top of mind thoughts as I went down the list. Some are completely untrue, but it's interesting to look at my prejudices.
Panama: full of American developers who just want it to be a little U.S.
Ecuador: beautiful, full of nature, top pick, though I didn't think people moved there, just vacationed.
Costa Rica: to live? Um, isn't it all jungles and monkeys? Nice place to visit, not live.
Colombia: NO. Drugs. Drug cartels. Cocaine. NO.
Mexico: Boring. Too mainstream. everyone goes there. Also, drugs.
Uruguay: Where is that?
Nicaragua: Gosh, no! Didn't they just have a war or something? Isn't it full of guerrillas that kidnap people? Or Rambo? Not a safe place. Also, drugs.
Honduras: Hmm, that's another one of those little Central American countries, isn't it? I don't think it's a safe place either.
Guatemala: Mayan ruins, yay! Don't know much about this place.
Brazil: No, too much soccer. Too expensive. Too metropolitan. Also, drugs.
Chile: Sounds boring. Don't know much about it.
Belize: Ooooh Belize!! I've always wanted to go there on vacation! Pretty pretty pretty.
Dominican Republic: That's a tourist place. And an island with no escape if shit goes down.
Bert made an addition to the list:
Peru: Machu Picchu! No clue what it'd be like to live here though.
Strange perceptions of foreign places, eh? I wonder what the locals there would think of my preconceived notions? Anyway, that was my starting point in my head. From there, I spent hours on Google to find out the truth and to blast away my ignorance!
As I researched, I learned a lot of cool stuff. I found out where Uruguay is, that all Latin American countries seem to have a drug problem, and that almost all countries have volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, drought, and strange diseases. Hmmm. Dangerous destinations, to be sure.
I learned that tourist travel restrictions range widely, but most have an easy way around if you want to overstay your visa. I learned that South America is HUGE and has immensely varied climates and geography. I learned that I'm pretty dumb when it comes to the world. :)

So Bert and I talked back and forth and did tons of reading and really thought hard about what is important to us. We thought about what we needed, what we wanted, what we could live with, and what we couldn't live with.
Need: inexpensive, excellent climate, Internet for me to work, easy visa requirements
Want: safety from crime and natural disasters, easy to have pets, possible for Bert to work
Can live with: some natural disasters, isolation, poor plumbing, boiling the water
Can't live with: too much heat, big cities, getting stabbed
So now here's the revised list with results!
Panama: Maybe. Good climate, few natural disasters, excellent expat community
Ecuador: Maybe. Great climate, but difficult visa restrictions (three months)
Costa Rica: No. Getting expensive, too hot, bad hurricanes
Colombia: Still NO. Drugs. Drug cartels. Cocaine. NO.
Mexico: No. Will vacation here but not live.
Uruguay: No. Actually has become quite pricey. Also very far south.
Nicaragua: Nope. Still not a safe place to live.
Honduras: No. Hot, unsafe, natural disasters.
Guatemala: YES. This is our top pick right now. Easy visa renewal, great climate, nice expat community, smaller cities to live in that are safer, although Guat. City is scary-scary
Brazil: No. Too expensive.
Chile: No. Bad weather, too far.
Belize: No. Too expensive, hurricanes.
Dominican Republic: Nope. Touristy, next to Haiti, and hurricanes.
Peru: Tempting but no. Too far, hard to find a city we could agree on, kinda boring.
As it stands, we are heavily researching Guatemala, especially La Antigua and Panajachel on Lake Atitlán. Super excited! Tons of emails and texts flying back and forth with Bert, and many late night conversations. Sometimes it feels overwhelming because there is so much to consider but I always keep in mind that I really only have two main priorities: make money, learn Spanish. The rest is just details!

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