Imagine you are living your life as many of us do, in a comfortable home filled with stuff. Before setting off on our somewhat indefinite period of travel, numerous tasks demand our attention and action. One of these tasks that will help make the trip financially doable is to sell our house in San Diego. As anyone who has ever sold a house before knows, we cannot predict precisely how long this process will take and when the sale will be final. Therefore, we plan to leave San Diego sometime between June and September 2017. The first few months will be spent visiting some domestic retirement destinations, along with visiting family and friends. Our departure from the US should occur sometime between September and October 2017.
First and foremost, since one of us is a self-declared weather diva, we will only be considering warm weather locations. About a year ago when we first started planning this adventure, our goal was to identify less expensive retirement destinations. We identified locations in Mexico, Central and South America, Southern and Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. For our first pass, we ruled out Southeast Asia and southern South America as realistic expat options because of the travel distance back to visit family, including grandchildren and elderly parents. This decision left us with Mexico and Central America, northern South America, and some European countries. Therefore, we will split our time between the Americas and Europe.
Latin America Planning
After spending our entire working lives taking 1-3 week vacations, looking at an empty canvas of 5-6 months for Latin America seemed immense. So we included Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize and Mexico, all which contain expat hotspots. The logical choice (for reasons that will be made clearer in our next post, Proposed Itinerary Part Two) seemed to be to start in Ecuador and work our way north towards the US, using mostly overland transportation to save money. Our only flight would be from Colombia to Panama because of the Darian Gap. However, once we started researching, we realized that logical does not necessarily translate into a good plan. Some of the bus rides would be excruciatingly long, not to mention challenging in a variety of other ways; some one hour flights were outrageously priced; festivals and rainy seasons were overlapping with our plans; some destinations became screaming bargains because of the dollar’s strength; and alas, it turned out that we didn’t have enough time to do everything. So the reorganization began.
- We dropped Panama, Ecuador, and Belize since they are either on the US dollar or their currency is tied to the dollar.
- Mexico and Colombia got a stronger emphasis because with the dollar’s current strength, these countries are on sale.
- We wanted to avoid the beach areas of Costa Rica during their busiest and most expensive times.
- Guatemala got added because we learned about a great value Spanish language school in Lake Atitlan. So we have decided to start there.
After taking all these factors into consideration, we have come up with our tentative itinerary:
- Fly from the US to Guatemala. Spend a month on Lake Atitlan taking intensive (4 hours per day) Spanish Language instruction with a private tutor and a home stay.
- Fly from Guatemala to Nicaragua. Visit Granada and San Juan del Sur.
- Overland from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. Visit beach towns such as Playa del Coco, Samara, Jaco, in addition to central valley towns such as Grecia, San Ramon, and Atenas.
- Fly from Costa Rica to Columbia, visiting Medellin, Pereira, and the Caribbean Coast. Probably spend a month in Medellin to avoid traveling during Christmas/New Years.
- Fly from Colombia to Mexico and visit some of these areas: Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Rivera Maya (Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Tulum), and small villages north of Puerto Vallarta.
We expect to return to the US in March or April of 2018 to begin the second half of our travels in Europe. Our next post will have details about those plans.