Sunday, May 27, 2018

mapping out retirement

Santa may not have a list, but Internet retirement sites certainly do.

They are constantly feeding us lists of the best places for this or that. "This or that" meaning places where some self-proclaimed experts tell us we can own our own personal paradise to live out our dwindling years while spending our handful of pension shekels.

The lists almost always fall into two categories. The first includes the equivalent of colonial pockets in foreign lands where expatriates seldom hear a language other than their own, can dine at familiar chain restaurants, or drink in pubs run by a chap you knew from school, and live in a housing development that would feel at home in Hillsboro.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If it is what they are looking for. I usually remind critics who claim Ajijic is South Scottsdale that, at least, the people who have chosen to live there are adventurous enough to move from their home country to experience something new in life.

The second type of list is for people who snort coffee out of their nose when they read sentences like that last one. The list usually consists of "authentic" retirement spots. The type of places where you need an atlas to accompany your newspaper reading. After all, where is Arequipa?

When I chose my area of Mexico for retirement, I had a list of criteria. They all sounded great. But my part of Mexico did not even come close to matching my mandatory requirements.

Fortunately, I had a major goal that trumped all of that fiddly detail. I left Salem, Oregon because I was far too comfortable. I wanted to live somewhere where I would wake up each morning and not know how I would make it through the day. And I found it.

If I have read the list of the latest adventurous retirement spots ("Beat the Retiree Crowds to these 5 Places Abroad") correctly, the author shares my notion of retirement life as being something other than a rehearsal for dying.

So, if you like the idea of a less well-known home, with lower living costs, a "more authentic" experience, along with slow internet, unpaved roads, and limited health care, you might want to take a look at the current vogue list. (And, yes, I am perfectly aware of the irony that a list of "unfound paradises" soon turns into the next Puerto Vallarta.)

The five are:

1. Arequipa, Peru -- a big city with high altitudes and low prices.

2. Cascais, Portugal -- close to Lisbon (one of my favorite European cities), but not for those with anal retentive issues when dealing with bureaucracy. 

3. Cayo, Belize -- truly back-to nature, in a well-greased palm sort of way. 

4. Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic -- a French village in the Caribbean with lots of cheek-kissing, and minimal health care to deal with the consequences.

5. Phenom Penh, Cambodia -- for people who are nostalgic for Mussolini authoritarianism (and cannot move to Venezuela). Big city. Low costs. As long as you keep your political opinions of the government to yourself.

Interestingly, health care seems to be an issue in at least three of the suggested paradises. I particularly enjoyed the description of Cayo, Belize: "A potential downside: Health care 'is not a strong suit,' so many expats cross the border to Mexico for high-quality medical care."

I am certain not a few readers had to re-read that comment. Going to Mexico for "high-quality medical care?"

Yup. Even though I do not know what is on offer in Quintana Roo, generally, the health care in Mexico is top-notch. Private health care is low cost and some of the best in the world.

For those who cannot afford private care, there are two public care options. Based on what Mexicans and expatriates have told me, the public health option is basic, but perfectly adequate.

None of the options on the list could seduce me away from Barra de Navidad. Though, I will confess that Portugal was batting her eyes at me. Probably, because London and Paris were high on my retirement options list.

Whenever I travel, I inevitably ask myself if I would like to live in the city I am visiting. My answer often is: "Yes. I think I would." And, then, I don't.

Because I am perfectly happy living in my little life-challenging village by the sea. At least, for now.

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