Why Would Anyone Want to Move to Latin America?
By Joanna Rolston
This is a guest post by Joanna Rolston, a dual national Polish American. Joanna, who lives with her husband Tim, feared that they would not be able to afford retirement in the USA, so she and Tim started perusing other options. They are now on a 5-year plan to early retirement in Latin America. You can follow her blog, Abroad Dreams, here.
Third world countries. Unstable governments. Civil unrest. Foreign language. Corrupt Governments.
Why in the world would you want to move to Latin America?
This is a question I get asked the most. And it’s a good one: why would anyone want to move to a Third World country in Latin America? I think for each person the answer is different: some want to escape something and others are running toward something, some want to explore, others want a quieter life, and yet others seek new opportunities. So, let’s explore some of the reasons for making such a move.
Reasons to move to Latin America:
Land of Opportunities
Many of the Latin American countries are the new frontier for opportunities. Governments either are or are becoming stable. There are many natural resources available and business opportunities abound as many of the Latin American countries’ economies are growing and even booming. The education systems haven’t quite caught up to the rapid development and so there is high demand for skilled and professional labor. This is attracting more and more North Americans and Europeans whose home country’s economies are slumping. Latin America has caught on to this fact and many countries have opened up borders to foreign investment and employment. So, the resourceful and the adventurous are heading south to realize their own dreams of success.
Simpler way of life
Do you hate getting up at 6AM to make the 45-minute drive to work? How do you like your 8-to-5 job/life? Are you working just to keep your head above the water? Or are you a slave to the stuff you own (house, car, boat, TV, electronic toys)? The American dream provides freedom and opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work. And hard, we do work. An average American gets a mere 14 days of paid vacation per year, compare that to Europeans who get more than 30. And so, many Americans are waking up to the fact that there is more to life than work. They want a simpler way of life. Visiting Latin America feels like being taken back in time to the days when family was the priority. When having expensive cars and electronics didn’t matter so much, instead the focus was on community, relationships, and nature. Pace of life in most of Latin America is slower and joy is taken in simple things. I was in Mexico during the Thanksgiving week a few years back and after the local news aired a piece on Americans standing in long lines the night before Black Friday (and trampling over each other as the doors opened), a Mexican friend of mine asked: “what is wrong with the crazy Americans?” That is a good question.
Cost of Living
Many places in South and Central America provide a much lower cost of living. Savings of 50% or even as much as 75% on rent, real-estate, food, and every day things can be found. Healthcare costs are even more affordable. I compared the cost of private health insurance for our family of two in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Ecuador and found that it’s roughly 10% of the cost of health insurance in US. To make things even more attractive, the countries I’ve researched often provide many of US-style amenities: technology infrastructure, excellent healthcare, and availability of American products. So, US citizens faced with retirement on meager social security checks are looking for alternatives that will stretch their US dollars. For them, Latin America is starting to look more and more attractive.
Latin America is beautiful. It truly is. The beaches I’ve visited rival and surpass anything I’ve seen in the US, including even Hawaii. It is also enormously eco-diverse. Costa Rica alone has more bird species in its tiny area than all of US and Canada combined. Ecuador with an area of only 109,468 sq miles (slightly bigger than Michigan) boasts incredibly diverse landscapes of: Andes Mountains, Pacific Coast, tropical rainforests and marshy lowlands, and Galapagos Islands. Don’t get me wrong, North America is beautiful too. But if you combine the lush tropical climates and the natural beauty of green rainforests with the cost of living, a simple way of life, and opportunities; well, now you may have some serious completion.
What’s more adventurous that moving to a foreign country with a brand new culture, new language, and a completely different way of life? In my opinion, not much. It provides sort of a long term adventure. It’s not the same as a hit-and-run vacation, where you get to experience something new for a week. It’s truly living the adventure. For some, this has the ultimate appeal. The naturalist can find limitless adventures in Latin America: from rock climbing, to river rafting, to sailing the ocean and much, much more. Folks seeking gastronomic adventures will not be disappointed. The foods of Latin America are as diverse as its countries and its peoples. Art and culture won’t be let downs, either. There is something to be found for every taste of adventure.
As for me, the answer to “why in the world would you want to move to Latin America?” is a combination of the above. But more than anything, since I have been traveling to Latin America for years, I found that it has its own captivating appeal. There really isn’t anything else quite like it. I simply love it.