Saturday, August 6, 2022



I love Paris in the spring

                                    ....but Belize in October?

(From August, 2016)

I’ve mentioned before how, as a spoiled and self-indulgent boss’s son, I sometimes took advantage of my dad and his willingness to let me “find myself.”.

From time to time, however, I am reminded that he too was capable of his own sneaky tricks. For instance….in spite of the many good things he did for my mother, brother, and me, the old guy managed to bequeath to me a particularly troublesome bit of himself….an itch that I have never completely overcome. You see, I was the one who inherited the Old Man’s lifelong curse….a pesky and persistent infection he called “wanderlust.”

In my case the symptoms apparently surfaced at an early age. By seven or eight I was spending hours leafing through the big Rand McNally World Atlas the folks kept under the coffee table. From map to map to map….one colorful country after another….I toured the world. At each stop on my imaginary travels I paused, trying my best to sound out the strange-looking names, imagining the people who called those far-away places home, all the while wondering what it would be like to live there. I distinctly remember thinking that Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border, would be the most wonderful place of all.

Those youthful mind-travels continued to become more and more obsessive until, at age thirteen I ran away from home, determined to see the world for myself. In the end what I saw was a bit of Eastern Oregon and the inside of the Umatilla County Jail. That was a letdown for sure, but not enough to dull that travel itch. Truth is, it’s something I’ve never outgrown. Later, Roma and I would be fortunate enough to visit and even live in some of those places….as many as our resources and family situation would allow. Those were wonderful experiences, but not enough to cure an advanced case of wanderlust.

Then in my mid-sixties, I retired and we moved on to our own October Years. And surprise….it was still there, that undiminished urge to see the world. And now we had the time to indulge those fantasies. 

We began as tourists….twelve weeks revisiting old haunts and old friends in England and Europe. By then I was mulling new possibilities. What if we made our retirement home in one of those far-away places? How cool would that be?

At that point the question became….what sort of retirement move could we afford if we were so inclined? Certainly, those with a hefty pension and fat IRA had more choices than we did. They could decide that “home” ought to be in Arizona or Florida or Europe….any place they wanted. Our choices were more limited?

Fortunately, for those of us who fancy ourselves as bold, even at our age, today’s internet world offers new, sometimes intriguing ways to scratch our retirement travel itch. One of my favorite “wanderlust” fixes is a thick promotional newsletter that arrives in the mail every few months. Apparently I have been on their mailing list for years. As near as I can tell the message has never changed in all that time. I have only to open the envelop and recite the first sentence or two to have Roma heading for another room.

“The hibiscus are in bloom,” the message begins. “As they are every month of the year. The gardener watches over them and the rest of the grounds, while the maid/cook maintains order in your bright and airy home. Just months before you would never have dreamed that the two of you could retire in such luxury for less than $1,800 a month. But now you know what so many others do not….that the good life and affordable health care are well within your reach.

Chances are you have seen that enticing pitch, telling how you can afford the retirement you dream of....somewhere. And perhaps you are one of those who find a certain satisfaction in dreaming about the possibilities it seems to offer. I know I do.

After all, the idea itself is not so far-fetched. For decades our fellow Americans have been taking advantage of low-cost foreign retirement, especially in Mexico and Central America. Lately, in the face of an increasingly harsh economic environment, that trend seems to have taken on new and novel forms.

In this brave new world of ours an up-to-date list of well-publicized retirement havens might be enough to send us back to the atlas….asking retirement questions most of us had never considered. 

For instance, take a moment to ask yourself what it would take to make Colombia a viable place to live out your Golden Years? Or Peru, or Thailand, or Uruguay, or Belize? I see e-mail ads for $300 seminars that will provide all the information you need to establish a home and live the good life in any of those countries….creating a lifestyle that costs a fraction of what you’ll pay here in the U.S. The sponsors claim they can make the case for that. Could they convince you?

Of late, I have come across articles online touting two particular retirement destinations…. Panama and Belize. Certainly Panama has a long history of dealing with and providing for US citizens. Belize, on the other hand, was formerly a British colony. It is the only Central American nation where English is the official language. Each of those countries already hosts a sizable ex-patriot population. Is that enough to make them interesting to you?

I suppose in the end each of us must decide what “retirement”….the label we assign to life-after-work….means to us. For a wanderlust junky like me the lure of  an inexpensive lifestyle lived in some exotic, out-of-the-way locale is a bit seductive and hard to ignore. 

But then, about the time those exciting possibilities have me thinking like a kid again, another of those pesky, hard-to-avoid October realities kicks in. “Is it practical?” I ask myself. 

Perhaps like yours, we are a family-oriented family. How would it work to have Grandma and Grandpa living on the seashore of sunny Belize, thousands of miles from the clan, following our grandkids on Facebook or Zoom, perhaps visiting them every year or two? And even if we could manage that, we are kind of set in our ways. How would we adapt to a very different culture and lifestyle, no matter how inexpensive it was or how adventurous the challenge?

So when it’s all said and done we have decided to settle for the wilds of the exotic Willamette Valley, and the lifestyle we’ve lived for all these years. But don’t think for a moment that I’ll stop day-dreaming about the sunny beaches of Belize or Panama.

How about you? Do the possibilities of tropical splendor on a shoestring resonate with you? Or does “Is it practical?” win out?

1 comment:

  1. Gil, I have seen a lot of the states, traveling by plane and then, renting a car. I've loved that kind of travel. After I acquired an autoimmune problem in 1995, we bought a Chevrolet van. I loved seeing our country that way. There are so many beautiful places in the United States. I lived in Florida when I was in grade school and loved hanging out on the docks and I lived in southern California within walking distance to the beach. I spent two years in Morocco and was able to visit Germany for a couple of weeks. I would have enjoyed visiting other places, but I appreciate the experiences I've had. I loved, still love being near family. There are so many nice places to visit all around. Sunday, my son drove (my car) and took me to Silver Creek Falls. Just the drive there was so inspiring. I had no idea that we are producing so many beautiful Christmas trees. That drive gave my spirits such a lift. The full moon tonight is incredible. Money can't buy that.