Eventually, COVID 19 will be contained, and global markets and economies will recover. But the experience of having lived through this challenging period will leave us with a reinforced and maybe a reinvented understanding of what matters most in life.
Considered from a post-crisis perspective, where in the world will offer the best options for repositioning yourself overseas? Diversifying your lifestyle and your investment portfolio to embrace the many opportunities our world continues to offer is a more important agenda than it’s ever been. The way to make sure you’re prepared for whatever tomorrow brings is to expand where you spend your time and your money so you’re not at the mercy of any single government, economy, marketplace, or currency.
Imagine living in a place where you aren’t compelled to turn on the news the minute you roll out of bed because you have better things to do and because you’ve organized your life so that you’re able to ride out any storm safely and comfortably.
We have a moment now, while we sit on collective pause, to regroup what we’d like our lives to look like and to connect the dots between our ideal lifestyle and the top choices for the best places to think about spending time and money overseas.
You may not want or be able to hop on a plane to explore these destinations in person today, but, again, our current circumstances are temporary. Where should you think about taking a look after the lockdowns have been lifted? Here are three places where you could restart your health, self-resilience, and community first.
#1: Portugal’s Algarve Coast
At home on Portugal’s coast, you could wake every morning to the sound of local fishermen announcing the morning’s catch and the soft chimes of bicycle bells signaling the start of the daily commute.
Offshore this 100-mile-long stretch, the Atlantic Ocean crashes, as it has for centuries, carving arches, coves, and caves into the sandstone, creating a picture-postcard view at every turn.
Portugal’s Algarve region is not only a top option for retirement in one of the best places in the world to live thanks to its:
Portugal enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world and 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, meaning more sunny days than almost anywhere else in Europe. The Algarve has no bad weather months.
Portugal ranks as the third safest country in the world. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime is limited to pickpocketing during the busy tourist season. As well, this country has managed to keep itself separate from the immigration crisis that is playing out in other parts of Europe.
Portugal has enjoyed important infrastructure investments in recent years, specifically to do with the country’s highway network and airports. As a result, this is a great base for exploring all Europe and North Africa.
International Standard Health Care
Health care in Portugal is high quality and a fraction the cost of health care in the United States. If you become a resident, public health care is free.
Portugal’s Algarve region boasts 42 courses in less than 100 miles.
The European Blue Flag Association has awarded 88 beaches along the Algarve coast Blue Flag status, recognizing their excellent water quality and environmental standards.
Affordable Cost Of Living
The cost of living in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe, on average 30% lower than in any other country in the region. A couple could live here modestly but comfortably on a budget of as little as 1,300 euros per month. With a budget of 2,000 euros per month or more, you could enjoy a fully appointed lifestyle in this heart of the Old World. And right now your dollars buy a lot of euros.
English is widely spoken. Living here, you could get by without learning to speak Portuguese.
The Portuguese are the biggest fish eaters per capita in Europe, and fresh fish of great variety is available in the ever-present daily markets. The year-round sunshine and fertile earth in this part of the world mean an abundance of fresh produce, too, also available in the local markets. Meantime, pollution rates are low, and streets, towns, and beaches are clean and litter-free.
Portugal offers the most user-friendly residency option in the Euro-zone. You can qualify to live in the country full time simply by showing a reliable income of at least 1,200 euros per month.
#2: Mazatlan, Mexico
For decades, Americans have voted Mexico the world’s best place to live or retire in the way that really counts—they’ve packed up and moved there. This country is home to between 1 and 2 million American expats and retirees, more than any other country. Its biggest advantage is its accessibility. Living or retired on Mexico’s Pacific coast, you can come and go from the United States by car. Moving to Mexico can be as hassle-free as an international move gets. Nothing’s as easy as loading up a truck and driving south. Your entire moving budget could be gas and tolls.
Why else does Mazatlan stand out as a top Plan B option?
From its administrative set-up (the Mexican government is a stable democracy, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches functioning in a similar way to those in the United States) to its big-footprint shopping, Mexico is familiar and therefore comfortable. If you’re itching for an adventure in a foreign land that’s not too foreign, Mexico could be the experience you seek.
All the North American attention from both expats and tourists means that many Mexicans, especially in the service industry, speak English. This can make things like navigating the residency process at the immigration office and managing the real estate purchase process with your attorney much easier.
Property markets in many areas of Mexico are soft and growing softer thanks to current global events. In addition, the U.S. dollar is at a historic high against the Mexican peso, meaning you having supercharged buying power in those Mexican markets where real estate trades in pesos.
Automatic six-month tourist stays and easy and fast immigration make it possible to come and go and spend as much time in the country as you’d like. You can maintain a second home here (a place you rent out when you’re not using it yourself, say) without having to bother with the expense of obtaining formal resident status.
Keep Your Medicare
Living in Mazatlan, you could return easily to the United States to use Medicare. If you’re considering this move as a retiree, nearing or over the age of 65, this can be Mexico’s most compelling advantage. Mexico offers excellent health care, but Medicare won’t pay for it—with limited exceptions, Medicare doesn’t cross any border. However, if you retire in Mexico, you’d be only a drive or quick flight away from accessing your benefits.
This means keeping and continuing to pay for Medicare coverage in addition to any other health insurance you might opt for. This can be a good strategy for a Medicare-eligible retiree moving to any foreign country, a safety net.
The Cost Of Living
While the living is not as cheap as it was in the 1970s when Americans began migrating to Mexico in volume, it’s a global bargain and more of a budgeter’s delight right now than it’s been in a long time thanks to the U.S. dollar’s strength.
In some parts of the country, this translates to super real estate deals. But even where real estate trades in U.S. dollars, the strong dollar makes everything else—from a liter of gasoline and a week’s worth of groceries to a suite of bedroom furniture and a night out on the town—a bargain. Two can dine five stars, enjoying three courses and good wine, for less than 50 bucks.
#3: Cayo, Belize
Belize remains off the world’s radar. Nobody is targeting or intent on stirring up trouble in this little country that’s part Caribbean, part Central American. Most people don’t give Belize a second thought. In today’s world, that’s a plus.
The country is one of the most important members of the Caribbean Community, thanks to its arable land and agricultural capacity. It helps provide food security for CARICOM, an international community of primarily small English-speaking island nations.
Belize has pristine marine, rainforest, and environments and a small population, so, in addition to being food secure, it is a great vacation destination and an ideal place to live.
Cayo is the breadbasket of Belize principally because of the industriousness of the Mennonites of Spanish Lookout, a booming town with thriving businesses and a back-to-basics, traditional way of life.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to market. The movement is toward sourcing food from within 100 miles. In Cayo, your food could be sourced within 10 miles. Living here, you could even enjoy a Zero Mile Diet. Imported foods are available if you want them, but it’s possible in Cayo to be food secure and not dependent upon an elaborate, vulnerable, and costly global supply chain.
Here are six more reasons Cayo, Belize, is an ideal option for a self-sufficient, resilient, sustainable, neighborly, and fun life…
Reliable Water Sources
Residents of Cayo catch, store, and filter rainwater, and groundwater is likewise in abundant supply. The rivers in this area are known for providing an alternative for garden irrigation and an everyday option for fishing.
Living off-grid with solar and rain-catchment doesn’t have to mean giving up the amenities of the modern world. In Cayo, you can live a fully self-sufficient life that includes high-speed internet, modern appliances, and all other comforts of the 21st century.
Low Population Density
During a disruption in the supply chain, as we are seeing now, it’s good to be a safe distance from big, dense cities. Belize has a population density of just 37 people per square mile. The whole country feels like a small town. The small population makes it easy to become part of the community, and both locals and expats who’ve settled here are welcoming and willing to lend a hand or make an effort for a neighbor.
As a former English colony (and still a part of the English Commonwealth), Belize is the only officially English-speaking country in Central America. One of the biggest challenges you can face when making a move to a new country is communicating with your new neighbors. Anywhere you might think about moving, including Belize, you’ll have to learn to overcome and adapt to cultural differences. A language difference makes that and everything else, from giving directions to a taxi driver and filling a prescription at the pharmacy to getting your broken hot water heater fixed and negotiating for the purchase of a new home, more difficult. In Belize, you don’t have to worry about learning a new language if you don’t want to.
The country is blessed with abundant year-round sunshine. Rainy season extends from June to November, but, even during those months, skies are sunny more than they’re not. The reliable sunshine makes for happy, healthy living and also a great growing environment.
Some small areas of Belize City suffer from the drug trade, gangs, and the activities that come with those cultures. However, those are localized neighborhoods. Avoid them. Otherwise, Belize is one of the safest places on earth and far removed from 21st-century troubles.
Kathleen Peddicord Get the best of Forbes to your inbox with the latest insights from experts across the globe. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Kathleen Peddicord
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