Signs of the Times

Today I read an Open Letter to International Living from expats that retired to Vilcabamba, Ecuador in 2004. There was an interesting discussion of the cons of International Living and the effects of profit-centered marketing on vulnerable pristine places throughout the world. I fear that San Juan Del Sur may be the next victim of insensitive and destructive development. It is a shame because this once quaint fishing village is now experiencing an increase in crime, and uncontrolled environmental sabotage. I wrote this post in 2011, and it remains true today so I thought I would share it once again.

Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

Warning: This post is hypocritical, cynical, and questionable because I have no answers, only more questions.

Yesterday, I read a post from a blogging friend. She was invited to speak at an International Living Conference. I enjoy reading her informative posts about creating blogs, new technological advances, and portable careers. So, I clicked on the International Living Conference website to see who was presenting and what their areas of expertise were.

I should have known better, because out of the 16 presenters, nine were real estate developers. I read through their bios. Phrases included: has made more than 50 real estate investments in nine countries across five continents, moved into real estate development and acquired 1,100 acres and three kilometers of coastline, an accomplished real estate professional whose expertise in international investment real estate sets him apart from most, and has more than 33 years experience in commercial and residential…

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14 thoughts on “Signs of the Times

  1. True in 2011 and, sadly still true today. We had friends who bought a small finca in Vilcabamba around 2005. They sold their property and moved down to Playas to get away from gringo developers.

    Mary and I have learned to live as Ecuatorianos and enjoy our simple life here. We do not need nor want the big developers and love our neighbors. So far, San Clemente has stayed pristine and we will try to keep it that way.

  2. I am new to this blog, and appreciate your thoughts, ruminations and perspective. Your sense of “inquietud” I do echo, but sadly I think as nations that are poorer become tourist or retirement hot spots, developers will continue to cash in–and while this can bring jobs, etc to the country, it is at a cost.

    • It is a dilemma, Les. I am not sure what to do to stop the irresponsible and destructive growth. On the one hand, it gives people jobs who would not otherwise have them. On the other hand, the locals who once lived in these pristine spots are forced to move farther away from their former homes. Progress always comes at a cost, doesn’t it?

  3. There is a big difference between an expat whose lifestyle blends in with the existing local way of life and those who transform an area without regard to the impact. As for those who want to build a McMansion in the second or third world, my advice is to rent. Owning property abroad is a headache that is better avoided. The smaller the footprint you have abroad the better!

    • So true, John. We’ve seen the bulldozers scraping away what remains of the pristine places throughout the world. It isn’t pretty. I think what bothers me the most is that most of these new gated communities don’t give back to the local communities. However, those that do, do it well. They build schools, offer training programs, and work well with the community. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.

  4. What a sad story, one that obviously has happened in too many places. The difficulty is that people want to go to a lovely place that they can afford. Should they not be able to do so? On the other hand, many don’t respect the place, the traditions, use local labor, and the other issue you and the letter writer relate. Even too many well-meaning people can/will change a place, although perhaps not always for worse. The same thing happens in the US, when a lovely place without too many people becomes popular. The result is that prices sky-rocket, forcing local and the less well-off out, bringing all sorts of changes, not all of which are desirable. I think Jackson Hole is an example of that, whether you think it for better or worse.


    • Janet, it is happening all over the world. We were in Jackson Hole many, many years ago. I can’t imagine what it is like now. It is all about foresight. Well meaning people have a vision of the future that integrates and strengthens the community. Those who are in it just for the money leave a wake of destruction that is beyond repair. It is truly alarming to see irresponsible development destroy a pristine area. Maybe zoning would help and a committee of local residents who could regulate the uncontrolled and irresponsible development. Very sad to see.

  5. Some scattered flickers of thought mainly concerning perspective. Most expats I have met or only seen in Central America weren’t environmentalists, nor were they lovers of – ancient or not – cultures. Most were/are there to buy themselves consumerist life at a lower (preferably much lower) price than at home, as at home they mostly wouldn’t be able to afford “sipping a margarita while a maid made dinner, looking at a garden, where a gardener was pruning… something”. (the quote is only partially accurate as I am trying to remember verbatim one of the International Living fluffy “how to live well in Mexico (Costa Rica, Panama, Equador, Colombia, Nicaragua – whatever the flavor of the month) on $600 a month”. And another – warning! provocative – perspective. I am European, who four years ago returned to live in Europe. Is this the same Europe that I left 30+ years ago? Very definitively not. with over 1 million of refugees and economic migrants from a culturally so vastly different regions as Middle East and North Africa, migrants who do not want to adapt to European way of life, but to force Europeans to convert to their early middle ages understanding of men and the world. Sweden, with slightly over 8 million inhabitant received over 180 000 migrants last fall alone. And the country almost crashed: no housing, no money to support all of them (they get very generous living allowances, as long as they have no jobs to suuport themselves, and Swedish statistics show that about 50% of them do not work even after 10 years in Sweden… while most of them breed like rabbits. … Can we really afford to cry over roses that lost their fragrance, when we are facing rapidly burning forests?

    • Maria, I enjoyed reading your scattered flickers of thought. I like that expression. đŸ’¡I would like to be a speaker at one of the IL conferences. I would ask questions to make potential buyers think about the future and at least give them some food for thought as to how their actions always have consequences…good or bad.
      Maria, I never thought about the consequences of how refugees can destroy communities, and even countries. Wow! That is a perfect example of lack of foresight, right? Thanks for sharing your thought provoking scattered flickers of thoughts.

  6. I’m still in the states and a friend of mine came up to me with the subject of retirement. He just finished reading an article about Nicaragua from International Living Magazine. He fell in love with pictures along with stories of hopes and dreams. (try not to laugh, but I did). He’s never been anywhere in Central America, etc. Hope International Living doesn’t pump and dump housing/rentals, etc. Like what happened in Costa Rica with half built projects still in 2016 forsale.

    • Joe, I am laughing as I read your comments. IL asked me to write a piece on our lives on Ometepe Island. At first, I said, “Absolutely not!” But, then I reconsidered and wrote a piece called Living In Nicaragua is not for Sissies. I included in the piece all of the challenges we encounter on a daily basis, my beliefs in cultural immersion, and ways in which we give back to our community. When I read the article after it was published, it was appalling. They deleted every caution and suggestion I had for a successful transition abroad. The only thing they included was our monthly cost of living and that continues to be quoted by IL in other articles published by them.
      To top it off, they sent me a check for $75 for writing the article, but it had an expiration date of 3 weeks. By the time I received the check, it was too late to cash it. Sneaky Devils!

      • In 1961, I was visiting Red River, New Mexico with friends who went there every year for quite some time. . The city was blacktopping the main street which had been gravel. My friend kept repeating…”they are just ruining this place”.

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