Island Time: Lifestyle Changes When Retiring in Central America

The United States is known for its fast-paced, high-stress, career-oriented lifestyle. When you’re used to that culture, it might be difficult to adjust to retirement life in general, let alone in a new country where the culture is much more relaxed and laid back. It’s worth taking the time to really settle in and adjust, though. What’s so wrong with slowing down and enjoying the beach breeze, anyway?

The workaholic lifestyle is nonexistent in Central America. Life slows down, and you start realizing just how much time is in a day. There are 2-hour lunches and shorter work weeks for those who live in these countries, which should paint a better picture of the lifestyle differences. Families spend more time together, and there’s not so much of a need to keep up with the Joneses. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Just because it sounds nice doesn’t mean it will necessarily be an easy adjustment. Here are some ways to make this lifestyle overseas easier:

Taking a break from technology is a good first step into leading a slower, more relaxed lifestyle. Staying attached to your electronics may have been necessary for work while in the States, but now you don’t have to stay connected anymore. They say surrounding yourself with electronics causes extra stress, so unplug and take in your surroundings. You’ll begin to find that you can unwind, after all.

The beachy climates of many Central American communities are perfect for a morning stroll or a jog down the oceanfront. This will help to keep you occupied, while also allowing you to take in your surroundings. Remember all those times when you were running around like crazy, unable to take a minute to breathe or eat a full meal, let alone get your exercise in for the day? Not a problem anymore.

Here’s a thought: ride a bike to where you want to go. No more road rage, no more getting from point “A” to point “B” right away. Take your time and bike to your favorite spot.

Try sightseeing – zip lining, snorkeling, or scuba diving. There’s so much to do and plenty of time now to do it. Check out the markets. You’re likely to find fresh fruit vendors, a bakery, and a butcher shop rather than a chain grocery store where you’d normally find everything in one stop. Take in what this new culture has to offer.

Simplify Your Schedule
Now that you’re retiring and adjusting to a new way of life, there’s no more need to try and cram every task you possibly can into a tight schedule. Sure, you’re probably used to doing that in the U.S., and while working, but you no longer have to do that – always having a packed schedule is the opposite of slowing down and relaxing. Learning to take things slowly will mean realizing that tasks that used to take only a few minutes (consider the transportation example above) may take much longer…and that’s okay! Let going out for ice cream take a couple of hours. Stroll into town and take your time, since you haven’t scheduled anything else for yourself to do. You’ll start to realize that it’s more comfortable to operate on island time.

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Make Connections
Take the time to connect with people in person. Start conversations while you’re out and about. You’re even likely to meet fellow expats who are going through the same transition that you are. It’s amazing who you can meet when you allow yourself the time and opportunity to casually socialize.

Meal preparation is for those who have the luxury of time on their side. It’s just too easy to grab a quick meal from the nearest fast food spot on your way home in the United States. It’s even easier to grab a pizza for the family, since you don’t have time to spend in the kitchen.

Not only are these quick meal options less popular in many Central American communities, but you will have access to plenty of fresh ingredients around you as well. Finally, you have the time to cook a nice, clean meal for yourself. No rush!

No one expects this type of transition to be easy, just like no one expects it to happen overnight. Keep reminding yourself that it’s only natural to feel antsy when moving overseas to a new land, and that this new lifestyle will come to you gradually. All you have to do is let it!

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