Live near water

The Reasons Why You Should Live Near Water

So You Want To Live Near Water?

The benefits of spending time in water are well documented, as are the ways in which simply living near water is good for you. New studies are showing that spending time in and around water has positive impacts on both cognitive and physical health. Just to see and hear water can reduce cortisol levels, provide a burst of feel-good hormones, and boost blood flow.

According to marine biologist Wallace Nichols, “People can experience the benefits of the water whether they’re near the ocean, a lake, river, swimming pool or even listening to the soothing sound of a fountain.” Even just focusing on an image of water can induce its effects.

The benefits of living near water are significant enough that the EU created the Blue Health 2020 initiative to study how water affects the body and mind. The aim is to invest in the waterways of European cities to draw more people.

Most major cities are on water of some kind—that’s how they became major cities. Nichols also asserts that, Continue reading

Immigration and residency

How The Residency Process Gets Easier

Keeping It Legal In Your New Home

Last week Harry and I successfully renewed our residency permits here in France, and, boy are we relieved to be official again.

Our first-year visas expired in January 2020, and we were supposed to go to get them renewed the day Ariadne was due to be born. We got extensions, rescheduled the renewal, and were given a new appointment date in June. But when June rolled around, Paris was on lockdown. We couldn’t get new extensions this time—those offices were shut down just as the renewal offices were.

So for the past few months, we’ve been in a residency limbo…

We were following the process, but the process had been halted. Between our status being up in the air andContinue reading

the old distric

Make Your Way Back To School (And Life)

Back To School (And Life) In Paris

Springtime in Paris is well acclaimed… but I’d like to make a case for autumn in the City of Light, which, for my money, is just as alluring… perhaps more so.

September in Paris is a magical time. To misquote Nora Ephron, “Don’t you love Paris in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

For most of us, September is a special month no matter where we call home… it never ceases to remind us of our childhoods… and our children and grandchildren. We want to go out and buy markers and notebooks, no matter our age.

North America does a none-too-shabby job of advertising back-to-school supply sales. But, in my experience, nowhere on Earth does September the way the French do.

It’s called “La Rentrée”—and takes in the entire period of the last week of August and the first weeks of September.

Rentrer means to re-enter, and the noun refers to the act of going back. You can rentrer in the literal sense—going back to your house or to your office after you’ve left, for example. The noun, la rentrée, is most often used to mean to go back to school… but the term has taken on a much larger meaning.

At the end of August, many rentrers are going on… everyone is back home from vacation, back to work, back to school, back to the yearly routine, back to colder weather… back to life.

Everywhere you look are signs advertising something or other for La Rentrée. All parents talk about are the impossibly specific lists of school supplies they’re required to find and where to get such-and-such problem item. Shops put backpacks, books, and art sets in their windows.

There’s a jovial optimism and an energy in the air around this time of year… The French have been on holiday for the majority of the previous month, so everyone is relaxed, fully dosed up on vitamin D, and ready to come back home and take on the end of the year.

In fact, La Rentrée in Paris brings more of a feeling of renewal, rejuvenation, and energy than the actual New Year does in January. This makes a lot of sense. It’s hard to be energetic and enthusiastic for positive change when it’s cold, dark, and damp out. There are so many months of chill and gloom left after Jan.1 that it’s hard to stay motivated for any goals you set.

After coming back from summer vacation, though, it’s natural to set out schedules, cut down on the booze, get back to our workouts, and probably diet a little after holiday indulgences. The French leverage this momentum to get their lives back on track for the winter. There’s a lovely attitude of optimization before hibernation. We set ourselves up to have the most successful fall and winter we can have, with a view to the coming spring.

The feeling is infectious. Walking down the street, it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement and optimism of La Rentrée. You can’t help but smile, put a bounce in your step, and start to think through some new plan you want for yourself. In the last week alone, I’ve started a new workout program, a new diet, and tried to instill some new habits into our family’s daily routine. I’ve made countless lists and been militant about completing several things a day, especially things I’ve been procrastinating for months already. I can’t remember when I was last this productive, and it’s all thanks to the inescapable La Rentrée atmosphere in the city right now.

Once we settle into our new autumn routines, we’ll hunker down for the winter and await the next injection of cheer and optimism that comes around Christmas and New Year’s… Meantime, though, we forge ahead, full of enthusiasm for the self-improvement that can be achieved over the next few months.

This year, all this fanfare is darkened somewhat by the specter of the coronavirus. None of us know how the rules will change over the coming months. Will we be allowed to leave our houses in October? Will gyms stay open? Will kids stay in school? What will life look like by the time we reach the end of this momentous year?

All I can say is that this is one big lesson in appreciation and optimism. Take advantage of what you can while you can and don’t stop hoping for the best. If the coronavirus has put a hitch in your go-overseas plans, keep the dream alive and make whatever small steps of progress you can make with the world as it is right now. Perhaps you can take some vicarious motivation from this dispatch…

Wherever you celebrate La Rentrée this year, keep your hopes up and your aspirations high.

Kat Kalashian
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential

comparing bled and Annecy

Comparing 2 European Lake Towns: Bled And Annecy

Life At The Lake: Annecy Versus Bled

It’s so hard to shift back into real life after being in vacation mode. My mind has been continually wandering back to languid days spent lakeside. While we were at Lake Annecy, I realized I’d never really spent time on a lake before. Aside from having seen a dozen or so movies to memorialize this all-American classic vacation—”Beethoven’s 2nd”, “The Great Outdoors,” etc.—the family road trip to the lake house was a complete novelty to me.

I’ve visited a few lakes over the years, though… Lakes Masaya and Apoyo in Nicaragua… Lake Gatún in Panama… Lake Peñol-Guatapé in Colombia… Lake Nakuru in Kenya… and Lake Bled in Slovenia. I’ve spent varying amounts of time at each, and my extended time at Lake Annecy prompted me to compare it to my other favorite lake spot in Europe: Lake Bled.Continue reading

petanque game in france

What I’ve Discovered By Spending This Summer In Paris

Summer In The Time Of COVID-19

We talk so much about travel and going abroad here at Live and Invest Overseas that it’s unusual to find ourselves stuck home all summer. On the upside, I’m discovering some unexpected pleasures of our staycation…

Summertime is in full bloom here in Paris, yet it’s been a blissfully mild one so far. We’ve rarely seen days above 80—a stark contrast to last year, when temperatures were breaking records across Europe. This year, the weather has been about as perfect as you could hope for… sunny and warm, but breezy with low humidity. Nights get cool again like clockwork, continually relieving us whenever a hotter day does break through.
Continue reading

caribbean beach close to tulum mexico

Mexican Riviera Maya: Exploring Playa Del Carmen And Tulum

Mexican Standoff: Playa Del Carmen Versus Tulum

On Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, there’s about an 80-mile stretch that’s become known as the Riviera Maya. It unfolds roughly from Cancún to the Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve, which begins right after you pass through Tulum.

This region has been on the map for decades and has evolved in the time since it was first discovered by foreigners in the 1970s. Today the area offers many lifestyle options, something to please just about anyone looking to live by the beach.

map of mexicoAs you drive down Carretera 307, you trace the path of progress. The route begins in Cancún, the one-time fishing village that was slated for development by the Mexican government in 1970; at the time it had fewer than 200 residents. The Mexican tourism board, INFRATUR (now FONATUR), spearheaded and planned the city development, and back then expats were mostly European, coming from all over the Continent. Americans and Canadians began settling over the following decades, too, but more slowly. Eventually Cancún became overly saturated and many expats headed to Playa del Carmen, just 42 miles to the south.

Today Playa del Carmen is well developed and, once more, some residents are heading south again, looking for something quieter. Twenty minutes down the highway, Tulum is now the next expat destination on the route, and, relatively speaking, it’s just begun its development.

These two towns are so close to one another, you’d think they can’t be very different, but they offer two completely different lifestyles…

Given the nearly 50-year development of the region, it’s not surprising that the infrastructure is impressive. The roads are high-quality, perfectly maintained, and even landscaped along the way. The highway south may as well be a continuation of an American highway. Everything here is neat and orderly—from the roads themselves to the way people behave on them. But once you get to Tulum, this polished feeling begins to fade.

The highway through Tulum is the same one, but the landscaped surroundings give way to open fields, ramshackle buildings, and offshoot roads that are dirt as often as they are paved. There are islands of First World-level construction throughout the town, but it’s by no means the norm.

The highway is dotted with familiar names: 7-Eleven, Starbucks (with drive-through), Sears, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, Sam’s Club… For the most part, these stores are replicas of their forebears north of the border; shopping would be a familiar thing here. All of these shopping amenities are found more frequently the farther north you are, though. If you’re living in Tulum, you’ve got to head back up to Playa for a Walmart. For those who like Tulum, this is a good thing—they want to keep the rustic feeling that they were looking for when they found Tulum.

Playa del Carmen is essentially a boardwalk town. Once a small fishing village like Cancún, a port was built in the ’70s that offered passage to divers headed to Cozumel Island to explore the Great Mayan Reef. Playa has grown slowly since then, becoming what many claim to be the vibrant heart of the Riviera Maya.

Today Playa has about 150,000 residents (an estimated 10,000-plus of whom are foreign) and is a bustling little beach town. La Quinta Avenida (called simply, La Quinta) runs parallel to the beach and acts as the city’s pulse, separated from the ocean by just one sandy block. This boardwalk-like street is crammed with bars, restaurants, stores, galleries, hotels, and real estate offices, with music wafting out of every doorway. Many bars replaced stools with swings, a fun idea that you know could never work Stateside. (The lack of litigiousness outside the United States is refreshing.)

It feels as though English could be a second language throughout this region. Thanks to the longstanding tourism industry, everyone in the Riviera Maya seems to speak it, from the busboy to the gas station clerk—and they speak it well. I speak Spanish, but whenever I try to here, I almost invariably get a response in English.

And Playa is surprisingly affordable. There’s enough competition among the hundreds of business owners here that prices have stayed low despite the increased exposure and tourism. When speaking with locals, everyone invariably told me that La Quinta is for everyone—visitors and locals alike. It’s not a tourist trap ripping people off with tacky experiences at exorbitant costs. It’s truly the heart of the city’s entertainment.

This section of the Riviera Maya could fool you into thinking it’s somewhere in Florida. The infrastructure is just as good as that of the United States, stores are nearly identical to those back home, everyone speaks English, and there’s a Parrothead atmosphere that dominates Playa.

bar in mexico

Take a load off, pull up a swing…

man outside bar mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just 20 minutes south of Playa, Tulum feels a world away. Tranquil, less populated (at about 18,000 people), and boasting some incredible ancient sites and natural attractions, the focus in Tulum is more on preservation than on development.

a cenote in mexico for swimming

A cenote in Tulum, one of the town’s many natural treasures

Nevertheless, the path of progress rolls down the coast, just a bit more conscientiously in Tulum. Here, much land is ejido and therefore protected against ownership or development. The few large-scale developments that are underway are completely self-sustainable and designed with co-existence in mind. In fact, all of Tulum is technically “off-grid”… it has no choice. There is little community infrastructure, each individual land or building owner providing their own energy and waste systems.

Walking along the beach at this end of the Riviera Maya, you won’t see nearly as many people as on the beaches at Playa. And in most parts, those that swim or sunbathe here are more likely to live nearby than be visiting. You’re more likely to see an ancient Mayan ruin and some impressive wildlife than big parties of tourists.

Tourists that come to Tulum generally call themselves eco-tourists. They aren’t there for the bottomless margaritas or banana boat tours, they’re there with backpacks and guidebooks, wanting to hike the ruins, camp on the beach, and trek the jungle.

As I said, the two towns may be close in proximity, but they couldn’t be farther from one another in culture. No matter which town you decide is more your speed, the lifestyle is enviable… the food is high-quality and affordable, the people are warm and welcoming, the cost of living is inexpensive… and it’s all right on the beach.

And because Mexico is so culturally similar to the United States, for those who don’t want to plunge into a sea of alien culture, the Riviera Maya makes for a lovely wading pool.

Kat Kalashian

 

lisbon view of the sea

Paris Versus Lisbon: Comparing European Riverfront Cities

Paris Versus Lisbon—It’s A Tough Choice…

European borders opened recently, allowing me to do a little more than dream of getting out of France for a bit. Ireland is likely to be our first trip out of the country. It’s an easy enough prospect considering the short flight and the fact that my parents will already be there to help out with childcare on our first getaway as a family of three.

But I’m already thinking about the trips that will come after…

Portugal is high on my list. As I was mulling over destinations in the country, I thought back to Lisbon and couldn’t help comparing it to Paris—my newly-adopted home.

Today, I’d like to share my thoughts on Paris versus Lisbon with you…Continue reading

cobbled streets in france

How To Figure Out The Best Place To Retire Overseas

How In The World Do You Decide Where In The World?

Out of this big old world of 195 countries, how in the world do you figure out where in the world to go?

If you’re just beginning to think about the idea of going overseas, whether for retirement or otherwise, this is a huge, daunting question.

Where do you start?

My favorite piece of advice for beginning to tackle this conundrum is to picture what you want to see when you wake up and pull back your curtains. What is outside that window? When you open your door to greet the new day, what is it that’s greeting you back?Continue reading

friends in paris cafe having coffe and talking

How To Make New Friends When You Move Overseas

Finding Your Flock Overseas

One of the greatest challenges when moving overseas is creating a new social circle from scratch…

Your friend group back home was likely built over many years, maybe even decades… numbering a few friends from college, perhaps… some from jobs over the years… a handful you met through parenting… and those you’ve met through your interests and activities, like church, yoga, reading groups, etc.

Then you move overseas… and suddenly you’re all alone. It can feel disheartening to have to build your social life over from scratch.
Continue reading