A New Life and Enriching Income in Medellín, Colombia

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on January 29, 2020 in Live Better

I was pretty sure that when I left my healthcare executive job in 2011 to move overseas, I was going to be retired. I’d had enough of long work hours in a stressful position, and I was ready to kick back, relax, and enjoy my life in Medellín—the City of Eternal Spring.

But a funny thing happened on my way to retirement…I found opportunities.

Within a month of arriving in Medellín, I started taking Spanish classes, because I’m a firm believer that speaking the language of the country where you live makes for a more enriching experience. I was intense and focused, treating it as if it were my job. Enrolling in a local university’s Spanish for Foreigners program gave me the structure I was used to in the corporate world. At two hours a day, five days a week for 14 months, it was certainly a commitment. This made me get up every morning, do my hair and makeup, and get out into my new world, interacting with locals and practicing what I learned. It gave me a purpose.

Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This reminds us that we make our own luck. Keep your eyes open. Be receptive to ideas that present themselves. And have a “Hey, why not?” attitude when encountering opportunities. I followed this premise and it led me down a path I would never have expected.

Hanging out in the language department every day put me in contact with lots of teachers. We chatted about the large population of Colombians who want to learn or improve their English. One of the teachers told me that the university offered a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course, which could train me to be an English language teacher. I really hadn’t thought about teaching but I always enjoyed helping people, so I completed the course and started teaching business English. It was a great way to combine my native language skills with my business knowledge and keep my brain active.

My road to becoming the Colombia correspondent for International Living followed a similar path. I said “Hey, why not?” when I was asked to be interviewed as part of an article and video about expats living in Colombia. I said, “That could be fun, let me try,” when the publisher told me they were looking for a correspondent.

Now I get to interview other expats living all around Colombia about their experiences, visit and research up-and-coming retirement havens, and keep readers up to date on the latest Colombian visa, tax, and business regulations. One of the best parts of the job is attending conferences and speaking with people who are investigating the idea of moving overseas. This is paying it forward in the best possible way.

I am not alone in finding work during retirement overseas. In my experience, if you start with something that you love and are open to opportunities, you will find a way to earn an income. I know several expats who did just that.

A good friend of mine in Medellín loves playing tejo (the national sport of Colombia). He began just playing for fun and teaching a few other expat friends how to play. Several years later, he now earns a part-time income offering a program for tourists that explains the history of the game and gives you two hours of instruction and play time.

Another expat in Santa Marta bought a sailboat to live on in the local marina. He took friends and visitors out for day sails. Now he runs a tour business and during the day his boat is full of people enjoying the sun and water of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and paying for the privilege.

A “retired” chef in Manizales loves to cook and throw dinner parties for his friends. While he didn’t really want to go back to owning or running a restaurant full-time, he now has pop-up events from time to time in either his home or a client’s home and earns what he calls his “traveling money.”

My overseas journey went from being a student, to teaching a language, to writing and informing people about living overseas in Colombia. You never know what “luck” you will find…if you are prepared when opportunity knocks.

Written by Nancy Kiernan