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Senior Correspondent

It was midnight on Sunday. Fourteen hours at my computer, mostly doing calculations and detailed contract writing. That crazy pace had held for the whole week, and my weekly article wasn’t even written. I knew I had 4-5 hours ahead of me to write, edit, format and upload the article to be in my readers’ mailboxes by Monday morning.

My business partner said, “Stop it, Sharon. You’ve pushed yourself all week. This is a heart attack in the making.”

He made me promise I’d go to bed and get some sleep.

I sent a note out to readers saying I had fallen down on the job, after writing every scheduled week for over two years. And I went to bed.

Among the flow of emails I received in response to that note, there was one from Robin. This is all it said:

“Not to worry Sharon…now we know you’re human!!!”

That comment stayed with me all week. The heavy workload continued, leaving little time to interact with Facebook friends or do much of anything on social media. It felt a little like withdrawal. “Internet withdrawal.” (Have you ever felt that way?)

But being disconnected from “virtual life” allowed me to be more connected to “real life” and to the dreams that keep flitting in and out of my consciousness. I had been too busy to dream.

My friend Susan recently asked me: “I wonder if you have considered living in another country, with lower cost of living. Having lived in so many countries and different cultures, have you decided on the United States as the best place, long-term?”

Funny thing. That’s one of the dreams.

In the early 1990s, I drove all around Ecuador with a friend. From the highlands to the Amazon region in the east, then back across towards the west in a 4-wheel drive Jeep. Late one night we pulled into a beautiful town. It’s name?  Cuenca. Several magical days later, we had to get back on the road to complete the itinerary, winding our way to the port of Guayaquil to meet our boat to the Galapagos.

The most striking memory, the one that has held its magic all these years, is Cuenca.

Fast forward nearly 20 years to a lunch in Florida with a friend who was asking my advice about downsizing in the face of the chaos brought on by the economic tsunami of 2008. We talked about how people could reduce the footprint of their home in order to be able to weather bad economic times. (As I had done ten years before in the face of my own financial tsunami.) And we spoke of moving abroad, something I’ve always intended to do, especially since I was raised in Latin America and feel so at home there.

A few months later, Deborah called to tell me she was moving her family to Ecuador. To Cuenca. And for the past year or more, I’ve watched “virtually’ as she, her husband and their teenage daughter have flourished in that new environment.

Then last week I read a newsletter from a woman who coaches people to help build their businesses with a book. I’ve never met her. But Lynne Klippel was announcing that she was just moving into the new home she and her husband had built … near Cuenca.

To answer Susan’s question, I feel that moving abroad is a perfect way to live a full, vibrant life on less-than-abundant resources. Costs are dramatically lower, especially in certain countries and certain regions within them. And more and more Americans, Canadians and Europeans are living — carefully — on Social Security alone. Add to that any pensions or investments, and the quality of life rises rapidly.

Is it for everybody? No. Deciding whether and where to go requires research, visits and tons of personal introspection. The two best online resources I know are International Living and Live and Invest Overseas. Subscribe to them and see what appeals to you. Be brutally honest with yourself about what’s important to you. Visit for a long enough period of time to feel what everyday living is like. And be ready to change your mind —about the place or about moving at all.

Most of all, do not go somewhere hoping to replicate where you live today. Go, instead, looking for a place where you feel comfortable, safe and ready to see each day as an adventure, as an opportunity to grow.

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