Inspiring Stories

Daryl Ries: Living Abroad and Loving It…and Life

It sounds almost too good to be true. You wake up, pluck a mango from your backyard for breakfast and then walk a few blocks to lounge on the beach before heading off to a busy social schedule 

For Daryl Ries, this is not a fantasy but her lived reality. This former dancer, choreographer and teacher has a storied history of working and living abroad.  For the past twelve years, Ries has split her time between New York and Panama – where she has found her own slice of heaven that doesn’t bust her budget. 

Here are her tips for how to put your own health and mental needs first in order to find the right home in the world for you. 

What made you want to retire abroad? 

At 65, I knew I had to get out of New York because I couldn’t take the winter. So I said to myself: “Daryl, if you don’t make a change now, you won’t be able to build a life somewhere else. You have to do it now.”  

Here is what I knew I needed: I needed to leave winter in New York for my health. I needed my new part-time home to be less than five hours away so my family can visitAnd I needed to find a place that wouldn’t cost more than my social security.  

I have had a life of living abroad enabled by my work as a choreographer and have learned the benefits of being in other countries. I chose Panama for reasons of sheer practicality but there are of course a world of choices! For me, it was a no brainer because for my budget, I can afford to live here very well while also working for the Panama’s Opera Company. 

“Don’t let anything stop you from living the life you need.” 

If someone is interested in retiring abroad, what sort of questions should they be asking themselves to help choose a location? 

First you should ask:  

  • How much money do you have?  
  • How much time do you want to spend abroad? 
  • What works for you geographically? 
  • What is it that you want in a new home? Check off your needs. What kind of weather do you want? What medical, educational and business offerings do you want? 

Once you know these things, you can make your dream come true. And now with the possibility of working remotely, you don’t even need to be retired to start living abroad! I have access to high-speed internet for $40 a month, allowing me to work, stay in touch with family and friends, and attend Senior Planet classes!

Did this move affect your citizenship? 

You can get what we call “permanent residency” which means you won’t lose your American citizenshipPermanent residency doesn’t cost much and it gives you great latitude! There are no visa issues going in and out of the country. 

When I established permanent residency here twelve years ago it cost $500. Now, it costs $3,000. And if you want to live on your social security? That comes with you and often, that money goes much further outside of the States. (Please note: While you can export social security, you cannot export Medicare.) 

What are the monetary benefits of living abroad? 

In Panama, if you want to rent or buy property, it costs less than half on average than in the States. When I first came to Panama, I bought a beautiful house for $70,000 two blocks from the beach with a big back yard full of mango, avocado and banana trees. I could pick my dinner out there! Many people mistakenly think the United States is the most efficient country in the world. It’s not! At least not for everyone. 

“The world is your oyster! Open it to you to investigate, enjoy and invest in for your own purposes.” 

What advice would you give to someone who is intrigued but intimidated by the idea of moving abroad? 

My advice is do it. I’m 78! Yes, I had experience as a traveler before, but I moved here by myself. If you can, visit the country before setting up a permanent residency to see for yourself if it fits your needs. 

The world is your oyster! Open it to you to investigate, enjoy and invest in for your own purposes. 

How do you meet new people abroad? 

Daryl and a friend at the International Jazz Festival in Panama City.

Senior Planet is a great resource to be able to connect back home! But for meeting people in your new home, in any major city like Panama City there are international get-togethers and clubs where you can go to meet both locals and other ex-pats. For instance, there is something called “InterNations” that will connect you will all the activities for all the different age groups happening near you.  

Also, you have something called the American Society in almost every country that also hosts events. I used to meet up with them weekly for a cocktail hour and they hold parties for every major holiday! There are so many opportunities to connect with new people because there is huge demand for it! You will have a wonderful experience and meet people from all over the world. 

What does “aging with attitude” mean to you? 

There is no point in denying that we age. So you have to learn what optimum health means to you. For me, it means being by the salt air for my arthritis. Then, you have to meet your mental stimulus needs. That is a very personal thing. Do you want to work? Volunteer at a charity? What activities do you prize?

“Don’t let anything stop you from living the life you need.” 




10 responses to “Daryl Ries: Living Abroad and Loving It…and Life

  1. Hi I am 81, my husband is 83, both cancer survivors. This article is very encouraging to me. This past winter here in Maryland was so very cold we were not in the best frame of mind for many reasons including the pandemic. I would like to spend the coming winter in a warm, sunny climate similar to the one described in Panama. Of course proper medical assistance, hospitals and insurance (BCBS and Medicare ) security would be a major concern for us. I like the idea of trying before deciding on a place. What is the average temp in Panama for February and March?

  2. Once upon a time, in1974, I took a month off from work and went with Community Colleges Abroad and toured England, Scotland and Wales. I thought it would be so neat to go back and study one semester in Liverpool.
    Now? yeah, right!! 50 years too late.
    I had to settle for a year in Nam’, instead.

  3. Although I don’t mean to discourage a person who dreams of living abroad, or even moving to a different community in the U.S., I would recommend renting a place in their destination for an entire year before packing up and selling their current property. Doing this will give them a true idea of that place. My parents moved from the city to a rural community. My mom hated it! I lived abroad for 4 years when I was younger. It was a great learning experience, but it wasn’t easy. Also keep in mind that if you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the culture, it can be very daunting. I spoke the language and it was still challenging at times.

  4. HI I would like to add to the above article about me… to be sure people know.
    1. Americans are allowed another citizenship and there are advantages for having 2…It depends on one’s objectives re: finance, business, medical, etc..
    But foreigners can own homes in most countries including Panama,without being a citizen,or married to one. Its not even required that homeowners have permanent residents here and can retain their permanent resident in the USA.. It’s all quite flexible.
    2. Medicare can be accessed abroad with having a Medicare Advantage Plan.. Medical bills will be paid as a reimbursement after paid in full abroad.
    I am in Nyc… June – Jan. for meetings and talks to groups and individuals.

    1. Hi,I have visited Mexico and that country has a monthly stipulation you need to have. Does Panama have that as well? I’m bipolar and I often am concerned about mental health in other countries especially my meds.

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