After watching enough episodes of House Hunters International, Diane and I began to wonder if we should give equal consideration to a Caribbean Island in our quest for an early retirement destination. As two very poor swimmers, we love the beach but water sports are usually limited to shallow water snorkeling, pools and an occasional kayak trip if the water is calm enough. Thinking we’d be bored sipping drinks with friends and reading books every day, island claustrophobia seemed likely before too long. Not wanting to spend too much time in New York City on one of our rare visits to see my family, we looked for an excuse to sneak in an Expat Destination Research Vacation anyway.
Unfortunately, September is the peak of hurricane season and Caribbean Islands are usually best avoided unless you enjoy standing out in the gale force winds like a CNN weather reporter. Lo and behold, the solution lies in the islands known as The Netherlands Antilles and Arubais a favorite with folks from the Eastern United States. Lying closer to South America than all the other popular destinations, the islands are out of the hurricane belt and there have only been a few isolated cases of destructive storms ever recorded. Thinking we solved the problem of how to extend the vacation and simultaneously preview an island as a possible retirement home, we said goodbye to The Big Apple and headed down for a bit of Dutch Caribbean hospitality.
Awakening one last time to the smooth motion of gentle waves, Diane and I reflected on four amazing days visiting various locations in The Galapagos Islands where time appeared to stand still. Unlike any place we’d experienced before, the islands are one of a handful of places on the planet where animals coexist with tourists while totally oblivious to human presence. Observing the most northerly penguins on earth, treeless boobies that sit on the ground protecting their young, several endemic bird species, iguanas that swim and colorful ones that prefer land, prehistoric looking giant tortoises and sea turtles that come up to you, the islands proved well worth the hefty price tag.
Clearly everyone’s favorite creatures are the Galapagos Sea Lions, and although we saw them almost every day, the crew saved the best for last with a trip to Mosquera Island, a small sandy island in the channel between Baltra and North Seymour Islands and home to a large colony of sea lions. Completing the recreational part of our annual Expat Destination Research Vacationto Ecuador, we’d visited Sacha Lodge, an awesome Amazonian rainforest lodge and spent the last four days on board the Ocean Spray, a luxury catamaran offering Galapagos cruises from five to fifteen days long. Unaware I’d be writing my blog exactly two years later as an unemployed house husband thanks to an unexpected layoff, visiting Ecuador was an exceptional trip and we both highly recommend it even though we’re choosing Southeast Asia for our early retirement.