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Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 03:48 AM   #1
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Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Hi everyone! My husband and I are in our later 30s. A few years ago we decided to leave the day job world in Canada and move to somewhere we could find a better quality of life. After a lot of research we realized that for us the answer was the little Mediterranean island of Gozo in Malta. Then we did a whole lot more reading, digging, and talking to make sure it was the right decision. Finally, we sold up everything and made the big move with our kids (our son lives with us year-round and our daughers split their year between Europe with us and Canada with their mom). Anyway, to make a long story short we could not be happier. If anyone else is thinking about throwing off the traces and living life on your own terms, all I can say is do it sooner rather than later. You won't regret it
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 05:48 AM   #2
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Catherine
Sounds interesting. If you are so inclined, why not give a little information on life in Malta? Just curious.
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 05:53 AM   #3
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

How about some pictures?
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 06:51 AM   #4
 
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Time to dig out the Shirley Valentine Video, and if you have not seen it, rent it and watch it with your girl, she will love you for it.

Malta is an interesting place, but small, occupying your day could be a problem.

Is Malta in the EU?
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 06:54 AM   #5
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Malta is one of the new 10 EU countries and is a small island state south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. It is comprised of the main island of Malta (population roughly 350,000) and the smaller sister island of Gozo (population 30,000). We ended up in Gozo, which is the more agricultural, less dense of the two. English and Maltese are the two official languages and most people speak English very well. We love it here, there is beauty all around us and the people we meet and do business with day-to-day are so warm and helpful. We decided to try life without a car, which I think makes the island seem less small because we go a lot of places on foot We rent from time to time though.

We chose Malta because of the climate (having spent our lives dealing with harsh winters), the language, the location and culture (getting to live in Europe was a draw for us), the relaxed residency requirements, favorable tax laws, and the low cost of living (our 2 bdrm + den furnished apartment with sea view and shared pool costs the equivalent of $480 USD a month).


The view from our roof.


The beach a mile from where we live.


Getting ready for the pony races on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December).


The valleys get really green in the winters.
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 07:00 AM   #6
 
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

.WOW.
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 09:24 AM   #7
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Catherine!!!!
Thanks for sharing your story and pictures. Awesome!
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 11:23 AM   #8
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Catherine
Looks like you have made a fabulous choice.
Care to share a bit more about your process of getting there, finding housing, anything that was a surprise, etc.
Are you completely ERed?
Thanks for sharing
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 12:00 PM   #9
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Hi Nwsteve

We literally sold everything except a few boxes and items stored with some family and what we took with us in our suitcases. We had decided that we didn't really have anything that was worth taking the trouble to ship and we liked the idea of being so mobile. We knew that furnished rentals are the norm here, which helped with that decision. To move to Malta you can enter as a tourist and apply for temporary or permanent residence once you are here, and that's what we've done. We did a huge amount of research ahead of time but we were prepared to move on if things didn't work out the way they were supposed to.

Finding housing was pretty straightforward although we looked at quite a few places. We just lucked into finding a really wonderful rental agent (we walked in off the street!) and that helped immensely. We obviously chose the rental we thought was the nicest and best value of those we saw but the price and amenities are by no means unusual.

I'm trying really hard to think of whether there was anything that came as a real surprise, and I can't think of any specifics. Really, we were surprised that things worked out as well as we hoped (especially my husband because he is the skeptic of the two of us). There were moments in the first week or two when we suffered intense culture shock (for example, we were on the main island and the traffic and littering were more than we were used to as sheltered Canadians and we had no idea where or how to shop for groceries ). We adjusted pretty quickly though and the highs of all the newness and wonder more than made up for the lows.

The only thing that was a huge disappointment was that we rented an apartment for our first month from pictures on the net. We were not expecting a wonderful place (we wanted to move into something nicer long-term instead of downsizing ) but this apartment was nasty. There was mold in the apartment and it clearly had not been rented out in months. So the lesson learned is to either book something very short-term or have someone you trust see the place in person first.

Within the first couple of weeks we we were in the country we had fallen in love with Gozo and arranged to rent where we live now, a place we're delighted with. We rent because of the flexibility and because the rental/purchase price ratio is skewed in favor of renting as compared to North America. Purchase prices are very reasonable but, for example, you could rent a three bedroom house with a courtyard and pool for $1,100 USD a month that would cost $500,000 USD to purchase. Property values have risen substantially since it became clear that Malta would join the EU and they continue to rise so probably some people would prefer the investment value of purchasing.

We are both writing and we still manage some ongoing business interests thanks to the net. I also maintain some websites for myself and some friends That was one of the benefits of moving here, because as long as we do not freelance on the local market we can do work for people outside of Malta and not run afoul of immigration. I had been self-employed for years but my husband had always worked a day job, so now we spend our days together which has been an immense quality of life improvement.
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 12:19 PM   #10
 
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Catherine, your pictures look appealing and as I look at the snow swirling outside(we got 40cm in Collingwood yesterday), it is tempting.

I have the Red Passport which would make moving in very easy, But Canada is Canada, with all its' warts, and I find it nice to visit exotic places but to move full time takes more fortitude than I am capable of.


I am glad things are working well and it is pleasant to view those pictures .
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 12:24 PM   #11
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

My son loves to ski and misses it here, so Collingwood definitely has its benefits!
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 05:19 PM   #12
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

How exactly did you get your visa? I am interested in retiring in Slovakia--except there is no way to get a visa for stays of longer than 3 months for non-EU citizens. Other countries I've looked at have the same restrictions.

Is Malta different, or is there a way to get a resident visa in an EU country if you don't plan on working or studying ?
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 05:52 PM   #13
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

I would also like to see a little more information on the location. Such as weather, infrastructure, communications, political situation and medical.
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 10:57 PM   #14
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Yes, LRS, Malta is different. You can extend a temporary visa indefinitely if you have the means to support yourself. Alternatively, with proof of income greater than about $30,000 USD a year you can apply for permanent residence (not always the best option for tax reasons).
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-06-2006, 11:09 PM   #15
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Quote:
Originally Posted by RF-4WAD
I would also like to see a little more information on the location. Such as weather, infrastructure, communications, political situation and medical.
RF-4WAD, the weather is Mediterranean in nature (similar to California) with long, hot, dry summers and mild winters (it never freezes). Average direct sunshine in winter is 6 hours a day and goes up to 12 in summer.

The medical system has two streams, private and public. Foreigners can be treated in either stream. It's possible to get reasonably priced medical insurance for Malta if your existing insurance does not cover out-of-country care.

The infrastructure is okay overall but sometimes not up to the standards we are used to in North America. It is a relatively poor country with average incomes comparable to Portugal. Water is always potable and there are no health risks you wouldn't find anywhere else in the developed world.

Politically, Malta is a democratically representative republic. There are two main parties, socialist labor and a more conservative National party (which is in power).

Communications are on a par with the rest of Western Europe. Mobile phones are everywhere and even here on Gozo we have several options for broadband Internet.
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-07-2006, 08:13 AM   #16
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Here is a fairly thorough description of Malta from the US Dept. of State...

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5382.htm

I found it interesting that "Malta is one of the most densely populated countries in the world".
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-07-2006, 08:18 AM   #17
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Catherine:

Do you ever get a chili-dog craving?

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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-07-2006, 08:37 AM   #18
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Yes, Malta is very densely populated ... what we like about Gozo is that the population is far less dense than Malta itself ... 30,000 people, or 1/10 the population of the main island in 1/3 the space.

MB, funny you should mention chili-dogs, we found a place in Mellieha on Malta that serves wonderful chili-dogs -- my son became addicted to them!
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-08-2006, 09:29 PM   #19
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Hi Catherine!

Congrats on what looks like a terrific place to retire!* I have often heard good things about Malta...*

My questions to you are -- how did having children in the mix affect your decision to retire early? Are the kids happily on board with this?

Thanks,

Akaisha
Author, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean
Old 02-08-2006, 11:18 PM   #20
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Re: Retired early and moved to the Mediterranean

Hi Akaisha

We feel that giving the kids the chance to live within another culture or cultures will really broaden their experience and we hope open some doors for them as they get older. Our daughters have an adventurous streak and were very happy with the proposition from the start. Our son, on the other hand, does not like change as much and so had mixed feelings. His adjustment to school here was difficult at first. However, we can see that the experience is challenging him to become more self-reliant, assertive, flexible, and tolerant and he is starting to really shine and find his strengths at school so it seems to be working out for him.
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