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‘We wanted one more adventure’ – the Britons who retired to their favourite holiday destinations

Home from home: Steve and Lin Argyle moved to Mauritius six months ago after holidaying on the idyllic island for years
Home from home: Steve and Lin Argyle moved to Mauritius six months ago after holidaying on the idyllic island for years - Alamy Stock Photo

Go on holiday, fall in love, scan the estate agents’ windows. Then go home and forget all about it. So goes the familiar pattern – unless you’re one of the brave few who make a permanent move.

Many of those seeking a new adventure are retirees. In 2018, around 207,300 Britons over the age of 65 lived in the Eurozone (excluding Ireland) according to the ONS, with plenty more swapping suburbia for the UK seaside or somewhere further afield. But does the reality always live up to the dream?

“When you go on holiday and have an amazing time, you get that perennial honeymoon feeling because it’s an escape from your everyday life,” says Robert Hallums, founder of Experts for Expats. “I think that if you’ve fallen in love with somewhere you have to go back and see it at its worst.”

Best and worst: if you've fallen in love with somewhere go back and see it again before making the leap
Best and worst: if you've fallen in love with somewhere go back and see it again before making the leap - Alamy Stock Photo

If even the depths of an out-of-season winter don’t put you off, Hallums cautions that there are other practicalities to consider. Finance is a good starting point, especially for those moving abroad. “Even if you think you’ve got enough money to have an OK life, you’ve got to work in the potential for currency crashes… It’s not just about meeting the financial visa requirements, it’s about knowing your quality of life and what that quality of life costs,” he says.

Healthcare is another consideration. “Not all countries will have a state healthcare provider and not all will support pre-existing conditions. The standard of healthcare could be better or worse too, so research is absolutely crucial,” he adds.

Even if everything falls neatly into place, homesickness can be crippling. “It can take 18 months to make a place feel like home,” says Amy Morton, of expat coaching business Aim Coaching. The key, she says, is doing as much of the admin as possible in advance, as well as learning the language and joining local community groups. “People feel they have FaceTime and can talk to family and friends but that can exacerbate the problem,” she notes.

For an insider view, we spoke to retirees in the Isle of Wight, Spain and Mauritius about the good, bad and ugly of turning your favourite holiday destination into a permanent home.

“Our normal Sunday routine is to walk along the beach and then have brunch at the hotel,” says Steve Argyle. He and his partner Lin moved to Mauritius six months ago, after beginning their retirement in South Africa. The couple are renting a house while they build their own property at Heritage Villas Valriche.

Living the dream: Steve and Lin Argyle are relishing their new life
Living the dream: Steve and Lin Argyle are relishing their new life

“We came to Mauritius on holiday every year for nine or 10 years and absolutely loved it,” explains Steve. “People in the UK think Africa’s hot all the time but the Western Cape where we lived had a cold, wet winter. We kept coming to Mauritius because it was warm and sunny and we said ‘shall we jump? Shall we move again and get one more adventure?’”

The couple had spent many happy holidays at Heritage Le Telfair resort and found out about villas at the associated residential development next door. They’re now renting one while they wait for their own house to be built on the estate.

“Having been all around the island with our relocation guy, we ended up where we’d started,” says Steve. “Heritage Le Telfair is my favourite hotel in the world. I wouldn’t say it’s the poshest, although it is very nice, but it’s incredibly calm, it’s beautifully manicured, and it’s right on the Indian Ocean beach.” As residents, they can also use the facility’s restaurants, bars and golf course.

They hadn’t planned to build a house on the island but, as Heritage Villas Valriche didn’t allow long-term rentals at the time, they decided to buy a plot. “It’s quite a thing building a house,” admits Steve. “My wife was less keen than me to start again but now, everywhere we go, it’s ‘oh, look at those lights’, or ‘look at those curtains’. It really gives you something to think about.”

At the end of their project, the couple will have a three-bedroom villa with a 14m pool overlooking one of the fairways on the golf course.  This kind of retirement doesn’t come cheap though. “Living here in Villas Valriche is probably as close to paradise as you’re going to get, but the entry level is $1.3 million (£1,025,600). You have to have a certain amount of funds,” says Steve.

There have been admin and money worries, but no second thoughts. “Even after quite a difficult time of getting forms filled in and trying to get money out of South Africa (I’m still trying to get money out of South Africa, it’s a nightmare!), not for a second have we had a regret,” he adds.

Ian Dickens and his wife Anne retired to the Isle of Wight in 2018, having previously lived in Bedfordshire. “We had a lovely, thatched 400-year-old farmhouse which we were wrestling around with most of the time,” says Ian. “Every year something would fall off or rot and need replacing and we thought, ‘It’s time for us to downsize’. That was in Bedfordshire, which is not renowned for its coastline.”

Lifestyle choice: Ian and Anne Dickens are keen sailors which attracted them to making the move to the Isle of Wight
Lifestyle choice: Ian and Anne Dickens are keen sailors which attracted them to making the move to the Isle of Wight - UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Both Ian and Anne were keen sailors who had taken part in sections of the Clipper Round The World race. While Ian was working for the company in Portsmouth, the couple visited the Isle of Wight with friends and noticed that property was surprisingly good value.

There were, however, initial worries about a move there. “There was that concern that we were cutting ourselves off by moving away from our daughter, son and grandchildren. But we figured that, if you live nearby, you might have family come hurtling in and out and not get quality time with them. By living somewhere special instead, they’ll come for summer, Easter or half-term and stay all week.”

The couple spent another two-week holiday on the island before making the move. “We did a really slow lap looking at all the villages and getting a feel for them,” says Ian. “The Cowes area felt right because it has a big, lively sailing community, which was important to us. There are other places on the island where, in autumn or winter, all the houses go dark as people disappear back from second homes or holiday lets.”

Happy memories: Ian Dickens with his grandchildren enjoying a paddleboard adventure
Happy memories: Ian Dickens with his grandchildren enjoying a paddleboard adventure

They settled on Gurnard, a little village just outside Cowes, and launched themselves into island life. “We volunteer at a local vineyard with a lovely group of people and do hard labour on a wilful basis because we get paid in bottles not cash,” says Ian.

In 2024, he’ll play a role in celebrations marking the 175th anniversary of his great-great grandfather Charles Dickens’s four-month stay on the Isle of Wight, during which he wrote parts of David Copperfield. And the grandchildren will be back for Easter too.

“I hope we are passing a baton to people we’re never going to meet,” says Ian. “I would love it if, when my grandson Joe is a grandfather, he says to his grandchildren, ‘we should go to the Isle of Wight because I remember such happy times there’.”

Sandy Crook took early retirement and moved to Spain with his wife Fiona in 2020. The couple now live in Alcaucín in Andalucia. “We’d hired a few villas over the years and taken the kids,” he says. “Then we bought a motorhome and travelled round the whole of Spain, but we kept coming back to this area.”

Beach life: Sandy and Fiona Crook in Andalucia
Beach life: Sandy and Fiona Crook in Andalucia

The couple loved its convenience, as well as the southern Spanish weather. “​​Malaga airport is 40 minutes away and you’re close to the beach,” adds Sandy. Initially, they do admit being put off by a visible British presence. “We were staying in this villa and we went down to the local shop and it was called Arkwrights. And we thought, ‘I would never buy in a place where there’s a shop called Arkwrights’,” says Sandy.

The draw proved too strong in the end, however, and the couples’ builder Mario has helped them assimilate into the Spanish community. “There aren’t actually that many expats here, but they tend to use British builders and buy British food. We got lucky with Mario, who put us in contact with all the Spanish tradesmen, and he’s become a friend as well,” he says.

Medical insurance has been one stumbling block. Sandy has Parkinson’s and, although they are very pleased with Spanish healthcare, dealing with insurers has proved stressful. “The hospitals are great, you can’t fault the nurses. But the actual insurance companies are a battle to deal with,” says Fiona.

Amy Morton, of Aim Coaching, and a local estate agent shared contacts to help them with wider “Spanish bureaucracy”, but homesickness did kick in for Fiona. “When you’re in your late 50s, the thought of making new friends and stuff is quite daunting but you do it,” she says.

The charms of Andalucia: three years on Sandy and Fiona Crook are settled in their Spanish home
The charms of Andalucia: three years on Sandy and Fiona Crook are settled in their Spanish home - Alamy Stock Photo

Three years on, the couple are very settled. They’ve bought two other properties locally to provide an income during retirement and enjoy swimming in their pool, walking and riding their motorbikes. “Every time I go away now, I just want to come back here,” says Sandy.