The world's best places to retire to

Retirement: it probably feels like a fantasy right now. If you're like me, your more pressing concern is trying to figure out how you're ever going to enter the Australian property market while still financing frivolous overseas holidays every few months, rather than planning for 30 years of putting your feet up.

Still, when you travel you're bound to come across small towns or even big cities that seem to be calling out to you as a long-term retirement prospect. Maybe you wouldn't like to live there now, but what about when you've given up work, when you've had kids and got rid of those kids, when you've bought property and then sold property?

There are plenty of places that have appealed to me, and it's not always the obvious ones (though they're more obvious than Ecuador, which was named the world's best country to retire to earlier this year). I know retirees are technically supposed to go for townhouses on Pacific islands, or golf courses in the country, but hey, this is my fantasy retirement and I'll spend it any way I please.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

The north-west of Scotland has always felt like home, so I could pretty easily spend my twilight years wandering around its heather-covered hills and eating haddock and chips in its cozy little pubs. This is, after all, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, a rolling green countryside bathed in ethereal northern light. Plus there are some really good golf courses.

Esperance, Western Australia

My parents are obsessed with bushwalking, so it seems likely that I'll end up with a similar passion. If that's the case, is there a better place to move to in Australia than Esperance, the coastal West Australian town surrounded by Cape le Grand National Park and some of the best beaches in the world? Property will probably be hideously expensive by the time I make the move, but still, I could sacrifice a chunk of savings for the chance to spend my later years surrounded by such natural beauty.

Hondarribia, Spain

I'd love to retire in San Sebastian, the Basque town with all the great food that I'm always writing about, but I can't afford it. Not now, and probably not then. The next best thing would be Hondarribia, which is a beautiful little town about half an hour on the train from San Seb. It's got the cobbled streets, the amazing pintxos bars, the coastal location, the obsession with food – and about a hundredth of the tourists.

Wanaka, New Zealand

I'm not the first to come up with this plan – in fact there are probably hundreds of people actively engaging in retiring to Wanaka right now. That's because this town is the best of many worlds: it's naturally beautiful, with snow-capped mountains and stunning lakes, as well as having plenty of options for physical activity, and a friendly, everyone-knows-everyone vibe that is hard to replicate anywhere else.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Retirement probably means many things to many people. To me it means great, affordable food. It means a community that respects old people like I'll be. It means the chance to be active, to go out and explore a city and a country and feel comfortable doing it. And it means the chance to wear a flat-cap every day. Buenos Aires offers all of those things, as well as the chance to spend my twilight years becoming a mental Boca Juniors football fan.

Bangkok, Thailand

I know you're supposed to plump for quiet towns surrounded by golf courses and bushland, but hey, I like cities. I like big, crazy, bustling cities where there is always something to do and something to see. Bangkok offers all of that, as well as affordability, reasonably good healthcare, and the chance to rage against the dying of the light with some of the best street food in the world. Let's hope I can still handle chilli by then.

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Granada, Spain

Southern Spain is not only ridiculously affordable – one-euro beers, three-euro meals – but it's also beautiful, culturally rich, and fun. Fun, particularly, for old blokes like me, who seem to spend all of their time hanging around in bars or sitting in plazas yelling at each other over board games. In Granada I'd be able to visit the Alhambra every week, and eat jamon iberico every day. Now that's retirement.

Puglia, Italy

I mean sure, I'd love to spend my retirement in Lake Como. But I'm a writer. With a budget like mine I'm more likely to end up in Cooma. Some sort of middle ground would be the province of Puglia, the heel to Italy's boot. It's far more affordable than the north of Italy, as well as being warmer and friendlier. The beaches are beautiful, the wine is good, and the lifestyle is conducive to spending time with friends and doing little else.

Half Moon Bay, USA

I don't imagine that I'm suddenly going to acquire some sort of artistic talent in my old age, but still, it would be nice to live among those who have. Half Moon Bay, the small coastal town just south of San Francisco, has a strong creative and artistic community, as well as being a beautiful place to hang out and wander the rugged beaches and national parks nearby. It's also a becoming increasingly popular with people having similar ideas to me.

Todos Santos, Mexico

Plenty of more adventurous Americans who are from the cold states but don't fancy spending their wrinkly years in Florida seem to end up on the Baja California peninsula of Mexico. That's because it's warm, safe, and interesting. One of the best spots is Todos Santos, a character-filled fishing village that's popular with surfers and artists, and by the time I retire will probably have been ruined by people just like me. Sigh.

Where have you been on your travels that you'd like to spend your retirement?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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