After nearly two years of living in a small town on Ecuador’s coast and as we make final preparations for our next International move to Mexico, I suddenly realized that I had almost no anxiety about this move. I knew that Diane and I will easily handle whatever is ahead of us. That is not how I felt the first time when leaving my life in the States for an entirely new life in a developing nation!
Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Belize, Costa Rica, Ireland and Mexico are only a small number of the places where expats have chosen to live outside the boundaries of North America, leaving their familiar lives behind to experience other countries and other cultures all across the planet. I’m not talking about a cushy vacation or a back-pack trip or even some short exploratory trip. I’m talking about committing to actually living within an entirely new culture; learning the language, respecting the customs and adopting a completely new life that is often far-flung from the one you left behind. These expat destinations are often places where the language and food are unfamiliar and the services you had come to rely upon (such as the electrical power grid and Internet service) struggle to achieve the taken-for-granted reliability that was left behind at the departure gate.
International Living, Forbes, AARP and a number of other publications regularly extol the benefits of living overseas; especially retiring overseas. Lists of the “best” offshore retirement destinations are regularly compiled by many publications comparing a variety of attributes of each location. Comparisons usually include such things as cost of living (housing, food costs, entertainment, etc.), medical care, climate, safety and security as well as lifestyle options in each location.
These reports often tempt and provide a glimpse of a better life many believe is out of reach. It isn’t. We know! But before the dreaming turns into planning, one must first determine if an offshore life is actually something that you can do. There are certainly financial considerations. Can I afford to live there? Could I earn money there if needed? Am I prepared to learn a new language and surrender the comfort of the known for the challenges of the unknown? Will I/we be safe there? Using the Internet, careful research from a variety of sources can take one a long way down the exploratory path and joining some expat forums can provide direct contact with those who have arrived before you. That said, keep in mind that we are all made from different stuff and have varying abilities to cope and deal with change. While some folks will make the transition handily, others will struggle and are eager to share their challenges with all who will listen. Listen to everything but know that what is a giant mountain to climb for some is merely a speed bump for another.
As we all know, no circumstance is perfect. Whether we admit it or not, we all agree to accept certain compromises in our lives. The key is, of course, to find the best compromise.
Diane and I never see ourselves living long-term in the U.S. again. We truly love the expat lifestyle and prefer a Latin American culture to the culture of the U.S. Family strength and unity often trump career and earning money in Latin America. We like that!! Our move to Mexico will put us closer to high quality medical care as well as placing us several hours closer to the States while still permitting us to live within this culture. Our Spanish language skills have greatly improved since we arrived in Ecuador and we want to continue to practice and improve. Mexico will certainly facilitate that!
In the same way that I encouraged my kids to taste new foods and step outside their zones of comfort, I would encourage you to taste the various cultures and locations on life’s buffet. You most certainly do not have to have all the answers before you go. Trust that you will find the answers along the way.
We are about 3 weeks from blast off. The car and motor scooter, washer, dryer and television are sold. Diane is making various piles of clothing to be taken and donated. The greatest issue we face is dealing with the emotions of leaving our home of two years. We are leaving friends behind…relationships that we have nurtured and appreciated. While a two-year friendship in the states may be considered relatively new, in expat world friendships are often formed fast and strong. It’s tough to leave!
So…if you are considering a move to Ecuador or another location on the planet, you will join a growing number of North Americans who are seeking new lives in other nations across the globe. Whether you choose Ecuador or another location, you will share many of the same adventures as expats all across the globe.
Do your research but don’t be caught in the paralysis of analysis! You can’t know everything in advance. Some things you will simply have to learn as you go. Trust yourself and then…just do it!