I recently read a piece from a writer in Ecuador questioning all the hype that Ecuador receives as a premier retirement destination.
I’ll paraphrase his thinking. “If Ecuador is such a great place, why do so many expats leave?”
His claim, unsubstantiated as far as I read, is that roughly half the folks who retire there leave after a couple of years. To be honest, I didn’t finish the article. I had read enough. His position seemed to characterize those who left Ecuador as failing to successfully complete the expat experience.
As most of you know, Diane and I fell into that category. It was almost exactly two years, to the day, when Diane and I left Ecuador for our next chapter here in Mexico. In our case, our move was prompted by my heart condition. We had chosen to live in a small village on Ecuador’s northern coast where medical care turned out to be less than stellar. After 2 years, we made the decision to move, not back to the states, but to a modern city in Mexico. Cancun is a short airplane hop to Florida and also has 7 major hospitals, for emergencies.
First, there is no correct way to live the life of an expat. Some move to one location and like the settlers of our early days, establish deep roots and vehemently defend their personal life choices against any and all. They often scoff and snarl at those whose choices may be less permanent. It’s as if another’s choice somehow diminishes the settler’s choice.
Expats come in an infinite number of flavors. While I believe all expats are pioneers and explorers, some will become settlers. Settlers are strong, sturdy and wonderful people often married to the same person for 30-40 years. They find something they like and stick to it!!! They grow deep roots and regularly fertilize them by actively engaging in their communities. They often and eagerly buy property in their adopted country, anxious to reconstruct the stable life they left behind.
Other expats prefer more shallow roots, often renting a home or apartment rather than buying. These are the scouts. They want to check things out and are curious about what’s around the next bend…what’s in their next chapter. I suspect more than a few of the scouts will have had more than one partner in life. They have no problem moving on, whether it’s back to the states or to the next country on the list.
The next group I call the voyagers. These are the party-peeps, the free spirits who are completely comfortable as serial relocaters. From the outset, their plan is to spend a limited amount of time in a place and then move on to the next. They may or may not establish an offshore residency. There is a lot of the planet to see and they want to see it. They want to fill every page in their passport with immigration stamps . Sailors/ Cruisers fall into the category as do a few of my friends. These folks want to breathe different air, stand in awe watching the sunrise over numerous oceans and mountains and inhale the aroma of exotic foods across the planet. These guys are a fearless lot and if they have a significant other, they may not be too concerned with a marriage license. Voyagers will eventually settle down but not until they have seen all they want to see.
Here’s the thing. Some folks will never make the move to an expat lifestyle because of fear. Well guess what. Each of us who have lived the life of an expat has experienced some level of fear at some point in the process. But after having lived overseas for nearly 4 years (a relatively short period), I can tell you that the fear goes away. You learn that you can do it. All the expats I know (and I know quite a few) no longer allow fear to be the thief that steals the life they want.
Whether you are a settler, a scout or a voyager, you will find others who share your core beliefs. And if you should make the decision to return to your home country at some point, Congratulations! You will have done something that the vast majority of people have never even tried!