For more than 30 years, “retire overseas” has been my beat… but it’s never been my personal agenda.
These past 20 years I’ve been living overseas myself it hasn’t been as a retiree but an entrepreneur. Over the past two decades, I’ve started businesses in seven countries.
As Kevin Price put it when he interviewed me recently for his “Price Of Business” radio show: I’ve been doing this since before it was cool.
Indeed, when I became an expat entrepreneur for the first time, family, friends, colleagues, and readers wondered what I was thinking.
“But why would you want to start businesses in places like Ecuador and Nicaragua?” my sister asked me way back when I was setting up operations in those countries for the first time.
Today’s expat entrepreneur is far better understood… and also younger.
Forbes got in touch this week to ask if I could write an article for them on the best places to start a business overseas. Not a laptop enterprise (which could be based anywhere and should, therefore, be based wherever it is you’d most like to be, understanding that you can change your locale at any time and bring your business—the source of the cash flow to fund the lifestyle—with you) but an old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar business.
I resisted the idea at first but shouldn’t have. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with enough diverse examples to make for a worthwhile article.
I sent out a call to correspondents and colleagues across the globe, looking for help and perspective:
“Can you guys think of examples of expats you know who’ve started and are operating businesses overseas?” I asked.
Within 24 hours, I received dozens of current real-life examples of successful entrepreneurs running businesses from Panama, Belize, Ecuador, and Mexico to Thailand, Malaysia, France, and Portugal… and beyond.
Some of these folks are running businesses you might guess—including bars, restaurants, hostels, and B&Bs—but others are making money ways you might not imagine.
Expat entrepreneurs we know have started businesses selling everything from typhoon protection systems and specialty hot sauces to hospitality training solutions and landscaping services. They are managing Airbnb cabanas and gaming houses, selling bamboo trinkets, and leading wildlife tours.
And they are all ages. In some cases, the business is a way to supplement a not-quite-enough retirement nest egg. In others, it’s supporting a 20- or 30-something digital nomad’s wanderlust.
Some of these expat entrepreneurs are flying solo. Some have partners. Some have families. Some have started families since they started their overseas businesses.
When an editor from Penguin approached me earlier this year to ask if I’d be interested in updating the “How To Retire Overseas” book I wrote and Penguin published in 2010, she had one specific request for the new edition.
Penguin realizes, as we do, that the irresistible opportunities for reinventing your life overseas are increasingly available and interesting to anyone of any age and wants the book to appeal to this broader audience. I’m on it.
Meantime, we’re working on a report detailing many of the expat entrepreneur stories our LIOS correspondents have identified to feature in an upcoming issue of Overseas Living Letter.