What if you could go anywhere, do anything, and spend your time and your money any way you wanted?
As we move through this week headed toward New Year (and new decade) 2020, my question is not rhetorical…
For, indeed, you could go anywhere, you could do anything, and you could spend your days and invest your capital however strikes your fancy.
All you have to do is to open your mind to the possibilities and muster the confidence to take the leap.
On one hand, this international living thing is terrifying. The opportunities, discoveries, investments, and speculations I introduce to you in these dispatches can seem intimidating, especially at first.
The easy thing would be to ignore them and keep on living the way you’ve been living.
What a thing to create a whole new life for yourself in a foreign place. What a terrifying thing.
And what an adventure.
In the more than three decades that I’ve been covering this beat, I’ve spoken with many thousands of people just like you who are, in fact, already living and investing overseas. And I’ve never met one who regrets the experience.
Sure, sometimes, things don’t work out as you expect. Markets zig when you’re positioned for them to zag. Currencies go up when you’re betting they’ll move down. Real estate values increase… but they also fall, sometimes quick and sometimes far, as we long-term global property investors all know from experience.
Sometimes, paradise comes with humidity, bugs, belligerent taxi drivers, zero zoning, litter, and broken sidewalks.
You can be sure of a place or an opportunity… and then you can change your mind.
A country can seem perfect… and then you realize that no place is perfect.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you take the leap and start down this live and invest overseas path? Maybe you end up someplace you don’t want to be?
So you move on. You make another change. You could always go back home.
However, here’s my prediction as we move into the final week of 2019:
Once you embrace these ideas and begin to act on these opportunities, you’ll never look back. You’ll be launched into a new phase of your life that you’ll treasure and that will lead you to places, people, and experiences you could never imagine as you read this today.
How We Got Started On Our Overseas Adventure
Lief and I have been living outside the States for more than 20 years.
We met in Ireland more than two decades ago, where we both were scouting for new business ventures. I was intending a move from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Emerald Isle, with the business I was running at the time and my 8-year-old daughter.
Lief, living in Chicago, was thinking of ditching his cushy career-path CFO job Stateside and pursuing adventures abroad, starting with a real estate development project in Ireland’s Sunny Southeast.
We were engaged to be married two months after we met, married two months after that, and living together in Waterford, Ireland, by the fall.
Ireland led to Paris led to Panama…
Along the way, we have had a child (Jackson, a dual citizen, born in Ireland)… launched businesses in seven countries… renovated apartments… and houses… bought and sold real estate in more than two dozen markets… made good deals… and some not-so-good ones… educated our children on three continents… shipped container-loads of furniture back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean (four times)… moved dogs, cats, and a pet turtle across international borders… organized residency visas and work permits… opened bank accounts… acquired second passports… paid taxes… hired staff… vetted attorneys and tax advisors and property developers and real estate brokers…
Would we go back home?
We are home.
Not in any conventional way… but according to the strategy Lief and I conceived together more than two decades ago and have spent the years since putting into place.
In fact, today, we are between homes… dividing our time between Panama City and Paris… while, thanks to the freedom and flexibility that comes with our new empty-nester status, venturing off to other points on the map as business and personal agendas inspire.
We’re earning lots of frequent flier miles… and, for sure, this isn’t a lifestyle that would suit everyone. But Lief and I value contrast and discovery above most everything else… so we embrace our current schedule, which has us in Panama one week, Paris the next, and then off scouting real estate investment opportunities in the Dominican Republic… Brazil… Malta… China… Uzbekistan… Morocco… or Portugal, for example (all places on our priority travel list for the New Year).
Sometimes I miss my now long-ago life in the States. This time of year, especially, I’m filled with nostalgia for now long-ago times with family and hometown friends.
Mostly, though, I appreciate our continuing journey. Ireland was the beginning of our adventures overseas, but so, too, have Paris and Panama been beginnings. We don’t think in terms of endings but of stages.
Opening your mind and your heart to these living, retiring, and investing overseas ideas comes with practical, quantifiable benefits.
You could move to a new country and cut your cost of living to less than US$1,000 per month. But please recognize that a reduced cost of living isn’t the only or even the best reason to launch a new life overseas.
Living or retired overseas, you could also reduce your overall tax burden, maybe to zero (legally and safely). You could cut your cost of health care in half or more. You could live where the weather is better, the cities safer, the neighbors more interesting, and the view from your bedroom window more pleasing.
Shift your perspective, and you realize that, despite the inescapably and seemingly unending bad news of our age, there is a world beyond the turmoil, conflict, and gloom.
You Can Escape From The Doom And Gloom
Things are not, in fact, tough all over.
In some places, in fact… from Portugal to Panama, from Belize to Colombia, from the Dominican Republic to Ecuador, and from France and Italy to Mexico and Thailand, to name only a few… the living can be good, safe, healthy, cheap, rich, full, and engaging.
When we moved from the States to Waterford, Ireland, two-plus decades ago, we never could have predicted or even imagined the turns and adventures that lie ahead. Yes, we set off with a plan… but that plan has changed in real time year by year, month by month, sometimes day by day and hour by hour over the two decades since.
And, of course, not everything has gone according to plan.
But Lief and I and our children carry Ireland with us now… and Paris… and Panama…
The experiences and the memories of every stage of this ongoing global adventure are with us for the rest of our lives.
Back “home” in Ireland, in Paris, in Panama, and, yes, in the United States is our ever-evolving, ever-expanding global “family.”
In each of the places where we’ve spent time, where we’ve been at home, we have made friends that have become permanent parts of our lives. We carry them with us as we continue to move around this world. It’s our version of a moveable feast.
When I began reporting on these ideas 30-plus years ago, they were ahead of their time. No more. You have more good reasons right now, as we move into New Year 2020, to launch a new life in another country than ever before.
Where will 2020 take us… take you?
I have no idea, but I can hardly wait to find out.
This article was first published in 2018 and has been recently updated.