When Lief and I decided to relocate from the United States to Ireland nearly two decades ago, we were early 30-somethings. Our move had nothing to do with retirement.
How long did we plan to live in Ireland? Where did we think we’d go from there?
We had no idea. Honestly, we didn’t even ask ourselves those questions.
We were moving to Ireland to open an office for the U.S. publishing house where I’d been working since 1984. Coincidentally, we’d only just met four months before.
No kidding. Lief and I met on a tour of Ireland (I was leading the tour; he was a longtime reader). We were engaged two months later, married two months after that.
When we met, Lief and I were both preparing for moves overseas. Indeed, we discovered, we were both preparing for moves to the same place overseas… so we moved together…
Along with my 8-year-old daughter… and the marching order from my longtime mentor, boss, and business partner to establish an EU base of operations.
Our seven years living in Waterford were a blur. We were adjusting to each other as a new family unit. We were adjusting to day-to-day life in Ireland. We were adjusting to the Irish business world… to Irish weather…
We were shopping for a place to live… renting office space… hiring our first staff… opening bank accounts… buying a car… enrolling Kaitlin in school…
And then, just several months into the move, I was pregnant.
We were living in fast-forward.
If I could have given myself one piece of advice at the time it would have been to slow down long enough to notice what was going on around me… at least now and then.
Today, with almost two decades of living overseas experience under my belt… not to mention the two decades themselves… early 50-something me wishes I’d appreciated my time in Ireland more than I did at the time.
Lief had targeted Ireland as the market where he wanted to make his first overseas property investment, but I didn’t choose Ireland at all. I chose to jump at the opportunity to move overseas when the company where I was working put it on the table before me. They wanted an office in Ireland; I wanted a big adventure.
I took Ireland for granted. I was a single mom who met a man, fell in love, got married, moved to a foreign country, started a business in that country, and then had a baby.
All in less than 18 months.
I was so focused on my personal life as it was evolving in real time that the scene outside my window was irrelevant. I could have been living anywhere.
After seven years in Ireland, we moved to Paris… and, after four years in the City of Light, we moved to Panama.
This summer, we’re moving again. Late June, after our son graduates high school, Lief and I will be returning to Paris.
We didn’t ask ourselves how long we planned to stick around or where we planned to position ourselves next when we moved to Ireland. We didn’t consider those questions when we moved to Paris either… nor when we arrived on the scene in Panama City nine years ago.
As we prepare for this next move, though, we’re taking stock and thinking long term. We’re asking ourselves and each other about our intentions directly. We see this fourth international move, the first we’ll make without children, as the start of the countdown to our next phase… the transition to our troisième âge, as the French might say.
The answer to the first question (how long do we plan to be in Paris?) is easy.
Indefinitely. Since we lived in Paris the first time, our plan has been to return and to remain. Paris will be our base of operations from June 2017 until we reach our expiration dates.
That is not to say we’ll be full-time in Paris. That was never the idea.
Where else will we spend time… and what will we be doing along the way?
The answers to those questions are more complicated and have evolved continuously since the day Lief and I met. When we found each other, we found spirits aligned in fundamental ways. We both wanted to move to Ireland… to live in Paris… to start a business in Panama…
However, what Lief and I both have always wanted more than anything is change. We both thrive on contrast, value the unexpected, and prioritize the unknown.
This means that our long-term plan will never be set in stone but forever open to adjustment as we continually consider what might lie across the next border.
As I review where we’ve been, examine where we are, and consider where we’re headed, one picture keeps coming to mind:
The scene outside our bedroom window in County Waterford…
The rolling green fields, the low stone walls, the white sheep, the tidy hedgerows, the meandering lane… our barn, our kitchen garden, our fruit trees… Kaitlin and Jackson chasing chickens and riding horseback…
Turns out, while I wasn’t paying attention, Ireland was imprinting herself in my memory. Turns out, I put down deep roots in Ireland without knowing it.
Roots so deep that, today, when I consider where Lief, our children, and I are headed from here, I’m keen to make sure the Emerald Isle plays a role.
“So, what are you suggesting?” Lief asked when I shared my thinking recently.
“That we buy another house in Ireland?”
“Well, yes. I guess that is what I’m suggesting,” I replied.
“I’d like to have a big old Irish country home again,” I said. “An old stone house with gardens and stables… a place where we can gather with the kids and, eventually, the grandkids. It’d be the perfect complement to city life in Paris… and an important part of the legacy we leave…”
So, now, a new plan is emerging.
From our base in Paris, we’ve always imagined we’d move around, coming and going regularly to Panama City (where our LIOS operations are permanently headquartered)… Los Islotes (where our home on Panama’s Pacific coast is nearly finished)… Medellín, Colombia… Belize… and other places that capture our imaginations, present opportunity, and get under our skin…
Including, now, County Waterford, Ireland… where it all began.
We’ve scheduled a property scouting tour for July.