As we begin 2020 you may be reminiscing about the past and dreaming about what the New Year will hold…
I’m thinking about 2011, the year that I can see now was one of the biggest turning points in my life. Little did I know then that, just three years later, I would leave my comfortable life and my stress-filled job and move to Medellín, Colombia.
My story to that point may be similar to yours. I pursued my dream career for 23 years, working 50 to 60 hours per week, sloshing through 4 or more months of bitter cold, snow, and ice every year, and fantasizing about finally retiring in 15 or 20 years, if I was lucky.
I Felt Trapped—My Dreams Were Fading…
I was only in my mid-40s, yet I was watching the light at the end of the tunnel move farther away from me, instead of closer. I knew my exhausting lifestyle was negatively affecting my health, personal relationships, and overall attitude.
This was not the life I had hoped and planned for.
On a whim, I started researching Caribbean destinations online, hoping to find a winter escape that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Having traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands and a handful of other locations on a cruise, I knew most tropical destinations come with a hefty price tag.
Maybe it was fate or just luck, but, while I was researching Belize, Live and Invest Overseas popped up in a search.
To be honest, the idea of living overseas had never before occurred to me. However, my extroverted husband, who has never met a stranger and who makes friends wherever he goes, was excited about the possibility.
So, when Live and Invest Overseas announced that its annual Retire Overseas Conference would be held in Orlando that year, we signed up. A few months later, we traveled to Florida for the event. We had a loose focus on three potential countries—Belize, which was still on our radar, along with Ecuador and Costa Rica.
The Turning Point
After four intense days of conference meetings and presentations, my head was spinning with all of the possibilities. I had learned so much in those four days, but I had many more decisions to make as a result.
First, I realized that, even if I walked away from my career and my largest income-earning years yet to come, I still had viable options that could improve my life dramatically.
The other big realization I had after that conference in Orlando was that I really liked the idea of Medellín. Suddenly, I was seriously considering a move to Colombia, South America.
Over the next three years, my husband and I attended Live and Invest Overseas conferences in Belize, Ecuador, and Colombia. I met many people who have become valuable resources, mentors, and friends. The contacts I made at these events made my overseas move less complicated, less intimidating, and more attainable than I ever expected.
Fast-forward five more years and I’m writing to you from the balcony of my modern, comfortable apartment in Medellín, Colombia. It’s early January, and the only ice is clinking in my glass. At this time of retrospection, I can truly say that this adventure has turned out better than I ever expected.
To Rent Or To Own? We Couldn’t Decide…
After we sold everything we owned in the States, including our home, in preparation for our big move, we decided that we would never own real estate again.
The plan was to rent a place in Colombia and travel throughout South and Central America with the freedom to just hit the road and go whenever we wanted.
Then, over our first year living in Medellín, we watched the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Colombian peso move dramatically in our favor.
Hmm… we said to ourselves… this seems like an opportunity… not only because of our currency advantage but also because, by this time, we’d gotten to know the Medellín property market well. Since our first visit to the country for the Live and Invest Overseas conference six years before, we’d watched property values in Medellín rise steadily.
We knew that El Poblado was the safest bet from a value perspective. It was also the area of the city where we wanted to live. We decided to begin shopping for a property to purchase before prices moved up any further.
I created a spreadsheet to track our research. We looked at more than 50 properties online and viewed more than 30 in person. We worked with 13 different real estate agents.
I really didn’t know what to expect throughout the experience and counted on my detailed record-keeping to guide me.
I learned the hard way that buying real estate overseas can be very different from my prior experiences in North America. For one thing, multiple listing services don’t exist in much of the world, so property searching is more complicated and time-consuming. Plus, you’re dealing with different cultures and laws and working, usually, in an unfamiliar language.
I fumbled through three failed negotiations before finding and buying what for us has turned out to be the perfect apartment.
Sometimes I still wonder how all this happened. My life has been completely reinvented—new country, new city, new home, new job, and every day a new adventure.
As I look ahead to this New Year, I’m delighted to be able to say that I have no idea where it will lead me next.
And I just can’t wait to find out.