A friend here in Paris was entertaining her in-laws recently, visiting from New Mexico, and I joined them for a walking tour of the city one day.
We stopped for coffee and the conversation naturally got around to the topic of living overseas. Turned out, the mother-in-law, Julie, is an avid reader on the topic… in fact, she subscribes to our e-letters!
When I explained I was an editor for Live And Invest Overseas and told her more about what we do beyond our free e-letters, she was intrigued.
“I’ve been day dreaming about living overseas for years now… but my family thinks I’m crazy. They tell me I can’t do it.”
I looked to her husband and then to her daughter-in-law, “You mean this family right here tells you that?!”
“Yes,” she went on winking at her husband, “Steve tells me that it’s a pie-in-the-sky idea… but it’s mostly my son who tells me that there’s no way I could handle it. He says I wouldn’t be able to deal with so much change and unfamiliarity.”
I laughed, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent, it’s that no person is who their children see them to be. Your kids only see one of your dimensions: the mother, the caregiver, their rock in a storm. You’re not a whole person to them—they know nothing of your life before them or the experiences you had before you became a parent.
“And they don’t want you to change… they just want you to stay the same parent they’ve always known.
“Your son is doing it himself—he’s been living overseas with his wife and your granddaughter for over four years now, so what does he think makes him more capable than you?”
She laughed and agreed… what was really stopping her?
“On the other hand,” I said, “I know dozens of folks just like you who are content to day dream and ‘armchair travel,’ as we call it. They love to read about foreign places and keep the fantasy alive… maybe one day they’ll make a move… maybe not. And that’s perfectly fine, too. It’s about what you want.
“I sincerely doubt it, but maybe your son isn’t wrong—maybe you wouldn’t love living overseas… but that shouldn’t mean you don’t even try.
“As we always say: This idea is customizable. You don’t need to sell everything off wholesale and move full-time. Think about spending just a few weeks or part of the year in a place you love and take it from there. You can dip a toe in and wade slowly deeper from there—or retreat entirely.”
She nodded, “I have to say, even if it is just a pipedream I’ll never follow through on, I love reading about other places and the stories of people building their lives in new, exotic cities… and reading about their experiences makes me believe that I could do it, too.”
I didn’t push the topic any further for fear of overstepping, but this conversation really got my goat. One of my biggest peeves is hearing from people just like Julie who have an overseas dream only to have it crushed by the loved ones who should be the most supportive.
It’s one of the most common themes we hear from people at our conferences… that they came despite the advice of their friends and family, that they have been sent daily emails with outrageous news stories and government warnings, that they’ve been told they’re out of their minds and who would ever consider such a crazy idea?
What about safety? What about the language? What about the family you’re leaving behind?
Is Living Overseas Safe?
Well, the truth is, the world is a lot safer than U.S. news outlets would have you believe. We don’t need to get into statistics about American violent crimes versus those that happen in other countries… let’s just say that mass shootings are a uniquely American phenomena that have no equivalent in the countries that we recommend to you. Yes, European countries are subject to random terrorist attacks that you’ve likely read about over the last few years, but these don’t happen on a weekly or even monthly basis.
Personally, I’ve been the victim of violent and petty crime several times in my life, and each instance occurred in the States, never once in another country. My anxiety for personal safety skyrockets when I’m in the States, where you never know if just being in a spa or a cinema or a mall might make you collateral damage for who knows what kind of rampage.
And I’m not alone here… next time you get sent a link to some Department of Defense warning about another country, go to that country’s government site and see what warning they give their own citizens about going to the United States—it’s shocking and terrifying to read how the rest of the world sees American violence.
My point is to keep things in perspective. No country is 100% safe… though there are many that come much closer to that mark than anywhere in the United States.
Common sense is the key to staying safe anywhere. Don’t flaunt valuables in high tourist areas that are pickpocket targets… don’t go looking for drugs or women on the street in the middle of the night… and know which neighborhoods are to be generally avoided—every city has them, including wherever you live now.
What About Language?
OK, now let’s talk about language…
While there are a few countries you could move to outside the States that speak English, you’ll most likely have to learn at least some of another language if you move overseas. Exceptions include Belize, Ireland, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Malta. Of those countries, only Belize and Malta make it easy for foreigners to stay.
But, please, don’t let a fear of learning a new language be the reason you don’t chase adventure overseas.
Learning a language has never been easier than it is now, with a wealth of free apps and digital courses that you can use from the comfort of your couch—right now if you want to.
Aside from making your life in your new home richer and more enjoyable, the cognitive benefits of challenging your brain and keeping it active in the way that learning a new language does has been proven to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s.
What About Family?
As for family left behind?
In this day and age, you probably talk more to those who live near you by text and phone than in person anyway! This used to be one of the most difficult things for someone moving overseas—trying to find a way to keep in touch with loved ones.
But this is no longer a concern.
Between WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, texting, and social media, you have no excuse. Yes, you’ll miss them all, but you’ll keep in touch, and seeing them in person will be all the more special.
The final and maybe biggest obstacle you’ll likely face when considering a move to a new country is peer pressure. Will you be able to ignore the inevitable judgement?
It’s a personal question that you have to answer for yourself.
I can only tell you this: You’ll regret it if you don’t find a way to laugh off the naysayers.
I can also tell you that it’s much easier to do with company.
This is one of the big reasons we host conferences… to give you a chance to connect with the wholly supportive Live And Invest Overseas community.
Forming relationships and making friends with like-minded souls (folks just like you) who share your dreams and visions? That’s the key to being able to walk politely away from all the negative nellies…
While you take off for the adventure of your lifetime.