Fill In This Blank—It’s The Key To Making Your Dream Life Overseas A Reality
As I write, my husband Lief and I have just completed our fourth international move. After 10 years in Panama City, Panama, we have returned to Paris, where we lived with our two children for four years before swapping the City of Light for the Hub of the Americas.
For this move, we packed two suitcases apiece with clothes and books and hopped a direct flight from Panama’s Tocumen International to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle. Hard to imagine an easier relocation from one continent to another.
The simple logistics of this most recent migration both ignore the significance of this transition and leverage the two decades of living and investing overseas experience that we have invested in to get us to this point.
When we showed up in Paris early one Monday morning about a month ago, we slotted immediately back into the life we’ve worked for years to create for ourselves in this city.
We moved back into the apartment we purchased a decade-and-a-half ago (the most recent renters having vacated two weeks before our return to the scene). Our first afternoon we walked down the street to the grocer and the baker, who greeted us by name, stopped in at our neighborhood wine shop, bought two carnets of Métro tickets, and texted local friends.
That evening we went for a long walk and chose a café along the river for dinner… just as we have done so many times before. For us, this repositioning from Panama City to Paris has been very much like coming home.
How can you engineer a similarly comfortable, welcoming situation in the place where you decide you’d like to chase adventure overseas? A little patience, please. We’ll get to that. My point in showing you a snapshot of the lives we’ve returned to in Paris is to assure you that the dream you have of living wherever you’re dreaming of living can be realized. This is a daydream, not a pipe dream.
Before we begin looking at your options for where and how to reinvent your life overseas, though, I’d like to highlight an important difference between this new edition and the original “How To Retire Overseas.” Ten years have passed since I wrote that first book. In those 10 years, this retire-overseas idea has come of age.
Today we’re not talking about retiring overseas. At least we’re not talking only about retiring overseas. Today we’re talking about living a borderless lifestyle at any age.
When I began covering this beat in the mid-1980s (yikes), nobody but rock stars thought much about the benefits of moving around the globe. When I first suggested that retirees consider relocating to Costa Rica or Mexico rather than Arizona or Florida, most of them thought both me and my suggestion looney.
Today millions of American retirees have chosen to up sticks and make the most of their post-work phase by enjoying it somewhere sunny, exotic, adventure-filled, and affordable.
For many, the decision begins with a concern that their retirement nest eggs may not be big enough to carry them through. No matter why they first considered the idea, though, every retiree I’ve known who has taken the bold, brave leap and moved to a foreign country at this later stage of life eventually comes to realize that the real benefit isn’t the reduced cost of living but the enhanced quality of life.
And that gets to the point. This is about living better, and why should living better be the monopoly agenda of us oldsters? I mean, who doesn’t want to live better?
I’ve spent the past 10 years building a business in Panama City. In that time, my Live and Invest Overseas operation has employed dozens of expats ages 21 to 35. These millennial wanderers have made their way to Panama from the United States, Canada, and across Europe. They are “retired” overseas well ahead of retirement age.
They aren’t in Panama to try to stretch their nest eggs. They’re in Panama to see what being in Panama is like. They’re moving around the world as curiosity and wanderlust inspire and figuring out how to generate incomes as they go to fund their fun. I happened to connect with them in Panama.
Thirty-plus years ago, when I first suggested folks think about going overseas, this phenomenon wouldn’t have been possible. Then came the internet. It and 21st-century technology from iThings to WhatsApp mean that anyone of any age and under any circumstances can be anywhere he or she wants to be and, by bringing to bear a little imagination and self-industry, find ways to make enough money to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle while in residence.
Retire overseas has been my beat since the mid-1980s, but, until this recent relocation from Panama City to Paris, it was never my personal agenda. I’ve been moving around the world—from Baltimore, Maryland, to Waterford, Ireland, then Paris and Panama—chasing not a relaxing lifestyle, a lower cost of living, or better weather (as retirees often do) but business and investment opportunity.
Now, though, two decades later, Lief and I find ourselves at the stage when we can begin thinking about slowing down. The past 10 years in Panama City, we were noses to the grindstone building a business and raising our son. Last month we launched Jackson into his post-lycée life (he graduated from the French high school in Panama City) and began looking ahead to a lifestyle of more travel, more discovery, and greater flexibility.
Hold down the fort, we said to our now trained and proven team in Panama City. Thanks to all that 21st-century technology I mentioned, Lief and I know from experience that we can stay in day-to-day touch from Paris or wherever, and we’ll work Panama into the schedule at least every eight weeks or so, allowing regular time in the office.
Thus we launch what I’d say is the most significant turning point in our lives since we decided to take them global 20 years ago.
Our long-term plan has long been to follow the seasons, moving around among four or five or more spots where we enjoy spending time and where we have established both a home base and a community connection, as we have done in Paris and Panama City.
In addition, we have invested in the infrastructure of a life in Medellín, Colombia; Algarve, Portugal; Istria, Croatia; and Waterford, Ireland, where it all began.
Maybe your daydream is nothing like as complicated. Whatever form your dreaming takes, I’m here to tell you, based on two decades of personal experience and three decades of focused attention, that it’s not only possible to make that dream come true but easier right now than it’s ever been before in history and easier all the time.
If you could live anywhere, where would you most like to live?
Don’t have an answer for that question yet? Start here:
If you could have any view from your bedroom window each morning, what would you most like it to be?
You fill in that blank, and I’ll do my best to help with the rest.