Starting Over Overseas

The Road To Someplace Greener

After 12 ½ years living overseas, we feel like tourists now when we return to these United States.

In New York this week to visit our daughter (who’s interning at Christie’s auction house during her third year at university) and to meet with the publicist for my new book, we’ve a full schedule for seeing the sights. This is 10-year-old Jack’s first trip to the Big Apple. We want to show him the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so he can learn a little about how his Scottish ancestors started their new lives in this country, the top of the Empire State Building so he can gain some perspective on this great city, and Central Park, dressed up for the season with brightly colored beds of tulips and daffodils.

We’re appreciating the history, the shopping, and the museums of one of our favorite U.S. cities, but, as we wander and explore, we’re also coming face-to-face with the realities of life in this part of the world right now. Conversations on the street, in restaurants, on park benches, and on the television screens we can’t seem to avoid are all about health care reform, illegal aliens in Arizona, new taxes, the collapse of the housing market, the shenanigans at Goldman Sachs…

The debates are ever-present and often heated, and we’re beginning to understand the stress involved with calling this country home right now.

The longer we’re living elsewhere, the more we appreciate where we’ve come from. We’ll always be Americans, but, right now, the challenges of life in the United States of America seem overwhelming, too great for us to process. I’ve heard these past few days arguments for and against the new health care bill, the new immigration law in Arizona, and higher taxes. I try to keep an open mind and to consider all points of view. It’s not easy.

Lief and I want Kaitlin, living now in New York as a student, and Jack, who has lived his entire life overseas, to appreciate all that the United States has to offer. But we want them to understand, as well, that life here isn’t the only life there is. We want them to see that they have options.

Right now, many of these options are irresistibly appealing. And pursuing them doesn’t make you any less American.

We Americans are a romantic, optimistic bunch. The grass will be greener, we tell ourselves continually, over the next hilltop or around the next bend in the road.

And, in fact, it can be.

In Panama, for example, where we’ve been living for the past year-and-a-half, things like U.S. health care reform and what to do about the Goldman Sachs debacle seem very far away.

Every place has its own issues and causes for worry. When life one place becomes intolerably challenging (as I’d argue it has in the United States), move somewhere else.

You aspire to diversify your investment portfolio. Why not your life?

We lived seven years in Ireland at a time when we were able to enjoy the final roars of the Celtic Tiger. We sold our house in that country just before the Irish real estate bubble burst. We took the proceeds from that sale and invested them in an apartment in Paris, where we spent the next four years savoring the perennial charms of the City of Light.

Then, when the business agendas of our life became priorities, we relocated again, this time from France (a nightmarish place to indulge any entrepreneurial whim) to Panama, a market that continues to offer tremendous potential for upside.

We lived in Ireland when the U.S. dollar was trading on par with the euro. Today, our dollars spend better in Panama.

We’re not the only ones adopting this kind of diversified lifestyle, of course. Friends refer to it as “planting flags,” looking around the world to identify where best you might pursue whatever family, new life, better life, retirement, financial, asset-protection, business, profit, privacy, or banking agendas you might have.

Put your money in one jurisdiction, keep assets in others, reside elsewhere, and perhaps arrange second citizenship yet someplace else.

Lief and I have been working toward this life approach for years. The pieces are coming into place.

And, as they do, we’re finding an unexpected benefit. As our options for where and how we spend our time and our money continue to expand, our appreciation for the world as a whole evolves, too.

Our appreciation of the whole world, including the United States.

In the current climate, Americans are more interested in the idea of living, retiring, and investing overseas than ever. As life in the States grows increasingly uncertain, a new life somewhere else can seem a great out.

It is. But it’s also an in.

Starting anew in another country is maybe about escaping. More than running away from something, though, starting over overseas is about running to something.

Something new and better. Something richer and fuller.

Starting over overseas is about following the road around the next bend to someplace greener.

Someplace very green indeed.

Kathleen Peddicord