We Couldn’t Have Planned This If We’d Tried
Lief and I have been at this living and investing overseas thing a long time. We’ve logged more than two-and-a-half decades apiece running around the globe…scouting…researching…discovering…moving…
What’s been the point?
Readers, friends, and family from the States have been writing to say, “Things are bad.” They want to get out…to move on… They’re in search of options.
We’re already out, as it were. We left the States nearly a decade-and-a-half ago. Are we better off?
We’ll never know, of course. What would our lives be like today if we hadn’t packed up all our worldly possessions…as well as our daughter and our business…and moved from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Sunny Southeast of Ireland 14+ years ago? Who could say…
I wish I could report, at this point in our lives, that we’re right where we set out to be…but that’d be quite a stretch. We didn’t intend, way back when, to wind up, 14 years hence, living in downtown Panama City…building a business with the help of a wildly eclectic staff that includes a Panamanian IT director, a German assistant, a British editor, a Guatemalan marketing assistant, and a young American associate publisher (coincidentally our daughter’s boyfriend of five years)…sending our young son to a French school because he speaks better French than he does English…
We couldn’t have planned that if we’d tried.
Instead, simply, years ago, we moved to Waterford…because the opportunity presented itself…and because, after nearly 15 years of researching and reporting on living overseas, I wanted to see for myself what it would really be like.
We took up part-time residence in Paris several years later because our daughter, a romantic like her mom, wanted to spend a year studying in the City of Light. When we struggled to find a suitable host-family situation for her, I suggested that, rather than sending Kaitlin off to Paris for school for a year…why not all go to Paris?
That’s how her younger brother, Jackson, aged 4 at the time, came to be such a Francophone.
Fast forward several more years and here we are today in Panama, where Lief has decided to develop land on this country’s Pacific coast.
Those family and friends writing us to tell us how bad things are back home…they’re impressed with how smart we’ve been…how forward-thinking…
Have we been smart? Maybe it appears that way now, if you spin the tale just right. We own real estate in more than a dozen countries, some valued in euro, some in dollars, U.S. and Canadian, some in pesos, Colombian, Mexican, Philippine…but none of it within U.S. borders.
On the face of it, we’re well organized today…diversified across borders, across currencies, across asset types…
The truth of it? “Organized” is the last word I’d use to describe our situation. We own, ourselves or with friends, five “residences.” But, as friend Paul Terhorst pointed out the other day, that’s not necessarily the good life. That’s sometimes, depending on the day, a nightmare.
One of the residences is a tumble-down stone farmhouse on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula that we’ve seen but three times and that I’ve been planning to renovate for more than six years. As hard as I’ve tried and as much as I’ve wanted to get to this project…it just hasn’t happened…
One of the residences lost its roof recently, thanks to a hurricane…
Every purchase seemed like a good idea at the time…and I don’t regret any of them today…but have our living and investing abroad adventures been wise?
From my vantage point this morning in the just-painted office of our most recent diversification effort (our almost-renovated apartment in Medellin, Colombia), the only answer I can give to that question is:
I don’t think that’s the point.
Lief and I are no smarter than the next guy (and gal). We’ve been fortunate to have had opportunity knock at key moments in our lives over the past 27 years or so. Maybe you could argue that we were smart enough to answer the door. Though, along the way, it has seemed not so much smart to pursue these various options as they’ve presented themselves…as, maybe, brave…and probably foolish.
Certainly, we’ve felt like fools often enough…and, certainly, friends and family back home have sometimes judged our lives and the choices we’ve made as…well…uncommon. Maybe they think we’re looking pretty smart right now, but, along the way, most of them have thought most of the time that most of what we were doing was just plain nuts.
A couple of years after we left Baltimore, Maryland, for Waterford, Ireland, a colleague back in Baltimore, still trying to make sense of our move, asked, “So…you just woke up one day and decided you wanted to live in Ireland?”
“You could say that”…
We woke up one day and decided we wanted to live in Ireland. Then Kaitlin helped us realize we wanted to live in Paris. Then Lief’s land baron ambitions brought us to Panama.
“Are you in Panama for good?” asked friends over drinks the other evening.
“We aren’t anything for good,” was the most honest answer I could offer.
We’re taking advantage of this opportunity to live, invest, and do business in one of the world’s most exciting markets right now. Just as we took advantage of the chance, several years ago, to savor la vie francaise…just as we’d jumped at the opportunity several years before that to see what living and doing business on the Emerald Isle would be like.
Are we better off for all this?
We aren’t where we set out to go, because we didn’t know where that was.
Instead, we’re where we are.
And I can tell you this: I’d do it all again.
Only I’d start the whole adventure sooner.