You Couldn’t Plan This If You Tried…
Lief and I have been at this living and investing overseas thing a long time. We’ve logged nearly two-and-a-half decades apiece running around the globe…scouting…researching…discovering…
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 more than a decade 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 10+ 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, a decade ago, to wind up, a decade hence, in an apartment in a high-rise condo tower in Panama City…building a new business with a German assistant, a Russian IT coordinator, an Irish editor, and a young American marketing manager (coincidentally our daughter’s boyfriend of two 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, 10 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 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, Argentine and Mexican…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, more likely, a nightmare.
One of the residences is a tumble-down stone farmhouse on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula that we’ve seen but twice–the day we bought it and the day we returned a year later with the architect to finalize plans for the renovation. As hard as I’ve tried and as much as I’ve wanted to get back since…it just hasn’t happened…
One of the residences lost its roof three months ago. I told you that sad tale earlier this month, reporting from Nicaragua where I’d gone to assess the damage.
One of the residences is an apartment in Buenos Aires I haven’t seen in more than two years…
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 this high-rise apartment in Paitilla, Panama City, 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 25 years or so.
Maybe you could argue that we were smart enough to answer the door. Along the way, it’s 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 like we took advantage of the chance, several years ago, to savor la vie francaise…just like we’d jumped at the opportunity several years before that to see what living and doing business in 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.
FROM THE MAILBAG:
“Do you have a Chamber of Commerce catalog with descriptions of area businesses and real estate in Ecuador?”
— Terri H., United States
Take a look at http://ecuachamber.org/. Specifically: http://ecuachamber.org/. Meantime, our man in Ecuador, Mike Sager, is working furiously to finish his Live and Invest in Ecuador manual, due out early 2009. Watch this space.