Have You Ever Seriously Considered the “Expat Lifestyle” – You Know, Daydreamed of What It Might Be Like to Live, Work Or Perhaps Actually Retire Overseas?

November 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Living, Travel & Leisure, Work, Money & Retirement

Wonder What It Takes To Retire Overseas? Yes You Can!

Do You Sometimes Have the Feeling That You Really Need to “Get Away From It All,” As In Take a Break From the World As You Currently Know It?

You know: you aren’t just dreaming of taking an extended vacation to some exotic locale, but you actually find yourself fantasizing about what it might be like to take up permanent – or semi-permanent – residence in another country? 

Like that couple you might have recently read about, who decided to escape the rat race and retire abroad before they were even 40: They sold everything they owned, raised $500,000 and moved to an island in the Caribbean, where they’ve been “living happily ever” after for the last 18 years… and living like royalty, to boot! 

Perhaps you, too, have wondered what it might be like to retire overseas: to trade in your expensive, traffic-clogged life for a quieter, more affordable one. 

  • Maybe you’ve imagined yourself on on a verdant, mountainous Caribbean island where you might find lush views out every window and sand crabs meandering across the roads.
  • Then again, maybe you’ve seen yourself in somewhat more urban surroundings, perhaps dining on a fabulous three-course dinner with abundant wine, while attentive waiters linger nearby awaiting your next request. Could this be Paris? Or maybe you’re in Buenos Aires?
  • Or perhaps you were so taken by the exotic scenery in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, that you like to imagine yourself riding horseback in the wilds of New Zealand?

No matter which is your dream, your getaway vision always involves somehow transporting yourself to entirely new and exotic surroundings:

  • Sort of like Hemingway did decades ago, when he moved his authoring operations to Spain, land of bullfighting and sport fishing.  
  • Or maybe like what the Danish author, Isak Dinesen, did when she moved to Africa. (Remember, her story, chronicled in “Out of Africa,” begins: I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…”   (What Boomer woman doesn’t remember the scene in the movie where Robert Redford helps Meryl Streep shampoo her hair while they’re out on safari… )
  • Then again, maybe your vision is more like that of poet, cook and travel writer Frances Mayes, the real-life person whose story of buying a house in a foreign country was so well portrayed by Diane Lane in the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. 

Keep Reading If You’ve Ever Screamed, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.”

Moving – or even retiring – overseas is no longer a radical notion. More and more, Baby Boomers are looking into retiring offshore in an effort the get the most from their retirement dollars, while having the adventure of a lifetime.  Actually, Americans are choosing to emigrate for a variety of excellent reasons:

  • Adventure – what’s more adventurous than leaving behind life as you know it for a new one in an exotic locale?
  • A better climate – maybe you’ve had it with snow shovels, now you’re looking for unending days and nights of temperate tropical breezes
  • Lower cost of living – your retirement savings can afford you a better lifestyle than you would be able to achieve in the US
  • Financial freedom – a way to sidestep recession. Living offshore can mean you can “retire rich” on a middle class budget, never outlive your nestegg
  • Investment opportunities  – an opportunity to grow your investments tax-free or tax-deferred
  • Healthier lifestyle – a way to live better, healthier, and with less stress

Of course, Boomers aren’t just dreaming of basking in the sun on those beaches of the world: we’re talking “retirement” in loose terms here. Let’s focus on how you might have imagined yourself living very affordably overseas while you generated a nice side income for yourself by doing something you love, like:

  • Running a small restaurant on the beach
  • Operating a beachside dive shop, renting out your yacht while you and your spouse serve as crew or giving surfing lessons
  • Exporting local handicrafts back to the US or elsewhere
  • Working long distance for your current US employer
  • Running your own company, via your mobile “laptop office”

Which Countries Offer the Best Living and Investment Options for Potential Expats? 

The fact is, thousands of Baby Boomers are finding themselves dreaming of living a life of retired splendor in another country — and many of them are doing more than just dreaming about what it might be like to retire abroad – they’re actually taking action. You’ve probably even had friends who spoke to you in glowing terms about the benefits of retiring permanently in an exotic-sounding county like:

  • Argentina – Think European-style living at a fraction of the cost
  • Croatia – Sun-kissed islands, great sailing, temperate climate: The best of traditional Europe…Non-traditional prices
  • Dominican Republic – An extremely affordable Caribbean lifestyle, and several large expat communities
  • Italy – Tuscany may be calling, but if you’re American, Canadian or Australian, you don’t have the right to work or live in Italy. So this one is a tougher call
  • Malaysia – If you ever considered Asia, it’s easy to buy property here and they have a “Malaysia My Second Home” program for expats
  • New Zealand – Tight immigration laws, wide range of climates, but English-speaking, and oh! the scenery
  • Nicaragua- Stunning natural surroundings and more afforable than Costa Rica 
  • Panama – Many expats say the this is still the world’s best retirement option. Find out why – and if you agree
  • Poland– Great scenery, growing economy, newer member of the EU, tourism is rising, and there’s a lot of foreign investment
  • The Philippines – Another great Asian opportunity with the economy recovering well, but land ownership laws aren’t as welcoming
  • Uruguay – Some say moving here is like rediscovering the good life of 1950s small town America

Then again, maybe you were wowed by the scenery when you watched the recent Olympics and you’re thinking of moving to China. Obviously, an emerging superpower, China is expected to become the world’s largest exporter by 2010, so there are great investment opportunities here.

More potential financial opportunity comes from their growing tourist economy. Maybe you imagine yourself setting up shop as a travel writer, photographer, importer or consultant

Of course, since it’s still a Communist country you can’t own Chinese real estate outright; but you can buy a 70-year leasehold option on property.

Most likely you’ll agree this country has to be categorized as an opportunity only the most adventurous will choose! 

Look Before You Leap: Doing Your Research

Obviously there’s a world of exciting options out there – literally something for everyone. But whatever your reasons for leaving your current lifestyle behind, it’s always best to investigate as much as possible in advance.

Before you sell your home and kiss the grandkids goodbye, you need to do your homework. You absolutely must learn everything you can about the countries you’re interested in.

Experts advise the best thing to do is start with research, and then visit the country you’re interested in several times as a tourist, ideally visiting during different seasons of the year.

These Are Probably the Most Crucial Topics You Need to Research:

  • Climate
  • Crime
  • Cost of living
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Residency requirements
  • Visa and other documentation requirements
  • Local laws regarding work and foreign property ownership
  • Rules regarding taking your important “stuff” with you: furniture, cars, PETS

How-To Advice to Retire Overseas From Someone Who Actually Did It 

Jacqueline D. Brown, who currently has a show on public access TV in Los Angeles called “Southern Latitudes,” dreamed of living on a tropical island, and moved to the Fiji Islands for a year that turned into five. Prior to that, she lived in South Korea for a couple of years, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). 

On her return to the US, many people asked her how she did it: How was she able to give up everything and move to a place she barely knew?  To answer, she drew up the following her list of ten steps you must take before you decide to move abroad, no matter where you want to go:

10 Steps To Move Abroad, Wherever You Wish to Go:

  1. Ask yourself, whether or not this something you really want to or can do? Talk is cheap. Can you really give up your friends and move thousands of miles away to a place where there’s limited television and yours is the only cell phone around?
  2. Pick a place. It’s important to choose the right place. If you’ve always wanted an ocean view, this is your chance. Or if only the hustle and bustle of city life satisfies you, expect to find it only on a smaller, more manageable scale. Be honest with yourself about what you want. Do your research.
  3. Decide on a moving date. It’s best to have a definite date for your move. This way you are working toward a goal that is realistic and tangible.
  4. Determine how you are going. If you just can’t leave your things behind, renting a container on a freighter is best. You can accompany your things or fly days later when they are expected to arrive.
  5. Do your research. Contact the tourist board or embassy to ascertain residency requirements. Currently in Fiji, you can only stay as a tourist for 90 days but can return the next day for 90 more. Do you need a Visa? Start the process three to six months before you go.
  6. Simplify your life. Clean out your closets and give away or sell things you don’t need or can get there. If you plan to work, take original diplomas. I had a copy of mine but that was unacceptable when I was offered a teaching position.
  7. Maintain your health. Depending on where you are going, the medicine and dental care may not be what you are used to. Get a complete physical, your needed shots, and a dental checkup. Do you have enough medicine? Take enough to last until you find a doctor. Can you order medicines online?
  8. Use the Internet. Here you can find land or houses for sale. Also, if you read the local newspaper online, you can get a feel for the place: food cost, apartment rent, weather. The State Department’s web site will tell you if there are any warnings or problems in the area.
  9. Cut emotional ties. It’s said that if you can make it past the first six months in a foreign country, you will probably stay. After the newness and excitement wears off and reality sets in you’ll find yourself alone without family or friends. This is now your home. You can’t click open your cell phone and call back to your former home every day. My relatives and friends cried when I was leaving for the airport. But I had made up my mind. Although I would miss them, I wanted a new life, a new adventure. Once settled in your new home get to know your neighbors. Hang out with expats also. You’ll appreciate talking to someone with a similar background who will understand what you are saying without your having to give a long explanation.
  10. Make a checklist. Make a list of everything you are selling and everything you are taking, including your tickets and passport. As each thing is done, check it off. I made a list of things I was selling: furniture, appliances, books, some clothes. I took the list to work, made copies, and passed it around. My co-workers picked what they wanted and put it on layaway with me. Just before I left, they paid and picked up their goods.

Some Good Online Resources to Help You Get Your Research Started Are:

Fascinated By the Possibilities in What You’re Reading?

Look for another post on living the expatriate lifestyle coming soon. There’s just too much to cover in just one post! 

Next up:

  • How hard it sit to take your car? What about moving your furniture?
  • How long does it take to get the necessary visas?
  • How do you handle prescriptions and health insurance?
  • Can you really do this?


67 Responses to “Have You Ever Seriously Considered the “Expat Lifestyle” – You Know, Daydreamed of What It Might Be Like to Live, Work Or Perhaps Actually Retire Overseas?”

  1. Tim@Holiday Home Insurance on January 26th, 2011 5:53 am

    My wife and I are planning a move to Umbria near Tuscany, Italy. It helps that she speask the language and we can work due to being European. I am not certain the move would be permanent but we will perhaps buy a place as its still very good value in that part if Italy and then rent it out for parts of the year.

    I know its non commital but I think you have to be realistic that it may not work out as a permanent move.

  2. Gary@Galapagos Islands Travel on January 29th, 2011 10:32 am

    Fantastic post.

    I especially like the steps that you’ve provided in your post. I’m currently looking in to the possibility to move abroad and really think this post will help me gather some information, so I can make the right decision.

  3. Angie from Work At Home Files on May 4th, 2011 12:56 am

    Tweeted – great article, something my readers would be very interested in, most being small or micro business owners looking to work at home, which of course can be done from anywhere, including some of these exotic locations!

  4. Sam@Ringling Brothers Circus Coupons on May 9th, 2011 3:45 pm

    I visited the island of St. Lucia recently. I had a chance to meet some people who have retired there and they say they love it. The cost of living is low and the weather is great…If I had the chance I think I would retire in Italy though…The food is just too good!

    Also, these 10 tips are awesome. Great post!

  5. Victoria on May 12th, 2011 12:57 pm

    Thank you for the list of countries that are good to think about as a person looking to live out of North America. Do you have any information on Belize?

  6. Anne on May 12th, 2011 2:39 pm

    Victoria, Macarena Rose of Rainforest Realty is your best bet for more info on Belize. Here’s a link to their site:

  7. HomeTivi on June 8th, 2011 4:15 am

    I have been thinking the same for the past two years and never get a decision yet. But I’m really interested in South Korea, but the fact that there’s a rumor of war will emerge between south and north korea makes me think twice. Maybe my second option would be Panama.

  8. Mike@ebpp on June 20th, 2011 11:32 am

    For expat lifestyle to truly take off companies need to realize that there is nothing wrong with telecommuting. If all your work is done on the phone or on a computer, why exactly should you have to spend at least 2 hours each day just on commuting? Even if your commute is only 30 minutes each way…that’s still an hour of your day that you lose.

  9. Anne on June 20th, 2011 1:17 pm

    Well, I’m all for telecommuting, Mike, and it would certainly make the expat lifestyle more affordable. But since we’re talking about living outside of your home country, most US native expats would have a lot longer commute than that!

  10. Tablet on July 19th, 2011 5:23 am

    Asia is my target, how about Thailand?

  11. Lionel@Dental Assistant Training on August 9th, 2011 2:16 pm

    I would LOVE to retire overseas! I would stay in the US though…Hawaii is overseas, yeah? That works for me

  12. Anne on August 9th, 2011 2:33 pm

    Lionel, of course Hawaii is overseas. But the cost of living in Hawaii is actually quite high. You might gain a similar lifestyle but at a much more affordable price if you were to elect to move to Belize or Costa Rica, etc.

  13. Ana @ Como Hacer Un Ensayo on September 19th, 2011 10:21 am

    I’ve been to Croatia and that really is a heaven on Earth. Even the language barrier is not a problem because most of the people there speak very good English.

    Here is a tip. In most countries, they will gladly hire you as an English teacher in private schools. You can do speaking exercises for people who already know English but want to polish it up.

    It’s quite an easy work, you can meet a lot of locals and even catch some of their native language.

  14. Cheap Auto Insurance Ca on October 25th, 2011 10:16 am

    I would love to live in Australia. I at least want to visit a few times.

  15. Hummers Hire on November 4th, 2011 1:33 am

    I live in Aus ;). the place to be

  16. bowmanville real estate on March 10th, 2012 3:33 pm

    Woah this blog is fantastic i like reading your posts. Keep up the good posts! You understand, many individuals are searching around for this information, you can aid them greatly.