Moving Overseas With a Young Family

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Would you willingly move—lock, stock, and barrel—to a foreign country with your grade-school-aged children in tow?

I mean, it’s a big enough leap to move yourself overseas, even if you have 60 or 70 years of life experience and a bit of a pension or some Social Security under your belt.

But unless you’re in the military or working for a major corporation to foot the bill… packing up for Panama or Costa Rica or Ecuador in your 30s or 40s, in the middle of your most productive years, with children to feed, clothe, raise and educate for another decade or so… that takes some guts.

And having met Wendy and David DeChambeau, who have done just that with their two boys, Jesse and Justin, I think they definitely have guts—courage and confidence—in spades. But I realize, too, that what makes the DeChambeaus so successful as expats are the same things that make any expat successful: good planning, hard work and realistic expectations.

The DeChambeaus are our neighbors in Cotacachi, Ecuador, and both Wendy and David gave a presentation at one of our recent International Living conferences. And hearing Wendy talk about the process she went through deciding whether or not to take her 9- and 11-year-old boys to foreign shores was an eye-opener for me.

Why? Because, strange as it sounds, Wendy’s considerations weren’t all that different to the considerations of many of the retirees and near-retirees I talk to all the time.

Wendy wanted her boys to grow up appreciating a simpler, safer, more natural way of life… a way of life that Americans once enjoyed but are finding harder and harder to find in the States.

She wanted her boys to get to know other cultures and ways of life… to see some of the world and how other people live and work together. To gain some unique life experience.

And she wanted to make sure that, as she and David tried new business ventures and explored new opportunities abroad, the family’s overall cost of living would be low enough to allow them to get by… and get by comfortably… on much less than they’d been spending back in the U.S.

Ditto to all of the above for many of the retirees who move overseas.

Wendy also wanted her boys to live somewhere they could eat real food… the kind of food available farm-fresh at the local mercado… the kind of food that isn’t overly processed, cranked out of a fast-food kitchen, or genetically altered.

She wanted her boys to realize that English isn’t the only language in the world… that people in other countries speak other languages and often know more than one. She thought it might be a good idea for her boys to be bilingual in an increasingly global and interconnected world.

Again, all important factors for many retirees abroad.

And Wendy wanted to make sure her boys got a well-rounded education, so she made sure she could home school them effectively enough to augment whatever school options they found abroad if need be.

Ditto for… well, for most of the retirees who move abroad, the quality of their primary school education isn’t very high on the radar. But there have to be some differences between kids and grownups, right?

However, in the final analysis it seems that most of the things that make living abroad a good thing for adults—lower cost of living, healthier lifestyle, broad-ranging life experience—are the same things that convinced Wendy and David that their boys would benefit from living abroad as well.

Does that mean all young couples should pack up the kids and move to Belize or Ecuador or Brazil tomorrow? Certainly not… there are as many reasons for children to stay put in familiar surroundings and not go gallivanting around the globe as there are for adults to stay put.

But if you do your own personal calculations and find that those reasons to stay put are outweighed by the benefits of an international lifestyle, the DeChambeaus show that it really doesn’t make any difference how old you are… many of those benefits still apply. What’s good for the retiree is to a surprising extent good for the fifth-grader—and anyone in between.

And as Wendy and David demonstrate so well, taking advantage of those benefits for yourself and your kids simply requires good planning, hard work, realistic expectations… and having the guts to do it.

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