Everyone wishes that they could open their own business wherever in the world they choose…but nobody actually does it… Do they? Well, the short answer is…Yes, they do. And we’ve met them.
We know expats who run their own B&B in Mexico...opened a bagel café in Panama... started a tour business in Chile...operate a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. The fact is, being your own boss will provide you with the flexibility to work the hours you prefer and pick a schedule that best fits your lifestyle and priorities. So take that leap and open that business of your dreams in an overseas location of your choice.
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See below for inspiring articles from expats who have opened many different types of businesses in countries around the world.
There are thousands of foreigners dotted about Guatemala quietly doing their thing. Lorenzo Gottschamer is one of them. “I was only supposed to be here for three days,” says Lorenzo. “Yet I’m still here over 30 years later.” Originally from Redwood River, California, the 68-year-old Lorenzo first decided to make the move overseas after an accident ended his career as a professional firefighter.
“My husband Fred and I haven’t felt as vital as this in years. It’s like we’re young again and just starting out. It’s a fabulous feeling. We wake up every morning to happy conversation and laughter, the guests in our Nicaraguan hostel all having breakfast together,” says Carla Batty. Back home in Queensland, Australia, Carla and Fred had a life of relaxed dinners with friends, easy jobs they enjoyed, and the odd night out.
These days, Michael Hayden is often found strolling the colorful, cobbled streets of his adopted home, Granada, one of the oldest Spanish colonial towns in the Americas. “There’s no other place like Granada. It has a solid center…you can walk in any direction and see beautiful homes. You have impressive Mombacho Volcano in view over the streets and a steady flow of breezes from Lake Nicaragua,” says Michael.
On my birthday last year, I awoke to an email box full of greetings. One came from my globetrotting friend Marianne Cantwell who was in Bali. The title line simply said “A Birthday Surprise”. Somehow, Marianne had gathered a wide array of friends and family from around the world to send birthday greetings in video clips and photos.
If you like the idea of effortless income, this is probably the simplest idea we’ve come across yet. In the time it takes you to have a cup of coffee, you can notch up $5 to $10 doing something that comes easily to you. (Or even more once you know a few tricks.) It’s called the microgig.
We’re both 50 years old, we live on a Caribbean island, and we love running our restaurant,” says Jackie Feldman, who—along with her husband, Adam— moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, three years ago. “We have great friends and our family regularly visits to share our experiences. Isn’t that what so many folks dream about?”
“Why is life better here? Well it’s warmer, I don’t shovel snow, I buy beer for under $1, I’m 10 minutes from a beach, and I play softball all year round,” says expat Jim Thomas. Jim lives in Las Tablas, a small town that serves as capital of Panama’s Los Santos province, heartland of the country’s Spanish-colonial heritage.
When Edward Shelton worked as a journalist, he had no idea how to make a pizza. In fact, it was the furthest thing from his mind in the years when he lived between London and New York. Today, he owns and operates a pizza restaurant and B&B in the coastal Chilean city of Valparaíso, known for its hills, colorful homes, and bohemian vibe.
When we took our lunch break during a seminar I was teaching recently, our group walked a few blocks to the student union. Nicole Relyea, the youngest member of our group, turned around to face me, but kept walking—backwards. “I’m thinking about being a tour guide,” she said. “I gave campus tours when I was in college and I enjoyed it. I can walk backwards for two hours.”
People ask me all the time if making money from a kitchen table anywhere in the world is really possible. The answer is yes. The only thing you need to buy and sell online is an Internet connection. Right now, I’m writing to you from a remote island 25 miles off the coast of Maine thanks to an Internet connection. People are making money almost anywhere from a kitchen table!
How do they do it?
When most people think of the fortune you can make importing, their mind goes to huge cargo ships docked in major ports…stacked sky-high with crates…and enormous cranes moving them from the ship to the dock. But, when I think of buying and selling online, I picture yoga mats, golf balls, and snorkeling gear.
You learned yesterday about how you can make $2,000 to $3,000 on one online deal, buying and selling popular consumer products. When I talk about earning money online, most people want to know the answers to three simple questions: 1. Can anyone do it? 2. Can I make money part-time? 3. Do I need a lot of cash to get started?
When I tell people I import products from overseas and sell them back in the States for a profit, they immediately think one of two things…1. If they’re well-traveled, they think I’m going to places like Mexico and Ecuador and bringing back suitcases full of leather goods, handmade dolls, jewelry, and handicrafts.
Oklahoma…Montana…Minnesota…Chile. Neil Sander has lived in numerous destinations, been involved in countless projects, and has had a plethora of careers…but since arriving in Panama in 2004 he has had no desire to live anywhere else. He was approached to move to this beautiful Central American country and supervise the designing and building of a retirement housing development in a virtually uninhabited area of Bocas del Toro.
Chicago natives Brad and Christine Schofield have always loved the beach and the water. As their children were growing up, family vacations always seemed to be centered on the sand and sea. As time marched on, their dream to own an inn on the beach headed toward reality. Brad (56) was a manager in the restaurant industry, and most recently general manager of a Chicago environmental company that processes waste cooking oil for the restaurant and hotel industries. Chris (53) owned her own interior design and room renovation business.
With its warm weather, low-cost living, and welcoming locals, Thailand is easily one of Southeast Asia’s most popular spots for entrepreneurs looking to launch a new business. Startup costs are affordable, there are fewer regulatory hurdles, and paying for necessities such as construction and manual labor won’t break the bank.
When a prospective expat is looking seriously at moving to a foreign country, a lot of research is done from home. But then comes the scouting trip to see the places they’ve read about. And many choose to hire professionals to guide them. And if you’re living in an up-and-coming area for expats—that doesn’t have such a service—you could be the one to provide the tour.
When my husband David and I decided to move to Ecuador, we had a very long list of reasons why we felt the move would be the right choice for our family. Moderate weather, low living expenses, and exposure to a different culture were right up at the top. But one of the things we most looked forward to was the chance to run our own business. The economic conditions and miles of red tape back home convinced us that being self-employed in the U.S. was not the wisest choice.
Bucaramanga is one of Colombia’s most beautiful cities. Colombians refer to it as the “City of Parks” because of its many green spaces. But when tourists come to the Santander department—of which Bucamaranga is the capital—they typically have one thing in mind: adventure. The landscape of Santander is a treasure trove of mountains, rivers, lakes, caves, and forests.
Claire Ross had a great idea…no experience…and a small investment. It was all she needed to set up a bar in the beach town of Coronado in Panama. “When I first moved here, there was nowhere to hang out and meet people if you were single or new in town.” With new arrivals trickling in, Claire wanted to create a space where everyone would feel comfortable and embraced.
Daily life on the beach…a breathtaking view of the bay…and live music at sunset…that’s the routine for Tari and Peter Bowman. Little did they know in 1981 when they took a trip to Puerto Vallarta that their lives would be changed forever.
When Bruce and Shelagh Duncan, 67 and 65, respectively, came down to Costa Rica’s southern Pacific Coast 13 years ago, they felt an immediate affinity. “It was the weather…and the people we met,” says Shelagh. “It is mostly unspoiled and offers many breathtaking views of the mountains and the ocean. We can walk along deserted beaches and explore caves and secret beaches that are only accessible at low tide.”
If you’re ready to move overseas…with all the promise it holds of warm weather, being your own boss, and working just a few hours a day…but the prospect of actually packing up your worldly goods and getting on that plane sounds intimidating, let me tell you something. You have a sister.
Arlene Gibbs was working on a movie in production when she realized she needed a life change. When the production company she worked for closed shortly afterwards she decided it was time to leave Hollywood. “Everything in L.A. was about ‘The Business’,” she said. “Everyone I interacted with at work…at the cafes…even at the gym…was involved in the movie industry.”
Beautiful Buenos Aires entices with easy-going weather, friendly people, and an endless parade of cultural activities and dining spots. But, as delicious and fresh as traditional Argentine food is, it can be difficult to find something more exotic and inspired than the standard steaks, pizzas, and empanadas.
If you’re ready to move overseas…with all the promise it holds of warm weather, being your own boss, and working just a few hours a day…but the prospect of actually packing up your worldly goods and getting on that plane sounds intimidating, let me tell you something. You have a sister. Right now, I’m packing up for an extended trip to Europe. At the end of it, I’m going to give seminars in London on the benefits of self-employment. I love this part of my work…meeting new people, visiting new cities, and spreading a message that I truly believe in. Best of all, I’ve discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit has no geographic boundaries. Every day enterprising folks all over the world are putting their ideas into action.
Like many expat business people, Eric and Stephanie Slater spotted an opening in the market and came up with a business idea to fill it. In their case, it was a need for good bread. It’s an issue across Central America but particularly in San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua where the couple decided they wanted to settle down. San Juan is a beach town with a ready market of hungry surfers, backpackers, and other travelers.
When I was 14, my parents informed my sister Jacquelyn and me that we would be moving to Panama, where my dad was planning to take advantage of opportunities in property development. Back then, we lived in Roswell, Georgia, and I was your average braces-wearing pre-teen, with big plans to enroll in the local magnet high school, where I’d become an artist or actress of distinction. If we were going to move anywhere, I would’ve preferred it to be England, as acquiring a British accent was then a major life goal. So Panama proved quite the bombshell.
Belize is a small country, with only 330,000+ residents. Ninety percent of businesses here are small or microbusinesses, making it a good place for an overseas venture. I’ve lived here full-time for six years now, and I know expats running all types of businesses. It’s surprisingly easy. For example, Frik De Meyere, owner of Belize Wind Energy and a real estate agent with Mannsfeld and Associates, says he spent 80% of his time on paperwork back in Europe. But in Belize, paperwork only takes 10% of his time.
The Southern Zone is about three to four hours from Costa Rica’s capital, San José, depending on what part of the coast you’re going to. It starts roughly at the funky surfer town of Dominical and goes all the way to the border with Panama. Most expats, including everyone from retirees to business owners with young families, live between Dominical and Ojochal, a village in the jungle about 45 minutes south
I worked in advertising and marketing for over 20 years and it was a career that for the most part, I enjoyed. But on a vacation in my 30s, I took a good hard look at what I wanted and liked to do in life. I stayed at a small retreat hotel and participated in a group travel experience.
Growing up in a small farming community in Nebraska, I had always been interested in growing food,” says Ron Miller. “And when I was older, I saw a display of how food would be grown in the future and fish would be farmed. That inspired a vision of what it would be like to grow veggies and raise tilapia fish.”
Canadian Andrea Pellegrino, 38, came home from work one winter night to find her partner Julio Carta, 35, bursting with excitement over an ad on Craigslist. “You have to check this out,” he said. “We can run a brick oven bakery in Nicaragua.”
For most of her adult life, my archaeologist sister Nancy lived in Athens and Rome while I spent many of those years being secretly jealous of her. It wasn’t just because she was living her dreams in glamorous locales, however.
Canadian Andrea Pellegrino, 38, came home from work one winter night to find her partner Julio Carta, 35, bursting with excitement over an ad on Craigslist. “You have to check this out,” he said. “We can run a brick oven bakery in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.”
Nadege Thomas lived in Toronto, Canada for 22 years where she was a successful financial planner. But as the pressures on her sector mounted and the cold weather wore her down, she began to yearn for an easy life in a balmy, tropical environment. “After 22 Canadian winters, I had had enough of the cold and was looking for a warm place,” she says.
Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula is a place set off from the rest of the country, as peninsulas often are. That helped it keep its distinct Maya culture… and a culinary culture that is now making waves. As cooks and food enthusiasts seek out the origins of various ethnic cuisines, they are looking to Yucatán for answers.
Thanks to a climate that features warm weather year-round, a stable democratic government, excellent health care, low cost of living, and a laid-back lifestyle, Costa Rica has been welcoming expats looking for a pleasant place to live and retire for more than 30 years—and is still going strong.
In the jungle of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, where monkeys howl from coconut palms, sloths lazily cross the street, and reggae wafts in the air… is a café you might expect to find in a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, Steve Mueller didn’t have much exposure to Asian culture. Only after he moved to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to work in telecommunications was Steve exposed to the culture that came to fascinate him. “Moving to Hawaii was a shock, but in an intriguing way. I lived smack in the middle of Chinatown and loved trying all the food on offer.
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