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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There’s an old joke about the tourist who gets lost on the back roads of Maine. He comes across an old farmer and asks, “Do you know how to get to Portland?” After a long pause, the farmer replies, “E-yup. But you can’t get there from here. The farmer’s nonsensical response offers an important lesson to those who wish to live life on purpose…work at what they love…and follow their own road. I spent seven years commuting 90 miles a day to a management job in a large corporation.
Back in the 1980s, Terresa Murphy arrived in the City of Lights. “I came with my guitar,” she says. “I played for money in the metro to begin with, then in cafes. Then in the ’90s, after much back-and-forth between Paris and the States, I got a job at the city’s International Cinematography Festival through a friend.” But it was food that really drew Terresa’s attention. “I fell in love with French food culture, particularly the artisan approach to both ingredients and cooking. It wasn’t considered artisan at the time,” she says. “It was just the norm.”
This week I’ve tried to give you some insights into how a simple-to-execute e-book strategy can fund your life overseas. Since I started producing e-books more than 14 years ago, they’ve created an income that has allowed me to live some of the very biggest dreams of my life. That income has taken me to Laurenzana, a small village in the ankle of the boot of Italy, where my mother’s family comes from.
Mexico’s chic beach resort of Puerto Vallarta has been attracting expats for decades, thanks to its warm climate and sophisticated but affordable First-World living. But while many come to lounge by the sea or stroll the cobblestone streets of the city’s Romantic Zone, Canadian Pat Light has found in Puerto Vallarta a moneymaking opportunity. The former hospital administrator has turned her love for exotic handmade soaps into a thriving business. In addition to colorful soaps, Pat also sells shampoos and body creams scented with the coconut, lime, and mango of her new home. Like many businesses, hers grew out of a hobby. A longtime admirer of handmade soap, Pat ran out of supplies after moving to Mexico in 2007. This led her to try to create her own.
Like many people, I grew up believing the expression that “if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” These days I make big money from e-books—sometimes as much as $5,000 a day—but I don’t do it all myself. I let someone else do the writing…while I enjoy traveling to countries I never thought I’d visit…touring around Tuscany in Italy…or going on safari in Africa.
It was a lovely fall day as we strolled through Radda in Chianti, a beautiful walled medieval town in Tuscany. Seeing an ATM across the road, I decided to top up my supply of euros. Now, millions of people every day who are living or traveling abroad use a debit card from their native country to withdraw cash. But my card is truly international.
I didn’t have a passport until I was almost 50 years old. Of course, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have one, because I didn’t have a reliable source of income that would allow me to use it very often anyway. In fact, for almost 10 years, not only did I not have a reliable source of income…sometimes I didn’t even have an income. That partly explains why my family and I were evicted from our home and the following year lost our last automobile to repossession.
“I wasn’t really looking to make a move at all,” says Deborah Gershon. “I came to visit Boquete in Panama’s Chiriqui Highlands a few times in order to decide whether it might be my ultimate retirement spot.” “Somewhere along the way on my last visit, it occurred to me that there really wasn’t any reason to wait, since I could telecommute nearly as well from Panama as I was doing from California.” Born and raised in Los Angeles, 59-year-old Deborah is an attorney.
Anne Gordon de Barrigón didn’t want to come to Panama the first time she was invited. “But it was a period of transition in my life and I was restless,” she recalls. “So my friend convinced me and I just fell in love with the country and the people. I knew it was the right place for me and I’ve been here ever since.” That was in 2004. Today Anne, age 57, lives in the leafy and tranquil Ancon neighborhood of Panama City with her husband and together they own and operate whale-watching and indigenous village tours.
Lying at the meeting point of Europe and Asia, the Turkish city of Istanbul has been attracting people in search of their fortune for centuries. Its markets and steep cobbled lanes have played host to traders since the Greeks first founded Byzantium on the site. A few name changes and a lot of history later, and now it’s one of the world’s most visited cities. Folks come from all over to explore millennia-old places of worship, and walk the spice-scented bazaars in search of an exotic handcrafted bargain.
Paris has always attracted artists. It’s also justly famous for its food and markets. While it was her artist’s heart that brought Los Angeles-native Terresa Murphy to the City of Light, it was food that unlocked the funds to living there full-time. Back in the 1980’s, Terresa says, “I came with my guitar; I played for money in the metro to begin with, then in cafés. Then in the ‘90’s, after much back-and-forth between Paris and the States, I got a job at the city’s International Cinematography Festival through a friend.” But it was food that really drew Terresa’s attention. “I fell in love with French food culture, particularly the artisan approach to both ingredients and cooking. It wasn’t considered artisan at the time,” she says. “It was just the norm.”
Rosalind Baitel, 54, is bi-coastal. And by that I don’t mean she subjects herself to long flights to shuttle back and forth between expensive, crowded cities like New York and L.A. “We go to the beach most every weekend…it’s so close that even if we can’t stay the entire weekend, we can go for the day.” An hour and 40 minutes gets her from Panama City on the Pacific shore to the brilliant blue waters of the Caribbean. What she loves most about Panama City is that it’s a world capital…with amenities and entertainment to rival many of the world’s great cities.
Michael, 55, and Julie Rhoda, 52, traded in full-time jobs, a home in Colorado, a car, and the usual creature comforts for a new life in Santa Fe, Panama. “We moved here on New Year’s Day 2014, so we’ve celebrated one year down here,” Michael says. “We love the slow pace and the locals.” But what really attracted the couple and other expats to the area is its natural scenic beauty and cool highland climate.
Paul Blanford has created a lifestyle income for his retirement. It’s already making money…and occasionally he gets to enjoy it himself. But when he’s ready to retire—which may be sooner rather than later—his new life is ready for him. Paul, a native of New Zealand, works as a pilot in Hong Kong but has always loved boats and sailing. So he decided to buy a junk—a type of traditional Chinese sailboat— and turn it into a business. Second-hand junks are cheap and plentiful in Hong Kong, and Paul had his eye on the tourist charter business along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca.
If you’re the pioneering type, a small business in Bolivia might offer just the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for. You can live well in Bolivia for less money than just about anywhere, and you don’t need bags of cash to start an enterprise here. Historically, Bolivia ranks alongside the poorest countries in the region, but things are changing. Today it is among the most hopeful economies in the hemisphere…its economy is growing steadily at around 5% a year… inflation (5.19% in 2014) and debt (32% of GDP in 2013) are under control. Bolivia’s oil and gas industry helps keep energy costs low.
When John and Heather Schmit sold their 10-year-old trucking business in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011 they found their dream home amid white sandy beaches, rocky headlands, gentle surf, and inland breezes… Their home in Punta Carnero on the coast of Ecuador “is our piece of paradise,” says Heather. “I can walk along the beach and be the only one out there. It’s so quiet and peaceful.” As they were considering their overseas move, Heather began conversing with a former classmate who lived in Vilcabamba for three years…so Ecuador made it on to their radar.
On any given evening, you’ll find Kasie Estevez serving up drinks and tasty snacks while laughing with the regulars at the bar she opened in Cotacachi, Ecuador. “I love it here,” she says. “The weather’s good, and you develop friendships like nowhere else. I think people have more time to invest in relationships.” Plus the cost of living is low. A couple can live on as little as $1,600 a month in Cotacachi. Kasie finds that Ecuador’s slow pace allows her to enjoy life more. It’s a far cry from holding down a sales job as a single mother in Las Vegas.
It would be a challenge for anyone to find a more perfect picture of paradise than Vilcabamba, Ecuador. This little valley is surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Andes and is the perfect example of the “eternal spring” that the country is well known for. With warm days, dependable rain, and little change in weather year-round, it is a lush South American Eden. Dennis D’Alessandro is one of the many North Americans who have come to Vilcabamba to enjoy the climate and opportunities presented. As a third generation organic farmer from Pennsylvania he brought his skills and knowledge to Ecuador.
Jamie and Barbara Quinion have no regrets about their move to western Belize. “We’re not just living our dream of the good life,” Barbara says of the couple’s new life in the ancient Maya village of San José Succotz, in Belize’s Cayo District. “We are living the ‘excellent life!’” Five years ago, they decided to sell their winery in Canada and move abroad, for several reasons. “What attracted us to Belize is that it’s English-speaking—that was a big plus—with a good climate, really friendly people, and incredible diversity for such a small country. We live in the farthest point west on the mainland, where we go swimming, tubing, hiking, biking, birdwatching, or just enjoy the great view from our property.”
“We love our life here, meeting new people who come to the resort, fishing when we want to, and relaxing in our new house,” say Texans Rex and Connie Hudson of their new life in Panama’s Chiriquí province. “It’s just about perfect.” Rex and Connie are the owners and managers of Hooked On Panama, in partnership with two other U.S. couples. Hooked On Panama is a fishing lodge and resort in a remote area of Chiriquí province. The property is located south of Puerto Armuelles near the end of Punta Burica, a narrow peninsula that extends into the Pacific Ocean and borders Costa Rica.
When my seatmate on a plane says, “And what do you do?” I’m apt to answer, “I run an excuse-removal service.” I’m not just being flippant, however. Almost everything I do is designed to help others get free of the excuses that are keeping them stuck. Stacy is a woman with a lively past. She’s created small businesses, lived in several countries, and invented a wildly successful product. Once, when we were having lunch in a funky diner, Stacy was oddly defensive.
Colette Holmes and her husband, Nick, weren’t initially planning to move from Los Angeles to the Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. “We came because Nick was a baseball coach,” Colette explains. “It was just a seasonal job. But after spending a little time here, we decided that we wanted to make a life in Costa Rica. We wanted a different life—a bit slower, a bit simpler.” Today, life is a lot different than the stress of the restaurant trade Colette used to work in. Instead of being assaulted by noise and rushing servers, she spends her days in more serene surroundings among Costa Rica’s exotic, colorful flowers.
Paris receives about 30 million visitors a year, regularly placing it among the top three most visited cities in the world and creating an opportunity for the expat entrepreneur. One business model that has low start-up costs, low operating costs, and a potentially simple structure is the tour business. Yes, there are thousands of tour businesses in Paris. But if you develop a creative, dynamic tour that builds upon a personal passion that intersects with the desires of just a fraction of the millions who visit Paris every year, you can find great success despite the competition. For some visitors, Paris is the most beautiful city on earth, and they’re yearning to see its most stunning vistas and picturesque neighborhoods. For others, it is a culinary mecca, and they’re looking to immerse themselves in the food culture. For still others, it is the capital of haute couture, and they long to explore the footsteps of Yves St. Laurent, Chanel, and Dior.
If you dream of a place where you can live a cosmopolitan lifestyle in a gorgeous setting, yet pay rock-bottom prices for everything from food to rent, Cusco—Peru’s most historic city—is unbeatable. This 500-year-old colonial gem reminds some folks of Florence, Italy, with its abundance of domed churches and ancient, pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. But it offers a quality of life and price point that is unheard-of in Europe. And the expat population is growing by leaps and bounds. “It has definitely gotten more populated recently. A lot of that has to do with the popularity of the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and the local culture,” says Scott Englund, who has lived in Cusco for the last four years with his wife and their two daughters.
At 7,300 feet and home to cobbled streets and majestic colonial buildings the small Ecuadorian city of Ibarra is not a big expat haven. But along with a year-round moderate climate it harbors opportunities nonetheless…as Canadian Enderick Spurette has found. Bordered by the majestic Andes Mountains the bustle of city life is balanced by that of surrounding farms and historic hillside haciendas. Ibarra is a place where the banking district sits opposite small craft stores and mom and pop setups, and where those with a bit of motivation and desire can still find a business niche—just like Enderick’s Caribou Bar and Grill.
Not everyone who comes to Cuenca, Ecuador, has an idea to start a business. Sometimes new surroundings, a change of pace, and a fresh perspective align to bring long-held passions to light. That was the case for expats Juan Carlos Morales and David Korkoian, who together discovered a niche market and filled it. Juan was convinced that Cuenca was the ideal spot to escape the rat race in the States. “The moment I stepped foot in Cuenca, I knew I wanted to live here,” he says. “It reminded me of when I backpacked through southern Europe in the 1980s.”
Today, starting a business on a shoestring from the kitchen table is much easier than it was 30 years ago (and even as little as five years ago). If you’re looking for a way to make a healthy side income or completely replace your current income stream, I can’t imagine anything that carries such low risk and such little investment as an online business. And, once you get up and running, you can even manage things from your smartphone without being tied to the office—or kitchen table—at all.
Imagine earning extra income in your spare time, or “on the road,” or even while you work from your kitchen table. Well, I have discovered a fun and lucrative business almost anyone can do…from just about anywhere. The idea is to acquire products at deep discounts from more than a hundred countries around the world…and then sell the products online at profitable markups. And I am amazed how people are leveraging this business and making money.
Could there be a more perfect country for ecotourism than Ecuador? With four distinct regions in an area the size of Colorado, Ecuador offers endless possibilities for adventure travel. You’ll find the Galapagos, Pacific coast, Andean highlands, and the Amazon… Ecuador is, per square mile, the most biodiverse country on the planet and numerous expats have moved there to become part of the ecotourism industry. Back in the 1980s, Richard Parsons was based in Quito and one day, while enjoying a leisurely drive through the Tandayapa Valley, he and his wife Gloria stopped and struck up a random conversation with a man cutting up a tree.
Michelle Klein and her husband, Gary Garces, live in the idyllic environment of a small Ecuadorian community. They awake to the call of wild birds and the scent of orchids on the breeze…a quick walk to the mom-and-pop store on the corner rewards them with fresh bread rolls for breakfast from the friendly proprietors…and access to the many rivers that roll through town is just a quick car ride or a leisurely stroll away. They run the Casa Blanca jungle hostel in Tena where they are raising three daughters.
Imagine owning a business needing zero capital investment and offering an immediate start-up option. Now imagine owning that business on a Caribbean island… spending your days in the sun and your evenings enjoying the ocean breeze with friends. That’s exactly what Sophia Fedio does after leaving her trendy loft and successful career back in Toronto and becoming a tourism concierge in Roatán, the largest of Honduras’s Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea. In early 2013, she joined forces with Avi D’Souza, who had started the business, West Bay Tours, and was seeking a partner.
Regardless of whether your business sells a product or supplies a service, you can run it seamlessly from anywhere in the world. Plenty of people are taking their businesses overseas: digital marketers, graphic designers, ecommerce entrepreneurs, online publishers… Not only are they saving thousands in overheads and improving their quality of life, but they are free to explore any destination where the Internet is accessible…and that’s most places these days. I’ve lived in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, a variety of cities across the U.S., and I’ll shortly be heading to Thailand. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to know that I can pack up all of my belongings in just a few minutes and move my home and work into a new exotic country as often as I’d like.
Scott and Michelle Lyons planned to move to Mexico when their kids went to college. But when Michelle went on a cruise that stopped in Belize…their plans changed. “When I discovered that English was the language in Belize, I knew I had found something that would work for us,” says Michelle. The impossibly blue waters, soft sandy beaches, and wonderfully warm climate of beautiful Belize also helped win the couple over. From the sparkling sea filled with palm-lined islands to the verdant jungles teeming with wildlife, Belize beckoned with an enticing blend of relaxation and adventure…a tropical paradise.
When you imagine how a retiree might spend her time in the highlands of Panama, you probably don’t imagine her opening a gym and fitness center. But at age 64, that’s exactly what Bonnie Jach did when she moved to Boquete in Chiriquí Province. Bonnie’s love of travel and adventure began at a young age. “I’m originally from Wisconsin,” she says. “When I was 20, I joined the Peace Corps. I’ve always loved new and exciting places. Even though I like the States very much, I knew I wanted to live overseas.”
One of the things that Richard Meyer enjoys most about his bakery in Boquete, Panama, is that he gets to be his own boss. “I grew up in Denver and I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 12,” says Richard, now age 47. “As a chef, baker, and pastry chef, I create both sweet and savory dishes, and now I get to decide what’s on the menu.” Richard and his Panamanian wife, Yarina, found their premises for rent on Craigslist.
After working in the U.S. for more than two decades, I love the freedom I now enjoy from making an income in one of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica. I wake each morning, excited to see what the day will bring. That first cup of coffee on the patio—watching whatever may be in the jungle—is awesome. Monkeys and their antics…perhaps an exotic bird I’ve never seen before…a new bloom on an exotic plant…all these things give me great pleasure.
For seven years, I commuted 90 miles a day to my job in a Fortune 200 company. It was a great company, with great co-workers, and a really great salary to boot. There was just one problem. I was miserable. But with a mortgage and a car payment…well, you know how it is. Then July 31, 1993 I got the worst news of my life. That’s the day my mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. She was only 61 and just five months shy of her much-awaited retirement.
Five years ago, I was the lead copywriter and content strategist at an advertising agency in Denver, Colorado…coming in as early as 7 a.m. and leaving sometimes as late as 9 p.m.—and rarely ever got a real break. Now, I’m sitting in a sunny top-floor apartment in the Swiss Alps, writing this to you. I can see a waterfall from my window and, only a few steps from my door, I could be on a hiking trail that leads to a Swiss ski town or a 360-degree panorama of the mountains. All because I am a travel writer.
Getting a small business loan can be a challenge anywhere. It’s especially tough in a new country where you may not have a credit history or collateral. Fortunately, there’s a way to raise money for your business abroad that bypasses banks altogether. It’s called reward-based crowdfunding. With crowdfunding you fund your business idea without taking out a loan, going into debt, or sharing equity with a financial partner. It’s a perfect solution for many expats because it enables you to fund your business across borders. You can raise money from backers anywhere in the world for a business activity in the country of your choosing.
Eighteen years ago while we were getting evicted from our home, I couldn’t see a money-making opportunity anywhere. I was broke. But then I discovered the secret of e-books and today, I see money-making opportunities everywhere. I don’t watch a lot of television but when I did I kept seeing ads by Larry the Cable Guy (ok, I’ll admit, I love his crazy humor). They were for a product I’d never heard of—Prilosec. And they came on so many times I could see Prilosec had spent millions of dollars to air them. That led me to find out what Prilosec was—a remedy for heartburn and acid reflux. So what, you say?
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