Learn From International Living's Expat Network
International Living's expat network is your key to a new life in a new country. Get real, honest advice from people just like you. Discover the tips, tricks, shortcuts, and strategies you can use to cut through red tape and improve your life overseas right away.
Read about and learn from real-life experiences our expats have had in their new home countries, from health care to taxes and much more.
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Expat Advice Articles
- Why Waste Time in the Office When the Surf’s Up in Panama?
Posted on March 14, 2014 by Alice Beth
Every morning, I wake up and head straight for the rooftop. At 32 stories high, my building is the perfect vantage point from which to check the closest surf break. If there’s no swell coming up, I go downstairs, fire up my computer, and get to work. If there is, well…it looks like I’m not working that day.
As I tapped away at my battered laptop that morning, sitting outside my beach hut, it came to me that I was living the dream. This was it—and I was doing it! I was living the freelance lifestyle. It was so perfect it was almost a cliché: I had just been for a long walk on the beach, followed by a breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, and muesli delivered to my hut, and there I was, dressed in a bikini and a sarong, sitting in a hammock strung between two palm trees, typing away.
A symphony of monks chanted as we sat kneeling on the grass. I held the wire rim of my enormous cylindrical paper lantern and waited for the cue. Finally, in one synchronized movement, a sea of hands—belonging to individuals from countless countries and cultures—let go.
- The Importance of a “Dream Retirement Overseas” Shortlist
Posted on March 10, 2014 by Dan Prescher
We’ve already lived in seven communities in four different countries. We’ve had some time to honestly assess ourselves and what we need to live somewhere for more than just a month or two a year. By now we have some pretty clear criteria for what we really need a location to provide.
These days, anyone can get into photography. Thanks to revolutionary technology, expensive film and processing are no longer required, and a single camera is now all you need to be ready for any situation. It can do all the brain work for you and give you instant feedback.
From the first time I flew from the mainland to Ambergris Caye—in a small turbo-prop plane—I was hooked on Belize. Gazing down onto the crystal clear Caribbean waters, and at the waves breaking on the Mesoamerican Reef, I was overwhelmed by the scenic beauty around me. This stunning seascape was my intro to Belize. What later convinced me I could live full-time in Belize were the vibrant communities and comfortable lifestyle… So what makes Belize so appealing? I’ve outlined the top seven reasons to live here below:
- Perfect Weather in the Heart of the Central Valley, Costa Rica
Posted on March 7, 2014 by Jason Holland
My wife and I were enjoying coffee on our back porch the other day when we turned to each other and said, almost simultaneously, “Can’t beat this weather, huh?” And really, here at our home in the heart of the Central Valley, in the hills above the town of Grecia, I have to admit the weather is perfect. (My apologies to all those reading this up north who still have snow on the ground.) It averages about 75 degrees year-round and, up here at 4,500 feet, it gets cool enough…
- Bali…Paris…and Arctic Glaciers — The Joys of Travel Photography
Posted on March 6, 2014 by Linda Popovich
When my husband and I wanted to escape the rainy Seattle winter weather in 2012, we planned a trip to South East Asia and spent a month on assignment exploring luxury resorts and spas in Bali, Indonesia. Last summer we relaxed on a luxury barge floating down the Burgundy canal, sipping French wines, visiting local villages and eating fine food along the way. And we did some other business while we were in the neighborhood—in Paris, London, and Wales (nice neighborhood!).
The couple to my left, in their mid-70s, was a “good-ol’-boy” Texan and his pretty, soft-spoken wife. Both were raised as the children of sharecroppers. Across from them, the octogenarian of the group was a nuclear submarine engineer in his native Canada. And at the end of the table sat a former automotive repair-shop manager from California and his accountant wife.
- “A Low Cost of Living, Perfect Weather and Other Reasons Why We Moved to Salinas, Ecuador”
Posted on March 5, 2014 by Denver Gray
When Jo realized I was serious and that our move was a matter of weeks away, she said something I heard more than once before leaving the U.S: “I could never do something like that!” Of course, people have different reasons for thinking that way. And I’ll grant you, our move to Ecuador wasn’t what’s called “normal.” At 55 and 62 years of age we were supposed to be settling into a routine, shopping for rocking chairs…
- Are You Eligible for These Two Massive Tax Breaks?
Posted on March 5, 2014 by Nick Hodges
We all look for ways to minimize our U.S. tax bill and to maximize our freedom abroad. We all desire to simplify our tax and reporting responsibilities. We want to think less about taxes…and enjoy more of our international experience. The good news is, if you approach your taxes in the right way, you can save yourself from the stresses of Tax Day every year…free up thousands of dollars that you’re legally entitled to that might otherwise go to the IRS…and avoid unnecessary and costly non-disclosure penalties.
We sold the house and had to decide what to do with all that stuff. So we took inventory—stuff we wanted to keep on one side of the ledger, stuff for the garage sale on the other. The idea was to get rid of all the things we didn’t need and keep all the things that we thought gave our life meaning and stability…the stuff we absolutely couldn’t live without.
I can’t give you one good reason why Americans and Canadians are coming in droves to Ecuador…because there are dozens of very good reasons. There are so many that I can’t list them all here…but based on a recent trip there, I can tell you what some of the best reasons to live in Ecuador are.
I revealed the “hidden” market to about a dozen aspiring entrepreneurs recently, and they were shocked! They didn’t know this thing existed. As I’ve explained to you this week, this market is “hidden” from most people because they don’t know where to look.
In our years abroad, my wife, Suzan, and I have met expats who told us clearly that it was their intention to live someplace where they never saw another expat again. Although I admire the spirit and determination of this kind of total immersion, I can’t help but recall what an expat in the real estate trade in Mexico told us many years ago.
- If These Guys Can Make a Profit Online, Why Not You?
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Marc Charles
Jensen Wheeler Wolfe is a yoga instructor and “momtrepreneur” in New York City. Jensen teaches yoga to children and adults, and during one of her sessions she had an idea to make simple and colorful yoga mats for kids. She cut up a large piece of foam matting into small rectangles for the kids in her class.
- How to Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends in Ecuador…
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Edd Staton
I recently watched the Grammy salute to the Beatles commemorating their performance on the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago. Yes, I was among the 73 million households glued to the TV set on that historic night. A song that Paul and Ringo performed on the show, “A Little Help from My Friends,” got me thinking about how getting things done where I live in Cuenca, Ecuador is so much easier when you are open to the assistance of others.
- Travel to Croatia: One of the Most Beautiful Places in Europe
Posted on February 27, 2014 by Gigi Griffis
Before I arrived in Croatia, people told me that it was one of the most beautiful places in Europe. “If you love Italy, you’ll love Croatia,” they said. “After all, the Croatian coast is where the Italians go to vacation.” Most of Croatia’s coast is along the historic Dalmatian region—a place that perfectly meshes Italian and Eastern European inspirations in architecture, food, and even language. I based myself in Split…
A couple of years have passed since I made my way from northern Idaho to middle-of-the-earth Ecuador, but thanks to modern technology I’m able to keep up on the news and happenings from my friends back home. Recently though, it’s begun to feel as though I’m farther removed from them than by the space of a single continent.
- This Ecuadorian “Eco-Valley” Won’t Stay Undiscovered for Long…
Posted on February 26, 2014 by Wendy DeChambeau
This thick cover acts as one of the few remaining intact habitats for elusive pumas, jaguars, and other smaller felines. The endangered spectacled bear also calls the Intag home along with hundreds of varieties of exotic birds. As the condor flies, this cloud forest valley is not far from the market town of Otavalo. In fact, it’s only 35 miles away by road. But for years now that one-and-only road has been a narrow, mountain-hugging dirt track accessible only from the towns of Otavalo or Cotacachi.
- Lesson 2: The Secret Online Marketplace Where You Could Make 600% Profits
Posted on February 26, 2014 by Marc Charles
China exports more than $1 trillion in goods each year. And that opens the door to an incredible opportunity for people who want to make money online. But it’s important to understand how the game is played. There is a website that has become one of the largest and most successful online marketplaces in the world.
John Sklute, a retired English professor from California, has lived just about everywhere—from sunny Spain to spacious Sweden. So when he says that Berlin has a special something, you know he’s done the legwork. John’s love for Berlin started when he spent a summer there in 1994 and fell in love with a local. The relationship didn’t work out, but John’s passion for Berlin never waned.
Buy low. Sell high. That’s business at its core. It’s a plan that works. It is simply tried and true. And it’s never been easier to execute this than it is today. You can get world-class products directly from their manufacturer online, and then you can sell those products on Amazon (at astonishingly deep discounts) without ever having to deal with the product physically in your home or office.
In the heart of Costa Rica’s Central Valley is Grecia, a charming town of about 16,000. Like the rest of the Central Valley, Grecia has an ideal spring-like climate and enjoys quick access to the capital of Costa Rica, San José. There you can find the best medical care and shopping in the country, as well as the main international airport.
It’s great to have step-by-step guides, especially for big and potentially complicated tasks. Moving yourself out of your home country to a completely new and different culture…and language…certainly qualifies as a big and complicated task. It involves many more steps than just five, but considering only the preparatory phase—the phase before the actual move—here are five essential steps to take before you move to Ecuador.
Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling. We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass.
- The Never-Ending Storyline of a Better Life Abroad
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Dan Prescher
I’m very lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I’m even luckier to be doing it from where I’m doing it, which right now is Ecuador. I’m a writer, and I trained a long time to do this, although not really on purpose. And I never thought it would lead me overseas. My undergraduate training was in journalism. Just the facts, ma’am. Who, what, when, where, how, and why…and maybe a job at the local newspaper. (Remember newspapers?)
- Find the Perfect Place to Live…and Put Some Money in Your Pocket
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Suzan Haskins
Figuring out how to make some extra money doing something you love is a wonderful thing. And many of my fellow expats are doing exactly that. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d like to share some of those stories with you. In fact, we know of so many such stories that my husband Dan and I devoted an entire chapter of a new book we’ve written to this exact topic. (More about that in a moment.)
- Why I Had to Wait Until Now to Write This Overseas Resource…
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Dan Prescher
Sometimes things happen when they’re supposed to happen…and that includes books. My wife, Suzan, and I recently finished writing a book about how to move abroad and live a great life on $2,100 a month or less, so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why now is such a good time to move overseas. In fact, I don’t think this book could have been written any time but now, and there are three reasons I can think of for that.
- Life Lessons from 12+ Years’ Experience Living Overseas
Posted on February 23, 2014 by Suzan Haskins
As we approach our lucky 13th year of living overseas, my husband, Dan Prescher, and I are fortunate to have shared so many wonderful, memorable experiences in so many far-flung corners of the world—from Southeast Asia to Europe, and nearly every country of Latin America. We’ve lived in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Ecuador… In fact, we’ve lived in more than one destination in some of those countries. We’ve learned to speak Spanish, we’ve bought and sold property…
My adventures in pursuit of stories have taken me to strange and wonderful places. The spice-scented bazaars of Istanbul were memorable, as were the breweries of Dusseldorf on the banks of the German Rhine. I have haggled with gypsies, queried stamp investors, “borrowed” a speed boat to check out real estate, and handled shotguns in London worth $100,000 each.
- The View From My “Office” — I Get Paid to Do This!
Posted on February 21, 2014 by Terri Marshall
I pull back the curtains, feel the crisp refreshing air, and look out over the waterfront at the colorful buildings of this Art Nouveau town…excited about the “work” day ahead. I’m in picturesque Ålesund, Norway. This jewel-like coastal town is the gateway to Norway’s spectacular Geiranger Fjord making it the perfect base from which to explore the region—and that’s my job for the day.
- Do This Before the Government Comes for Your Money…
Posted on February 20, 2014 by Bob Bauman
Those of us who are sensitive to tax, financial, and regulatory events, both in the U.S. and offshore, see some disturbing developments toward currency and other financial controls. Taken together, these developments may well signal evacuating before exits are blocked. For example:
- Video Reveals Belize’s Lesser Known Caribbean Island (Very Affordable)
Posted on February 20, 2014 by Erica Mills
You’ve probably heard a lot about the stunning, tiny Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye (pronounced “Key”), Belize. But if you’re looking for a quieter, even more laid-back slice of the Caribbean, you’ll want to check out Ambergris Caye’s little sister, Caye Caulker. The motto of this island is “Go Slow”… Spend any time with the easy-going locals and expats who live here, and you’ll discover it’s a motto they take very seriously.
- Retire in Florence: The Heartland of the Renaissance
Posted on February 20, 2014 by Susan Toalson
Spring is here, and in the markets plump porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and long, elegant brown pears are giving way to figs and basil and zucchini flowers. In the streets, young women glide along in five-inch heels, leather jackets, and American jeans, chic scarves draped carelessly at their necks. Along the river Arno, newlyweds stroll hand-in-hand in the warm sunshine.
Twice a year, Lucy Fayette flies from her home in Switzerland to Hungary to visit family— for a round-trip fare of just €50 (about $65). That’s right, Lucy’s airfare, which takes her across 800 miles in less than two hours, costs the same amount as a nice dinner or a fancy bottle of wine…and all because of Europe’s budget airlines.
It started with a fever that didn’t go away. Ill and worried, I finally went to the emergency room. It was my first time sick in Uruguay and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, thanks to the great care and house calls of the doctors and nurses, I was soon enjoying a grilled steak to celebrate my recovery. And now—after living here for seven years—health care is one of the things I appreciate most about my adopted country.
Imagine falling to sleep to the soft sound of waves lapping the base of rugged cliffs. The flash of a faraway lighthouse gently illuminates your room and the mild breeze brings the purest of air in your open window. In the morning there’s bright sunshine and the singing of small birds in the shrubbery outside. A distant tractor can be heard as a farmer carries hay to his cows. There are no cars or sirens. And, as you look outside, the sun shimmers off a hundred square miles of ocean.
If you live on an English narrowboat, you have choices to make. Find another town to explore, with a charming tea shop, an Old-World bookstore or a cozy pub. Take a walk to a church, a castle, or through a field of golden millet or lavender…or find a village in which to stay a while, moor your floating home, and get to know the locals.
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