When my wife, Suzan, and I moved abroad in 2001, we were sure we knew where we wanted to spend the rest of our lives—on the beach. So, we tried out beaches all over the Western Hemisphere.
And where do we live today?
In the mountains.
Before we moved abroad we gave some general thought to the kinds of geographies and climates we thought we liked best. Being from Nebraska where the winters are pretty harsh, we knew we wanted tropical heat and sunbaked, sandy beaches.
Had we known then what we know now, though, we’d have been a little more ruthless with ourselves and our fantasies.
Back then we knew we never wanted to spend another winter heating a house, shoveling snow, slipping and sliding on ice, and bundling up like Arctic explorers every time we wanted to step outside. We still know that.
However, if we’d dug a little deeper, we would have realized that, to escape freezing temperatures, anyplace where the mercury never falls below 32 F would have done the trick.
But we were fantasizing exclusively about tropical beaches. We’d always enjoyed beaches…for a few weeks a year in the middle of North American winter.
We were making a common mistake that many folks dreaming about retiring overseas make: We weren’t asking ourselves if our fantasy location was where we really wanted to spend all day, every day, all year-round.
Tropical beaches may never have snow, but they may never have a cool, dry night either. They’re hot, and they’re often humid. Kind of like Nebraska summers, but all year-round.
In our desire to escape one extreme, we were running to another.
We eventually realized this and broadened our outlook to include places that weren’t just the polar opposite of Midwestern winter. Temperate places. Moderate places. Places where you didn’t need heat or air conditioning.
Which is why we now live in the northern Andes Mountains of Ecuador.
On the other hand, we know lots of expats and retirees who do live on tropical beaches and are completely, 100% happy with that choice. They wouldn’t live anywhere else or have it any other way.
And that’s the point. No matter what your personal climate and geography preferences are, being really, truly, absolutely honest with yourself about them before you move is a simple-yet-powerful tool for planning your overseas retirement. And it can be extended to more than just the daily weather.
How big or small a population center do you really want to live in? How close or far away from a modern shopping center do you want to be? How comfortable are you with learning at least a little bit of a foreign language, since English isn’t the official language of most of the rest of the world?
What will you do when you get where you think you want to spend the rest of your life and you can’t find your favorite breakfast cereal or peanut butter or eye drops or coffee creamer? Are any of those things deal breakers for you? Honestly?
Because you should be honest about it. There’s nothing to gain by pretending you can get along without things you honestly don’t want to get along without. No matter what your deal breakers are, if you can’t get them or find satisfying substitutes, you won’t be happy no matter where you relocate.
This simple exercise—being ruthlessly honest with yourself about what you really want…and about what you really don’t want—is one tool in a kit of processes that can help define, refine, clarify, and simplify your move long before you’re ever commit to making it. These can mean the difference between settling in to your new life abroad like an old pro…or pulling up stakes after a few months when you realize you’ve made a mistake and fooled yourself about what you really want and don’t want.
In our experience, most of those mistakes could have been avoided by applying a few simple techniques like the one above. Doing as much research as you can (even if it is about yourself) and being as prepared as possible, will streamline your move and have you enjoying the good life overseas as soon as possible.
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