Do you have any regrets? That’s a question I often ask my friends who are living overseas. And I’d venture that 99.9% of the time I get the same answer.
“I wish I’d done it sooner,” they say. “If I’d only known back then what I know now…”
Living overseas has shown them that life can be so much better when you don’t have to worry about rising costs, government cuts…or even doing the dishes.
Another question I frequently ask expats I meet is how much they think they’re saving by living in a foreign country. As you might imagine, the answers to this are all over the board, but typically, they say they are spending 50% to 70% less than they were at home.
And they always say that their quality of life has improved by the same amount…or more.
The biggest benefits, expats say, are these…
1. The World Is Your Playground
Southeast Asia…Europe…Latin America… All are more affordable and likely more exotic than where you live right now. Choose your perfect climate and the type of scenery you want out your window and you instantly increase your happiness quotient.
2. The Time and Freedom To Do What You Want
This is true of retirement in general, of course, but when you live in the type of place you’ve always fantasized about, everything is just that much better. You can take leisurely walks on the beach, long hikes in the mountains, sit in the sunshine and savour your morning coffee, stop for happy hour with friends, find time for hobbies…and all in your long-dreamed-of, perfect setting.
3. Bang For Your Buck
Pick the right location and your retirement income goes much, much further. You can have a little extra each month to spend on fun things, like travel, spa treatments, theatre tickets, even hiring someone to help you with household chores. (In Malaysia, you can hire a maid for $6.50 an hour, in Vietnam you’ll pay around $3 an hour.)
4. Top-Class Healthcare (Without the Heart-Stopping Price Tag)
An office visit in Asia or Latin America will set you back, on average, anywhere from $10 to $40. Most doctors are trained in Australia, the U.S. or U.K and speak excellent English. In Malaysia you can see a specialist—without any need for an appointment—for as little as $28. Just turn up. It’s the same with dentists and dental care is also a fraction of what it costs back home. (Some countries offer public health plans, with prices I’ve seen ranging from $75 to $200 a month per person.)
And there are far more benefits to living overseas than just these, of course…
In all of the expat communities that my husband Dan and I have been part of, there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie. As an expat, you become part of a family of likeminded people. These are the people you have dinners with, celebrate birthdays and sports team victories with…they’re the people who care for you when you are sick and who are there to lend a sympathetic ear when you need one.
And that’s not to mention the wonderful and welcoming local people you’ll meet and the colourful local culture that you’ll participate in… Imagine being part of a shamanic cleansing in Thailand… or floating a barge through river channels in France… or drinking mescal made by local artisans in Mexico… or snorkeling every day with your new friends off the sandy shores of Bali…
That’s what life is all about, really…the experiences we have and the fellowship we share with others.
And if I have only one piece of advice, it’s this: don’t live with regret. Don’t regret anything you’ve done up to this point because it’s made you the person you are today.
And if you have the slightest inclination to try out the expat life, then do it. You will not regret it, although you may wish you had done it sooner…
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