“The No. 1 Thing That Stops People Retiring Abroad”

A side from the significant logistics involved, what does it really take to move overseas? And why do many who thoroughly explore the idea fail to pull the trigger while others simply pack a few bags, jump on a jet and are off to live their next chapters in exotic locations across the globe?

Fear is life’s STOP sign and the single biggest reason why some people never make their move overseas. You’ve spent hours discussing it, dreaming about it and researching it. You may have attended informative conferences and spoken in person with experts on the countries that interest you. It’s your grand vision but it’s just out of reach. Fear has stolen the life you imagine…

Having completed dozens of interviews with expats who have made their move as well as interacting with an equal number of people who have been considering the idea for a very long time without acting upon it, I’ve reached some conclusions.

The dreamers have become bogged down in the research, spending months and even years trying to find every possible answer to every conceivable question; an impossible task. The doers are content to learn “just enough” and make their move willing to undergo ‘on the job’ training when they arrive in their newly adopted country.

The first thing to know is that you will never eliminate every ounce of fear, discomfort and uncertainty. You’ll likely be moving abroad, to a country where you’ve spent relatively little time. You’re bound to have reservations so know that feeling some anxiety is normal. But it mustn’t stop you!

The next thing to know is that answers to every important question you may have are readily available. Never before has so much information been so accessible. Advice and information can be obtained through any number of publications, websites and even internet forums filled with people already living in places you are considering.

You can chat, one-to-one (via Skype) with hundreds of expats who would be happy to tell you all about their new overseas home, their joy and the challenges they overcame.

You must accept the fact that you simply cannot find all the answers before you go because you cannot know all the questions to ask.

I remember back in 2008 my wife Diane and I (and millions of others) were trying to find our way out of a deep financial dilemma. We discovered Ecuador as a top-rated, economical retirement destination. Our discussion was whether to use thousands of dollars of our precious and dwindling savings for an exploratory trip. It was Diane who first said, “Let’s just go! We’ve researched it enough and it looks good.

We’ll be fine and we can figure out the rest when we get there.”

After spending eight years in the military, I was accustomed to blooming where I was planted but Diane’s remarks were surprising and right on target!

In about six months from the date of that conversation, our jet landed in Ecuador, a country we had thoroughly researched but never visited; each of us clinging to our three suitcases—and each other—ready to face any and all challenges.

Another crucial piece of knowledge is that fear needn’t be paralysing. It’s perfectly okay to move forward while feeling the associated discomfort.

Some of the most common fears associated with a move overseas are related to language barriers, personal safety, healthcare, financial security and social interactions. Will I be able to learn a new language? Yes! Will I be safe there or will I be the victim of crime? You will be safe!

Is the healthcare adequate and affordable? Yes. You’ve checked it out. Will my finances sustain a nice life there? Absolutely! You’ve crunched the numbers dozens of times.

And yet, even with acceptable answers in-hand, you remain stuck. So, make a list of your concerns and write down the answers you’ve discovered. Assess the information with a friend or two if you wish to gain some additional comfort. Once you have the answers on paper, available to review any time you wish, there’s no need to continue your research, right?

Finally, it is important to commit to your move. If you aren’t ready to sell your existing life to the highest bidders and make a full-time move abroad, consider the life of a half-pat, spending only part of the year in your adopted country.

Whichever path you choose, it is important to commit to it.

As Diane and I said our goodbyes to the U.S. more than five years ago, preparing to transplant our lives onto the shore of a country we had never visited, we remembered the famous Spanish explorer and conquistador, Hernando Cortez. In the late 1500s, he landed his 11 ships on the shore of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and faced overwhelming opposition from the indigenous people. His relatively small force of some 500 was vastly outnumbered by fierce Aztec warriors and his men wanted to sail away, escaping to safety.

As the story goes, he burned and scuttled his own ships right there on Mexico’s coastline.

Diane and I agreed to burn our own ship when we arrived in Ecuador. Although we always knew we could return to the States if things went poorly, the notion that we had burned our own ship strengthened our commitment to staying and working through the initial adjustments required of anyone moving overseas.

And remember, bravery is not being fearless. Bravery is moving ahead, regardless.

If you aren’t the brave sort, that’s okay. Just pretend to be brave. The result will be the same.