I was born in the 50s, so magazines played a huge role in my life. Of course, I cut my teeth on the magazines my parents always had around…Life, Reader’s Digest, Look, Mechanics Illustrated, Field and Stream, and the like.
A good friend emailed me the other day to say he was disappointed in me. He’d just visited a Latin American city and had fallen in love with it. He went on for several paragraphs about how it reminded him, not only of one of his favorite mountain towns in Italy, but also of one of the Paris neighborhoods he loves the best.
Sometimes the level of uric acid in my blood gets too high and I get very localized, very painful arthritis. In my case, it’s usually in the joints of my big toes. They turn an angry red and throb with a slicing, burning pain that makes walking—or even drawing a bed sheet over my foot—impossible.
I’ve interviewed a lot of expats over the years, and no matter what that interview is about, I try to ask one important question. If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently? The answers are a treasure trove of advice on what to avoid when planning and executing your plan to move abroad. And there are a couple of common themes worth mentioning.
My wife, Suzan, and I hear from a lot of people asking about the actual cost of retiring and living overseas. After almost 15 years of doing that ourselves, we can honestly answer, “As much or as little as you want.” A lot of these questions arise because of some extraordinary claims about how cheap it is to live overseas. Many of the people who ask us about this can’t figure out how a person could possibly live on a single Social Security check each month. And there are good reasons they can’t figure it out.
If it’s Spanish Colonial charm you’re after, you can’t do much better than Granada, Nicaragua. The place is steeped in it. It’s only natural… Granada was the first European city on mainland America, and historians have the official records of the Crown of Aragon and the Kingdom of Castile to prove it. Thanks to its location on Lake Nicaragua and its access to the Atlantic via the San Juan River, it was essentially a Caribbean port for the Spanish, and much of the gold, silver, and other wealth the Spanish sent back to Spain during the conquest was sent from Granada.
My wife and I celebrated our 19th anniversary last week. The length of our marriage roughly coincides with the length of our journey of discovery exploring the world (and ourselves) on behalf of International Living. Married in 1997, it took three years of anticipation, trepidation, and preparation before we actually moved overseas, beginning our expat lives in Quito, Ecuador, in 2001.
My wife, Suzan, and I were in the U.S. for a conference when Ecuador was hit by its biggest earthquake in decades. We learned of it immediately from our friends and neighbors in our hometown of Cotacachi in the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador, where the quake was felt but caused no extensive damage. The story was different on Ecuador's northern Pacific coast. Entire towns have been flattened. Hundreds... perhaps thousands... of people have died, and thousands more have been injured or left homeless.
Certainly no expatriates I know have been forced to expatriate. They live somewhere besides their own country because they want to...because the weather is better, or the pace of life is slower, or the cost of living is cheaper, or they love the country and culture they've moved to, or they want to have an adventure. Or any combination of the above.
I am a bad traveler. That may seem like a strange admission to make for an expat. Travel is, after all, part of the deal...you can't really live abroad without traveling—at least to the country in which you plan to settle. And to be sure, I love to see and experience other towns, cities, beaches, mountains...the lure of foreign lands and exotic adventures has not diminished for me during my years abroad.