When my wife and I moved abroad in 2001, we left a trail of what we thought were our life’s most important possessions behind us. In a storage locker, appliances and keepsakes we were sure we’d need when we “settled down” overseas. In the basements and spare rooms of several good and very patient friends, furniture, art, and books we thought were the stuff of our emotional and cultural lives, that we’d need to have around us someday, wherever we were on the planet.
Because my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I have been living and working abroad for 15 years, we're sometimes interviewed by other writers and reporters about being expats. I spoke with a reporter from Canada a few days ago, and I was reminded of one of the most powerful economic principles of expat life.
Valentine’s Day may be the most romantic day of the year, but it’s undeniable that some locations have a certain "je ne sais quoi", which adds that something special to the occasion. International Living ranks the top five most romantic locations on their beat—great places to visit with a loved one or to strike out and find love anew.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I do a lot of traveling. So we often find ourselves on the way to places. We find ourselves in airports. In taxis and shuttles. In planes and buses. In snow-bound cities and towns for holidays and family functions.
"Think globally, act locally." I've always liked that saying, because it sums up so well the attitude of many of the expats I know living abroad. They are obviously thinking globally to get the big picture on issues that most affect their quality of life.
I have friends back in the U.S. who still think I’m courting disaster living outside the country…even though I’ve been safely and happily doing so for 15 years now. “Aren’t you afraid of being killed or kidnapped?” they ask, as if everyplace outside the States is a war zone or a lawless, Wild-West backwater. These friends who still think I’m crazy for living “outside civilization” usually fall into two groups.
Imagine if you could snap your fingers and instantly cut your monthly expenses in half. You'd effectively double the value of the money you budget for monthly expenses. It would mean the cash you once used for monthly bills would be available for other uses. There are hundreds of beautiful retirement locations around the world where this is possible. For the past 15 years, my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I have lived in many of them.
Avocados…strawberries…lemons…blueberries…raspberries…fruits I’ve never seen before and can’t name. On any given day of the week, I walk past people selling these things before I ever get to a grocery store or mercado. They sell their wares from wheelbarrows, woven baskets, car trunks and the beds of pickup trucks, huge plastic pickle buckets, and on blankets spread on the sidewalk.
You can do nothing anywhere. But it takes a special place to make doing nothing a real treat. My wife, Suzan, and I live in the mountains of northern Ecuador. It’s so easy to do nothing here that it’s almost a form of meditation.
Advances in the internet have changed so much about living or working abroad. My wife, Suzan, and I have seen it happen before our eyes. When we first moved abroad in 2001, “instant” messaging was just taking off. If you could get a decent internet connection (which was a much bigger “if” back then than now) you could type a message to someone and get a reply in just a minute or two…which was pretty much “instant” at the time. It was truly amazing for us and for our family and friends back home.