The Best Way to Choose Your Personal Overseas Paradise

In one sense, it’s a small world…instantaneous communication has made news and events from any corner of the globe instantly available to anyone with an internet connection.

But in another sense, the world is still a big, big place…especially when you’re trying to decide where to live and retire. The choices are almost limitless.

Which is why I have always advised a two-step approach to figuring out where your personal paradise might be.

First, profile yourself ruthlessly. Get serious about what it is you really want in a place to live—and what you don’t.

Living a quiet life in the country might sound ideal if you’re looking forward to some peace and quiet in your life. But do you really want to have to jump in the truck and drive an hour every time you run out of milk or coffee? Could you jump in the truck and drive an hour at all if you had a medical emergency? Do you really want to own a truck in the first place?

Living on the beach is everyone’s dream. But do you want to live there during rainy season when the back-beach becomes a swamp and you’re surrounded by mud and wet sand? Do you really want to have to replace anything metal in your house every year or two after the salty breeze corrodes it?

Immersing yourself in another culture is a wonderful adventure, but are you willing to give up the chance to talk to someone in your own language who shares some common history and background? Saying you never want to see or talk to another gringo again is one thing…not having an expat community close at hand when you’re strongly longing to speak your own language with someone who shares a bit of your cultural background is another.

So be honest with yourself. Separate your dreams and fantasies from the realities that you know you will need in your life to be happy, and pick likely retirement destinations that match those realities.

Then, step two…go to those places and spend as much time there as you can before you actually move.

Research and list-making are necessary first steps, but they don’t replace having boots on the ground. There will always—always—be things about a particular destination that you only discover and understand once you’re there. And you should try to be there long enough for “vacation mode” to give way to reality. Anyplace can be a fun-filled fiesta for two weeks…but will the party last for three months? Six months? A year?

That’s when you know if a place is right for you or not.

Taking these two important steps—ruthlessly profiling yourself, and spending some real time on the ground—are essential to finding what you’re really looking for. And remember, you’re not looking for a country, or even a particular region or city.

You’re looking for a community. We’re social creatures and as much as we like to talk about global politics, national economies, general cultural traits…our real, true lives are fundamentally composed of just a few dozen close personal relationships and a few square miles of familiar territory. That’s our actual, real-life community, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a neighborhood of a major metropolitan area or a mountain town or a fishing village or a stretch of beach. It’s community that counts.

Our quality of life has everything to do with the people, amenities, and geography we interact with every day. Finding the right community isn’t difficult, but it does take being honest with yourself about what you truly need and want in your life.

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