Living overseas has its benefits…even if you’re not ready to retire yet.
The daily commute becomes a cycle to work along a beach path in Portugal…marking essays is not so tedious while sipping mango juice in a bustling café in Brazil…the weekly shop for groceries is spiced up immeasurably by a trip to Mercado Central in La Vega, Santiago.
There’s also the sunshine and the revitalizing, energizing thrill that comes with moving to a new country.
Here in Santiago, Chile, we have dinner on our balcony at sunset, overlooking the last of the snow on the tip of the Andes. At weekends we often take a break from the city with a trip to stunning beaches along the coastline or the forest. Driving through the Atacama Desert, or hiking through glaciers in Torres del Paine are both options…only a few hours away.
Our monthly expenses come to $2,000…but we could live on less.
Two years teaching in a tough environment, early on in my career, was enough to persuade me to travel. So I left my home in a small town in Scotland, with its cold weather and dull routines, for the splendor and energy of Greece.
This was a time under the stars…in warm jasmine-scented tavernas, sipping retsina and eating olives and tzatziki. The year began in Athens and ended on the island of Skiathos, discovering a new slower rhythm of living.
I had imagined a year out—a fun, temporary adventure, before settling into the reality of work back home. Twenty years later, I am not sure where home is. I met my husband, Bill in Greece. He grew up in Tennessee and Virginia and our travel adventure just went on and on.
What we’ve come to realize is that living overseas is compatible with a thoughtful and lucrative life choice. We’ve taught in schools in Brazil, Portugal, and now Chile (as well as stints in the U.K. and U.S.), staying an average of five years in each place. Bill even took a year off to write a book while we were in Portugal.
Travel opportunities become much richer when you are an expat rather than a tourist: You become immersed in a cultural experience for long periods, learn the language, customs, and traditions and become in a small way a part of that place. This, in turn, becomes a part of the texture of your life.
It is globally enriching too: The more people continue to move around the world and share cultural experiences, the more prejudice and ignorance based conflicts will disappear.
For us, it was never a conscious decision to live this life; it has always been more a case of delaying the fun for one more teaching post. But we have created a new kind of home, that now includes our son, and we recreate our own place wherever we go, adapting routines to our new country. And so many incomes are compatible with this…running a business, travel writing, accounting, property management…or in our case, teaching.
It is easy to see why living overseas is not just fun, but also a sensible lifestyle choice—and it could be a new lease of life for you, too.
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