The Importance of a “Dream Retirement Overseas” Shortlist

I have what I call “the shortlist.”

It’s the list of all the locations that currently fit the bill as optimal places to live for me and my wife, Suzan Haskins.

We’ve already lived in seven communities in four different countries. We’ve had some time to honestly assess ourselves and what we need to live somewhere for more than just a month or two a year. By now we have some pretty clear criteria for what we really need a location to provide.

We live in one of those places right now…Cotacachi, Ecuador. It ticks most of the boxes that Suzan and I have on our personal list. Perfect weather, adequate communication and travel infrastructure, manageable cost of living, vibrant local community and traditions… There are more criteria, but the point is that it’s our list, particular to our needs at this particular stage in our lives.

Your list won’t just probably be different…it will be different, because nobody is you at this particular stage in your life. What you really and truly need from a place to live will make up the checkboxes on your own personal list.

But how to develop that list in the first place? Suzan and I have had 13 years living throughout Latin America to dial in our actual needs and to separate them from what we merely wanted…or thought we wanted…when we started out. We’ve been able to compare and contrast first-hand a lot of different locations…and a lot of different ways to live and work in those locations.

But for someone just starting to think about living or working abroad, what’s the best way to develop a personal “shortlist” that actually matches their own reality with the reality on the ground in specific spots?

The first week in June, International Living will hold its annual Ultimate Event in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This is the one event a year that we hold outside the U.S. that is not devoted to a particular country or just to earning income abroad. It’s sort of the “everything” conference… all the countries that we’re most keen on and all the ways of making and managing money abroad are represented there.

It can be confusing. Oh man, can it be confusing. We pack a lot into the Ultimate Event.

But if you haven’t spent time personally in each country we cover, it’s the best way I know of to hone your own “shortlist” with confidence. Because it’s not just dreams and glossy photos and travelogues at the Ultimate Event. It’s people, up close and personal, who have actually lived in those places and know how to earn and manage money from those places…or anywhere on the planet, for that matter.

I talk to people after each Ultimate Event who tell me that they’re more confused afterward than they were when they arrived. That, to me, is the signal that they’re starting to realize how many options there actually are for living and working abroad. And that they’re moving beyond the “dream” stage and getting serious and detailed about what they personally are looking for in a place to live and work.

For many Ultimate Event attendees, huge value comes from simply being able to cross certain places and money strategies off their list as not right for them. That, after all, is how a list gets short: you eliminate the options that aren’t the best for you. Who knew Cuenca could be chilly at night? Who knew Guanajuato was at such a high altitude? Who knew it took so long to fly from Los Angeles to Montevideo? Who knew that you could access the largest freelancing network on the planet from Boquete or Placencia or Bahia de Caraquez?

Attendees at the Ultimate Event learn these things, and they use that information to refine and hone their shortlists. In fact, much of the refining and honing that Suzan and I have done over years of living abroad is pretty much instantly available to Ultimate Event attendees, as is the experience of many other experts and expats.

That’s one of the main reasons I like the Ultimate Event so much. It’s the place where people who have been dreaming for years about moving abroad start to get serious about it and actually assess themselves and their options realistically and critically. They develop their own shortlists…and a well-researched and thoughtfully considered shortlist is one of the most important steps in turning a dream of living or working abroad into a successful reality.

Oh…another reason Suzan and I are looking forward to this year’s Ultimate Event. Puerto Vallarta, where the conference is being held, just happens to be one of the places on our personal shortlist. We’ve relocated too many times for too many reasons over the past 13 years to believe that we’ll never do it again, so we always have a shortlist ready…one that we tweak and adjust as our own lives and needs change…even though we already live in the place that’s currently on top of that list for us.

But I’ll have my eyes and ears wide open while we’re in Puerto Vallarta, believe me. In that sense, I’ll be just like every other attendee at the Ultimate Event…ready and willing to compare and contrast, tick off boxes, adjust the shortlist, and be happily confused and delighted with all my options.

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