To get to the point where you can shut the door on your life in the U.S. or Canada and embrace a new, very different culture and language, takes a little doing.
You really need to weigh the pros and cons and make some wise decisions about where you’ll go and what you’ll do once you get there. For some people—this is easy enough— they’ve moved often and they don’t see this as a big step.
For others, it can be a huge leap of faith. And the research and decision making can be a long and nerve-wracking experience.
In my opinion, one of the best things to do, is to ruthlessly profile yourself. This sounds easier than it is. I’ve known more than a few people who moved to a small, rural community, only to find out that they prefer the cultural stimulation of a big city.
Or they’ve moved to the seashore, only to find out that they’re not beach people. It’s a great place to go on vacation, but living there is something else. If you’re not keen on heat…humidity…pesky insects…and sand in every crevice—it may not be for you.
Likewise, if you can’t live without the sounds of the waves lulling you to sleep at night, a mountain town may not be your cup of tea.
This is something I’ve thought a lot about: When the world is your oyster, how do you find the place that’s just right for you?
Here are my eight factors to consider when choosing the right overseas destination for you.
- Affordability. How does the cost of living stack up with your income and budget?
- Healthcare. Will you be comfortable with the quality of medical care you’ll receive—are good health plans and programs available to you—and will costs be in line with what you can afford?
- Ease of Transition. Are you comfortable with language and currency issues? Are there some familiar items in the grocery stores and pharmacies? How easy is it to navigate the bureaucracy…get a resident visa…and import your household items?
- Accessibility. How close is it to your friends and family back home? Is there an international or domestic airport and other amenities, such as good hospitals nearby?
- Community. Is there an expat group? Are you comfortable with the locals and their culture?
- Housing Prospects. Are homes for rent or sale at a reasonable price? If you buy a property and later change your mind—will you be able to sell it easily enough?
- Climate. Are you hoping for four seasons or year-round warm weather? It’s best to plan your ‘check out’ visit during the worst weather season so you’ll know exactly what to expect.
- Things to Do. What are your hobbies or desired activities and will you be able to continue to enjoy those? If you like good restaurants or artistic events, will there be enough of these to keep you busy?
I recommend prioritizing these in order of importance to you. Assign some weight to each factor—and add in any others that concern you. Maybe you’ll be taking children on this journey and you need good, accredited schools close by. Or you’ll be taking elderly parents…and looking for assisted living centers…or good nursing care. Maybe you’ll want to find work or start a business. If so, the place you move to should be conducive to all these things.
You must do an overabundance of research—and importantly, try to spend as much time as possible in a location before you even think about moving there.
Above all, don’t settle for less. If a place you have your heart set on doesn’t match with your personal wish list—keep looking. Your paradise is out there, and the more ruthlessly you profile yourself and follow your action plan—the easier it will be to find your perfect place—and the more rewarding your experience will be.
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