Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling.
We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass. Which is why Suzan and I devoted an entire chapter in our book, The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget, to the many ways people can either start new businesses or take their existing skills with them when they move abroad, no matter how old they are.
Suzan and I were lucky enough to have what we call “portable careers” when we left the U.S. in 2001. We can write and edit anywhere we happen to be, especially with the advent of the Internet. In fact, as far as work goes there is often very little difference between us sitting in our living room in Ecuador or on assignment somewhere in Panama or Belize and sitting in the International Living home office. Communication is now that fast and that dependable.
So imagine the possibilities for anyone with specialized knowledge of any kind…medical, legal, dietary, design, graphics, programming, heating and air conditioning, construction, engineering, auto mechanics, sports, agriculture…you name it. If you have knowledge that people want and will pay for, you can provide it to them and get paid for it via the Internet.
Of course, there is more to it than that…which is why we included the chapter in our book. And there is also more to it for the folks who want to move abroad and make some money but are sick and tired of the job they’ve been doing all their lives. They want to try something new, something that appeals to more than just their pocket books and bank accounts. Something they’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance.
Which is probably why Suzan and I meet so many people abroad who have started restaurants, B&Bs, or art galleries. These are the people who can’t think of a better lifestyle than just being around other like-minded folks. They’ve always wanted to have a place where those people can gather in good company surrounded by delicious food, comfortable accommodations, and beautiful art.
And the lower cost of entry in many expat destinations makes it perfectly possible to start businesses like these. This is not only doing what you love for a living, it’s also doing it someplace new and exciting. We know a great many folks who move abroad for the opportunity and adventure of reinventing themselves and making money doing it.
However, there are some excellent reasons NOT to start particular businesses in particular places. Moving abroad doesn’t remove the necessity for market research, no matter what business or location you’re thinking about.
Let’s face it, business is business. You may be doing it from your hammock on the beach…or from your terrace overlooking the mountains…or your condo above the bustling boulevards of Buenos Aires or Panama City. But you’re doing it for a reason, and you want to succeed at it. There are some very simple ways to help make sure you choose the right reasons and ensure your success, which is why we included this chapter in our book.
After 13 years abroad, Suzan and I have a hard time imagining what our lives would be like if we DIDN’T have our work. It not only helps fund our lifestyle…it brings its own meaning, challenge, and sense of accomplishment to our lives.
That’s probably why we also know a lot of folks who thought they were moving abroad to retire and never work another day in their lives…only to find themselves a few months later looking for some way to express themselves and their skills and their interests—and make a little money at it to boot.
Even if you have no intention of working when you make your own move abroad, it’s something to think about. If you ever did find yourself overseas needing something to do or a little extra cash…what would you do, and how would you do it?
Suzan and I have tried to answer those questions in our book. It’s taken us a dozen years to acquire the experience, contacts, and real-life stories to write it, and we included an entire chapter on working overseas for two reasons.
First, it’s been one of the most important parts of our own lives abroad.
And second, we’ve seen first-hand what an important part of other expats’ lives it can be.
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