Everyone hopes to find their paradise someday, right? So do you ever wonder if all those folks who moved abroad to find theirs actually got what they were looking for? I mean, really. How is life abroad any different from North America?
Seeing as how November’s the Month of Gratitude, I figured it would be fun to reflect on all the unique aspects about the expat lifestyle for which I’m most grateful. Who knows? They might just end up on your own list some day!
1. Lovin’ life in the slow lane
“Where can we go for a simpler life?” my husband asked way back when in 2007. The idea of escaping the fast-paced intensity of the States had taken hold, and definitely ended up being one of our primary reasons for heading out. Thankfully, that’s what we found. Our expat experiences in both Ecuador and Costa Rica have given us the glorious chance to finally slow down and feel life. Now we get to take the time to savor both little and big things. Love that!
2. Our “every days” are vibrant and rich
I don’t know about you, but seeing the same old same chain restaurants and megastores dominating the landscape of North America makes me absolutely crazy. While things in Latin America may not be nearly so polished, the simplicity and natural beauty that envelopes us every day is totally worth celebrating. And it’s not only about what you see. It’s about how you get to learn, grow, and feel things far outside of the ordinary. Yep, get ready for some extra-ordinary experiences!
3. Peace is there for the taking
Hand-in-hand with getting out of the “fast lane” is freeing yourself from the constant barrage of noise, chatter and marketing manipulation that comes with a media-driven society. Overseas, you get to choose the amount of news you want to be exposed to, most typically online. There’s no onslaught coming at you whether you want it to or not. I opt for peace for the most part, taking in enough international news to know what’s going on in the world overall, but not so much to make my head spin anymore.
4. Travel and discovery are around every corner
Simply by virtue of being in a new and different country, you’re bound to take advantage of new opportunities and go exploring. Even short trips can be fun and incredibly awe-inspiring, especially when they bring you closer to the people and the culture. It’s a delicious, wonderful world to savor.
5. Fun money goes a long way
Whether it’s food shopping, dining out, or attending cultural events, life sure is a whole lot less expensive, at least here in Ecuador. When we visit the U.S. now, I’m blown away at how much we spend. Granted, we’re not making the income we once did, but still, it seems so unreasonably overpriced. Many cultural events like the symphony are even free here. Wow!
6. Quality service for lots less
Forget the every day living costs, but health and dental care, medical insurance, taxes, rents and properties are typically far less expensive, too. Simply put, they make sense. Except for our taxes, that is. For 7.5 acres and a home we pay a whopping $22 per year. Now that doesn’t seem quite sensible to me, but it sure works for us!
7. Healthfulness is good!
The slower pace of life definitely helps, and so does the fabulously fresh air in the countryside. It’s actually easier to get out walking to enjoy the sunshine instead of being so dependent on a vehicle. Healthier foods are also what I’m most grateful for. With the abundance of fresh fruits, veggies and seafood year-round, I definitely indulge in them more here. Yes, I know, I can get all that in the States, too. But why is it that despite all that selection, I still manage to make poor choices when I’m there and I don’t here? Hmmm. Must be me.
8. No politics
Okay, so I really can’t say NO politics, but it is easier to get away from it living overseas. I’m incredibly grateful not to be in the thick of all the absurdity; it’s painful enough to hear of it all from afar. The sad part is that I feel safer from the long arms – and harms – of my country’s government. Yikes.
9. Friendships are far easier to establish
Granted, it may be because many of us expats are retired and happen to have the luxury of the time to socialize more often. But the truth is, it’s really the actual meeting up in the first place that’s far easier than ever. We just pick each other out of a crowd, often striking up conversations to learn each others’ “stories” of coming to live abroad. Once that happens, it isn’t unusual at all to make it a regular date. It sure is better than ducking our heads, waving a quick hello, and sticking the key in the door to avoid having to engage. Most of us have never had such active social lives! For more about expat friendships, click here.
10. The chance to learn another language
If there’s anything I’d never dreamed of achieving in a million years, it was learning Spanish. Years ago, as a young teacher just starting out in an international school in Guatemala, it simply came down to the need to stop feeling like a frustrated two-year-old and join the rest of the culture — and learn the language. All these years later, I’m absolutely thankful that I did.
11. You may just feel more ALIVE
I don’t know about you, but I’m determined to live my life journey to the max. I want to get out there to experience the world as much as I can, and thankfully, life overseas makes that a whole lot easier. It works for me. What about YOU?
The Aspiring Expat in You
Alright, so now it’s time to think about the concept of gratitude in your own life. What’s on your list right now? Jot them down.
Now list the things you’d want to find in your paradise. As you do your research, check off the ones that seem to be a match. In the end, you may just be closer to choosing your ultimate destination. Wow!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Trish LaPlaca is owner and manager of the expat service Aspire To Retire
Abroad (www.aspiretoretireabroad.com). She provides coaching to
prospective expats, information about living abroad and maintains a blog
of relevant information.