Free at 33: Three Tips for Moving Overseas and Starting Your Dream Life Abroad
I was a paramedic for over 10 years. Fast-paced, adrenaline-packed activities were my bread and butter. Until one emergency response changed my path with a game-changing back injury. The patient was not breathing, naked, overweight, in a tiny shower, and seated on a geriatric chair that was cemented to the ground. There was no way to get behind the patient to lift him properly. I heaved him out of the shower and successfully stabilized him for transport to the local ER. Nine months of physical therapy, and the addition of chronic pain to my list of personal attributes later, I was not improved enough to return to work. I decided it was time for Plan B.
It was the first time that I wasn’t restricted to a geographic location, as an avid traveler, I wanted to keep it that way. My injury was sustained a month after I turned 30. Welcome to my thirties. I had seen 27 countries including a paramedic volunteer trip to Haiti. I promised myself that I would not waste this freedom or the back pain that sent me there. If I was meant to hurt, I would hurt for the benefit of something. I moved to Costa Rica a year after I launched Enete Enterprises, LLC., a publishing and video production company specializing in expat guidebooks and tourism.
I agree, my life is pretty amazing, but it saddens me to think other people live with the misconception that they can’t live along the same path.
Since then, I have explored Panama, Peru, and Ecuador for potential living destinations. My “must haves” included: a warm climate, low cost of living, fresh local produce, a language with the same alphabet as my own, and local friendliness. Along the journey, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the sentiments, “Wish I could have your life,” or “Your life is ridiculous” from my friends. I agree, my life is pretty amazing, but it saddens me to think other people live with the misconception that they can’t live along the same path. Life is a constant flux of choices. If you wish your life to be one of exploration through constant travel, you can reshape your priorities and obtain that goal. If your “dream life” goal is to restart your life in a slower-paced, nature-filled Costa Rica then sit down, do some research, and make the adjustments necessary to make it happen!
Think about your life’s successes. Every attained goal required patience, planning, sacrifice, and persistence. Even so, you achieved them: graduated high school or college, made it through a specialization course, and so on. It took years of planning and work for me to become a paramedic, so too will it take years of planning and work to achieve a global working solution. If an international life is, seemingly, a perfect fit, why is your first reaction instant rejection and jealousy? Yes, this life isn’t mainstream or common within your group of peers, but since when does that make it unattainable? Hundreds of people move abroad every year. Create a five-year plan to join them!
Three steps to my life:
1. Set a budget.
Your goal is to save an emergency cushion that you can live off of for at least three to six months. In addition, you will need to re-train your lifestyle so that your transition into a different country with a modest budget is less difficult.
Cancel frivolous subscriptions (cable TV, magazines, etc).
Re-evaluate your cell phone service. If you are spending $80 or more on your bill, you should look into go-phones, T-mobile, Virgin Mobile, or other providers that will provide unlimited talk and text for a fraction of the price.
Don’t waste gas. Combine errands geographically, and walk or bike when you can.
Decrease car payments. The goal here is to eliminate payments and decrease gas consumption. If you own your car or don’t have much left on the payments, would it serve you best to sell the car for a profit and buy a smaller gas efficient car?
Re-evaluate your rent or mortgage. If you are renting, is there room for downsizing? Do you have to have a guest room for the next few years? If possible, move to a smaller, more economic space. If you own your own home, do you have a room that you could rent out? Is the market one in which it would behoove you to sell? Begin to execute an exit plan, whether that involves selling or renting out your home. Look for renters now and move to a small economic place that allows you to save a bundle! This way you can stress-test being a landlord and different property management companies while you are still in the States.
Tone down social expenses. There is no reason that being social has to be expensive. Get your friends involved in your journey. Start a progressive dinner party. Every month a different friend hosts the slew of you potluck style. Or if you’d rather, you can keep it down to appetizers and drinks or drinks and desserts. All that matters is that you are together, enjoying each other’s company. No need for expensive bars, restaurants, and clubs. You can control the atmosphere and music! If there are kids involved, then send them all to a different friend’s house for the evening to be watched by a babysitter.
Find an affordable international medical insurance. Medex offers affordable travel insurance ideal for those who plan on moving every six months or less. Brokerfish is like Priceline for insurance providers, allowing you to receive several quotes for healthcare coverage with one search.
2. Find a revenue source.
The most common jobs that I have encountered that set few boundaries include: telecommuting, starting a business, writing, working in tourism, managing a hotel in your desired region, blogging, teaching yoga retreats, consulting, help exchanges (helpx.net), working as a guide for travel groups, and teaching English.
3. Sell everything and board a plane.
Full disclosure, I didn’t sell everything. I didn’t sell the MacBook Pro that I’m writing this article on, nor any of my other Apple gadgets. I kept my favorite chef knife and take it everywhere I move as my sole kitchen possession. I also kept: the video and photography equipment needed for my business, a handful of board-shorts and t-shirts, undergarments, flip-flops, hiking shoes, one pair of jeans, one pair of hiking pants, two pairs of wool socks, a ball-cap, a stocking cap, and a jacket.
Downsizing can be very difficult for some people. As you evaluate each item, remember that you will have to repack that item every place that you adventure to and from. Is that item worth the extra baggage? Does it serve you in your new life? I turned in countless bags of clothing and household goods to the Salvation Army. I also made some great money through Craigslist selling a surfboard, a leather sectional, and a variety of other nice items.
If you have created a five-year goal, part of that goal could include a move into a smaller living space prior to jet setting. Downsizing two separate times can be very helpful for those who have difficulty letting go. It’s an amazingly freeing experience when you have successfully made yourself and your belongings portable. Bon voyage!