Making the expat leap: Are you a free spirit or a Sherlock Holmes?

Oct 25, 2016 | 0 comments

One of the more popular resources on the overseas life – International Living- held one of its destination conferences in Quito, Ecuador recently. That means that yet another enthusiastic group of aspiring retirees signed on to look chl trish logoseriously into what it’s like to live overseas, and more importantly, whether this particular country could be a potential “match” for them.

And that’s when it hit me.

Most expats tend to make the big move in either one of two very distinct ways. Some are like Sherlock Holmes – investigating everything and anything about different countries and the potential life to be led there; while others tend to be more Free Spirits about it ~ less analytical about the details and believing simply that “somehow it’ll all work out.”

leap-456100_640My husband and I fall more into the latter category. We went in relatively blind both times we’d jumped – relying a bit on the internet and books, but predominantly on “gut feelings”. Having set our sights first on Costa Rica in 2007, only one particular book was our “go-to” guide: Erin Van Rheenan’s 2004 version of “Living Abroad Costa Rica”. Through that we were able to pinpoint an attractive destination area sight-unseen and then simply envisioned ourselves living there as if it were the most natural thing in the world. When we did visit the town for two weeks before settling there permanently, it was only with the intention of finding a house. Never once did we think about not doing it. Four years later we realized it was time to move on again, and yet still, that big move  was hardly daunting at all. We’d done it before, and we could do it again.

hol_3094Once Cuenca came onto our radar screen online, the more we knew that it simply just felt right. Yes, we’d done a bit of research, but we didn’t feel the need to bother to check it out first at all. With our possessions down to four suitcases and no particular home waiting for us, we landed in the city and never looked back. Now, many would think that’s just plain crazy (ask our families!), and yet both times it really was the right way for us.

On the other hand, our “Sherlock Holmes” friends had done their due diligence through thorough research and careful planning.  Most visited the country (or several countries!) first, exploring different areas to determine where they’d feel most comfortable. Highly attuned to their own needs, they searched for the place that would suit them best. Unlike us, they paid attention to every detail. The beauty in that is that there were fewer “surprises”, which I have to admit seemed not a bad thing at all.

sherlock-holmes-462957_640-jpgThe funny thing is that we expats tend to be very adamant regarding our choices either way. Many say it’s not worth overthinking things – just jump in with both feet, sink or swim; while others say, “NO! It’s too big a step not to get to know the destination first and to safely cover all possible eventualities.”

But the truth is, neither way is wrong. Like everything else in life, it’s all about what’s right for you. And if you need to be a little bit of both – A Free Spirited Sherlock Holmes, well good for you!


So, are you a Sherlock Holmes or a Free Spirit? A little bit of both? Think about how comfortable you are when facing change or new places. By knowing yourself and your needs, it’ll be easy to follow your own course.

Today’s Task: Make a list of all the things most important for you to consider about the move, be it housing, financial, medical, activity-wise, and more. How much detail do you need to know about each of them in terms of what will be available? Create sub-lists of questions to research. Whether yours are short-lists or long, it really doesn’t matter. Just be true to yourself and know that most of the information is now at your fingertips. Have a ball!

Trish LaPlaca

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