In search of paradise: An expat checklist

Aug 31, 2016 | 0 comments

Live the dream! Find adventure! Spend the rest of your days in heaven on earth!

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Yes, and it’s also one of the most compelling reasons why so many of us decide to pick up and leave everything — and everyone — behind to live overseas. Deep down we all crave the chance tochl trish logo escape the madness, to finally get to live out our ideal lives, don’t we? We yearn to enjoy every day more completely — relaxed and fulfilledand all this in a beautiful setting as well, of course. The sad part is, most of us don’t believe we can still attain this kind of life in North America, and even if we could, likely expect it to be way beyond anything we could afford. So, where to find that wonderful life we deserve?

The truth is, you and I are going to define our “paradise” very differently, and that’s going to matter tremendously when searching for a perfect country match. What do you suppose yours would look like? Emerald waves tumbling just off your terrace? A vibrant, teeming city with a loads of cultural events to attend? How about a cozy country home in the mountains? Maybe a tropical haven?

Do you prefer a mountain view?

Do you prefer a mountain view?

If you’re ready to find your paradise, the first step is to identify the things that will bring you closer to that utopia. You’ll need to hone in on what you truly desire, answering these questions along the way as well: What have you always longed for, and never had the chance to enjoy? What are those “have to haves” you’ll need to make your life complete? What are your “I can live withouts”?

Let’s start out with a basic list of considerations to get you going.

  1. Cost of Living: The good news is that we’re living longer. The bad news is that our retirement stashes have to take us that much farther. Which destination offers the highest quality lifestyle to match your financial situation? Many countries like Ecuador offer a variety of distinct environs to suit your dreams – be it city, country, or coastal life – and to match your pocketbook.
  1. Medical Care: Think: Insurance costs and coverage; proximity to the
    ... an ocean view

    … relaxing by the ocean?

    nearest quality health care and hospitals; the ability to communicate with doctors in English if necessary. Most of all, consider your own medical needs at present and for the future. Will they be met well there? For example, with mobility issues you’ll need to check into handicapped access – something we tend to take for granted in North America, and yet isn’t always easy to find in Latin America. Any respiratory challenges? You’ll need to think about the altitude. Several friends I know couldn’t remain living in the highlands of Ecuador for that very reason. Also, be sure you’ll be able to purchase the specific medications you require, or at least their generic alternatives.

  1. Setting: What do you want to see, and live every day? The ocean? Mountains? City? Jungle? Many countries offer most, if not all of these. But which areas are the best in terms of safety, quality of life, and access to your “have to haves”?
  1. Weather: Okay, so is it the steamy jungle or coast for you, or a more
    ... or city life.

    … or city life?

    temperate, even colder climate? Interestingly enough, weather is a very strong reason why many expats end up dissatisfied with where they are and find themselves having to move on to other destinations. My husband and I are a perfect example of that. Tired of the New England  winters, we were thrilled to “live barefoot and in shorts” for the rest of our lives in Costa Rica. It turned out, though, that while we adored the natural paradise, we were way too prickly uncomfortable in the heat (not to mention the “bad hair days” – ugh!) Hence, a springlike climate was high on our list the second time ‘round and Ecuador meets that perfectly. Others we know, however, find Cuenca’s occasionally chillier, overcast days depressing and have wound up seeking more consistently warmer climates. If you get to spend ample time in your choice destinations beforehand, you may not have to be like us and “live and learn” too late!

  1. Access to Services and Modern Conveniences: Believe it or not, dependable internet, cell phone, water and electrical services are not a given, especially if living a distance outside of the city. Even when closer by, the selection and quality goods we’re used to when shopping for foods, home goods, tools, etc. can be dicey. Just know that you’re apt very quickly come to appreciate the “land of plenty” you come from. Oh, what I wouldn’t do sometimes to have real maple syrup and good horseradish in the refrigerator! And my husband would love to get dependable tools again at great prices, dreaming often of a Home Depot or Lowes around the corner. Hmm…will you be okay making the tradeoff of settling for less?
  1. A Culture That Truly Appeals to You: The biggest surprise for many new expats is how vastly different their new country is from anything they’ve ever known. This can be wonderfully exciting and eye-opening, but also the greatest challenge. It isn’t always easy to adapt to some very different perspectives on life, time, doing business, values, and more. Every country has its own unique personality and life style. Will you be comfortable outside of North American mindset?


Exploring the aspiring expat in you

Okay, so now I have an assignment for you. Get out a sheet of paper (or that journal I’d mentioned in my last column) and start listing your “dream wish list”.

  1. Review every category here, and jot down your needs and wishes.
  2. Go back, placing a star next to your “have to haves”.
  3. If you have a spouse or a partner, compare lists. Are you on the same page?
  4. Which countries (and specific areas) are beginning to appeal to you? Which do you think fits most of the bill?
  5. We’d all love to hear how you make out. Leave a comment on your thoughts and/or discoveries, or visit me at to share there, too!



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