“You’re doing what?!”
saying “I could never just up and move abroad.”
could we. In truth, a lot went into deciding to try being an
expat. It was not wholly unlike someone deciding to climb Mt.
Everest or deciding to work in
Antarctica or even deciding to move to New
Jersey. I suppose some people probably wake up one day and just
know they are going to do a particular big adventure. For us, though,
and maybe for most adventurous sorts, picking an adventure is much more
of a spiraling into the decision than aiming straight at it.
As a couple this is a consensus process, but anyone might go through
the same basic steps in picking an adventure:
- We have to have the
itch to do something, and know we have the
means to do it.
- Then, we generate
the possibilities that appeal to both of us.
- We start thinning the field by defining
criteria that must be met.
- And ultimately, we pick
something from the survivors.
It was only after we began actively planning our migration that we
fully realized that most Americans find it unusual to think of leaving
the country. Lots of our friends over the years have been immigrants
into or out of the U.S, either for two-year, Peace Corps type
adventures or more permanent shifts. To us changing countries seemed a
fairly normal thing, at least within the context of big adventures.
We certainly didn’t see it as a small decision. Even for us
migrating was in a separate category from moving across the country.
Yet, it wasn’t a huge step from that, mainly just one that
required considerably more planning. So, as we told various
friends and co-workers that we were leaving, their amazement and some
of the questions they asked made us more conscious of all the pieces of
the actual decision.
One curiosity was why we were choosing this particular point in time.
Isn’t this sort of move for twenty-somethings, or retirees,
people who relocate within their company? For us, the biggest reason
was that we could, finally. We had achieved specific savings goals that
allowed us to dramatically change our lifestyle. We no longer needed
the incomes we had been maintaining, so we could take big risks such as
quitting and moving without risking our financial security. This was
further simplified by having no children or dependent family.
So really, we practically always have some itch to attempt a new
adventure, but we were waiting for the right time. A more sane person
possibly can’t imagine that constant urge for new
They expect there must be a logical external reason we would do
something like this rather than an irrational internal compulsion.
Then there’s the person who is restless, but hasn’t
big adventure. Their curiosity would be about how we initiated an
actual planned action rather than just continuing to imagine it
happening at some time in the future. It can be very hard to see past
all the possible obstacles when you haven’t done it before.
Some of the surprise at the timing was probably because we
talked about it to many people before. People don’t really
openly about earnings and savings and early retirement planning, and
this was just one piece of that package to us. We could see The End of
Life as We Know It approaching for several years. In fact, saving was
highly motivated by our “what next” dreaming and so
we had been
toying with ideas for years. But to many people it must have appeared
to be a sudden decision.