Is This Your Year to Move Abroad?
We live in extraordinary times with extraordinary possibilities. I grew up on science fiction stories and am constantly astonished how many have become real: driverless cars, virtual reality, robots doing surgery. At a lecture a few nights ago, I learned that young people are now in training for the 2032 mission that will land humans on Mars. I’m pretty sure I’m over the age limit, but I was about to volunteer anyway until the NASA Solar System Ambassador told us, “There’s no return ticket.” Apparently they can’t carry enough resources to refit the rocket to fly them home. “Just like Columbus and Magellan,” Rich said. “They, too, set out never expecting to return.”
So I may have scrapped my plan to be among the first humans to set foot on Mars, but I am still fulfilling my other childhood dream: living abroad. Back in 2004, when Rich and I first got serious about moving to Seville, the idea struck many of our friends as preposterous. “Leave home? To live among strangers? Really? Why?” But in the last year or so, the concept of living abroad has gained traction with a surprising number of people. I now receive a steady stream of emails from friends, relatives, and readers asking for practical information about how to leave the USA and settle overseas — preferably somewhere with congenial company, good weather, and affordable wine.
I’m always happy to pass along whatever information and advice I can offer. Since I moved to Spain, much of my writing life (to say nothing of my personal life) has been devoted to exploring topics I wish I’d been more savvy about from the start, such as how to get a residency visa, find a lost dog in an airport, and leave excess baggage — literal and figurative — behind. In the beginning I focused on practicalities and logistics but soon found myself addressing larger issues, such as how to create a new life from scratch, preferably one that’s less frazzled, more authentic, and filled with generous amounts of friendship and laughter.
Much of the writing I’ve done on these subjects has been scattered among my blog posts, replies to readers’ queries, and three short guides I’ve produced over the years. Since I can’t answer all the recent emails in as much detail as I’d like, I thought it might be useful to gather my three guides together, update them, add material on topics people are asking about, and spice up the narrative with more anecdotes and adventure stories. The result is a new three-book set I’m calling Enjoy Moving Abroad. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to rush out and buy it. Yes, it will be for sale on Amazon soon, but right now I’m sending it to my readers for free, as thanks for being part of my journey and this online conversation.
Enjoy Moving Abroad begins with an overview of logistics and legalities called 101 Ways to Enjoy Living Abroad: Practical Tips for Easing the Transition to Expat Life. It’s designed to help you decide whether, where, and how to make your move, enable you to avoid some pitfalls and cope with others, and give you the confidence you need to relax and enjoy the ride.
Expat life involves plenty of packing, not only before you go overseas but later for visits back to the old country and for exploring the region that’s now your home. When it comes to hauling around possessions, our motto — and the title of the next guide in this set — is Pack Light.
As my regular readers know, Rich has an intense relationship with luggage. (Would we call it an obsession? I leave that for future historians to decide.) He’s struggled mightily to whittle down the volume without sacrificing comfort or functionality; I strive for some stylishness as well. We’ve learned what clothes we reach for and which remain unworn at the bottom of the suitcase. And we are much better at resisting the latest "must have" travel gadgets we'll never use — and identifying those that are genuinely helpful. Pack Light isn’t a manifesto on minimalism, it’s simply a few guidelines for gradually reducing the amount of excess baggage you’re hauling around, so that your journeys become easier and more pleasant.
A few months ago, as I was being interviewed for a podcast, I was talking about traveling light and somehow got off on a tangent about memorable people I’ve met on the road, such as musicians in a Trieste dive bar, that dentist in Zagreb, and the Stockholm “oops” party. It was morning and I was on my third cup of coffee, so it took the interviewer some time to get a word in edgewise.
“Karen,” she finally managed to ask, “how do you meet all these people?”
I get this question a lot from both expats and general readers, and while I was answering the interviewer, half my mind was busy sketching out a plan for the third book in this collection, How to Meet People on the Road: A Guide to Forming Friendships in Foreign Lands. My original intent was to help travelers, but as these tips are tremendously valuable for expats as well, I expanded the sections that are particularly relevant to living abroad.
Even if you already own all three of these books in their original form, you’ll find plenty of new and updated material in this volume. If you’re on my mailing list, I have already sent you the link for downloading your free copy of this book in Kindle or E-Pub format. New to my blog? Click on the button below to tell me where to send your free copy of Enjoy Moving Abroad.
If I’ve learned anything during a lifetime of travel and upwards of 13 years as an expat, it’s this: you absolutely do not have to settle for boring, predictable travel at any age — or a boring, predictable life, for that matter. You and I may not be candidates for the Mars mission, but if, like me, you spent your childhood secretly longing to live in a foreign land, maybe it’s time to ask yourself: is this your year to move abroad?
If you have advice or questions about living or traveling abroad, please post them in the comments below. I'm always happy to provide information and gather more material for future blog posts and updates of Enjoy Moving Abroad.
6/15/2018 03:41:32 am
I love this picture of Rich in the Plaza de España in your town. That was one of my favorite places when we were there. Loved all the tiles depicting the different regions (states?) of Spain. Thanks for sharing your life there. And for the updated books, too!
6/15/2018 08:27:23 am
You are most welcome, Phyllis. I love this photo of Rich in Plaza de España. We were on our way to renew our residency cards, and he had a ton of paperwork in that backpack; we went early, to beat the crowds, and the light and the setting transformed a mundane task into something magical. Thanks for being part of my readers' circle!
6/16/2018 06:20:35 am
The key phrase in your ex pat title is transitioning and people contemplating a move to a new and different country need to keep in mind they aren't bringing 'home' across the pond, or north or south. They are moving to a new home and while the rewards are many so are the challenges. We've had a number of houseguests who haven't been able to wrap their heads around the 'different way' we do things living in Greece. Living differently is why we moved! Great post and effort to help others ease into a new world.
6/16/2018 07:25:33 am
You're so right, Jackie — living differently is why we moved, yet sometimes, especially at first, it's hard to get our heads around those differences. For instance, my guests really struggle with the late dinner hour here in Spain, although now the seriously warm weather has arrived, it's clearly the more sensible option. Adapting to so many differences at once can be tricky, and I hope this set of books helps future expats ease into their new lives a bit more comfortably.
6/16/2018 02:28:12 pm
What really made me happy to spend part of my life abroad (and hopefully making th full move one day) was the kindness and friendliness which I found in my part of Portugal. I've been adopted by a family which means we are totally part of their community and cannot walk down the road without being greeted and welcomed back. Even the grumpy old man next door was won round when we delivered a carnation on Revolution Day. Love it.
6/16/2018 08:21:16 pm
What a wonderful story about winning over the grumpy old man with a carnation, Carolyn. Yes, this is exactly why we enjoy spending time abroad — because we forge connections with the unlikeliest people. Thanks for sharing that one!
6/16/2018 07:10:45 pm
Hi Karen, I just sent you an email telling you how much I enjoy your "disrupting" my life!
6/16/2018 08:44:22 pm
Bert, I just saw your email and want to say how glad I am that you are connecting with the stories on my blog. Being a pilot, you must have seen all sorts of far-flung places and have plenty of your own stories to tell. Thanks for being part of my readers circle and for jumping in on the online conversation here. On behalf of Rich and myself, I wish you happy trails. May all your journeys be grand adventures.
6/19/2018 11:12:47 pm
I loved reading your book "Dancing in the Fountain," because you so enjoyed (enjoy) expat life. I've been an expat for decades in 7 or 8 foreign countries and I cannot imagine NOT being an expat. I love discovering new cultures, new food, making interesting friends, having (mis)adventures. And then writing/telling stories about it, because that is what I do :). Good luck with your new books. May it encourage people to discover the world.
6/20/2018 03:44:50 pm
Thanks for your kind words, Miss Footloose. I'm so glad that you connected with "Dancing in the Fountain" and that you share my love of expat living. I was just chuckling over your recent post on Life in the Expat Lane, the one about the Armenian post office making you redo the envelope and scrunch the recipient's address in the lower right corner in the approved manner. As every expat knows, these small, goofy moments really keep us on our toes and add a lot of zing and a few chuckles to the daily round of errands. Thanks for sharing that one.
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Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
#1 Amazon Bestseller in Tourist Destinations, Travel Tips, Gastronomy Essays, and Senior Travel
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As my regular readers know, I never get free or discounted goods or services for mentioning anything on this blog (or anywhere else). I only write about things that interest me and that I believe might prove useful for you all to know about. Whew! I wanted to clear that up before we went any further. Thanks for listening.
TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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