Why I Have Zero Regrets About Moving Overseas

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.

I made my first international move, from Baltimore, Maryland, to Waterford, Ireland, with the support of my longtime employer. He sent me off with marching orders to establish an EU base for the firm.

I did not choose Waterford but rather the idea of an adventure in the Old World. Waterford and Ireland were happy accidents.

I made my second international move, from Waterford to Paris, again with the support of the firm where I was now a partner. This time I chose the destination. My family and I wanted to be in Paris, and my business partner accommodated the agenda.

The move from Paris to Panama four years later was entirely my doing.

Pursuing a Business Agenda

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The year before the Panama move, I’d left the company that had taken me to Ireland and France. I’d retired early, but retirement didn’t suit me. I liked being in business and decided to start one of my own.

Two minutes of discussion with my husband, Lief, led us to agree that, if I wanted to pursue a business agenda, we’d need to leave France, perhaps the least entrepreneur-friendly country in the world.

We knew from experience that Panama is one of the best places to start and run an internet business of the kind I imagined, so we bought one-way tickets for Panama City.

For the next 10 years, we hunkered down in Panama, raising our son and building Live and Invest Overseas. When both were mature enough to take their first independent steps, Lief and I transitioned to the long-anticipated next stage, for us the ultimate lifestyle.

A Life of Discovery

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Now we live between Paris and Panama, enjoying the very different delights of both the City of Light and the Hub of the Americas while continuing to manage the growth of our publishing business, which affords us many chances to rationalize adventures elsewhere.

As we look ahead from this pivotal point in our lives, we imagine continued hard work, which we both enjoy, punctuated by regular travel. More than anything, Lief and I appreciate discovery and the unexpected.

We also like history, architecture, long city walks, and extended cafe afternoons. This world of ours hides many spots for indulging in those things. We look forward to getting to know as many of them as possible.

Retiring Overseas

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I share this personal history to make the point that, while “retire overseas” has been my beat for nearly four decades, it’s never been my personal agenda.

I’ve enjoyed a life of serial adventures overseas funded by enterprises that have allowed me to convert passions for travel and real estate into cash flow.

I didn’t retire overseas, and maybe you shouldn’t either. The opportunity we consider in these dispatches each day is greater than that.

The retirement plan that Lief and I have embarked on has nothing to do with winding down. For us, this stage is a chance to be more engaged than ever, in the world, in life, and in giving back.

Connecting With the Local Way of Life

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Our ideas for retirement are about moving around the world and settling in at each place where we land to connect with the local way of life.

What’s important here is that I’m always wondering about wherever in the world I happen to be. How do people do what they do and how might I contribute?

Fully fledged in our empty-nest stage, Lief and I are working but in control of our days and our time. We’re not tied to conventional work schedules or conventional anything.

I’m finding that I’m more productive than ever because I’m more content and less distracted by daydreams of the life I could be living.

Your Overseas Retirement

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Your retire-overseas plan likely will look different than mine. My point is that you can benefit from the enhanced quality of life it can bring at any age and under any circumstances.

You could embrace a conventional retirement lifestyle but in a new country, meaning a lower cost of living and days filled with adventure and the exotic.

You could “retire” overseas and still earn an income. Think laptop business.

You could be a retired entrepreneur like me.

You could retire for fun and profit, investing (in real estate, say) to generate cash flow to support yourself as you embrace this free and flexible lifestyle.

You could retire with school-aged kids or aging parents. You could retire to a penthouse or off-grid and self-sufficient.

Take Control of Your Life

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My point is that retiring overseas isn’t really about retiring. It’s about taking control of your life. You can’t predict how your retire-overseas adventure will play out.

When I left Baltimore 26 years ago, bound for Waterford, Ireland, I had no idea where that single step might lead. No idea that seven years later I would swap Waterford for Paris … and then Paris for Panama City.

Had I tried to plan for the long term, I may never have left home in the first place. Looking too far into the future can be overwhelming. Taking the all-important first step requires a leap of faith.

The reward for mustering the courage is enormous. Spending time overseas — full-time, part-time, back and forth, now and then — will enrich your life in ways you couldn’t imagine today.

In all the years I’ve covered this beat, I’ve not heard one person express regret for having embarked on an adventure overseas.

The only regret I’ve heard — and I’ve heard it often — is from folks saying they wish they’d made their moves sooner than they did. Go now.

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