Travel & Destinations

Dipping Your Toes in the ExPat Pond

Above photo by Claire Tardy ~

Do you enjoy meeting new people and exploring new places? Do you crave a little adventure? Are you flexible enough to consider living in another country? Are you ready to get out there and experience something unknown and exciting?

Without getting too political, think about moving overseas. Or at least try it out. There are so many reasons: Travel the world for retirement, sabbatical, extended adventure vacation, or volunteer activities; reduce expenses from housing to healthcare; learn about new cultures; get out of the rut of every day… The list goes on.

The U.S. State Department currently recognizes 194 countries. They have a “Do Not Travel” warning out on 11, including Mali — so no traveling to Timbuktu for the time being!

That still leaves 183 countries to consider.

For our family, it started with education. Like most kids, today, my daughter traveled overseas to study for several semesters: Lausanne, Switzerland; Florence, Italy; London, England; Dublin, Ireland.

The cities are exciting, beautiful, and historic, and filled with tons to do and explore. We enjoyed nature from the Swiss Alps to the Dublin beaches. But there were some obstacles.

London was too expensive. Florence isn’t safe for women traveling alone. Switzerland is also costly, but, it’s so safe and clean, it’s worth the stretch. We decided on Dublin because of my daughter’s choice in graduate school: Trinity College.

dublin David Mark
For us, the math made the decision. A sufficient rental for us in Dublin costs $85,000 for about 18 months. It didn’t take much to convince our financial planner that spending $300,000 on a home makes sense, after all. The prices have increased rapidly. Last year, apartments sold for $700 per square foot. This year it’s $800 per square foot. If we break-even and sell the property for what we’ve paid for it, we’ll be ahead. The cost of closing will still be dramatically less than the value of the rent.

Having a foothold in Europe is excellent right now. Dublin is easy, safe, and growing. It’s American-friendly. There are more Irish descendants in America than there are in the entire country of Ireland.

Here are even more reasons to head abroad:

Less expensive healthcare. Whether paying out of pocket or joining the pensioner program in a country like Panama, you’ll find high-quality healthcare at a fraction of the U.S. cost.

Lower living expenses. Dublin notwithstanding, you can find many countries where a couple can live well on less than $2300/mo. There’s a trend currently for single women to move to Portugal, where you can live at the beach for $1500/mo. or less.

This time next year, you could have an increased quality of life for a much lower cost. Be a citizen of the world rather than just one nation.

When you’re not quite ready to move overseas, dip your toes in. You’ll find the water is beautiful in so many places, you may want to stay.

In the next article in the series, we’ll explore where you might want to go. Stay tuned.


Gail Clifford

Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler she has enjoyed trips with her parents, her siblings, and her daughter. Travel writer, photographer, coach for other professionals interested in the next step career... she is an avid adventurer.

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