So you think your world is turning to crap in the U.S., Canada or whatever, and it’s time to start looking at a third world country like Panama, Costa Rica or Belize, where the cost of living is much lower, life is slower, and they are waiting with open arms. Maybe your fears are becoming a reality with health care in your country and you see these other countries being a better option.
Before you decide to pack a bag and leave for your new home, do your home work.
I was like so many others that I see daily on blogs about becoming an Expat in a foreign country. Expat Forum, Belize Forum and the like, where over and over I read people asking the same questions over and over. Can I live on $****.** per month there, can I find work there, can I find low cost rentals there, I’m leaving next week, can I drive there through Mexico, etc.
People..you can ask anyone you want these kind of questions, but you will never get the answers that you need to make such a major move anywhere, until you physically visit that country yourself, in person, for at least weeks. If I tell you Panama is perfect for you, are you going to sell everything you have and move there tomorrow? If you say yes, then you must be a charter member in the clueless patrol.
Now I’m not saying that I am the best at providing advise on relocating to a foreign country, but I can tell you I have lived in a few 3rd world countries in my life, and I quickly learned that none of them will resemble living in the United States, ever. What you will need to survive in a 3rd world country is the ability to slow down, live, eat and emulate the locals. No drive thru meals at McDonalds, visits to Costco or Walmart, and no picking from one of 100 kinds of cereal in the grocery store. It’s just not happening.
Most of these countries don’t even have paved roads, so get ready for driving on rutted dirt and during the rainy times of year, getting stuck in mud. If you are lucky enough to choose a country like Belize, day to day life becomes easier for you, because most everyone speaks english.
My advise for you is to look at your life now and really determine what you don’t like about it, and what you do like. What would be your dream life style, beach, mountains, boating community, small old village or city, artsy village or whatever. You also have to look at climate, rainfall, humidity, bugs, natural disaster frequency (hurricane seasons), and such.
The internet makes research so easy today, with tons of info from best places to live, how to move, cost of living, where the Expat communities are located, and how to rent or buy land, and so much more.
But again, after all your research, the best plan is to visit for at least 3-4 weeks, a month or two at least. I suggest visiting during the worst time of year, the off season for sure. My reasoning is first of all, things like resorts or hotels are cheeper during those periods so your cost’s are less. Also it will give you insight into what the country and area are like during that time. If you are fine with lower temperatures, more mosquitos, mud, or whatever, then you know you can survive it. Next trip, come back during high tourist traffic to see if you can survive that time. The weather might be gorgeous on the beaches, but if you have to share it with a million party animals, is that the life you have dreamed of?
The next thing I would like you to think about is when you do visit the country you might be calling home, try to find a local “Relocation Expert” to visit with and maybe get a tour with during your initial visit. They are there, believe me, either a local native who specializes in helping you find the best area to live, knows the Realty Offices, and can usually introduce you to other Expats who have been living there for years. You also might be lucky enough to find a specialist that is an Expat themselves, and has gone through everything that you are about to. Their experience can be a life savor, literally.
In my next few articles, I will take you on my own personal adventure, my target, Belize. I just returned from almost a month there doing everything I have talked about and more. I will try to give you all the ideas and suggestions I wished I had known about before my visit, even given I did all my due diligence before deciding to take a look at Belize.
I hope you join me.