This article comes to us courtesy of InternationalLiving.com, the world's leading authority on how to live, work, invest, travel, and retire better overseas.
One afternoon, as I awoke from a short nap and looked upon the brilliant, blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea only steps away from my front door, I had a powerful thought. Nothing of what is now my amazing, wonderful life would be possible if I had surrendered to the fears I had only a few years ago.
When my wife Diane and I first embarked on our expat adventure, we had second thoughts, unanswered questions, and even an appropriate amount of fear. There was nothing "halfway" about our decision. We were about to move our entire lives to Ecuador, a small country in South America. We had learned that very few locals spoke English in that part of Ecuador and that there were not many expats in the area. Would we actually be able to learn a second language? How would we ask for the things we needed? What was the best way to manage our money? Would we be safe? Would we be targeted by criminals? Would our adopted culture welcome us? Would our monthly income be enough to sustain us?
But I've since discovered that all these qualms were totally unfounded. And I dread to think where I would be now if I had succumbed to those fears and not moved overseas.
In 2009, I found myself battling unemployment, loss of my medical insurance, and mounting debt, as the Great Recession forced its way into our family. As our life in the U.S. crumbled around us, I began to wonder if it was possible to enjoy an improved standard of living somewhere else on the planet.
When I discussed it with Diane, we wondered if this was really something we could do. Who sells everything they own, packs a few bags, and moves to a country they've never visited? But the more we looked into moving abroad, the more positive we became. After about six months of research, we sold what remained of our lives, packed the six suitcases permitted by the airlines, and caught a jet to Ecuador. Our new home was to be the small fishing and farming community of San Vicente, on Ecuador's northern coast.
Both Diane and I had lived a pretty significant slice of life by that point. We had each suffered significant loss and had found our way through some dark and confusing times, both individually and together. We knew that we would never have all life's answers in advance. Some things would have to be figured out on the ﬂy.
We gathered as much information as we could to help us find our way through future challenges together. We had the most important ingredient for our success -- belief in ourselves! While we shared a bit of fear, we refused to let fear be the thief that would steal the life we could have. We would adjust to the culture and take care of each other along the way. We were excited for the great adventures that lay ahead.
As it turns out, there was never anything to fear. The local people of Ecuador were warm and welcoming. They assisted us as we struggled to learn a new language and do our best to meld with a new culture. They were generous with their smiles and invitations into their lives. We continue to maintain contact with some Ecuadorian friends, exchanging photos and sharing experiences online.
We enjoyed two amazing years in San Vicente. As I have a heart condition, though, we felt it was time to move to a place with more advanced emergency-medical care than was available in our small community.
We wanted to stay living on a beach, so it didn't take long for us to target Cancún, Mexico, for the next chapter of our adventure. Cancún is much closer to the U.S., so we could be back in Florida in about one-and-a-half hours, compared to a two-day journey from San Vicente. Cancún is a modern city and a world-class vacation destination located on the tropical shores of the Caribbean Sea. What's not to like?
We once again packed our six suitcases and ﬂew to Cancún, where we currently live. We rent a gorgeous, multi-level condo, with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea just outside our front door. Cancún offers modern infrastructure, with plenty of shopping centers and restaurants, as well as modern hospitals. Only a short drive takes us away from the bright lights and excitement of Cancún to the small towns and historic Maya ruins that are scattered throughout this area.
Our newest chapter here in Cancún is also turning into a great adventure with nothing to fear. Diane spends hours at the beach each week. The temperature is almost perfect for us every day, with the constant breezes off the sea making A/C unnecessary.
But the greatest thing about all this? The complete lack of stress. None. Zero. I have learned to accept the Latin culture's way of living life, which prioritizes health and family above anything else. Our Spanish continues to improve each day. In fact, our life is almost a cliché. We drink tropical drinks on our roof terrace while watching spectacular sunsets over the lagoon. The sun rises over the Caribbean Sea just outside our bedroom window, and I only have to open my eyes to see it. We go to sleep with the sound of the surf kissing the shore and awaken to the soft cries of gulls circling overhead. The open market provides fresh tropical fruits and vegetables, while modern supermarkets have the conveniences necessary in every kitchen.
It would be easy to hate us ... until you realize that this could be your life, too. It's right here, waiting, if you want it. Just don't let fear steal it from you.