Monday, January 24, 2011

Looking Before You Leap

Grab this related post Widget!
I took the time to read through some of the online forums dedicated to Ecuador this weekend and noticed something interesting. On the one hand there were folks totally gung-ho about making the “big move;” others were quite timid and unsure, asking questions like, “Was there a lot of anguish in your decision to leave family & friends behind?.”

Relocation abroad is a major life-changing event, and it is appropriate that a great deal of research and questioning be done. You’re not moving across town or even to a new state; you’re not changing jobs—you are contemplating leaving behind most everything that you know and placing yourself in a culture, and perhaps a language, about which you have little understanding.

But while all the Googling of places to live and the information gleaned through chatrooms and forums is helpful, the main place you need to look for confirmation about the decision to become an expat is in your heart. Ask yourself why you are thinking about leaving. Be honest about your tolerance for change. Most importantly of all, ask yourself this:

Am I running away from something or towards something?

The implications of this simple question are immense. People sometimes think, “If I can just leave this place everything will be better.” The reality is, happiness is an inside job, and even moving to a foreign country isn’t going to help if you bring your same sorry self with you. Make sure whatever you think you need to get away from isn’t really an external manifestation of personal inadequacies that need attention.

Becoming an expat is an excellent opportunity for personal reinvention, and from my own experience I can share that coming here has allowed me to create an environment where I am pursuing lifelong dreams that probably weren’t going to be possible by remaining in the States. Knowing who you are--knowing what you want-- being willing to do what it takes to make it happen—these are the keys to your successful transition.

If I had to name one and only one characteristic of expats who seem to happily and successfully assimilate into this new lifestyle, total commitment tops the list. Being antsy and even overwhelmed is normal, as long as you decide you’ll keep smiling, enjoy the ride and have confidence you’ll eventually get your bearings. If you’re flat-out terrified the odds are strong that it ain’t gonna work out too well.

For couples it is imperative that both members of the relationship are on board. One excited spouse is not going to persuade the other that he or she is having a great time when in fact that person is miserable and wants to go home. Marriages can and do blow up in this scenario. Who knows, maybe such partnerships are on life support anyway and can’t withstand the intensity of so many changes. Just be aware of the danger of saying, “Come on, honey---give it a chance--this will be great!!“

People sometimes comment, “Hey, if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back.” If you’re the one saying that let me ask, does that sound like a solid commitment to you? Yeah, it’s true one can return, but living abroad for even a short time changes a person forever. The you that came isn’t going to be the same you that goes back and attempts to resume your old life. Plus there’s at least a chance your self-esteem won’t be at an all-time high after risking so much, after taking such a chance, and coming up empty.

So conduct proper due diligence, externally and internally. Do the right thing for the right reasons. Know who you are and what you want. After all that if you’re certain relocation abroad is the right decision, even if the details are a bit fuzzy, go for it. Should you be hesitant for any reason, listen to that still, small voice inside and consider waiting. This lifestyle is not for everybody; in fact it’s not the best choice for most folks. Be sure it’s right for you.


zootenval said...

WellSaid, EddSaid!

Miss Footloose said...

You are so right. Having had a lot of experience living in foreign countries, and also initially moving away from my own country (Holland) because I married a foreigner (American), I can attest to the reality of travel and expat life will change you forever. It changes your look on life, your world view, your tolerance level, and so on.

Yes, you had better be very clear about why you move to another country, and to realize that even under the best of circumstances it is a major challenge.

Of course, some of us love those challenges, like me ;)

May see you in Cuenca some time!

Sapa Ynca said...

Great post Ed!
I have known Ecuador for 28 years, I married there, built a home there and have made countless trips over the years to vacations, weddings and unfortunately funerals as well.
Then about 3 years ago I heard that Ecuador was one of the top retirement destinations in the world! Interesting I thought.
I started looking at the Expats sites and all the advertisements all over the web painting a cheap picture of a place I had never seen. I must say I pissed a few off back then cause I saw the scam unfolding to sell a "dream" to folks that did not exist for most. Ecuador is a beautiful country but all those interested need to go see it and don't buy the bull you find from sites trying to "help" you solve a problem such as long term finances at retirement.
The air is thin ( 15% less O2 in Quito ) in the Sierras, the sun is strong and dangerous there, and the weather is unpredictable at best. The streets are trip hazards and folks will rip you off in a heart beat. People pee in the street.Electricity is unreliable and the streets are a mess to drive on.They have kidnappings and muggings are common.I have lost family to botched medical procedures. In is not the USA and don't even dream you are going to replace a comfy lifestyle we have here all the time.
That being said...I love it.But I have family there and that makes all the difference. But as Ed ain't everybody's cup of tea.

Edd Staton said...

Of all that stuff you listed, I've gotta say the public urination thing is the one that still amazes me. Saying it "pisses me off" is just too obvious, isn't it?

Sapa Ynca said...

Yep but you get use to every bit of it, Ed. Folks just have to have an exit strategy or a good understanding of what they are getting into.
I get the feeling that there is a group of "Developers" that went international after the real estate bust here a few years back and are kinda like "snake oil salesmen" of the last century. When they saw cheap land they used the internet to prey on some who wanted their money to stretch further and saw something that maybe really did not exist. They are stuck now..shame.
But for others who wanted an adventure in life and don't mind change, those who need it to survive...its a great place!
But the conflict I saw coming ( and please do not be offended anyone!)is if you are old of body and spirit, set in your ways as they say, Ecuador is the last place you may want to go. Those types need to travel in the comforts and security of travel groups.
My plan? I built a farm to work, have the support and joy of a large family there and I plan to come back here at 65. My relocation is not permanent...but is anything in life? I even went down alone for a month last year to double check myself.
Keep up the good work man!

Cathy said...

Very well said Edd!!! Keep up the good work amigo!!

Tony Fiore said...

Ed: Well said with many thoughtful comments, especially the one abut making sure you are running toward something instead of away from something else. The "geographic solution" doesn't work because no matter where you go, there you are with yourself! Happiness indeed is an inside job and a drastic change in environment will not make you happy if the internal self is not.

Robert said...

Thank you so much for your enlightenment. Your posts are very real world and thanks for waking me up to the hype! My curiousness forces me to visit Cuenca from May 28 to June 3. I hope to meet you and thank you for all the "real world" information you have provided.
Bob Moore