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“So what do you do all day?”
Over our many years as expats the question we’ve been asked more than any other is, “So what do you do all day?” Since our lives aren’t all that fascinating we’ve come to realize that what people really want to know is, “What would I do all day??” We understand.
It’s hard to picture what day to day life looks like in a foreign country with no clear frame of reference.
Just like you, we go to bed, wake up, shower, brush our teeth, wash and dry clothes, make shopping lists, go to the grocery store, prepare meals and clean up dishes. One’s daily life abroad is pretty much the same as it would be in the U.S.
However, while some parts of living abroad are similar, other parts are very different. Consider the local background noise. Loud parties sometimes go on all night. You may regularly hear dogs bark, roosters crow, and cows moo. Products you take for granted aren’t available. Customer service, well, let’s politely say isn’t what you’re used to. Appointments are actually suggestions.
Once you hang in there awhile, all these once “foreign” situations become part of your “new normal.” But whether you retire abroad or stay right where you are, you still have 24 hours to fill every day. Here are some thoughts about what successful expats do to create a fulfilling daily life:
While living “off the grid” is certainly an option, most people find comfort in being part of a community. For this reason, retirees generally choose locations with established expat communities when they move out of the country. Old timers who remember their challenges adjusting to a new environment are happy to help newbies with advice and recommendations. Initial friendships come easily since everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status or political affiliation, shares a common bond—we’re expats and we live here together!
Our first two years in Cuenca were almost a non-stop party. We said to each other, “We’re acting like we’re in our 20s. And we didn’t act like this when we were in our 20s!” But you don’t have to become party animals. The point is, as an expat you are blessed with the option to be as social as you choose.
Thankful for their newfound financial freedom and release from stress, many expat retirees choose to give back through volunteer work in their new home abroad. Opportunities to do so abound, as many of the most popular destinations overseas are in developing nations where the time, knowledge, and monetary support of volunteers are sorely needed and deeply appreciated.
Orphanages, facilities for disabled children or battered women, and soup kitchens are just a few of the possibilities. One expat couple we know founded a nonprofit foundation to empower local nonprofits to reach their unique goals through workshops and mentorship. Another couple created a nonprofit to provide medical services to impoverished children throughout Ecuador.
Revisit hobbies and interests
Retirement is the perfect time to dust off old hobbies and interests that were put on the shelf when life’s relentless demands interfered. Or to pursue new ones because—finally you can! Incorporating satisfying new endeavors into your daily life abroad can prove very rewarding.
These enjoyable activities can potentially turn into a cottage business that provides a nice boost to your cashflow. We know expats who provide house sitting and/or pet sitting services—offer computer assistance—even make and sell bagels! A few hundred dollars a month extra doesn’t seem like much in the U.S., but goes a long way in other countries to cover expenses or simply to have more fun!
Hopefully, our four-part series opened your eyes to the idea that retiring in a foreign country isn’t as daunting or intimidating as it might seem at first glance.
Sure, challenges, surprises and frustrations come up along the way. But the upside of living a remarkable adventure without financial worries can be quite appealing. And, the decision need not be forever. If your priorities or desires change over time, you are free to go elsewhere or return home.
Throughout our four part series which covered language, culture, health care and daily life issues related to life abroad, we stressed the need for a positive attitude and realistic expectations to be successful in your new life. Most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Guess what? That’s great advice even if you never apply for a passport!
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below – We’d love to hear from you!
Edd and Cynthia Staton
Edd and Cynthia Staton are the creators of Retirement Reimagined!, a revolutionary Master Course for Baby Boomers facing an uncertain future. Recognized as experts on expat living, they have appeared on network television and written hundreds of articles for international magazines and other media outlets. As featured speakers at large global events, they have shared their expertise on moving and retiring abroad with thousands of attendees.
Each volume of Edd and Cynthia’s trilogy of books, Mission: Rescue Your Retirement is an Amazon Best Seller. The collection hit #1 in 10 categories as diverse as comedy, personal finance, retirement planning, self-help, and travel. Visit them at eddandcynthia.com.