Playing Twenty Questions: Life as Expats, Life as Travelers, Life in Lagos, Portugal – Part One

 

Life is full of milestones and dates that mark important events and this month, we celebrated a significant anniversary.  On September 11th, 2012, we locked the door to our house on Padre Island for the last time, turned over the keys to a property manager and set off in an entirely new direction.  With the exception of our house (which we sold a couple of years later) and a safe deposit box, everything we owned was crammed neatly packed in our suitcases.  We each had a carry-on and a 24-inch suitcase plus a mid-size backpack when we set off for our first destination in Mexico.  Not more than two months later, we ditched the carry-ons and left a pile of clothes and extra shoes behind.  For the three-plus years that we traveled full-time, we carried everything we owned in the remaining two suitcases and backpacks.

 

 

A few months into our travels, while we were house-sitting for a friend in Antigua, Guatemala, we started our blog and, just as our travel style has evolved over the years, so has our blog.  And, while the main focus of our blog is still on our travels, we’ve also begun to write about life as expats in Portugal: the conundrums, the inexplicable differences between life as we knew it in the US and life as it really is in Portugal and some lessons we’ve learned – sometimes the hard way, sometimes the expensive way.

 

 

Which brings us to a major update and tweaking of our FAQ page – the questions that we get in our comments section, Facebook and emails and our answers: hopefully helpful, accurate and probably neither pithy nor profound!  Here’s our version of Twenty (pertinent) Questions.

THE BIG WHY?

20)  Why quit your jobs, leave a home you love along with friends and family and start all over in a completely new direction?

Clichés become clichés for a reason and the phrase “Life is short” seemed to be beating a drum in the year 2011.  We’d reached the age where gradually, a few of our friends and close family were battling chronic illnesses and life-threatening diseases.  Living the “American Dream” had increasingly lost its allure as the things we owned gave us less pleasure and we started thinking about how to restructure our priorities.  In short, although our lives were okay, we were mired in routines that no longer mattered and we missed the anticipation of the ‘What’s next?’ part of living.  Having more time to do the things we’d put off for ‘someday’ assumed a greater importance.  Instead of waiting for a someday (which might never come) we decided we were ready for a lifestyle reset now.

LIFE AS TRAVELERS AND EXPATRIATES

19)  But what did you do with all your stuff?

Imagine the unthinkable – getting rid of everything you own.  Selling it, donating it, or gifting it to friends, family and charities.  It took us a year to do it but that’s exactly what we did.  We passed on family heirlooms to other family members, digitized treasured photos onto DVD’s and uploaded them to our computers and the cloud, figured out what to do with our art collection, became Craig’s List experts and held two garage sales.  We leased our house and eventually sold it the third year of our travels.

Tip – Read a book or two on minimizing/simplifying and start slow.  It takes time and a major mind reset to let go of your stuff.  Two books that we read and recommend are Simplify by Joshua Becker and The Joy of Less  by Francine Joy.

18)  How do you support your travels?

The question everyone is thinking and no one wants to be rude enough to ask, right?  Richard receives a social security check each month (Anita is not too far away from the time she can double that income) and we withdraw savings as needed to allow for a comfortable lifestyle.  We’re not about to go bare-bones but we don’t live extravagantly either.

Tip – Either set up a budget or track your daily expenses to be more mindful of where your money goes.  It helps us to keep in mind the ‘want versus need’ conundrum.

17)  How do you access/transfer your money?

After some research on how to avoid the high foreign transaction fee costs, we decided that the Capital One credit card and Charles Schwab debit cards would work best for us.  Capital One has no foreign transaction fees and Charles Schwab reimburses all transaction fees, both foreign and domestic, at the end of each month.  Bank of America has a traveler’s plan with no foreign transaction charges also and we use their credit and debit cards as our backup plan in the event of a damaged, lost or stolen card.  Richard’s social security is directly deposited into the Charles Schwab account and ready to access by ATM.  Also, it’s easy to transfer funds online between Bank of America and Charles Schwab as needed.

Tip – We use our credit card sparingly and for large purchases only to avoid possible credit card fraud. (This might be an example of being too cautious since that leads to the loss of credit card points we could use for future travels.)  We withdraw the local currency from the ATM and use that for day-to-day expenses.

16)  But how do you get your mail and make/receive calls?

We use a family member’s address (a big shout-out to my sister, Kari, who acts as our fairy godmother) as our official address which allows us to keep a near normal presence in the US.  Whenever possible, we opt for the ‘paperless’ route and pay our bills online.  Since we’ve been gone for 5 years, the mail is dwindling although apparently, junk mail never dies.  We can review our bank transactions, pay credit card bills online, file our taxes and conduct other business as needed. We have a US Skype number that allows us to receive and place phone calls.  In short, unless we tell them, no one really needs to know we’re out of the country.

15)  How did you deal with your medical needs and emergencies while traveling full-time?

For years we recommended buying an annual policy from Global Medical Insurance (IMG) with a very high deductible to cover us in case of a catastrophic accident or illness.  We both had to submit medical records and ended up with different plans with one of us receiving coverage worldwide including the US (as long as we spent at least 6 months outside the US per year) and the other obtaining coverage for any country with the exclusion of the US. We never filed a claim and the costs increased each year at exorbitant rates until we finally dropped the plan.  BUPA and CIGNA are also in the same cost bracket.  We found that going naked (or without insurance) might be an option to consider as we paid out-of-pocket throughout our travels for all our medical, dental and prescription needs. Healthcare (doctors, dentists, labs) is very reasonable once you leave the US and we’ve been pleased with the professional and knowledgeable people we’ve encountered so far. Of note, our costs for doctor’s visits and prescriptions were ridiculously (but not in a funny way) less than what we were paying in the US for insurance premiums and copays.

Tip – We’ve had several friends recommend World Nomads which is much more affordable.

14) What do you do about your prescription medications?

We each have a list we update regularly of our medications with both the brand and generic names, strength and the condition the medication is treating.  This includes vitamins, over-the-counter meds for nausea, cold symptoms, pain and fever, etc. In Mexico, Central and South America as well as many of the Caribbean islands, we didn’t need a written prescription to refill our meds. European countries, too, will allow you to buy a variety of medications without a prescription.  Our advice is to stock up on those prescriptions that you can and check at a pharmacy when you arrive to see how to refill what you need.  If you need a written prescription, you can get recommendations for a doctor from expat groups, hotels and the local pharmacy.

Tip – Brand and generic names may vary from country to country. Some of the names may be similar to their US counterpart or you may find that a medication you take is not available in another country.  Almost all of the pharmacies that we’ve been to have internet access and will look up the medication name and availability if you ask. Sometimes they can order a medication for you, obtain it from another pharmacy or substitute it with a similar medication.

 

 

As we guessed, we’re way too wordy so we’ll continue our ‘Twenty Questions’ countdown in Part Two starting with some of the upsides and the downsides of full-time travel and then getting into life as Expats and Residents of Portugal.

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

83 comments

  • Your website is beautifully designed and very informative. I myself and an aficionado of Spain and have travelled extensively throughout that country having visiting there six times in seven years where my trips lasted from a short week to a two month excursion. I have not been to Portugal but from what I see I would like to go. I find Spanish society to be generous, kind, friendly, open, tolerant, pleasant, humanistic, well-mannered, in addition to having a culture which is exotic in comparison to the remainder of Europe – from the Moorish-Judeo-Christian influences on architecture and language and customs, to the uniquely Spanish phenomena of Flamenco, Tapas, Cultural Regionalism that makes Spain a Nation of Nations (Catalonia, Galicia, Pais Vasco, Asturias, Andalucia, Valencia, and of course Castille). The food and wine and service are impeccable and Los Espanoles se saben como a festejar. The unique festivals of each region makes Spain a happening place to go.

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  • Hi Dick and Nita. Love your blog and I read all of them and I have them all saved. I will update you at a later date as time is limited for me at this time. We are both well. Jon of course is declining but still loves me. Wow……Love you both. Diana

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Diana! How lovely to hear from you and know that you and Jon are vicariously sharing our wanderings with us. What a wonderful thing to be loved and, perhaps even more so, to appreciate the fact of the gift. Please give Jon a hug from us and here’s one for you too. And yes, we’d love one of your newsy letters and an update of life in beautiful Oregon!

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  • HA! This post sounds familiar. All the stuff we go through wanting to leave our lives behind. So many details. Nice job summarizing it all Anita.

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    • I bet it sounds familiar! As you know Frank, shutting down one life and starting another takes a lot of thought, organization and effort to juggle all the details. And even then, there’s always something you’ll overlook or wish you’d done differently down the line. But I know you’ll agree, the payoff is worth all the effort!

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  • Great information Anita, and I’m sure there are lots of aspiring expats out there taking notes. These real-world tips will help people live as travelers instead of just traveling. We aren’t expats now but every time we leave the country I think about how much easier it is to travel than it was just a few years ago: the internet, cellphones, readily available wifi, anywhere-in-the-world access to financial accounts and records, social media, Skype, etc. We’re in Galway, Ireland now and just yesterday I skyped with my sister, paid our apartment rent with a no-fee Cap 1 card, and got Euros from our Schwab checking account. It sure makes life easier. I look forward to the next installment. ~ James

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    • Thanks James! The internet makes life as a traveler and expat so much easier. As you’ve said, it’s a lifeline to friends and family, a key to managing our finances and paying bills, making travel arrangements and entertainment as well as keeping us informed about the world news. A lot of time, people have no idea that we’re outside the US unless we tell them. It’s great to see that you’re back on the road again and I hope that you and Terri are enjoying Ireland. One of these days, you’ll have to head our way!

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  • I’m bookmarking your article…excellent information and so interesting!! Thank you for sharing the mechanics of how to do what you are doing!

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    • Thank you Marilyn. We’ve often said how great it would have been if we’d had a “How To” book but everyone’s path is different enough that you have to glean your advice from a lot of sources. Luckily, there’s lots of blogs out there with ideas and tips for whatever dream you want to follow. And what’s fun is seeing how it all evolves!

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  • Excellent advice for anyone considering becoming an expat. I became one 20 years ago when I moved to the Netherlands with my husband. We’re beginning now, as my husband’s retirement age approaches, to downsize, giving ourselves the next two years. At that point we’ll move into an 80 square meter 2-bedroom house from our very large 5-bedroom. Like you, we’ve accumulated so much stuff here that doesn’t make us happy. Once we’ve moved to the smaller house, the next step, as I near retirement age, will be to figure out where to go next: somewhere warmer and less rainy than here! But we’ll keep the little house as a “pied-a-terre” for visits home. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading part 2!

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    • So glad you liked this post, Rachel. It’s all about moving forward, figuring out the next steps and jettisoning what doesn’t fit. Sounds like you’ve got time to make your plans and anticipate what’s next and what a fun time that can be. And yes – finding the perfect climate, warm and sunny, has to be an important part of finding your next home!

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  • Great info, thanks! Simplifying/minimizing can feel overwhelming and I seem to find too many excuses to put it off. Thanks for the book recommendations, I will look them up.

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    • So glad you found this info helpful, Carolyn. I think, because we’d move several times over the years, the actual process of downsizing was easier as we kept sorting through our possessions and getting rid of things that we had no use for gradually. It’s a huge eye-opener when you see how much you can accumulate! I can certainly see why the process would be overwhelming for many people who have been in the same home for years and storing things they no longer need. The books we recommended were helpful because they made us think about the things we owned and also about why we bought things many times. In a culture that prizes more, best and newest, it’s useful to think about what your stuff means.

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  • Great post Anita. Your approach sounds similar to ours when we moved to Mexico several years ago. Looking forward to hearing part two. As an aside, we have made a decision to explore Spain and Portugal next year. Our plan, and we are just beginning our research since we just returned home, is to fly into Barcelona around March 1 and travel throughout Spain and Portugal over a 3-month period. I know this might be a time when you and Richard travel but if you are around we would love to meet you both. I have been researching Seville for the week of Semana Santa and driving myself crazy as many Airbnb and VRBO members don’t have rates posted yet for that time period. Do you have any thoughts on Seville during Semana Santa? I’m guessing it will be crazy busy no matter where we travel during Easter but Seville may be over the top. Hope we can figure out a time to meet next year. 🙂

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    • Thanks LuAnn. It’s fascinating to us to find out how many people have gone through the same process of major downsizing, making major lifestyle changes and resetting priorities. It’s not mainstream but certainly, for most of us who choose this route, the payoffs are terrific! As for Semana Santa, we’ve talked about visiting Seville during Semana Santa many times and you’ve got me thinking about doing it again. We’ll have to do some checking. But I agree, it’ll be frantic during Easter anywhere you travel in Spain. Interestingly, Portugal, at least Lagos anyway, seems to observe the religious holiday with a lot less fanfare. Whatever we decide though, we’ll definitely plan on meeting you somewhere in Spain or Portugal while you’re here in Europe. Looking forward to it!

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  • Great post, Anita. I agree with your advice to start slow. I rented my house for the first two years. When I did sell I put my stuff into paid storage (although I had already sold plenty) and it took me a few years to get rid of the storage. When I did I knew it was time and there were no regrets. Now. 17 years later I am setting up house in Canada again. Although, a much smaller house with a lot less stuff. (If I ever get into that much smaller home!). I still plan to do some extended traveling once things get settled here. We’ll see how this plan goes. Maybe down the road, I’ll be hanging out my expat shingle once again. For the moment, it’s fun being back in Canada and Nova Scotia.

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    • We think going slow was key to making this major lifestyle change successful as it allowed us to think through each step thoroughly before proceeding. It sounds like this worked for you too, Nancie. In fact, by the end, we couldn’t get rid of our stuff fast enough. And we echo your thoughts, no regrets! It’s all too easy to accumulate and far harder to shed. This time around, in a smaller home (when you finally get to move in) you’ll have new mementos from your travels to enjoy. And, time in the months ahead to contemplate lots more travels!

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  • Loved this post. As an expat myself, it’s always interesting to hear how other people are faring. These are the sort of questions which anyone facing a life of travel will want to ask and find answers for. You’ve navigated the waters with energy and enthusiasm and it’s great to read about what motivated you and here’s to you continuing to follow your dreams.

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    • We’re so glad you enjoyed this post, Jo and, like you, it’s always interesting to read about how other expats deal with traveling and settling into a foreign country. I myself have a hard time listening to those whinging about the differences or unfavorably comparing their adopted home to what they’ve left behind because the novelty and learning about a new place can be so fun. It’s not hard to be enthusiastic about the process and work involved in making it happen when, in our case anyway, the rewards of a new lifestyle have far exceeded our expectations. And, from your writing Jo, I can see that you too have a deep appreciation for the country you now call home!

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  • All good things here. Boy, do we know the feeling! The anxiety over shedding a lifetime’s worth of ‘stuff,’ leaving the homestead for the last time, launching off into the unknown and assuring each other it’s going to work, somehow. Yes, it is energizing, and exciting, and invigorating. But we expats need to share just how exhausting and frustrating it can be at times as well, and you’ve covered that, too. It seems, especially with the language barrier, that everything–everything!–is a challenge and a project. I’ll be writing about our adventure in Expatistan very soon on our new site. It will include most of what you’ve written about here, and will include a warning to those who plan to follow: For a while at least, becoming an expat is damn hard work. Thanks for all the great tips, and for the honesty. Onward!

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    • Love your word ‘expatistan!’ We do feel that it’s important to convey that ending one chapter in your life as well as shaking up your whole lifestyle and moving on to another is a lot of hard work at times and definitely not for pessimists or those happy with the status quo. And, like you By and Mariah, we had a lot of WTH moments where we just had to assure each other that we were heading in the right direction. Ah, but the exhilaration and excitement at shaking ourselves out of a routine and trying something totally new was so amazing, too. And luckily, it counterbalanced and eclipsed the preparation slog and any doubts we had. After all, it’s not an adventure if you already know the ending, right? We see our retirement as an evolution and I know that with your recent move from Panama to Colombia, yours is also!

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  • A great retrospective! I’ve enjoyed the overview of your travels plus your accumulated wisdom!

    Forgot to tell you I got our car back on September 5.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    • I remember that we used you as a sounding board several times, Nancy to help us figure out some of the logistics. We’ve accumulated some wisdom (always the hard way, HaHa!) but a lot of it has been learned from talking to other people like you who had experience with international travel, doing a lot of reading (especially travel blogs) and through some mistakes along the way that fortunately cost us only in terms of money! 🙂 So glad you’ve got your car back and that your generosity in storing our car has come in handy a few times. Remember to watch out for all those crazy drivers!

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  • I also love this post and look forward to the next 🙂 I’m in the dreaming/figuring out logistics stage of my own future retirement to Europe. I was wondering about the credit/debit card issue. So even though you’re full time expats it’s no problem to keep US accounts active living overseas? Did you also open a Bank account in Portugal? How do you pay your rent? I’ve heard of Charles Schwab for reimbursed debit fees; sounds like a good option. Maybe these are questions you’re covering in your next FAQ post–ha! I’d also love to know how paying taxes works as a resident :/ Thank you so much, Anita. Your blog has been invaluable!

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    • The year that we spent anticipating and planning the first few years (and hopefully lots more) of our retirement has to be one of the one of the best we’d had for years and I hope the same is true for you, Patty. To answer a few of your questions: 1) There have been no issues with having US credit/debit accounts since we have an official US address. We pay the bills online and renew the travel notice every few months to alert them that we will be making international charges or to let them know when we are traveling to a new country. 2 and 3) Yes. We also have a bank account in Portugal and deposit money in there that we pull out of the ATM using the Charles Schwab account which saves money on international transfer fees, too. Then we can pay our landlord online using our Portugal account. 4) And lastly, taxes will be covered in a couple of posts in what’s become a 3-part series. So glad you’re finding this information useful. We love hearing that! 🙂

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  • This is an absolutely invaluable post, Anita. Thank you so much. Perhaps one day I will be fortunate as you are to leave everything behind and enjoy a totally new life without worries. I am pinning this post for future reference and am happy to share. Keep having fun! Life is too short to do otherwise.

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    • Thanks for the share, Doreen and we’ll be hoping that the day comes soon when changing your lifestyle, rearranging your priorities or shedding some of the things that don’t make you happy anymore is something you can do. And, while we didn’t get off quite scott-free without bringing some or our worries and baggage along with us, the change in countries, travel experiences and various challenges in new environments has been terrific for us and allowed us to learn so many things about ourselves and the world. This adventure has been so much more than we ever anticipated and yes, life is unpredictable and much too short to not take advantage of the ways you can make the most of it!

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  • Anita and Richard congratulations on the Aniversary of your lifestyle change! What a rollercoaster it must have been this past 5 years? It takes courage, but through your blog posts it is clear that the rewards have been exponential. This is a great post and very timely for me just starting out on our early retirement and life downsizing, although so far things are taking longer than I had expected. Your blog is a fantastic source of practical information, but most importantly a great source of inspiration. Can’t wait for the next instalment😄

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    • Oh Gilda- I’m so glad that you’ve enjoyed this post and have found some useful information and inspiration in it. I know you’ll agree that it’s all a slog at the beginning but it’s offset by the planning and anticipation of ‘What’s next?’ which is pretty thrilling too. Whenever we felt that time was dragging (often) or would feel our patience fray at how long things took to resolve, we tried to remind ourselves how many years it had taken for us to get to where we were. Changing direction in your life takes a lot of thought and time but maybe most of all patience (something neither of us is particularly good at 🙂). But, just in case you need to hear it again, all the hard work will definitely pay off when your start the next chapter of your lives!

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  • Fascinating. Everything you said seems to directly apply to us as well. We also quit jobs, sold the house, got rid of everything and now travel with a backpack each and a small suitcase. Snap. The ‘there must be more to life’ statement was something that seriously motivated us too.

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    • Sadly, there are a lot of people who think the ‘there must be something more to life’ and can’t see their way to finding it. We feel so fortunate to have had what we call ‘the big epiphany’ and figure out how to go from A to B and even further on. We’ll never forget how liberating it was to close the door of our house for the last time and walk out with a couple of suitcases each. It’s influenced how we buy things now that we’ve set up a base again as we consciously try not to buy things that we can’t sell or give away again if we want to. The lifestyle you’ve chosen and ours as well seems to be the ‘something more’ that we all felt was missing. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

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  • I remember when we started our quest to live abroad. I read everything I could find, but never found answers to what I considered the most important questions. Through trial and error, we discovered that the best made plans always go haywire. For me in particular…a driven type A, I had to learn the hard way to live in the present and attempt to live without expectations because Murphys Law shadows me constantly. Your list of twenty questions lays an excellent foundation for those considering the jump into the unknown. I can’t wait to read part two because I suspect that is where Murphys Law comes into play. 😜
    Hugs to you both! Oh, and junk mail never really dies! We have yearly ceremonial burnings of our junk mail when we return to our house in the states.

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    • HaHa- I had to laugh thinking of your junk mail bonfire! I know exactly what you mean about all the questions we needed answers to as well as just not knowing enough to even be able to ask the questions. And you’re right – It’s all trial and error Debbie, isn’t it? Luckily, none of our errors have cost us anything but extra money we’d love to have spent elsewhere. 🙂 One of our biggest lessons in this phase of our lives has been learning to live without expectation as well as practicing our patience skills. It’s wonderful when things go smoothly and as well as we’d hoped and when life throws some glitches in (or Murphy starts interfering with our plans) we just have to think our way around another set of solutions.

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  • We love hearing how others have planned and carried through on lives of non-stop travel or becoming ex-pats. We’re amazed at how parallel our stories are from getting rid of all of our stuff, to having exactly the same bank and credit cards, to relying on our sister-in-law handling mail. It’s a great and helpful service for others to answer the questions few talk about. Thanks, Anita and Dick.

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    • Parallel stories for sure Beth and Joe! We keep remembering how we searched in vain during the time we were downsizing and preparing to travel full-time and there were very few blogs out there about retired nomads. And, while nomadic retirement and expating aren’t quite mainstream, there are definitely more people choosing the lifestyle and blogging about their experiences. There’s still so much to learn and it’s great fun to trade stories back and forth. Hope you’re enjoying your time in Spain and the glorious fall weather we’re having. It doesn’t get any better!

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  • What an exciting life style! You must have so many cool memories and I love your way of looking at life.

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  • Great information! Although the longest we have been away from home in one stretch so far was five weeks, we’ve talked about going away for much longer. We aren’t ready to dump everything and sell the house yet but the thought is tempting, especially when we can learn from those who “have gone before.” I’m looking forward to Part 2!

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    • So glad you enjoyed this, Janis. When we first started talking about taking off, we didn’t know of any one else
      in our age group traveling full-time and the reactions of our friends and family were definitely mixed! However, reading stories about expats living their dream retirements in foreign countries really stoked our imaginations and, once we realized we didn’t need a home or all our stuff, a lot of options opened up. Gradually too, we found other travelers writing about their own journeys with advice, ideas and tips which only increased our sense of being on an adventure. Our retirement plan has been a whole evolution and the shedding of our stuff was only a small part.. Enjoy the talking and exploring all the ‘What Ifs.” We still do that too. There are endless possibilities which really do make these the golden years.

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  • Thank you for the practical information…my hubby and I would love to do this in a couple of years! Do you have any recommendations for other practical expats blogs &/or Facebook pages?

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    • We’re so glad that you found this information practical, Barbara and hope that this post and the next two coming up will answer some of your questions as you think about how to follow your own dream. In the column on the right-hand side of our posts, you’ll find a heading with ‘Blogs We Like’ written by other older travelers and expats like us, many who have gone through their own downsizing and preparations. We read a lot of blogs each week and pick up a surprising amount of great information, tips and advice along the way! Enjoy the anticipation while you’re planning the next chapter in your lives!

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  • Very helpful and very inspiring. I like the way you thoughtfully got rid of everything you own, taking a year to do it. It takes some thought sometimes to get pass things on in a way that most benefits others / the planet.
    Looking forward to the next part!

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    • We love to share things we’ve learned and experienced and we’re glad that the information has been both helpful as well as maybe inspiring some ideas of travel or a lifestyle reset for you. The year we prepared to travel full-time seemed to fly by and drag at the same time but yes, it takes a lot of thought and work to shed your possessions. We were able to donate many things to charities we supported as well as some artwork we’d inherited which went to a couple of museums. The year changed the way we looked at our stuff and our thoughts about acquiring things. It’s an interesting experience to carry all you own for 3-plus years and it gives you a great appreciation for things you need as well as life’s little luxuries. Now that we have a base again, we’re much more mindful of what we buy. Less really is best!

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  • HI we are Simon and Rosie and only just heard today about your blog, a great and informative read by the way.We are from England and lived in the USA for 10 years until 2013 when for the second time we sold up and moved on. We spent four years in Panama but in Feb this year decided to go travelling. We house sit and are currently in CR but leave for a family UK visit next month. We have a lot to read of your blog yet but one question is why Portugal??? when you have traveled thru central america where many north Americans move to. If the answer is in your blog we apologist but haven’t seen it yet. After our UK visit we are going to travel Europe (when you are from there you dont get to see much of it). Regards Simon and Rosie

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    • Hi Simon and Rosie! Thanks for stopping by our blog and taking the time to comment. It sounds like you also have a lot of familiarity with minimizing, downsizing, and moving internationally. Some of us just have the wander gene, don’t we?
      We’ll leave the answer to the question of “Why Portugal” for our next post (which, as you guessed, is indeed a popular question) but we can address the question of “Why not Mexico, Central or South America or any of the Caribbean islands?” As we traveled we did indeed, keep a list of possible places to live. But part of the answer for the thumbs-down was the climate. We had thought that the heat and humidity wouldn’t be a problem after living in Texas for 10 years but, with A/C so expensive, there was just no way to get away from the day-to-day heat. Also, we found that we liked a little bit of seasonal variation and hot and humid changing to hot and rainy wasn’t quite enough of a swap for us. Another factor was that most of these countries are composed of small cities and rural regions and felt quite far away from the big cities with their architecture, museums, art galleries, etc. that we sometimes craved. Still another reason was that, in the places we liked with established expat communities, the cost of living had increased substantially. Last, and definitely most important, was that we wanted to take our time traveling throughout Europe and finding a base where we could obtain a resident visa was a perfect solution for us.
      Let us know if you plan a stop in Portugal when you’re wandering about Europe. Maybe our paths will cross!

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      • Hi Anita and Richard, we leave for the UK in two weeks time and will be sad to leave Central America we love it here. We have just gone through storm Nate so Costa Rica is on the mend from that drama. So our last plan has been adjusted as after UK family visit we are now off to Greece for christmas and into the new year for a house sit. Then tour Greece before heading off to, well you know where, that other place called “No particular place to go”. Yes thats it, we’re not sure yet. Take care, Simon and Rosie

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        • We had such an amazing time in Central America so we can certainly understand why you loved it but there’s so much more to see, right? One of our favorite things to do when we traveled full-time was to stay flexible and see how the journey unfolded which sounds like your plan, too. 🙂 Have an awesome adventure in Greece and maybe our paths will cross somewhere!

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  • Of course I relate so well to all of this. We too found a way around all the practical issues. There is a US company that still has our home phone number – a number Don has had for about 30 years. People can call it as if they’re calling us and it goes immediately to voicemail. We get an email transcript of the message within minutes. Also our junk mail did die! I don’t know how I found it but In Canada there are a couple of central agencies – you can notify them to be taken off all lists. I think by the end of the first year it had all disappeared. Perhaps there’s something similar in the US.
    Ha! That shot of you on the beach in Mexico! I had to enlarge it to find out what you had on your heads. Too funny!
    Alison

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    • A confession Alison – I buried that shot of us covered in clay for a few years but sharing the ridiculous side of an adventure can be a lot of fun. We were at the Rio Lagartos Bio-reserve in the Yucatan region of Mexico (where you were recently) and the guide stopped off at a clay deposit along the river bank. It was only after we smeared the gooey stuff on us and artistically arranged clumps of clay on our heads that we found out we couldn’t rinse off in the river because of the crocodiles! A long boat ride back to a crocodile-free lagoon later to rinse off but, yes, our skin did feel much softer. 😁 And thanks for the suggestion about the junk mail. At one point, we had it almost down to a trickle but the catalogs start appearing if we order anything online when we visit. I think my sister kind of likes getting a few of them but I really should double check!

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  • Anita, I loved your post because you answered so many questions I (and I’m sure others) have, particularly about medical insurance. One of the great things about your location is the cost of coverage.You’re very fortunate that the costs are low. If I were moving the USA (from Canada) there is NO way I’d go without coverage. You’re very fortunate that your sister can collect your mail. Guess if I had to do it, I’d have to see if my sister would agree!

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    • So glad that you found this post answered some of your questions, Jan! The process of trying to pack up your life, shed belongings and make other practical arrangements before setting off to live in one or many other countries can be daunting and takes some time, thought and a great deal of effort to wrap things up. As we wrote in a recent post, obtaining affordable health insurance in the US that wasn’t tied to our jobs was probably the biggest motivating factor for us in making the leap to explore other countries and live outside the US. And, looking back over the last 5 years, the experience has been well worth the effort. P.S. Jan – There are several companies in the US that will provide you with a street address for government business and receive your mail for you too. You can opt to have them open it and scan the contents to you or even mail it to a designated address. Canadians travel much more than US citizens do so I’d think there’s some sort of similar solution available to you in Canada if 1) you were thinking of living in France full-time and 2) you didn’t want to bother your sister.

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  • Love this and so glad you did this. I forwarded this blog to a local friend here in Greenville South Carolina who want to leave the US and live abroad. She has traveled abroad but never lived anywhere else on a permanent basis.
    Great information Anita and Richard. Eager to read the remaining FAQs.

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    • We’re so glad you enjoyed this post, Ann and we hope that your friend will find this information to be useful, too. There are all sorts of ways to make a change in your lifestyle to travel full-time or live overseas. For many people, selling everything is way too drastic and there’s always the option to store some or all of your belongings. For us, not having a home to maintain or paying storage fees meant that we could afford to travel anywhere we wanted and buy what we needed later. Living in a foreign country, exposing yourself to a different culture, meeting new people and continually learning are experiences that we wouldn’t trade for anything!

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  • Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. You have included a lot of useful information, and I look forward to Part 2.

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    • We’re so glad you found this post useful, Joe. We had so many questions when we started our preparations for traveling full-time and, later on, applying for a Portuguese residence visa and many of the answers were learned ‘by guess and by gosh!’ In fact, a lot of the time, we didn’t even know what questions to ask. 🙂 Looking back, it’s really interesting to discover just how much we’ve learned along the way. And, looking ahead, we’re guessing that there will still be much more to learn. At the very least, there’s no danger in becoming bored!

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  • Well, I certainly was nodding my head, mumbling, “Uh-huh” as I read your part one. We’ve done things a bit differently as we prepare for life in Greece, and now have two storage units filled with ‘treasures’ with which we couldn’t part. . .and which until we know if we stay full-time for several years in Greece or return to splitting our time between the two countries can wait to either fill a new, smaller place here or will go to family, charities or Craig’s list. We actually had a pleasant experience with purchasing insurance — just yesterday as a matter of fact. Joel is on Medicare and Part Whatever but I was still paying through the nose – $740 a month for major medical, $5,000 deductible. We’ve opted for the CIGNA Global plan (which allows six months health and wellness in the US and pays a chunk of an annual physical and screenings) and covers us world wide. Again major medical to the deductible is $7,500 but the premium is $560 — for both of us! Sometimes making yourself leave the routine and comfortable can have some great benefits! Looking forward to part 2! One week today and counting. . .the adventure will begin!

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    • So good to hear that your downsizing slog is winding down, Jackie. You’ve had quite the summer of tough decisions to make as you’ve sorted through 30 years of treasures and selling your house with all of it’s memories. We certainly agree with your observation that shaking up the routine and leaving one’s comfort zone has many benefits. More than we can count! Thanks for sharing your insurance recommendation, too. It’s not often that you hear the description of buying insurance described as “pleasant!” 😁 Looking forward to making 2018 the year that our paths finally cross!

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  • It’s nice to read about how you make your life as expats and travellers work. If others are like me, I’m sure there are many people who wonder about the details. Your beautiful pictures explain why you are doing this!

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    • It was fun to take the time and a trip down memory lane going through our photos, Donna. We’ll have more for the next post and, like you observed, the photos really sum up exactly why we took a dramatic direction change when we opted for full-time travel. I remember the myriad of questions we had when we first started trying to figure out how to close out our US life and travel full-time. And, just a few years later, we had a whole other set of questions as we navigated our way through the resident visa process for Portugal. Maybe we could say, if we’re not asking questions, we’re answering them!

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  • Feliz aniversario! Love the “20 Questions” and the mosaic pics. Needless to say, I emphatically agree with all of it. After all “This ain’t no dress rehearsal!”, yes? 😉

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  • We like keeping up with your blog! The time you spent here with us was, for our part, well spent ~ I suppose we could be called 20 year ex-pats by now, and while we still travel frequently, we are just based on this tiny Caribbean island that is our home.

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    • Hey, Tony from Utila! So great to hear from you. We had a fun time going through our photos of Utila and remembering the island hospitality that you and your compadres showed us while we were there. Twenty years expating sounds like a fine goal for us to strive for since you and Jo showed us how to do it with some style. So glad to hear that you’re still traveling. Should you happen to come in this direction, make sure to give us a shout!

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  • We are Portuguese, but only lived in Portugal for 12 years after leaving South Africa. We enjoyed it there, but my husband got a good work proposal in Australia, and we moved to Perth 10 years ago. We feel at home here, but our plan is to eventually move to Portugal after we retire in 10 years time, as life is so much cheaper there, and we could live very comfortably with our pension. It would have to be in the Algarve though…
    Great tips, looking forward to the next post.

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  • Sounds like a lot of work, but I can see from your many beautiful posts that it has its rewards as well. Not to get too personal, but I assume there are no children, grandchildren in the picture. I love to travel, but I also love coming home and can’t imagine living away from my daughter for an extended period. We are good for about 6 weeks per trip. I guess that’s the difference between a “vacation” and a “lifestyle.” Your choice seems to be working beautifully.

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    • For us Suzanne, the hard work of planning and figuring out all the moving parts of full-time travel and then expating has been well worth the effort. In fact, we say over and over that we’ve gained so much more than we gave up. We have family scattered throughout the US from the west to the east to the Gulf coasts so staying ‘close’ has involved a multitude of airline flights for many years. And that’s as easily done from here as it would be if we’d stayed in Texas. If we have any regrets, it would be the distance from our son who lives in Colorado. It’s a little more complicated to fly from here to Denver but not much more so than flying from Texas. And the added benefit is he has a lot more incentive now to make the journey this way! 🙂

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  • We met in Granada, Nicaragua and I have been an ardent follower and admirer. If this is a prescription for well being and happiness, you two have found it. Luckily, you missed the hurricanes in Central American and the Mexican earthquake. Wishing you the best of everything and then some in your travels. Love these twenty questions!

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    • You’re so right, Maida that changing our lifestyle and following our dream could very well be a great prescription for life! At any rate, it’s been the right thing for us. And yes, we’ve been saying how glad we were that we sold our Padre Island house and were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief whenever we have to watch a hurricane forecast. We’ll send the wishes for ‘best of everything’ back your way with the hope that our paths cross again. And thanks, too for being one of our earliest followers and for always sharing your support!

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  • A very helpful post, especially for anyone thinking of taking up this type of lifestyle. It does take hard work, perseverance, plenty of desire and commitment but ultimately can lead to a journey of discovery that will change your outlook on life. Everyone’s will be different but that is quite all right. It is great that you are sharing your knowledge and experience to make it easier for those just starting out. Love the pictures of you both from your early travels – it must have been fun reminiscing as you looked through them!

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    • I think the way you look at life changes from the day you make the commitment to yourselves to make the ultimate leap and reset your direction. After that, as you two know, the journey of discovery just keeps evolving. We were recently talking about how, right at the beginning of our preparations, we began viewing our stuff completely differently. What we owned gradually went from being treasures we found it hard to part with to being obstacles standing in our path. And who wants to buy more things when you only have a couple of suitcases to tote them around in? 🙂 It’s been a while since we’ve gone through our photos right back to when we started traveling. We plan on sharing more with the next post. It is/was a great trip down memory lane!

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  • Great post. It’s always interesting to find out what ultimately leads one to chuck it all and get going. I see so many older people struggling to travel after putting it off for so long. A friend of a friend says she can’t wait to do what we do in the future, travel and blog after my friend introduced her to our blog. She has cancer that’s treatable and was offered a huge chunk of money for her apartment complex in L.A and she is comfortable even without that money. She refused the offer and will hold out for more. I’m like…okay..there’s time..and then l asked how old she is. I laughed like a banshee because l thought my friend was pulling my leg..but he wasn’t. She turns 80 in November. Really. I know life can be long but what is she waiting for? I met her once and she has other medical issues. I don’t know if she says that now because she realizes it’s too late and dreaming makes her feel better. Life is too short. I know that well.

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    • Thanks Kemi! We also like hearing what motivates others to totally change their lives and move into another direction. And the prep stories are just as interesting. When we see you in a few days we’ll have to talk more about it. 🙂 We were just talking a few days ago about the fact that I’m still 5 years away from the normal retirement age of 65 and it just hit us that, if we hadn’t started when we did, there’d be a lot of places now that would be really difficult for Richard to navigate with his respiratory problems. Your story about the almost 80-year old woman was really interesting because it illustrates that, regardless of age, we all have dreams we want to follow. On the other hand, there are always excuses too, no matter what your age!

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