Reporting from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I get a lot of specific questions from readers of this site. Just in the last week I was asked for ideas on the best business to start in the Philippines, where to move to avoid GMO foods, and whether it’s safe to have an offshore bank account in Singapore dollars.
But one thing I hear A LOT – as a question as well as a statement – is that it must be difficult to live abroad with a wife and kids.
Just yesterday, a reader asked for my thoughts on this topic so I thought I would put out a mini-Nomad Manifesto on the topic. After all, people suggest, I must be single (I am), but my Nomad ways are not so applicable to those with families, jobs, and mortgages.
Living abroad with a spouse and kids
First, let’s clarify what being a Nomad is all about. Whenever I’m interviewed for radio shows, podcasts, or print articles, I’m asked about my perpetual traveler routine.
People believe that the idea of a “Nomad Capitalist” must mean that you’re always on the move; someone with no name.
The truth is, the perpetual traveler lifestyle isn’t for everyone. In fact, the true definition of a “nomad” is a little different. It goes like this:
Imagine you’re a bona fide nomad on the steppe of Mongolia. You’ve constantly looking the best places to camp and hunt.
In the summer, you thrive. You find great hunting opportunities and it’s easy to camp in the pleasant weather. When the herds of livestock move, or there are no more hunting opportunities, or it gets too cold where you’re camping, you pick up and move.
Until then, however, you stay right where you are.
While I’m a perpetual traveler in search of the absolute BEST opportunities and freedom the world has to offer – part of my “five magic words” – I think most people could throw a dart and find a place with more personal and probably even economic freedom than The Land of the Free has to offer.
You may already have a good idea of the kind of place you want to live. For me, I love the culture and entrepreneurship in Asia. Others like the slower pace of Mexico and Central America, while others still want fertile agricultural land to live a self-reliant lifestyle.
Once you narrow down your best options for living abroad, you should be able to spend a few weeks in each. Even if this takes you a year or two of vacation time, you’ll eventually get a good idea of the best place for you.
Then you can start doing all your research for that country so that when you’re ready to move abroad, you’ll be ready.
My perpetual traveler lifestyle involves a lot of meetings with bankers, entrepreneurs, government officials, and other experts on what they have to offer readers of this site. As a Nomad, I may recommend storing your gold in Austria to gain international diversification. Perhaps you decide to live abroad in a country that offers a great quality of life but not as much security for your gold holdings.
Being a Nomad is all about leveraging geography to give you the best of all worlds – not about jet setting around the world every week.
Once you discover the best place to bank, for instance, you can go there, open your bank account, and likely never return. (In some cases, you can bank offshore without even leaving your house.)
I spend my time seeking out great opportunities – some of which are a bust – so you don’t have to. Living abroad doesn’t have to involve perpetual travel. It’s about the freedom to live wherever you want.
When you take the perpetual travel part out of the equation and focus simply on building safe havens for your family and your money, things start to get a lot easier. I’m all about simple solutions.
The reality is, I’ve woken up many a night wondering exactly where I am. While that’s partially a consequence of constantly being on the go, it also goes to show that the world isn’t as different as we’d like to think it is.
I’ve yet to see a country where a family couldn’t live a pretty “normal” life. It will cost more in some places versus others, but it’s still possible.
Personally, I think children being raised in western countries like the United States could benefit from living abroad. I see a lot more kids playing in the park and having good old-fashioned fun in the world outside of the United States. If I had children, I’d rather they be in an environment that promotes activity rather than playing video games.
Depending on where you live, it is possible for your family to eat healthier food. I’ll never forget the time I was driving through Ireland and stopped at a roadside strawberry stand. When I asked the Polish lady where the strawberries came from, she looked at me as if I was from another planet. The strawberries were organic, picked from the fields right behind her, of course.
As for education, I’ve actually met with the directors of international schools in a number of countries I’ve visited. While I don’t have children, it’s interesting to see just what options are available. International schools are usually very expensive – as great as $25,000 a year – but provide excellent quality education even in far-flung places of the world.
If you choose to live in a more developed country, the local school system may be just fine. If you’re part of the growing movement of liberty-minded families who prefer to homeschool their children, you’ll be able to do that just as easily as you would at home.
As for adults, I’ve found that I can do anything I could do at “home” in any number of other countries. I’ve enjoyed some of the world’s best shopping in places like Hong Kong. Dined at fabulous, highly-rated restaurants in Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, and Tokyo. Visited a world-class amusement park in Singapore.
If you choose to live in one of the most livable cities in Southeast Asia, for instance, you could have access to all of this even if you live outside of Hong Kong or Singapore, thanks to ultra-cheap flights as low as $11 on the region’s low-cost airlines.
Conversely, if seeing your extended family is an issue, your home in the United States can be reached from most of Central and South America in the same day.
When I was twelve years old, my parents told me that my home country might not always be the best place for an entrepreneurial person like myself. They suggested keeping my eyes and ears open to places that treated me better and took less – or none – of my hard-earned money.
Part of me wishes I could have experienced the adventure of being able to live abroad as a child. The expats I’ve met who did have that experience found it very enriching. It exposed them to other cultures, other languages, and other ways of thinking that have served them well in life and made them global citizens better equipped to be successful.
While deciding to live abroad is a major decision for a family, I believe that looking beyond our own borders is very enriching – and for some, just might save their life or their life savings.