Dateline: Valencia, Spain
Inertia is very powerful. It’s literally a force of nature, and overcoming inertia takes a lot of energy. The metaphor of that reality carries into our personal lives too.
Like most of you, I spent a few years reading about being an expat before I became one. Even when we become fully convinced that it’s the right thing for us to do, the fact remains that there are forces that keep us right where we are.
Maybe it’s having young kids, or one about to finish high school and start college, or an elderly parent that needs care and compassion right now. There are many very good reasons why moving far away might not be the right thing to do – for now.
Nevertheless, there is a lot that can be done irrespective of external circumstances. Chief among them is developing the attitude of being a long range thinker who has a strategy to arrive at a point in the future like a laser aimed at a distant target.
That’s why I originally wanted to title this article “Move your heart and mind first”.
The first thing to let go of is the old, ‘my country is the best on earth’ reflex. There is no such place as the best country on earth.
It’s like asking which is better: a Ferrari or a dump truck? The right answer depends on your personal priorities. In any event, the questions relevant to being an expat should be a little more focused.
Which country has the safest banks?
Which stock market has the best risk/reward ratio?
Which country has a residency program that would suit me best?
Which country has citizenship laws that might include my ancestry?
These are all issues that can be started from the comfort of your sofa. While you might ultimately need or want an attorney or other professional to assist you with these matters, there’s still a lot to be done in preparation.
Original copies of birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, articles of incorporation, audited financial statements or other important documents probably need to be gathered.
In the cases where ancestry needs to be established, you will need birth, death and marriage papers for parents and grandparents. Often these need to be accompanied by certified translations done by an embassy, consulate or an approved service provider. That process can be literally started today.
There’s no need to wait.
Don’t underestimate how positive it can make you feel to be doing something to move the process forward. Even while knowing you aren’t ready to move your feet, it feels good to know you are at least moving your heart and mind toward your ultimate goal.
Another painless step in the process is to take a vacation in the country or countries you are aiming toward. When you’re there, talk to as many expats as you can. Spend some time investigating the exact things you would want to be doing when you make a more permanent move.
Talk to bankers, realtors, people who golf, or scuba dive, or whatever else you’d want to spend your time doing.
That’s one benefit of live events like the one Andrew holds each January; you get to meet a lot of people and talk to a lot of experts in an offshore setting.
If you’re not used to doing it already, start using some of the online services expats use. Skype, virtual private networks, online banking and international transfers, ATM cards for all your bank accounts, PayPal debit cards, file sharing via cloud services.
All these things are basic, second-nature stuff to expats but for some people they are exotic and demand an extended learning curve. Now is the time to learn without any pressure. Test your new expat skills when you take that vacation.
Happiness and lower levels of stress come from having options. Nobody likes to feel trapped, especially in a crisis situation. Make a plan, then start moving forward with it in the ways you can right now.
You’ll be very glad you did.