This article comes to us courtesy of InternationalLiving.com, the world's leading authority on how to live, work, invest, travel, and retire better overseas.
It seems a lifetime ago when my husband David and I began our journey toward going overseas. In addition to taking care of the necessities that come with moving, we spent a lot of time imagining what adventures lay in wait. Dreams of leisurely roaming the cobblestone streets of mountain villages floated through our minds.
Wendy and David are enjoying their new life in Cotacachi, Ecuador.
Photo by Hugo Ghiara, InternationalLiving.com
The thought of listening to the surf from a comfy hammock with a fruity drink in hand wasn't a bad vision, either. And knowing that we could stretch our savings and gain new cultural experiences was just the icing on top.
If you're in the process of planning your move abroad, I'm betting you've spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about your future experiences, too.
But despite the advantages and excitement that a move abroad brings, there was one stumbling block that nearly prevented us from taking the leap: Fear of commitment. And we're not the only ones who have faced this. From talking to other expats it would seem that many people experience a mental block when it comes to making a final decision on where to settle.
That's because at first it feels like it's "all or nothing." In our case, the thought of purchasing those one-way tickets and packing up our remaining belongings seemed so final. And that's when the second-guessing really began. Panic set in and we began to think that maybe we really were a little crazier than we realized.
But the solution was obvious: Flexibility. And it's one of the keys to a successful move abroad. David and I gave ourselves the option to return to the U.S. or move on to another country if -- after giving Ecuador a fair shake- - it didn't live up to what we wanted. Just that "out" took away much of the stress of our move abroad.
The pressure we felt to love Ecuador at first sight had ceased and in turn so did much of our anxiety.
While we were excited about the country and hoped it would be right for us, a backup plan gave us the chance to come to an intimate understanding of the nation and the people. And knowing that we didn't have to fall head over heels has meant we know that the appreciation we have developed for Ecuador's nuances is genuine.
Flexibility also means that you'll have the freedom to make adjustments as needed. You might realize the town you picked is too large for your tastes... or too small. Maybe you want to live near more expats...or fewer. That third-floor apartment you rented for the killer views might be killing your knees as you go up the stairs every day, so you'll switch out for a ground-level space. That's okay. Nothing is permanent and there are very few decisions that can't be reversed.
I've seen people come and go on a regular basis. Some return to the U.S. to care for elderly parents while some have realized that more time with grandbabies was in order.
I've also seen a good number of folks destined for new territories. One couple living on Ecuador's coast recently announced their intent to move to Mexico. They loved their time here, but found they needed to be close to state-of-the-art medical facilities. Unfortunately they couldn't adapt to the altitude of Ecuador's highlands where much of the first-rate medical care is housed and they weren't willing to live in the large coastal city which was their other option. So they adjusted, refocused and they'll soon be off on a new adventure.
Plenty of people sample multiple countries before settling on one and others never settle long-term. The point is that there is no one-size-fits-all country and there doesn't have to be finality in a move abroad.
There is nothing wrong in deciding that a country is not right for you. In that case pull out the map, scour the Internet, talk to people who've gone before you and have fun deciding where you might want to plant your feet next. Who knows? You could end up in the country next door or on a continent an ocean away.
The thing is, once you are on the road, overseas, moving on, traveling, exploring... it's all so much easier. We quickly learned that expats and locals alike want to help. They want you to succeed in your new home. And if you allow them to assist you, your journey will be successful. You'll discover that the challenge of finding your way in a new country is exciting and even a little addictive. You may even find that after a few years you'll be itching to move on again, just to push your limits a bit more and to feel that initial excitement again.
But the only way to know for certain if a country is right for you is to pull the trigger and give it a try.
Point is: You've got options... if you're flexible and you embrace the adventure, you'll find you're taking full advantage of a world that really is rich with possibilities.
And whatever your experience you'll learn valuable lessons about not only the place you're living, but about yourself as well. Moving on isn't an indication of failure, it's simply the start of the next chapter, the next adventure.