12/23/2013 10:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why New Year's Resolutions Are Hard for Expats

Everyone knows the story with New Year's resolutions.

You start with something major...some burning issue in your life that you're finally -- this time for sure -- going to do something about, once and for all. You're not going to worry about how radical or outside-the-box your resolution might be or what anyone else might think about it. You're going to change your life in a positive, decisive, and meaningful way...turn it completely around...change everything for the better and stay the course. This is the year.

Now consider the poor expats...those who have moved abroad for one reason or another.


Photo by Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher,

What kind of New Year resolution can they make?

"This year I'm not going to defer any longer my dream of actually living the adventure I've always wanted?"

Already done.

"This year I'm going to commit to finding the living situation that makes me happier and healthier and saves me money?"


"This year I'm going to see things I never thought I'd see, experience cultures I've only read about or seen on TV, and immerse myself completely in a way of life that constantly challenges and stimulates me?"


"This year I'm going to show everyone who thought I was crazy for imagining that I could live an incredibly interesting, safe, and affordable life on a beach somewhere and never have to shovel snow again that I'm not really crazy at all?"

Been there, done that.

What's left for those poor expats to resolve?

If they're like us and they make New Year's resolutions at all, they make the usual fall-back types...the kinds of resolutions that, if you don't accomplish them, won't seriously damage your self-esteem. Resolutions about getting more exercise or putting more fruits and veggies in your diet or finally doing that immersion course and really being fluent in the local language.

The kinds of resolutions that, if you're living in places like Uruguay or Panama or Ecuador or Italy or Thailand, sort of take care of themselves anyway just because of where you are and how you live.


Photo by Jason Holland,

For example, if you live in a town or village with a regular farmers markets close by, all three of those resolutions we just mentioned are handled every day just by walking to the mercado for your produce and dickering with the ladies in the fruit and vegetable stalls over prices.

So, at this festive time of year when new leaves are being turned over and new directions are being contemplated, pity the poor expats who have nothing more to resolve but to keep following the paths they've already had the courage and resolve and imaginations to embark upon.

Not having much to resolve for the New Year is just our burden to bear.

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