Do you fantasise about living abroad at some point in your life?
Maybe you’d like to retire to sunnier climes and spend your days on sun-soaked shores. Or perhaps you want to bring your family up somewhere with a better standard of living than you can afford where you are – or where they can experience a different lifestyle.
It’s something a lot of us would love to do.
I thought about it myself for about 10 years, even looking at property in various places, including France, Turkey and Spain.
Then in 2002 I took a year off from working. It wasn’t that difficult to organise because for some years I’d been on short-term contracts, but it still felt like a risky thing to do (especially as my partner left their job, too).
During that initial 12 months we did a lot of travelling, mostly in Europe with an old ambulance converted into a camper, and when we got back home I knew that it was only a matter of time before I took the leap and went abroad again for longer.
Which is how we ended up living in Italy.
Two years later we’d bought a run-down property in the Italian countryside and sold up our home in the UK – our eight-year adventure in Abruzzo had begun!
I was surprised by the reaction from lots of people we knew. Not that they didn’t wish us well – it was more that they kept saying “Oh, I’d love to do that but I can’t because …”
And there were all kinds of reasons and I’m sure they were valid, but in the end it’s about reaching out for those dreams, isn’t it?
We didn’t do it with enormous financial resources behind us – we had to work and build a business to sustain ourselves – but there are an amazing number of ways that resourceful people have found to support themselves in a new life abroad.
So many ways to take the plunge…
They’d packed up their homes and sold or rented them. Later, we met foreigners living in Italy who lived on rental income from their property back home, were teaching English, did holiday rentals or B&B during the summer, started up businesses selling olive oil or who just lived on their pensions.
We also met loads of lovely people who came and helped us while they worked their way around the world as volunteers – not just youngsters either – with schemes like Workaway and WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), but there are many other ways of doing this kind of thing.
My six tips for making the move:
1. Try before you buy! If I’d done one thing differently this is it. I’d really recommend that you rent in the area you’re thinking of moving to – and make sure you live there during the winter too, so that you can see what it’s like when the tourists have all gone home.
2. Join online forums and read blogs about the place you want to live. There’s loads of useful information out there on the web and you can get a really good idea about the issues you might have to face when you move.
3. If you need a secure income think realistically about how you can do that in a way that you’ll enjoy and which won’t ‘spoil’ the new life you hope to build. With the internet and online communications the possibilities for creating your own business opportunities are increasing, but you need to be clear how much you want to be working – especially if you’re looking for a better work-life balance.
4. Think about family. We’ve met quite a few people who thought they’d have family coming every summer – and they may do at the beginning – but they can start to get bored with it, especially if your new home is not close to many amenities. And will you miss the grandchildren too much? It happens a lot.
5. Learn the language. We didn’t speak Italian when we moved there and that meant having to rely on other people quite a lot at the beginning. If you’re going to build any kind of relationship with local people and discover the culture of the country you’ve chosen, you really have to get to grips with the lingo.
6. Lastly, be bold and take chances. Don’t look back with regret and don’t listen to the naysayers – it’s your dream after all!
I divide my time between the UK and France while we work on the tiny house we bought in a little French village, and I build my business.
I don’t know yet if this is the last foreign adventure – I’ll keep you posted!
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