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How Can You Create A Bigger, More Interesting Life Overseas?

09 Aug
Seascape with tropical palms on beautiful sandy beach in Phu Quoc island, Vietnam

How Can You Create A Bigger, More Interesting Life Overseas?

Lief Simon's Advice For Anyone Lacking The Funds To Make A Move Overseas

I decided in high school that I wanted an international life.

Of course, I wouldn’t have articulated it that way back then.

I’m not sure that, back then, I even knew what “international” meant.

What I did know was that I didn’t want a typical, conventional life in the States.

So I decided that, after I got my bachelor’s degree, I would enroll in the American Graduate School of International Management (today it’s known as the Thunderbird School of Global Management).

What better way to get a job overseas, I figured, than to earn the best master’s degree available for international business.

Having lived and worked 21 of the last 25 years in eight countries, I guess you could say that my plan from high school has worked out.

In truth, my planning only went as far as the idea of getting an advanced degree in international business. I really only thought through that first step… but that first step set things in motion.

It was, in fact, thanks to that master’s degree that I got my first job overseas.

Today, more and more people—from baby boomers to millennials—are looking for an international experience.

Here’s my first piece of advice for you if you count yourself among them:

You do not need to spend the money or the time on an international MBA to internationalize your life. All you really need is an entrepreneurial spirit.

Today it is possible to earn an income overseas working either locally or remotely.

Folks I know, for example, are making money in countries all over the world by teaching English in schools, as tutors, and online.

Others are writers working from their laptops, photographers shooting weddings, artists (whose only real requirement is an art supply store nearby), entrepreneurs with businesses from online stores to beachfront restaurants…

These folks come from the United States and Canada but many other countries, too. What they all have in common is a desire for a life that’s more, different, bigger, other than the day-to-day of the life wherever they’ve come from.

You could call them opportunity and adventure seekers.

When I was still in high school, the small CPA firm where I was working part-time offered to pay for my college education if I’d get an accounting degree and my CPA license and then go to work for them full-time.

I didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay for my college education at the time, so this was a really great offer…

Had I wanted safe and secure.

I was concerned about coming up with the money for college, but I declined the offer anyway… because the one thing I was sure of was that the one thing I didn’t want was safe and secure.

I didn’t want to sit in an office every day of my life processing receipts for the same businesses month after month, counting down each year to my annual two-week vacation.

I wanted something more… something else.

Using What You Already Know To Go Where You Want

This is a common agenda among expats and retirees who have left their home countries. They wanted something more… something else.

Their plan for creating a bigger, more interesting life for themselves centers around moving to a new country where you find the history or the culture, for example, more compelling than that of the country where you were born… or maybe it means moving around from country to country for serial experiences…

As the saying goes… where you were born is an accident of birth…

Where you live is something you can do something about.

For many who want to make a move overseas, the stumbling block can be cash flow.

Wherever you choose to live, you’re going to need an income to pay for your lifestyle. This is especially true if you’re a millennial without a trust fund… but it’s also true for most retirees. The reality is that few retirees today have nest eggs big enough to cover them comfortably. Most retirees need or want to generate some side income to supplement whatever retirement income they’ve got.

Fortunately, technology, globalization, and the expanding gig economy are making it easier than ever to earn money while traveling or living outside your home country. You just need to decide what it is you want and have the skills to do.

Many young English speakers leverage their English skills.

The son of friends in Ireland hopped on a plane to Vietnam after he graduated from high school. He didn’t have a plan. He and a few friends just wanted to take a trip.

After spending a few weeks in the country, he decided he liked it (warmer weather than Ireland) and wanted to stay. He quickly found work teaching English. The cost of living in Vietnam is low… and our friend’s son was earning a salary greater than a standard local salary… meaning he was able to live very comfortably. He stayed on, supporting himself this way, for three years… until he decided to return home for college.

One radiologist I met years ago decided he wanted to split his time between the United States and somewhere else overseas. He found an opportunity to work in New Zealand, where he organized a six-month stint in a hospital.

When that position concluded, he began working remotely for U.S. hospitals. He realized he could read and review X-rays anywhere in the world thanks to digital technology.

French friends who were veterinarians in France decided to move to Panama and open a French bakery. Then they added a French restaurant… then a local restaurant targeting the office worker lunch crowd.

Their most recent entrepreneurial adventure is as partners on a nightclub in Havana.

Talk about an interesting life.

Lief Simon