SignpostEver dream of escaping difficult circumstances or a humdrum life by moving overseas?

Books and films, from the exotic adventures of A Passage to India
, the romance of Out of Africa, the dark twists Paul Bowles’ puts one couple through in The Sheltering Sky (P.S.), have helped me escape more than once. While therapeutic, they also set the stage for a life fashioned around exploring the world – for the better and for the worse.

Today the struggling American economy, savings decimated by the recession and the increasing cost of living has many Americans, like myself, considering expat life as the perfect escape. But not so fast. While history is full of exuberant expat memoirs, the first step off the page and into real life is due diligence.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the chance to speak with several expats and here’s their top tips:

  • Take into account the difference in cultures and values.  There are no shortcuts on how to grasp that.
  • Spend an extended vacation there before you move permanently. Meet other expats and listen to them.
  • Know there are going to be challenges. Plan for what you can and keep your head up as new ones surface.
  • Don’t just take the books and ‘expert’ advice from the internet at face value. Publications and even blogs may be out of date or local circumstances changed. Ask lots of questions.

Three case studies from The Gathering Road podcast:


Caroline Rancho la BellotaRanch life in Baja, Mexico: Caroline Aguiar

A lifelong love of horses led Caroline Aguiar to move from California to the Guadalupe Valley of Baja with her new husband and Mexican native, Raul. After working on a family ranch, they opened one of their own: Rancho La Bellota. Raising free ranging horses, cattle and sheep on their 2,800 acres and opening the adobe bungalows to visitors has helped Caroline develop new skills. She talks about how she ended up there and her vision for the property where she’s found so much peace and happiness. Listen to the MP3 Interview.


From Freeways to Flip Flops in Belize: Sonia Marsh sonia marsh

Sonia Marsh decided that her family needed a fresh start free from the materialistic bombardment of living in Orange County. She and her husband scouted locations in the Caribbean and decided that Belize had what they were looking for. Next they moved their kids to the new country where they had to cope with another language, online classes and tropical dispositions. Did they stay? You can read her book about their adventures, Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island

and hear the rest of the story here. Listen to the MP3 Interview.

Meet Sonia:

In San Diego on July 16th? Sonia will be speaking about her adventures at a gathering of the TRAVEL WELL Meetup. Join us! No need to be a member of Meetup, but please RSVP to


A Beach Less Traveled in St. Martin: John Berglund John Berglund

Among his many careers, John Berglund was a successful lawyer and lobbyist for the bowling industry but took his passion for the tropics and chemistry in a completely different direction by moving to the Caribbean island of St. Martin. Today he and his wife have established a new brand, Tijon and he travels from his island shop to the second  perfumery, opened with his daughter, in La Jolla, California.
He found that opening a bank account and building practices were challenging enough but more impactful was discovering that all costs were almost twice what had been planned. Today the Tijon stores offer perfumery classes, special occasion events and gifts. You can read about John’s adventures on his site and listen to a short Listen to the MP3 Interview here.


Resources: Retiring in COSTA RICA

If you’re interested in moving to Costa Rica, National Public Radio has been hosting a series on Expat Life and they recommend three books for expat planners interested in retiring there:

1) Choose Costa Rica for Retirement, 10th: Retirement, Travel & Business Opportunities for a New Beginning (2006) by John Howells

2) The New Golden Door To Retirement and Living in Costa Rica
(2007) by Christopher Howard

3) Moon Living Abroad in Costa Rica
(2013) by Erin van Rheenen


Best and worst films about Expat experiences

CNN’s Best Expat movies of all time:

CNN’s Worst Expat movies of all time: