Ernest Hemingway. Gwyneth
Paltrow. Jimmy Buffett. Over
the years, the romanticism and
adventure inherent with living
abroad have lured countless Americans to
pursue part-time living beyond the reach
of Uncle Sam.
Imagine sipping cappuccino in a
Venetian café, diving off your dock on a
tropical atoll in the middle of the Pacific
or swaying to the rhythm of a snappy salsa
number in Buenos Aires. This is the dream.
But—and there's always a but—without
proper planning, the dream can quickly
turn into a nightmare. To avoid that
feeling, there are literally hundreds of
questions to ask before embarking on the
journey of part-time residency outside the
United States. Whether it's London calling
or cheeseburgers in paradise, here are some
things to consider that can make or break
your escape plan.
Does wading through language
barriers, transportation issues and
potential isolation halfway around the
world sound appealing to you? If so,
continue. If not, Palm Springs is perfect
this time of year.
"It's really an individual thing," says
Jennifer Spatz, Bellevue Club member and
founder of Paravati Family Travel. "Some
people prefer resorts and hotels, and
others want more of an adventure."
Jennifer is no stranger to living abroad.
Her father worked for the CIA and she
grew up in Germany, the Netherlands,
Norway, Austria and Taiwan. She speaks
"It made our family really close," she
says. "When you move somewhere new
and all you have is your family, you tend to
bond as a unit."
This past year, Jennifer put her travel
experience to use and founded Paravati
Family Travel with family-friendly tours
through India, South Africa and Morocco
"Travel is in my blood—it's part of me,"
"HONEY, WE SHOULD MOVE HERE."
As you sip piña coladas under a palmthatched
roof, it's natural to entertain
thoughts of extending the vacation
permanently. However, there are factors to
consider before snapping up that cute, little
beachfront property in Mexico.
"Once you've bought a property, it's not
always vacation at that point," says Tere
Foster, real estate agent and Bellevue Club
member. "You now have obligations—
property tax, upkeep, security when you're
All of a sudden, you've turned your next
vacation into a to-do list.
L IS FOR LOGISTICS.
While there's something wonderfully
bohemian in the idea of having a little place
on the Costa del Sol in Spain, making
it happen takes some serious type-A
tendencies. If you're hoping to purchase
a property, Tere suggests visiting several
times before checking out the market.
"Go there first," she says. "Make sure it's
a place you like to vacation."
Next, Tere says finding a local real estate
liaison is key.
"You want to make sure to work with a
local person to navigate that culture. I think
that's critical," she says. "You have language
issues, title issues, cultural issues.
"It's similar to buying property here. I
would look for an agent that has several
years of experience and has several
properties available that are similar to the
ones I'm interested in buying," she says.
But sealing the deal can be tricky.
"A lot of people don't realize that in
America, we're very sophisticated when it
comes to title ownership and transfers,"
Michael Walker, Bellevue Club member
and associate broker at Reallogic Sotheby's
International Realty agrees.
"Not all systems have respect for private
property the way ours does," he says. "You
don't want to get in a position where you're
not sure what you're buying."
Each country has different regulations
when it comes to foreigners owning
property. In Mexico, for example, try to buy
an Ejido (community-owned) property and
enjoy jumping through possibly years of
legal hoops to obtain an actual title. For a
much-less-stressful retirement with greater
flexibility, consider avoiding a foreign
mortgage and rent a swank apartment
Also, travel considerations are huge
when dealing with living abroad.
"People don't realize that the airlines
change their schedules and make it hard to
get to where it may have been easier before,"
Michael once considered a second
home halfway across the globe in Sydney,
"It was ideal for me to have a second
home there—until I did that flight a couple
times," he says.
RESEARCH AND (SELF) DEVELOPMENT
The days of blind exploration with
your wits and a compass are gone. Finding
paradise is now as easy as firing up Google
Earth. Still, there are always surprises when
living abroad, but they can be minimized
with diligent research.
"Do your homework," Jennifer says. "Use
the resources available to you. There are
tons of books and websites out there."
For information on the real cost of
living, visit The Economist's worldwide cost
of living index at eiu.enumerate.com. For
safety concerns, the U.S. State Department
publishes warnings and tips for Americans
traveling abroad at www.state.gov/travel.
If you're collecting income while
abroad, it's important to research incometax
regulations. The United States often
still collects income tax from citizens
while they live abroad. To avoid double
taxation, find out which countries have tax
treaties with the United States at www.
Michael recommends connecting with
local ex-pats before committing to living
"Talk firsthand with people that have
done it before," he says.
Despite the abundance of resources,
Jennifer believes the most important thing
to take with you to a foreign country has
nothing to do with a guidebook.
"Go with an open mind and open heart,"
she says. "The country often leads your
PACE-OF-LIFE PAY DIRT
Check out these sunny
locales for seasonal living
Great wine. Good food. Slow pace
of life. Favorable climate. Low health
care costs. Stay during the off-season for
cooler, albeit sunny, weather and lower
San Juan del Sur,
This mellow beach town is no secret,
but it's still a great place to live. Yoga
studios, coffee shops and beautiful
coastline nudge this well-known yacht
spot onto the list. If San Juan del Sur is
too crowded, head up the coast for your
own private slice of heaven.
This past year, Sydney ranked No. 10
on the Mercer Quality of Living survey.
And why not? It is a well-cultured,
fashionable city in a warm climate. It's
kind of like Vancouver, B.C., with more
sunshine. Bonus: They speak English—
kind of. Downside: mind-numbing
flights back to the States.
With a low cost of living, friendly
culture and stunning landscapes,
Southeast Asia is increasingly on the
radar as a retirement spot for baby
boomers. Made famous in Elizabeth
Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love," this spot
features warm seas and vibrant colors.
The highest-ranked South American
city in Mercer's 2010 Quality of Living
survey, Montevideo is relatively safe and
definitely affordable. With a growing
number of retirees, Uruguay's warm
summer during North America's winter
makes this a perfect seasonal partner for