How to move overseas: book review

The actual title of Kathleen Peddicord’s book is How to Retire Overseas, but even if you are decades away from thinking of retiring, it is a useful read. Peddicord herself has moved her young family from the United States to Ireland, France, and her current home in Panama over the years, so she brings perspectives from her own experience as well as from research and interviews with others who’ve lived overseas long term, in retirement and for other reasons.

The first chapter is the most important, really: Peddicord advises that the basic step to planning a long term move outside your home country is to get to know yourself, both in practical matters and in less tangible ways. You need to think about what you know about yourself, how you like to live, what your resources are, and what your priorities are. It’s not just a matter of what languages you know and how well you know them, she points out,, but how you might feel living in a community where there are no other English speakers. That might be just what you are looking for — or not. It’s not just a matter of what your health is like, but how near you’d need to be to what sort of health care and what your peace of mind would be about that. Will you be traveling back to the US often once you move? How easy will that be to organize from your chosen location? Would you enjoy living in a community of expats, or not? These are the sorts of questions Peddicord advises you to consider at the outset, and she gives you lists of them to think over.

Know Yourself is the first part of a section called Ten Steps You Can Do Before Leaving Home, which includes chapters on brainstorming about where you might like to live (take out a map, that’s called), sorting out money issues, health, and real estate and renting areas you can consider and research, and figuring out to what to do with all your stuff.

There’s a section called Looking for something specific? which offers short introductions to places arranged by topic, so to speak: best places for mountains, seaside, good schools, language issues, health care, and the like, with two or three destinations considered in each section with both good and bad points noted.

Peddicord has fourteen places she considers retirement destinations, which she writes about in a bit more depth in a section arranged by country. These include Croatia, Panama, Ireland, France, Thailand, Ecuador, Malaysia, Italy, and Argentina. One point she makes that’s well worth noting when reading these: you move to a place, not a country. Locations within even small countries vary widely as to costs, landscapes, day to day life. Think about your own country, and you’ll know that is true

The last three sections of the book offer practical advice through stories of the successes (and mistakes) Peddicord, her family members, and others have had in building lives in countries not their own. You may not find the exact circumstances Peddicord faced when looking for a plumber in Ireland or furniture in Panama, but you’ll get the idea of what sort of things might arise and have the chance to think about how you’d handle them. Those stories come up in a section called Settling In, which among other things has a short but important story about making friends in a new country.

The section on overcoming challenges is told through stories too, with expats dealing with varying degrees of knowing a language to coping with the hassle factors of being in a different culture to managing expectations for living in one. In addition to several cost of living tables and a section called frequently asked and not so crazy questions, Peddicord concludes with a short chapter on the two most valuable things she’s learned about living overseas.

One of them is, not so surprisingly, to go ahead and take the leap. Should you be considering that, How to Retire Overseas is a resource that both provides practical information and asks good questions to help with your thinking.

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