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Most people have dreamed of escaping to paradise at one time or another. Maybe it was a wonderful vacation you didn’t want to end, or being unable to cope with another long winter.

But could you actually make paradise work for the long haul? Would you find it to be an oasis or a living hell? Here’s five questions I’ve had to ask myself while preparing for my big move. Perhaps they could help you too.

1) What are you running from? A lot of people think moving will solve their problems, and it can–depending on what your problems are. If your problems are that you hate the cold and can’t afford the high price of living in your current location, moving to an island that is warmer and cheaper could be the answer you’re looking for. Keep in mind, though, that those problems will be replaced with new ones, as no place is perfect. It’s all about what you can deal with and what you can’t.

Moving will not change who you are fundamentally, so if you’re hoping a move will help you in the romance department, or you won’t be bored in a new place, or your non-starter career will suddenly take off, you may want to think again.

I used to have a friend who complained about being depressed, lonely and unlucky in love. He was convinced moving to a new city would solve all of his problems, and I was nervous for him, because of course it wouldn’t. Running away from something is not the same as running to something.

2) What are you willing to give up? Unless you’re independently wealthy, chances are a drastic move will involve giving up a lot. You’ll have to pare down your possessions, probably get by with less money, and survive without the conveniences you probably take for granted.

You know that “eating seasonally” trend? Well, it’s not a trend on an island–it’s a way of life. You can’t walk into a grocery store and buy strawberries in the middle of winter, even if you wanted to. What’s available is what happens to be growing at the time.

My move to Palau will mean returning to dial-up Internet, unless I want to pay $350 US per month for high speed. Even though this will be extremely frustrating, I also think it will be a good thing. We spend far too much time on our computers in this house–getting away from them to actually, um, live will be a positive change.

3) How Will You Handle Culture Shock? Culture shock is a very real thing. Some expats have actually gone insane from loneliness and gunned down innocent people. Of course that’s an extreme example, but having everything familiar and comforting disappear in one fell swoop can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, fear, and personality changes. How could you make a significant move easier on yourself?

4) How Good Are You At Building Community? One of the best ways to battle culture shock is to become part of the community, but not everyone finds this easy. Do you find it easy to make new friends? Do you have hobbies or interests that would allow you to become part of a group and meet new people? Are you able to put yourself out there even when you don’t want to or are feeling shy?

5) How Well Can You Handle A Crisis? Bad things happen, but they’re a lot easier to handle when you have a built-in support network of friends, family, and neighbours who have your back. What if you were on your own? One of the best things to do is anticipate as much as you can–for instance, in some countries it’s difficult to open a bank account without an established banking history in the area. In that case, it might be a good idea to keep the accounts in your home country open and relevant for a while. What if you can’t get a driver’s licence right away? What if your belongings got destroyed in transit, or the immigration department forces you to pay a large duty charge in order to retrieve them? What if you end up experiencing a hurricane, typhoon, or other tropical storm? How would you deal?

Moving to a foreign country isn’t all gloom and doom–there’s many wonderful benefits that make it a worthwhile experience at any age. But it’s worth being prepared, and looking before you leap.

Do you have any tips to add? Have you ever lived in another country? What helped you acclimate? Would you ever consider a big move? Where and why?

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  1. Stephanie Faris

    I once dreamed of moving to the mountains and someone who lived there said, “You might want to find a new dream.” She was talking about how you end up stranded during bad weather if you live too far out of the city. But the biggest problem? The tourists. You have to time every grocery store trip for when tourists are least likely to be jamming up the roadways. I imagine any towns with lots of tourists would be a nightmare. I live 5 miles from the Opry, though, and it doesn’t really impact us…

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks for commenting, Stephanie. During my research, I’ve read some pretty terrible things about tourists. One of the reasons we’re looking at Palau is that it’s so remote, not many people go there. It still benefits from tourism, but in much smaller numbers.

      Definitely a factor, though.

  2. Gina Stoneheart

    Hi Holli! I found your blog through Chrys Fey’s Liebster Award article since we were both nominated.
    Very interesting post you shared here. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to make a permanent home off of the coast of Puerto Rico or even Mexico. Mostly, it’s the harsh winters and dreary climate of New Jersey which pushes me towards such thoughts. But as you mentioned above, there is so much to consider. I don’t think I could ever be that far away from my mother, sisters and nieces. The hustle and bustle of the tri-state area does absolutely nothing for me so I wouldn’t miss this at all. Someday, if I ever become wealthy besides being rich in my dreams, I would like to move my entire family to Puerto Rico=) I saw photos of Palau. It is absolutely breathtaking there. I’m interested in learning more about you and your writing on your blog.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Hi Gina,

      How nice of you to drop in! Thanks for your comment. I still haven’t done that Liebster post, but I mean to…have you?

      I haven’t checked out Puerto Rico that much, but I did look at Mexico pretty extensively. You’re right, there’s definitely a lot to consider, and family ties give a lot of people pause.

      Thanks for weighing in! I’m glad you found it interesting.

  3. Tui Snider

    I think it’s important to have a sense of adventure and to realize that even your mishaps will be treasured memories later. For instance, when I lived on little island off the coast of WA State w/a population of 7 people, our boat sank, we were nearly blown up by 17 tons of dynamite, and we got stuck on the island for 2 months one winter, with dwindling food supplies.

    Still, I feel quite enriched by those experiences!

    As for being an expat, I really miss it! I’d love to live somewhere long enough to become truly fluent in another language.

    I’m excited for you! 😀

    • Holli Moncrieff

      I’m really glad you commented, Tui! I’m dying to know more about your experience on that island. I’m fascinated by it.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I want more!

  4. Chrys Fey

    I’ve never lived in another country, and I don’t think I’d ever move to an island, but I have been contemplating moving to another state that isn’t as hot as Florida and actually sees are four seasons. That’s my main reason for wanting to move, but I do have the idea that life would be better/different somewhere else. I think we all tend to think that way.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Ah, it sounds like you’re already living my dream, Chrys. Want to trade? You’ll definitely see all four seasons here, especially winter.

      It’s easy to think a move would make things better, but there’s positive and negative aspects to every place. I think it depends on one’s definition of better. I’m looking forward to a drastic change in lifestyle, where people are more laid-back and less focused on accumulating stuff. But will I be thrilled when it takes weeks to get something repaired, or when I can’t find anything I want at the grocery store? Probably not so much.

  5. Susan Scott

    What a great post Holli – it’s such a huge thing to relocate to somewhere new and out of known comfort zones. Brilliant tips as well to ensure move is as smooth as possible… preparation, preparation, preparation. An ‘attitude’ towards this is essential ..
    We do think about moving from this big city down to the coast for many of the reasons you’ve said .. quieter life style et al. Yes it’s a bit alarming to think of settling into a new community and reaching out but not impossible.
    I wish you well …when does the move happen?

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks for the kind words, Susan. Let me know if you do decide to take the plunge.

      We were supposed to move next fall, but have pushed it to 2016 to give ourselves more time to prepare (and save!).


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