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?