How moving abroad saved this Gen Xer

Recently, an old high school friend of mine posted on Facebook a link to an article by MSN Money expressing just why Generation X is hosed.  Gen X.  My generation.  Apparently, I’m hosed.  I figured I might as well find out just how said hosing is going to occur.

To make a long story short Gen X is suffering from outrageous debt, their savings have dwindled away, jobs are tough to find, the jobs they do have are hated, and if they’re lucky they can afford to retire at age 90.  Depressing?  Absolutely.  That is until I remembered that I opted out of all this crap a few years ago.

Bahia de Caraquez, EcuadorIn 2011, David and I sold nearly everything we owned, quit our jobs, and started over in Ecuador with our two sons and eight pieces of luggage, plus carry-ons.  We had a few supporters, but for every one of them we faced three cynics.  You know, the ones who tell you what a colossal mistake you’re making by moving to a third-world country.  What will you do for work?  How will your children receive a good education?  You’re throwing everything away!

Really?

Well here’s the thing.  We were doing all of the things everyone else was doing.  We owned a home.  We had 8-5 jobs.  We had retirement funds.  And it didn’t make us happy.  David worked for a large internationally renowned corporation for ten years and made good money.  BUT, the threat of layoffs (which happened often) was an ever-present black cloud hanging over his head.  The stress of watching our hard-earned 401k money bounce up and down in wild fits of market madness was nauseating.  We desperately wanted to start our own business, but red-tape and start-up costs made it near impossible.

davidtrebolSo, we finally made the break from being under the thumb of “The American Dream” and began to follow our own dreams.  Within a few months of arriving in South America, we opened a small restaurant, Trebol Cotacachi.  Within six months we needed to find a larger location to accommodate all of our customers.  Were we rolling in money?  No, but we were making enough to cover our living expenses and we were having fun while doing it.  One year into our new venture, we sold the restaurant and moved on to new interests.

Meanwhile, Justin and Jesse have not been lacking for an education.  The details are something I’ll save for another blog post, but suffice it to say they are now bi-lingual and have opportunities to learn first-hand about places their peers can only read about.

We are again homeowners, but this time our house cost less than half of what it would in the United States. Utilities cost less than $30(U.S.) per month.  And we live in an excellent jumping off point for travel to other Latin American countries or simply exploring our new country more in depth.

So, do I feel hosed as a Gen Xer?  Not so much.  Yes, occasionally I think ‘Damn!  We really have no money set aside specifically for retirement’, but then I remember all the folks who slaved away at mundane jobs while their dreams became dimmer by the day and then witnessed their retirement savings plunge into oblivion in 2008.  Am I screwing myself with this lifestyle of semi-retirement in a foreign country while focusing on travel and discovery?  Perhaps.  But I know the likelihood of screwing myself by following the same tired formula of work, save, retire is much higher.  And for now, I really am happy.

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5 thoughts on “How moving abroad saved this Gen Xer”

  1. Wendy – I found your name in International Living’s report on their recent Quito conference and went straight to your blog in search of something I’m interested in exploring: How expats come to the decision to move abroad, from the moment the seed of the idea germinates through the thought process that leads to action.

    Your post is pretty clear on the subject, but leaves me wondering how you overcame the doubts and fears raised by the naysayers. Also how your kids initially handled the prospect and whether you or your husband was the initiator.

    I’ve been following Richard ingles’ posts to Cuenca Highlife (“Why Do Expats go Home?”) with great interest. But I’m not so much interested in the success or failure of the transplant as I am in the process leading up to the decision..

    If you’re interested in sharing your experience, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

    Thanking you in advance.

    Karen Bernard

    1. Hi Karen,

      I’m glad you found and read my blog. I’ll try to answer your questions.

      Handling the naysayers wasn’t too difficult for my husband and I because we’d done our research and realized that most other people hadn’t. The fears and concerns came out of ignorance or something frightening they heard years ago. We were confident that we weren’t dragging our children into a war zone and knowing that so many other people had repatriated here gave us peace of mind. We also had enough money to return to the U.S. if we needed, so this wasn’t a decision that couldn’t be reversed.

      My boys were 7 and 9 when we moved, so young enough to be pretty adaptable. They also loved traveling and were fully on board with the move.

      My husband and I were both pretty interested in moving abroad, but I may have been slightly more pushy about it. Overall though we both were about equal in our desire to move to Ecuador.

      Cheers,

      Wendy

      1. Wendy –

        thank you so much for responding.

        I’m getting a bigger spectrum of answers than anticipated when I started asking this question – maybe enough to compile and post a compilation in the interest of helping people make the choice to expat or not. You read so many heartbreaking stories of people who started out with high hopes and ended in defeat and sadness that some sort of information other than the rosy sales pitches they get is needed to help them.

        If I proceed with this idea, will you permit me to quote you on your own process?

        Karen.

  2. Hi Karen,

    Sure you can quote me.

    In my own observations it seems to me the people who have the most difficulty in expatriating are the ones who only look at the positive. Even within the same source they will skip right over any downsides and only focus on what they want to hear. The truth is there are pros and cons to every location in the world and you need to research both before making a decision. Also….be willing to learn the language!

    1. Thanks, Wendy.

      If I get to the point of writing up the interviews, I will credit anyone I quote.

      As for being hosed, I wouldn’t worry – you made it out of the Gen X swamp! Did ever consider, writing up something about your experience for your alma mate/, hometown/Facebook followers? It might offer a ray of hope in the gloom and doom….

      Karen

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