Living Abroad: Who Else Wants to Live in Paradise?

by missfootloose on May 25, 2013 · 12 comments

in Bali, Ecuador, Expat life, living abroad

ParadiseAre you like me and want to live in Paradise? How greedy we are. Not to speak of unrealistic. There is no Paradise. I know this, but I’m looking for it anyway.

I’d love to live in a place where I never have to shovel snow again, a place where the food and wine are yummy, the natives are friendly, and the sun shines a lot. This is a partial wish list. As the saying goes in my native Dutch tongue: Ik heb heel wat noten op mijn zang. Which translates into: My song has quite a lot of notes. If you catch my drift.

My prince and I are rootless nomads, and in the last few years we’ve been checking out possible locations to plant ourselves when/if the mood for root-growing strikes. We may not be able to grow roots, but we can try.

The world is a fabulous place, stunning, miraculous, fascinating. So how to choose? Where to go?

We spent some time in Costa Rica. Unless you’ve lived in a cave, you must have heard how beautiful and bio-diverse this country is. I was gobsmacked by the scenic splendor. I saw my first bubbling volcano there. I know it’s just a picture to you, but you shoulda been there!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is also a country now overrun with American and Canadian retirees ensconced in gated communities, and not all are blessed with cultural sensitivity, or have any desire to learn about and engage in the local life. So I’ve heard. So I’ve read. Is it true? I don’t know.

We were in Italy half a dozen times, mostly in the south of the country and loved it there. The food and wine? Well I don’t need to tell you. We met some lovely people who invited us in their home, fed us, lent us their car, and took us shopping. I mean, when does that ever happen when you’re a stranger some place?  “Take the car,” she said. “Be back by one for lunch.” We’d only met her a few days earlier.

But somehow it didn’t all add up for root-growing.

We vacationed a bit in Portugal on two occasions. Portugal has its charms, but it did not seduce us. How about the Indonesian island of Bali? We were there years ago, and were enthralled. Island of peace and harmony, of temples and festivals, of smiling people and taste-titillating food. Such seduction of the senses!

Balinese temple

I would learn to meditate, finally, and do yoga and get in touch with my Higher Self. Yes, I’d go live there, in the mountains, not near the tourist beaches. I’d go in a red hot second, if only… Well, you knew that was coming, didn’t you? If only…Bali wasn’t so far away from family and friends, most of whom hang out in Europe and the US. I’m afraid I’d never see them again.

A couple of years ago we scouted out Ecuador, much advertised as a cheap expat heaven, but also rather out of the way for our purposes. The country is gorgeous. Lots of culture, great bio-diversity. The many different climates — from tropical to cool and rainy — make it possible to grow fruits from strawberries to coconuts, all fresh in stunning markets overflowing with the bounties of nature. They grow fruit there I never knew existed, and I’ve been around.

Cuenca Market

And of course there’s fresh seafood, since the country is located right on the Pacific Ocean. And the wine? Sadly, only imported. Local cheese? Not so exciting. You can read about our experience right here:

Ecuador: Almost Paradise

What else is on my wish list? I want a slower pace of life. Slower than what, you ask? Slower than where we are right now, which is in the US, in the countryside, but not far from Washington DC. It doesn’t matter if you say you’ll slow down and take it easy, savor the small joys of life; somehow the rat race culture sucks you in. It’s in the air, on TV, in the shops, in the lifestyle of the people you meet. You can’t escape it.

I crave a leisurely sidewalk café culture. I love eating outside, or lingering over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while watching the people go by. They’re good at that in Southern Europe. People in my native Holland love it too. They’ll sit outside with their coats on if that’s what it takes. In February. Do I want to settle in Holland? Forget it. The climate is lousy and the rat race mode is fully established, even with sidewalk cafés everywhere.

So where do I want to go? We’re thinking of the South of France right now. Not cheap, but I can tick off a lot of things on my list. But I will have to give up on having house help, a joy I’ve much appreciated in my various expat locations in less affluent countries. Yes, I know, your heart bleeds for me.

Where is Paradise? What is Paradise? It’s not just a particular place full of goodies, is it? Really, how shallow do you think I am? Okay, pretty shallow, but I do know that what matters most is not the location but the people you surround yourself with, the ones you live with, the friends you laugh with.

HHH Albania

And the ones you dance with.

That, and a glass of wine on a terrace in the sun.

* * *

Have you found your Paradise yet? Where will you live in your dotage?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Grace @ Sandier Pastures May 25, 2013 at 3:20 am

My family and I are rootless nomads too right now. We’ve lived in Dubai for seven years now and though we don’t have any intention to leave (yet), we are constantly thinking where to settle.

Japan, my husband’s home country and my second home, is not an option. We don’t like the work culture (work till you die, literally, is more like it) and would prefer our children to be educated outside rather than there. Philippines (my birth country) is not an option as well.

Like you, I want a slower pace of life, preferably greener where my children can run around in the park and not toast during the hot summer. I want them to grow up knowing the feel of grass under their feet, for starters. Or see and know what a butterfly is!

Dang. I think I need to write a blog post of my own about this! Thanks for the inspiration!
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missfootloose May 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

What springs to mind for your family is New Zealand, just so you’re at least on the same side of the world as your families. I hear it does have a more relaxed, easier pace of life than Europe and the US, and of course it’s a gorgeous country. I have family and friends who live there and love it.

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Grace @ Sandier Pastures May 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

Oh what I would give to live in NZ. I mean right now! I won’t even mind if I’ll just stow sheeps for a living..just as long as we can eat 3x a day and have internet! LOL

No, seriously!!
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YTSL May 25, 2013 at 6:50 am

Hi Miss Footloose —

By some people’s standards, I’m a rolling stone — seeing as I’ve lived in Malaysia, England, the US, Tanzania and now Hong Kong. Have to say that Hong Kong doesn’t sound like it’d be your idea of Paradise as the pace of life can be on the fast and bustling side. But I’ve been here more than 6 years now and I still really love it. Maybe I’ve finally found a place I want to settle down in! ;b
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missfootloose May 25, 2013 at 6:00 pm

If you are happy where you are, don’t move if you don’t have to. I’ve been to Hong Kong and I found it a fascinating place and probably would have loved living there for a while at some point. Probably not for growing roots, though, for me ;). Too fast and furious for leisurely living, I think!

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Gordon Barlow May 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Karen – there’s so much to choose from, isn’t there? If we ever do move from our present tropical island – home for the past 35 years – we would NEVER buy in a new place. Rather, we would rent, so that we could move on again if we wanted, without too much effort. We’re both over 70 now, so we can’t have all that many moves ahead of us, but still: we would always keep our options open.

I wrote two posts for my blog last September, called “Looking for bolt-holes”, which mentioned places we might live, in the event that Cayman became too expensive for us. We revisit the issue from time to time, but are finding it hard to uproot ourselves in the absence of an urgent reason. “Home” is just too damn comfortable!

Would I recommend Cayman to others? Yes, I would, despite the high cost of living. But… we have been 35 years learning to live the way we do, and it’s hard to be objective about it.
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missfootloose May 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm

You seem so happily settled in the Caymans, why move unless you absolutely have to? It’s a great place from what I hear, so I hope you’re not forced to leave because it takes more than a couple of months to find friends, grow a support system and feel at home any place!

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guyana gyal May 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Friendly, kind people matter a great deal to me, and good health care, electricity and clean water. When it comes down to the basics, that’s the most important to me.
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missfootloose May 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm

You are so right!
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Bob Evans May 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

Karen,

Hi. Just saw your post about where to live, where to find Paradise. Not too far from you now there is the town of Paradise, PA. The old joke was that lots of folks get to it through Intercourse (also in PA, only a few miles away). But seriously, you might give a thought to Brazil. For a slightly slower pace of live, avoid Rio de Janeiro, but think about Salvador de Bahia in the Northeast or Florianopolis in the South.

Right now I am on a trip to your old stomping grounds – Chisinau. I will be here another three weeks and then back to WDC. At present the weather is great: no snow and without the wilting heat of July and August. Perhaps not paradise, but the bazars are full of fresh fruits and vegetables not chemically treated, not packed in plastic and not picked early in order to ripen on the long road to the supermarket.

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missfootloose May 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Bob, yes the markets are wonderful at this time of year in Chisinau! And of course they’ve got good wine in Moldova as well. Sadly, winter is lousy!
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MaryWitzl June 23, 2013 at 8:37 am

This resonates with me in every possible way. I feel so spoiled as I try to choose where we will spend the rest of our days. North Cyprus (not a country, technically, but still) has a lot of what you are looking for–it has a good sidewalk culture, and is largely unspoiled–but it’s filled with expatriates who are there for the cheap digs, not always keen to learn Turkish or sample the local delights (and the selection of cheese is fairly limited); Japan is a lovely country and full of delights, but I completely agree with Grace about the work culture being over-the-top; the U.S. is my home and I miss it so much, but not the lack of gun control; and the weather in the U.K. works for me, but not my (British) husband. Sigh…

Yep: we’re spoiled too.
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