So how do we figure out where to go? Out of 194 possible destinations what is the process to put one pin in a map and pull the trigger on buying a (cheap) airline ticket to get there?
I, too, am an expat, living in Costa Rica and Nicaragua the last couple of years and backpacking around the world, so I have particular insight. It only took ten minutes for my buddy Johnny G and I to break it down, chatting at sunset on the front porch of San Juan Surf in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Ok, starting with 194 countries.
1. Obviously we don’t want to be a world traveller or expat in our own country, so that brings it down to 193. Good start.
2. We want warm weather, so that takes roughly half of the options off the table.
3. A country with a coastline and nice beaches is a must, so we’re down to South East Asia, Australia, the Mediterranean, the coast of Africa, and parts of Central and South America.
4. We want safe, or at least to avoid countries with political instability. It’s no fun making a hostage video between guys with AK 47’s wearing black pajamas. Countries with religious fundamentalist problems, revolution, and military governments are to be avoided. We also don’t want to be sitting ducks in countries with vicious drug cartel problems, so unfortunately that rules out Mexico for a lot of people, and Venezuela is off the table.
5. Broke backpackers want cheap, cheap, cheap, like the little bird goes. So I guess our $20 a day budget won’t fly in the French Riviera?
6. Life as an expat is much easier if you live within a reasonable plane ride of your home country. So the expats from the U.S. and Canada usually keep it within 8 hours due south, which means Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.
7. Getting by speaking another language is hard enough, but Spanish is much easier to learn than, say, Portuguese, or Thai. So Brazil is out, though it brings a tear to my eye, because it’s too expensive now AND they speak Portuguese.
8. A lot of the Caribbean is wonderful for vacation but I hear it’s a pain in the ass to live there because of all of the hurricanes, yet alone the high cost.
9. Cuba is fun to visit but probably not the place to live, Honduras and Guatemala are dangerous as hell, and Columbia is beautiful for the adventurous but a closed society if you’re a foreigner trying to do business there.
10. Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. If you’re from the U.S. we’ve narrowed it down to a handful of countries in Central and South America: Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and maybe Ecuador.
Now you have some information that will help you buy a ticket for a long vacation or even to relocate. There are other considerations, of course, like if you plan on getting residency, buying property, opening a business, and access to medical care. Of course, you and everyone else will be sticking to this next thought process, so you’ll also want to hit the NEXT great place, not the place that’s popular now. It used to be Costa Rica, but now people are going to Nicaragua. It used to be Thailand, not they’re going to Laos and Cambodia.
Good luck and safe travels. Touch base with me if you’re out there in the world because strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.