Relocating Abroad: The Real Price to Pay

Relocating Abroad

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The following is a post from Pauline Paquin, a French girl who blogs over at Reach Financial Independence. Born and raised in Paris, Pauline writes about how she has been traveling the world for the past 10 years, while trying to build wealth and achieve financial independence, and how you can follow your dreams and reach your goals too. You can follow Pauline on Twitter @RFIndependence.

I love France, and especially Paris, my hometown. I love to cycle around and then stop on a bench to people watch. I love to reunite with my college friends in our favorite bar where the owner knows us by name. And, I love picking up my little brother from school. I love the food, the parks, even the smelly subway and the stressed out drivers during rush hour. Most of all, I love that I don’t live there anymore.

When I graduated ten years ago, I decided to travel the world for a year. I then found a job in Guatemala, lived in three more countries, and ended up in Guatemala again a couple of months ago. This time, I am staying and fixing up a little house that should someday become a guest house. I wake up with the sun, swim in a beautiful lake, and lead a peaceful, simple life.

Meanwhile, my friends in Paris are making what would look like good money. Yet, if you consider the fact that they work about 10 hours a day, commute 1 hour to and from work if they are lucky, and live in a 400 sq. ft. apartment, it may not be such great money afterall. They will likely do this until they retire in 35 years – or more – while I keep living my awesome life.


The Sacrifices

Sure, I sacrifice many things for early retirement and financial freedom. I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t eat out every night.  The biggest sacrifice is that I don’t get to see my family and friends very often. But when I come back, I realize that everyone is so busy running after life that they barely see each other.

Relocating abroad made me see my little French world with other eyes. I was so caught up in it, I didn’t know anything else existed. People wake up, go to work, come back, complain, watch TV, fall asleep. Repeat five days a week for the next 40 years. For what? Like that parable Greg talked about recently, so they can live like me when they retire. I’d rather live now.


The Cost

My life under the sun costs me around $1000 per month. It is actually less, but I include around $2500 for ticket and expenses to go back to France for a month each year. Last year, I lived in a beautiful colonial home, surrounded by volcanoes, for $600 all included (with cleaning and landscaping service!). My share was $300, plus $200 for food and daily expenses, leaving around $300 of fun money for the month, and $200 towards my European holiday.

This year will be more expensive with all the repairs and works on the house. Still, over the course of a couple of years, it will cost about the same as renting.

You can live in many countries for a fraction of your current monthly budget. But money is not my only motivation. Here, I can live a life that fits my values. I wanted a simple life, with no stress, close to nature. I wanted a waterfront or mountain property with a stunning view. A rural lifestyle with a few conveniences, like an easy access to a supermarket or wifi internet. Take that “must have list” to any realtor in the US or Europe and he will tell you that you’re looking at a million dollars or more to get to live like that. So yes, money is part of my decision, in order to start living life on my own terms sooner.


It is Your Life, You Set Your Price

I did not win the lottery, nor did I have a trust fund or a six figure job. I saved a lot, kept my eyes on my goal, and achieved it quickly. Every day, when you buy things, they are confirming your life choices. You choose to buy more stuff instead of retiring a week earlier. You choose to work like crazy to pay for that stuff instead of taking some time off work to spend with your family.

In order to be financially independent, I have chosen to live in a cheaper country instead of working for ten more years and maybe one day being able to afford the same house a bit closer to ”home”. Your choices may not be as extreme as mine, but remember that every penny spent is a reiteration of how you decide to live your life.

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  1. I think I could easily make the change like you did Pauline, but I just don’t think my wife would be able to live without her creature comforts.

    I seriously looked into moving to Vietnam a few years back as I would have been an instant millionaire and never needed to work again in my life. Perhaps one day i’ll take the leap, but I don’t think it will be soon.

    1. Wow Vietnam, that would have been quite the change. Expats here feel at home because the culture is relatively similar, it is a Christian country, with a strong US influence… Asia is a whole new world, you have to adapt on everything!

  2. Good post Pauline! This is something we’ve given thought to, once our kids get older. I think if we were to do so now then the grandparents would not be very happy. 🙂

    Great point on life choices. It can be so easy to blame our circumstances on the things around us. But, we need to look at how are spending is and what that says about our priorities.

    1. True, 99% of the time, if you are in debt, you put yourself in that situation. People tend to blame the world, but unless you helps a parent with a big health emergency or something, you dug the whole for yourself and only you can dig out.

  3. Jamie Dickinson says:

    I love reading about your life. It’s everything we want. Just don’t think either of us could give up our family.

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Thank you Jamie! Family is a hard price to pay, although it is a 4 hour flight to the US from Guatemala, and many drive just as much if their families live in another state.

      1. I *think* I could handle it as long as my partner was with me, but I’m not so sure he could hack being away from friends/family.

  4. Justin@TheFrugalPath says:

    You’re right. We are bound by the choices we make and the things we buy. A $500 might seem like only $500 now, but it could mean retiring a few weeks earlier down the road.

    1. Sometimes I check how much is that $500 worth in 20 years at 6% and the result just helps me get over whatever I want to buy right now.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed reading it and really enjoy your blog (I just cannot comment there because the filter on my work computer won’t let me). I admire you for realizing what you wanted to do with your life.
    My wife and I dream of moving abroad for a period of time (we are saving for it now), but want to wait a few more years so our new baby can be a little older and appreciate the experience.

    1. Hi Brian! Thank you for your kind words. I have just changed my theme so maybe your computer will allow comments? Your dream sounds awesome, and it will be an incredible experience for your kid too. I met many families who did the same, it is a bit harder once the kids are of school age because they are uprooted from their friends, 4-6 years old seem to be a great time, and everything is magic to them!

  6. Great post! When we say “yes” with our finances to some things, we are saying “no” to others. Inspired today by your “yes”!

  7. Great post, Pauline! My jaw almost dropped when I read this “I lived in a beautiful colonial home, surrounded by volcanoes, for $600 all included (with cleaning and landscaping service!).” That’s really incredible!

    1. Prices are really low here, add to the rent a full time maid for $200 and you can live like a king! Families relocating here love it because they can spend a lot of time with their kids and the maid will cook and clean for them.

    1. It is all palm trees and sun and heat here, not very Christmassy, I don’t even have red PJs like you! Will probably end up making a table arrangement with palm leaves or something, crafts are a weak spot for me!

  8. Great post. I love hearing about your life in Guatemala. Obviously, it is much cheaper to live there than in the US, but out little tiny town has a pretty lower cost of living than many places and that was a big factor in deciding to live here. It allows us to build wealth sooner. If we lived in the city, it would take much more just to have housing and we’d have more places tempting us to spend money. I can actually see us moving abroad at some point when our daughter is finished with school, or we’ll stay where we are as home base and travel the world!

    1. Cool plan! Many people come here for winter and fly back home in summer. Just like the birds. Looking for a low cost area of living if you don’t mind being away from the big town is an amazing saving already.

  9. It is very true that with every penny we spend, we’re making a choice and expressing what we place value in.

    I’d love to sit on the beach and live for $1,000/month but I don’t think I could make the sacrifice to live away from my family. It’s a lot to give up and relationships with them are extremely important to me.

    1. I hear you Jason. My family is not very big on getting together all the time, and most of my cousins are already spread on five continents. If I had tons of money I’d love to fly back just for the weekend when there is a reunion or a wedding. Nice new logo btw!

  10. Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget says:

    “You choose to work like crazy to pay for that stuff instead of taking some time off work to spend with your family.”

    Quote of the year, Pauline. You might have just inspired a new resolution for my New Year. I really enjoy your perspective.

    1. Thanks Johnny! I have realized early that a wage is just how much money you are willing to get to sacrifice your time sitting in an office. To me it was always about minimizing my time working so I would cover the necessities (hence the need to reduce them), and have lots of free time to do what I love.

  11. dude you’re a writing machine! You’re all over the interwebz! lol! I remember seeing a house hunters international about a couple looking for a place in paris. It’s got to be right up there with NY as far as cost. It’s a great, beautiful city, no doubt, but you seem to live such a relaxed and peaceful life where you’re at now. 🙂

    1. I am on the 5K words per week challenge on Yakezie now, so I have to write! 🙂 With the Euro appreciation, I’d say Paris is more expensive than NY or SF. And you should see the quality of housing, with very old buildings, there is almost no maintenance, or it costs even more. I’m happy just visiting for now!

  12. I love the idea of living in a tropical paradise and enjoy the slower pace. I relocated to Los Angeles from New York about 40 years ago. LA is an expensive place to live, but I did not let that stop me. I saved, invested and managed to turn my investments into a thriving business (income property). You cannot let your circumstance prevent you from succeeding.

    1. No you can’t! With hard work and dedication you can succeed anywhere. I am not afraid of packing my bags tomorrow and leave for another challenge. I try to find destinations that are in accordance to my values and how I want to live my life.

  13. I know my wife would want the same life. I actually told her about you Pauline and she got extremely jealous and envious. No, she wants to work toward a goal of retiring in the mountains, somewhere we both would love to live.

    1. Cool project! You will probably realize on the way that you need less than you think and achieve it even quicker. Tell your wife to come and say hi sometime 🙂

  14. This is awesome – I’ve actually just been offered a job that would have a temporary hiatus in October through to January so my girlfriend and I are pondering just putting the house up for rent and running away for a few months! Seeing other people make big life changes like you are makes me think our goal might just be possible!

    1. It is perfectly possible indeed! If you don’t mind having strangers at your house, you can look into house swapping, easier, but you would be staying at the same location for those months, or renting out, probably more lucrative if you want to go to cheaper countries but you’d have to hope everything goes smoothly with the tenants…

  15. More than once I thought about how I might be the crazy one who willingly goes to work for the next 20-30 years while people like yourself take advantage of the opportunity now while they’re young and can enjoy it! Living under $1000 per month is very amazing.

    1. It is, and it is a good life. I just made a budget for two retirees with a nice little home and a full time maid at $1500 per month. It all depends on your goals really, and what you want out of life. If you are miserable at your job, then you should take action. Otherwise, many people are perfectly content with their lives and jobs.

  16. Now that I am in Canada Pauline I don’t get to travel like I did when I was in the UK. I had up to 7 weeks Holidays sometimes 9 per year and I made use of them. I travelled anywhere I could for cheap just to see the world. You are right and smart and I understand what motivates you. There is an entire world out there but many people get caught up in the luxuries of life. When people want to move to the UK they think LONDON. When people want to move to Canada they think Toronto or Vancouver. All of which are very costly but provide all the get up and go but not the peace you describe of where you are now. Giving up those luxuries for some, like you is like winning the lottery. You don’t have to have money to live a good life as long as you live the life you want to live. Great post mate! Mr.CBB

  17. Thank you Mr CBB! The things is early in life you learn that you have to work and work, to spend and spend, to maybe one day retire. Changing one’s mindset is difficult and there will be plenty of naysayers to tell you to keep working and spending. Until you see people who think otherwise, you can’t really imagine what it would be like. I designed my life and it is certainly not suitable for all, but we all deserve to have the life we dream of.

  18. For me, it’s all about choices. I can stay close to friends and family where I live now and choose to not drive a fancy car, eat out all the time, and still enjoy the fruits of my labor by living within my means and putting the correct value on “stuff”. I don’t have to move to a place where the cost of living is low to have an “awesome life”.

    Yes, you may be able to enjoy retirement earlier, but the sacrifice of being away from family is not worth it to me. Thought provoking post!

    1. Everyone has a range of different values and priorities, for you, family and friends come first. For me, it is living simply in a nice, natural setting, that I would have to work for 20 years to afford next to home. I have plenty of friends here, and my boyfriend, so I am far from alone. When I lived in Paris, I didn’t enjoy my family because everyone was busy and I see about as much of them if not more when I go back once or twice a year.

  19. well goodness gracious — this post makes me reevaluate my whole plan. what’s stopping me from relocating?

    nothing, that’s what.

    1. You seem to have a pretty awesome life other there, surrounded by a loving circle! My post is much about showing people that every day, you make a conscious choice to stay where you are, or look for something better. But in the end, you are the captain of your own life and can live it pretty much as you please!

  20. Man your little piece of paradise is everywhere right now! I think the things you call ‘sacrifices’ are luxuries we fill the void with anyway! Go Pauline!

    1. They weight less in my balance than they do in other people’s I guess. I value free time and independence more than convenience and items.

  21. Great article – sounds like an amazing life style – but how do you save for your retirement?

    1. I don’t expect a government pension from any of the countries I have worked in, but may get something very small when I turn 60. In the meanwhile, I am trying to create sources of passive income what will replace my income when I stop working. I own a couple of other properties that are rented, and will be paid for by then, I also have less traditional investments like cattle or coconut fields that should produce an income with every harvest. You can read more about it on my blog.

  22. Love it. We are starting to develop lists of places that we could call “home” for 6 months – 1 year in retirement. I’m sure the list will evolve as we get there, but it’s nice to keep as a motivation, anyhow.

    1. Nice! What are you options so far to retire away from the mecca of retirement? 🙂

  23. K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    Pauline you are a smart individual. My husband and I are also contemplating an earlier financial independence. Our US/CAD money would go pretty far if we were to build a home back in Trinidad…still weighing out the pros and cons. We really do have a choice, we’re not as stuck as many believe they are. It may take work to get oneself to a point where you are but it can and is being done. Kudos 🙂

    1. Thanks K.K.! If you can afford the house, then finding a job at a lower wage over there could be an option to cover costs for a few years. At least you have options!

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