Updated: Feb 27
The prospect of leaving one's native country to live abroad may seem daunting to many and maybe even a bit frightening. But, for myself and others around the world with an adventurous spirit and a willingness and desire to embrace the differences of a new country and culture, living abroad can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience to say the least.
It is natural to fear the unknown. So, when it comes to embarking on an adventure as life-changing as moving to another country, above all else it is important to do your research before making such a large leap. There are many sources of information on probably every location in the world at our fingertips with a simple Google search.
But, after exhausting this source (not likely) or at least having enough information to plan further, it is a good idea to visit for a few weeks or even a few months before making the full more permanent move. Even if your planned retirement location is on the other side of the world, or maybe especially in this case, it is critical to get a feel for a place only possible by being there for an extended period of time. Better to get a boots-on-the-ground view of a place, before making such a large leap.
With the proper planning, research and forethought, my permanent transition from New York City to Medellin, Colombia has been virtually seamless. Mind you, I have been visiting Colombia for 2-3 weeks since 2003! It was not a decision made off-the-cuff. And of course, nothing other than one's own personal resources, prevent a person from returning for vacations to their home.
Although I had a basic understanding of the Spanish language before moving to Medellin, being forced to speak it for a period of a few months has most definitely helped me improve quickly and give me more confidence. But, unlike many other places in the world which are tourist destinations, Medellin is still one of the places where you cannot expect those in even tourist-related jobs to speak English. I look at it this way though, it's all an adventure and learning the language is just a part of the greater adventure and was part of the plan from the beginning for me. Much more study prior to arrival would have saved me some frustration though. Lesson learned. So, consider laying the foundation for communication in the native language of your chosen country.
One of the more difficult aspects of living in Medellin I have discovered, has been learning the best places to shop. Clothes, restaurants, groceries, and the odd item are not as easy to find here as in the USA. You cannot just go on amazon.com and order anything and have it delivered the same or next day. It has become easier though to actually have Amazon deliver to Colombia.
Slowly but surely I have starting to understand the best locations for my needs. It only took a little trial and error, and occasionally asking my new expat or local friends for assistance and information. This will most likely be the same issue one must overcome in most other countries as well, even European ones.
What does help though is not expecting to find the same things here as in the USA, but trying new things instead. There are going to be things you miss for sure and you will have to find a way to get them if it is so important to you. One friend recently asked me to bring back a large jar of Hellmann's Mayonnaise from my recent quick trip to Tampa Bay. Everyone misses something they had become accustomed to in their native country.
Transportation and getting around the area is another adjustment for me. It is really not possible to have a normal life in many other places without a car or other form of transportation. But, here in Medellin as in New York City and other large metropolitan cities, public and private transportation is plentiful. Much cheaper in Medellin than the aforementioned city as well. There are of course taxis and the usual services accessible via an app like Uber. Although Uber is a bit suspect here at the moment. Drivers insist you sit in the front to make it not so obvious they are an Uber driver. I'm told the reason is because of the "taxi mafia" and they don't want problems.
There are also very good modes of public transportation such as buses and even a suspended cable system (Metro Cable) with which I am just now becoming more familiar. I have not ventured out of my area of Poblado as much as I would like yet though. I still need to visit all the other areas of Medellin. But, I enjoy visiting the nearby cities of Sabaneta and Envigado, which to me have more of what I wanted when I moved here, a small-town feel. For this reason, I'll probably end up moving at the end of my current apartment lease.
The biggest positive here so far has been the people of Medellin who are most definitely very friendly and inviting and it is not difficult to make friends. Getting involved in social groups is highly advised if you are going to be living in a foreign city. Although it is prudent as in any other large city, to be wary and never be too trusting of anyone who is a little too eager to be your friend; it is a red flag for sure.
No matter your age, get out there and explore our beautiful world!
Feel free to leave your questions or comments.