The Surprising Benefits of Living Abroad

In this issue, I deviate a bit from my usual theme of teamwork and leadership, and focus on lifestyle.

The world has many interesting places to live. Many of them have unique advantages over others and, of course, some disadvantages.

If you consider yourself stuck in the country where you were born, or where your parents took you as a child, you’re limiting your options. 

Here,  I’ll focus on Argentina, my chosen corner of the world. That doesn’t mean you should. Considering the pros and cons of various locations will help you make a great choice.

The world is a big place. Where do you want to live? - credit Pixabay.com
The world is a big place. Where do you want to live? – credit Pixabay.com

While our detail focus here is a little apart from business performance per se, living and working where you’re comfortable is vital to delivering your best results in your every endeavor.

First of all, if you’re happy with where you live, this may be a moot question. You may just want to stay there. As with many things, starting from a “clean slate” can be a valuable way to look at any situation. A clean slate means you start your thinking process from 0 rather than your existing condition. “If I had no established residence, where would I want to establish one?” is quite a different question than “Do I want to pull up stakes where I am and move to a different place in the world?”

As the popular song asks, “Isn’t this world a crazy place?” Most places in the world are undergoing significant changes politically and economically. Five years or ten years from now, the world hegemony, and political and economic climates are likely to be very different from what they are now. To discover where you’re most comfortable in today’s tumultuous world, examining the benefits of living abroad is worthwhile. There are thousands of interesting spots in the world.

What’s most important to you in your living environment? 

Some factors that a move may improve are:

  • People.
  • Personal liberty.
  • Cost of living.
  • Climate, including its extremes.
  • Availability and cost of health care.
  • Infrastructure, including fresh water availability.
  • History of stability – does life there change often?

Later in this article, I’ll discuss these factors more as they apply to Argentina, my chosen spot. 

Cons of Living Abroad

Moving to another country will result in big changes in lifestyle. You’ll need to get accustomed to a new language, currency, climate and customs. This applies even more strongly if you’ve been living in the same place for many years.

Doing the groundwork can reduce the impact of these changes. This means researching all the information you can find. Get connected with people who have lived for some time where you’re considering moving to, including both expats and locals, to get different perspectives. Visit your new candidate in various seasons to experience its climate. This also helps you see the effect of tourist traffic, the business environment, and other non-climate seasonal factors.

Places to Consider

I won’t attempt to provide a list of candidates for you. There are many sources you can use, far more extensive than any list I could compile, where you can learn about places people have found desirable. Here are a few:

These sites focus on different types of environments, some on cities, some on more rural areas, and some on particular continents. A Google search can reveal places having the benefits most important to you of moving to another country.

How I Found Argentina

When I discovered Cafayate, Argentina, in 2010, I wasn’t particularly looking for a new place to live. Since the early 1990s, I had met and gotten to know Doug Casey, the co-founder of La Estancia de Cafayate (LEC), the development where I now live. Doug was an active explorer most of his life, having visited nearly every country in the world. When he decided Argentina was the best place in the world to live, started LEC and began writing about it, I decided to come take a look. I visited LEC for the first time in June 2010 and bought a lot, primarily for investment purposes.

During the next several years, I visited LEC a couple of times a year, met many of my co-investors, and found the development, its inhabitants and the nearby village to be increasingly to my liking.

The Decision to Move

Despite what I said a few lines back about starting from a clean slate, deciding to make an international move, perhaps more than any other lifestyle decision, is a big step. 

To gain the benefit of living in another country, you’ll be leaving behind many familiar people, things and comforts. Considering the positive and negative aspects of a move is a crucial part of the decision-making.

Should I go, or should I stay? It can be a tough decision - credit Pixabay.com
Should I go, or should I stay? It can be a tough decision – credit Pixabay.com

Here’s a link to a spreadsheet I used to consider the pros and cons of my move to Argentina in 2016. You can use something similar to this in making any major decision in life or business. 

Deciding whether to make an international move certainly qualifies as a life-changing decision. The factors to be considered cover a wide spectrum, and a spreadsheet such as this can help clarify the decision. You could further refine it by assigning different weights to various factors. I didn’t do that since it was clear to me it would only have strengthened the case for the move.

FAQs About Moving Abroad

Here’s where I will discuss the factors I listed in the “Top Benefits of Living and Working Abroad” section. I will point out what I consider the most important aspects of these factors as they apply to Argentina. My intent is that this will give you food for thought as to what to consider for any candidate country. If Argentina is on your list, it may be even more helpful. With that said, Argentina is a huge country spanning from the tropics to the polar regions near Antarctica, with attendant variations in climate. What I have to say about climate applies to a very limited region of Salta province in the northwest.

Top Benefits of Living and Working Abroad

People

As a “relationship guy,” this is one of the most important considerations for me. The people in Cafayate are among the most agreeable I’ve met anywhere – very welcoming (since this is a big tourist destination, they’re used to visitors, and their lives depend on tourism) and very warm-hearted. In the 12 years I’ve known the place, I’ve never seen a fight of more than a few heated words or a push.

A camioneta, or pickup truck, often serves as a workers' bus - credit Pixabay.com
A camioneta, or pickup truck, often serves as a workers’ bus – credit Pixabay.com

Besides the local residents, among whom I have many friends, I live among some of the most agreeable foreigners and Argentine vacationers and retirees one could hope for. Most of my closest friends are here, including several well-known personalities from the “hard assets” world – the original source of my interest in this place.

Personal Liberty

Argentina’s government is quite authoritarian, and Buenos Aires, or BA (the capital) residents surely have a very different experience than we do here in the rural northwest, 1000 miles or so from Buenos Aires.

Here, we’re in a town of fewer than 15000 people. The federal government concentrates its mischief in and around BA (where 40% of Argentina’s population live) and hasn’t the resources, competence or interest to affect life here very much. The local government is very unintrusive. I never have the sense that anyone is “looking over my shoulder” or telling me what I must do or may not do.

Cost of Living

Inflation is rampant here, among the highest in the world (about 50% just in the last two months). People with their assets denominated in USDs or Euros find costs 30-50% of what they are in many other parts of the world. Coming from rural NH in the U.S., where costs were lower than in most cities, I still find many things to cost less than 50% of what I was used to.

This is a wine region, and cheap wine is one of the hallmarks of the area. A bottle of nice Malbec, Tannat, or Cabernet Sauvignon costs the equivalent of $3-4 in a liquor store, and most restaurants charge a very reasonable premium (less than 100%) to store prices. Even a “high-priced” premium reserve wine is usually less than $25/bottle.

Vineyards are everywhere you look in this region - credit Pixabay.com
Vineyards are everywhere you look in this region – credit Pixabay.com

Climate, Including its Extremes

Cafayate is located in a high desert valley in the Andes foothills, 5600’ (1700 m.) above sea level. The weather is generally temperate, with high/low temperatures varying between 40/13°C (105/55°F) in the summer and 27/-10°C (80/14°F) in the winter. Humidity is rarely over 70%, even on a cool morning, and can be as low as 5% in the middle of a warm day. We get only around 200mm (about 8”) of rainfall annually, nearly all coming in the late spring, summer and early fall (mid-November through March), and much of it in late-in-the-day thunderstorms. Never any snow, and rarely any precipitation from April through mid-November. We see snowy mountain peaks but never get snow here. High winds in the late afternoon are a constant factor, especially in our development which is situated in the direct outflow of a narrow valley north of us.

Availability and Cost of Health Care

Even in our small town, we have a good hospital, and costs are unbelievably low, largely due to subsidies. Even if it weren’t subsidized, medical professionals and medicine are much less expensive here than in many more developed countries. I had a hernia repair a few years ago, and the total cost, including extras and medications, was about the equivalent of 1500 USD.

My operation was done in our local hospital and probably represented about the limit of what can be done here, except for emergency first-aid. For more involved procedures, one would go to Salta city, the provincial capital (about 3 hours away) or BA.

Infrastructure, Including Fresh Water Availability

We have quite reliable services here, though probably less consistent than most North Americans or Europeans are accustomed to. Utilities are cheap, again largely due to subsidies. Gas comes in bottled form in our area, though piped natural gas is available in some communities.

Internet service is slow – mine is among the best in the area at 15 MBPS download and near 1 MBPS upload with interruptions once or twice a month. We’ve long been promised a fiber-optic feed, and some of the infrastructure is in place but hampered by bottlenecks.

Though we get little rainfall, we have a huge aquifer under the area and high-quality water for any conceivable need is abundant. Many areas, including vast vineyards, are irrigated and green even in a desert environment.

Shopping

Shopping is pretty low on our list of attributes.

Some women have told me they’ve found some nice clothes and accessories. Generally, the choices tend to be slim. A rule everyone follows, whatever you’re looking for: If you see something you like, buy it; it may not be there tomorrow.

That rule especially applies to food. The Argentine palate is generally acclimated to very bland flavors, so if you find something unique that interests you it will likely be in short supply, and it may be a long time til you see it again.

Empanadas are everywhere in Argentina – credit Pixabay.com

Salta City, 3 hours north, has more shopping options. If shopping is important enough to you, you can drive to Salta, fly to BA, and find many choices.

Another resource that’s been improving is Mercado Libre, an online platform similar to Craigslist in the U.S., where you’ll find quite a selection of almost anything if you’re willing to wait a week for it. A limitation is that you must be a resident of Argentina to buy on the site. 

So inveterate shoppers might be disappointed with this area.

History of Stability – Does Life There Change Often?

More to the point, are people resilient to upheavals?

This last item on the list may turn out to be one of the most important in Argentina’s favor. Argentina is currently undergoing major changes as fast as any country in the world. The good news is that these people have seen it all before, roughly once every generation. In the rural pueblo of Cafayate I’ve been familiar with since 2010, and where I’ve lived since 2016, people who’ve known it for generations (including expats as well as locals) report that through economic ups and downs, political upheaval, etc., life goes on pretty much on an even keel here.

Suppose major upheaval comes to the U.S. or another country that’s been relatively stable for a generation or more. In that case, that will probably be a much more significant upset to the comfort of life than it will be here where people just expect it.

Is it worth your while to explore the benefits of living and working abroad? That depends on you at this moment. Ten years ago, the possibility seemed remote to me if I even thought about it as an option.  It’s resulted in a lifestyle that suits me to a tee.

While I’m not an expert on many destinations, I consider myself fortunate to have found a place that suits me very well. Every day, I thank Doug Casey for leading me here. I’m not enough of an explorer to have found it without his guidance.

The topic of living in a new country fascinates me. If this conversation catches your interest, I’d love to help you in any way I can with your exploration of the benefits of living abroad. If you’d like to learn more, go to www.unitycopywriting.com/lets-talk and schedule a time that’s convenient for you to talk about it.

Enjoy life wherever you are!

Note: Archived issues of The Unity Community are available here. Search that page for keywords representing your particular interest. Most articles offer suggestions for ways of improving business and personal relationships. Keep in mind that business is done by…people. Every business concern is essentially an inter-personal concern. 

A “Shot in the Arm” Every Day!

Eric Lofholm, my friend, mentor and sales coach, hosts a 15-minute motivational call every business day.  The call is at 7:45 AM Pacific time. Register for it here. You’ll find instructions on how to join the call on Facebook, Zoom, by phone, or in a recording you can access on your schedule. 

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