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Be Careful What You Wish For - 01/23/2021

I have always fantasized about moving to another country and living there for a while. Not forever, but for a couple of years or so, just enough to become fluent in the local language and regain an appreciation for all the good things that life in the USA has to offer. That desire has remained mostly wishful thinking, although I did seriously entertain the idea of moving to France after I graduated from the Owen School of Business at Vanderbilt with an MBA in 1992. I went to Paris alone for three weeks, studied French in L'Alliance Francais, and met several friends of friends who I questioned extensively about life in Paris, particularly as a single American woman not yet fluent in French. Enough women warned me about sexual harassment at work and the difficulties of breaking into Parisian social circles to put me off the idea, and I moved to New Jersey instead. I put the idea of a foreign move out of my head for 25 years, and it has remained wishful thinking. Until now.

During the run-up to the election, I became pretty fearful about the political divisions in the US and what might happen in DC, no matter the outcome of the election. As it turned out, my fears were justified. But I didn't know that at the time. I just knew that I no longer had any real ties to the US in areas that the climate was conducive to living with Lupus and that were affordable on Social Security Disability Insurance and my Nortel Networks pension. With my current lifestyle, I need to work about 20 hours a week to earn enough to cover everything, with a little set aside for emergencies. But I still want to travel - I haven't been able to afford to go anywhere internationally in many years, and I miss it. So I either need to substantially reduce my expenses here, probably by moving downtown, maybe selling my car, and moving to a smaller apartment, or I need to move to a place that cuts my expenses in half. Tucson is already has a pretty low cost of living in the US, and I don't really like the idea of moving to a smaller town to save money. But there are many places outside the US that are inexpensive havens for foreign retirees. So I started doing some investigating. There are several sites for ex-pats on the Internet, and a few companies that specialize in overseas retirement. I knew I would need a place with a climate similar to that of Tucson, due to my health issues, and I wanted to live within an easy flight from my family in Florida. Of course, safe, cheap, and close to other countries that I would like to visit were also factors. It turned out that the best country for all these concerns turned out to be Ecuador.

Since the election went the way I hoped it would, I don't feel a great sense of urgency to leave the US any more. But I do need something to challenge me. My writing is fun and cathartic for me, but I certainly don't reach a wide audience, which is always disappointing. I can't seem to get a proposal together for my book, probably because I am nervous about the idea of putting a memoir out for publication - it's all true, or at least my version of the truth, and some people are going to be hurt if it gets published. My jobs are not fulfilling, at least not intellectually. I used to love being a substitute teacher, but so much of the classes are taught via Zoom now that the in-class experience is reduced to being a mask monitor and social distance enforcer for the kids. It's so boring I can barely stay awake in class. Delivering meals feels good because I know it is like doing a good deed for my customers - it makes them happy. Being a senior caregiver is similar - I do chores and run errands for them, and it makes their life easier. But it doesn't stimulate the left side of my brain. In short, I am bored. So I put a post out a few weeks ago on the ex-pat site for Ecuador about investigating moving down there, and asked for input from those who had done it. And this week, a couple contacted me, wanting to know if I would be interested in discussing the home that they own in Playas, a beach town with a desert climate, for possible rental beginning this summer. We met today, they were lovely, and they invited me to come down for a couple of weeks in March, rent-free, to determine whether I even like Ecuador. This is a hard offer to decline.

But I am torn. This couple has suddenly taken my wishful thinking into the realm of the possible. They offered to introduce me into the ex-pat community there and help me with the red tape required to become a resident, if that is what I want. I'm just not sure what I want any more. I am no longer young, and I know this is probably my last big do-over before I have to move into a retirement home. I'm not sure if my health is even up to this. I do know that based on what I have read, and what they told me, I would probably not have to work there and would have plenty of money to lead a very nice life, perhaps even in their ocean-front six-bedroom home. I've been studying Spanish for nearly two years, and although I'm not fluent yet I'm getting much more comfortable with the language, and I'm sure an extended stay in South America would allow me to become conversant in Spanish. Ecuador is close to many interesting countries that I have never visited (although I have been to Argentina and Venezuela), so it would be cheap and easy to travel in South America with Ecuador as my home base. And I can even take Timmy if I decide to go there long-term. But it is scary and feels almost overwhelming.

The thing is, though - one of my good friends just got told by his doctor that he probably has less than six months to live. He is only 67, five years older than me. I never expected to live this long with Lupus, but my health is surprisingly not too bad since I have been living here in Tucson. I figure I have from two to eight more years that I can work and travel solo. And like Bon Jovi sings, "I just wanna live while I'm alive." I want to challenge myself. I want to wake up from my 20-year nap since I retired, and get back out into the world, on the edge where it's just a little uncomfortable. I think maybe I have been comfortable for too long. At the very least, I think I will take this couple up on their offer and go to Ecuador in March. I may not like it, and if I don't then I can always put this idea of immigrating back on the shelf. But if I like it, I'll need to get busy planning a new life, at least for the next few years. I've always believed that life should be a grand adventure, or nothing. I think it is time for my next grand adventure!

#ExPat #L'allianceFrancais #Playas #Ecuador #GrandAdventure

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