Should I Stay or Should I Go?

A review of the book by Paul Allen

Paul Allen is a British expat journalist living in Spain. I was fascinated by his book, The Truth About Moving Abroad and Whether It’s Right for You: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
because it’s the first I’ve read about expatriation from a non-US-centric perspective.

Allen provides information and insight to help would-be expats make a decision about whether expatriation is right for them. He asks:

“The question is, will you be among the millions of people around the world who are uprooting their lives in search of a better one elsewhere? Are you going to be one of those who make their pool-side fantasy a reality?

“It is certainly not as hard as it might seem to the many people who feel trapped by their jobs, finances, family, or whatever other reasons you care to name. What it does take, though, is a concrete decision followed by decisive action.

“Which is where most people’s dreams fade into nothing. For whereas the various survey results suggest there are millions of Americans, Brits, Kiwis, Canadians and whoever else saying they are keen to move overseas, a relatively small percent do make the jump every year.”

For all you numbers people, Allen provides lots of data. The book is chock full of statistics and country rankings in several categories such as happiness, quality of life, healthcare, environment, climate and cost of living.

For those of us whose eyes glaze over at the sight of tables and charts, he gives us stories about individual expat experiences.

He focuses on the countries which are among the top expat destinations worldwide, and discusses their pluses and minuses.

And he poses lots of questions for us to answer. Some are predictable, others less so. Almost all require some real thought.

“So consider. Does improving your quality of life mean you absolutely must move elsewhere? Or is it more about re-prioritising your lifestyle where you are now to make room for your dreams?

“Sometimes change is a great thing. Other times it can merely turn out to be a switch of scenery.”

Allen presents information about language, culture, earning a living, schooling for the kids and asks questions about all of them. Then he arrives at families.

“The most important factor preventing [survey] respondents from emigrating overseas was that their family and friends remained in the UK — a consideration cited by 43% of the survey’s participants.

“In the final analysis, though, you must ask yourself — and I really mean search your heart — how much of a wrench will it be to put distance between yourself and your existing social network?

“Do not gloss over these questions. The answers are likely to be the biggest single factor in the success of your venture.”

Allen asks us to consider one final questions: what will we think about our lives when, at the age of 90, we look back. Will we have regrets? Wonderful memories? Will we feel unfulfilled, dull, or lifeless?

Different Perspectives on Distance

As someone who has moved across the US, some of the issues he raises seem rather ho-hum. I currently live 1,200-1,400 miles away from my mother and three of my kids, and 2,500 away from a fourth. The last one will be joining the 1,200-mile club in a couple of weeks.

Since we’re already a plane ride away, it doesn’t matter a whole lot to me whether the plane takes off from Florida or Panama. For a European, though, 1,200 miles is almost the distance from Paris to Moscow (1,500 miles, actually).

And on the flip side, members of my family are more concerned about the possibility of our moving to Mexico (about 2,000 miles from where we are now) than they would be if we moved to California (2,500-plus miles).

Worth a Read

If you’ve been considering moving abroad but you’re not sure yet, Should I Stay or Should I Go? can provide lots of helpful information and help you to make the decision that’s right for you.

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Have you wrestled with the question of whether you should stay or go? What did you decide? How has it worked out for you? You can comment below.


  1. I think for the British, moving to another country is about like moving to another state in terms of distance, so it’s not so hard to get back home for a visit. Of course, it’s more difficult in terms of different languages and laws. But for Americans moving abroad, the distances are often so vast (and cost of traveling so high) that you don’t get home (unless you’re lucky enough to have someone else like a corporate employer paying for it), particularly if moving to Africa or Asia, or the Middle East. Moving to Canada or Mexico is much closer to home.

  2. At present, the cost to fly back to the US from Mexico or Panama is very little more than the cost to fly from Florida to the Northeast, where most of my family is located. . . Our hope is that, with a much lower cost of living, we’ll end up with more disposable income for said travel.

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