Untether Yourself is the title of the free e-book I recently released. (If you missed its release, you can grab your copy here.) But what does the untethered expat life mean?
- the freedom to travel constantly, flitting from place to place and exploring all the world has to offer?
- the opportunity to live on a tropical beach soaking up the sun?
- the ability to live where you want but travel back to your native land whenever you want to visit friends and family?
- simply a move from one place to another, where you’ll settle yourself and put down roots?
The untethered life can be all of these or none of these – it’s entirely up to you.
Nomadic Matt travels all the time. I just noticed, while writing this, that the tag line of his blog is “Life Untethered.”
Melinda and Robert Blanchard chronicled their move from Vermont to a Caribbean island in A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean.
All these are examples of the untethered expat life.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, the untethered expat life probably doesn’t mean doing whatever you want, exactly when you want, with no advance preparation. Unless you’re very young with boundless energy, it probably doesn’t mean just plunging ahead and going wherever the whim takes you either.
I can’t tell you what it should mean to you, but here’s what it means to me.
My husband and I are not independently wealthy. On the contrary, thanks to the economic meltdown last year, our retirement savings are gone. We had counted on our house appreciating in value as part of our retirement, and that’s gone, too. We have to earn an income to support ourselves.
We’re close to retirement age. We hope like hell the US doesn’t turn its back on our generation and destroy Social Security. After all, we’ve contributed to that system all our working lives and as things stand now, it would be our only retirement income. But we’re not counting on Social Security being there for us.
To live an untethered life, I need to earn a living in a way that’s not attached to any specific location. For me, that means online, through writing and blogging. My husband isn’t so sure. He thought for a while about teaching English as a second language, and may still do that, but he’s considering other avenues as well.
We would like to be able to travel back to the US a couple of times a year to see family and friends. I’d also like to do some traveling in other parts of the world that we haven’t yet seen. To do that, we’ll need to work and save.
Where to Live
Wherever we live, it has to be affordable – and for us, that means cheap. So we’re focusing on countries where it’s possible to live on a Social Security income. (Even if it’s not there for us, it gives us a guideline for “cheap.”)
Health care must be of decent quality, and affordable.
We need to be able to take our dogs. (We have three adorable Papillons.)
The language should be English or Spanish.
It should be someplace our kids feel comfortable visiting.
The climate is warm year-round.
My ideal is a small or medium-sized city with walkable neighborhoods and lots to do. I would not be happy out in the country.
I love the mountains, but don’t want a high elevation because it gets too cold. “Year-round springlike temperatures” are not my idea of a good time. Close to the coast would be nice, but not at the beach.
Since we don’t have the financial resources to travel to a lot of different places before we find our ideal location, we’ll spend the first few years as nomads. We’ll rent a few months someplace and then move on.
Eventually, though, I’d like to settle somewhere and put down some roots. While I admire those who can feel at home when they unpack their favorite coffee mug and sit back with a good book, I’m not one of them. I’m happiest when I’m grounded in a specific place.
It’s a State of Mind
Most importantly, being an untethered expat is a state of mind. It’s a place where
… you are firmly grounded in reality, but allow your vision of what your life could be to soar.
… you recognize what’s important to you, and focus on that while cutting away all the clutter.
… you explore new possibilities, unafraid.
… you’re open to new experiences and adventures.
… you can laugh at yourself when something doesn’t go quite right.
… you can find enjoyment in the little things.
What Does the Untethered Expat Life Mean to You?
It will probably take you some time and effort to figure out. You’ll need to be realistic about your financial situation and how you might change it if need be. You’ll have to decide what’s really important to you and what’s not.
It’s a process, and sometimes a long one. (Five years is the average length of time someone thinks about expatriating before actually taking the plunge.)
Once you define the untethered expat life for yourself, you’ll have the world at your feet.
What does the untethered life look like to you? Do you know where you want to live? How did you decide? If you’re reading this online you can leave a Comment below.