Expat Magazine

Moving Abroad: from Desire to Decision

By Ovid @OvidPerl
Many of my readers would love to live in a different country. However, having a desire to move abroad and deciding to do so are not the same thing. Today's guest post is from San Francisco psychologist Dr. Bill Perry, explaining his path to making this decision. He and I have been swapping email about his he decision to another country. He has many of the basic details worked out and it's been great watching him go through the process. At 55 years old, he shows that it's "not too late" to move abroad.
Good luck to you Bill!

Moving abroad: from desire to decision

Dr. Bill Perry in Peru
Photo courtesy Dr. Bill Perry

When I was a child every day had to be different - Different people, different games, different ways to get places. I’ve never been one for monotony and drubbery, and this penchant of mine has on occasion gotten me into trouble, but I would never take it back. When I was growing up the men worked the same jobs for 30 years and collected their pensions, the women stayed at home, and both ended up retiring to Florida, the most they would consider an adventure for themselves. Now if you are one of those please do not take offense - I mean none of this in the pejorative. I’m just describing myself and my own personality style.
School was exciting - lots of adventures, and so was work after grad school. With my psychology degree I worked in several places with different clientele and the differences kept me interested and excited. I finally settled into a private practice. In one office. I have been in that office for 20 plus years, and I am long due for a change. I suffer, my patients suffer, and those I could be helping elsewhere suffer by my unhappiness and lack of enthusiasm. My time to leave is long overdue. But where? When? And most importantly how? One step at a time, Bill, one step at a time. First comes the decision to leave. The rest comes later. It’s a big world.
I don’t hate the U.S., in fact I am proud to be an American. I just don’t like it anymore. This is a big difference that most people don’t understand. I can even see palpable anger when I tell them I’m tired of life here and want to live in another country, as if I were some kind of traitor, or at the very least an ingrate. I am neither. I am a normal guy, defects and all, probably like most of you. And I am tired: Tired of sitting in the same office for twenty years, tired of listening to the same stories over and over, and tired of knowing exactly what I’m going to do from one dreary hour to the next. I realize that I am serving nobody by staying, and so I must go.
I have no beefs against my country - It has treated me well and I am very grateful to it for that. But like many relationships, it has come time to say goodbye. We are no longer lovers, no longer excited at the sight and touch of one another. We have nothing to say to each other any more. I am 55 years young, and I want a new life, and one awaits me. Any sooner and I wouldn’t have been ready. Any later will be too late.
Now here is where some of you will come in with the expected and tired old “But wherever you go there you are,” or “You take all your problems with you,” ad nauseum. No. No, no, no. Perhaps if this were an impulsive decision, or a reaction to a specific event like a bad marriage, but this idea has been with me for over ten years, percolating. I analyze people for a living, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, and I am well-aware that I am one package with all my neuroses. That does NOT mean that a change in venue won’t make my life better. In fact, I just may find new passion for old things, like my work, which I have devoted my life to.
I don’t know where it will be yet, and guess what? That’s not important right now. The first item of business is to decide you are going to leave. It is said that when you change the fixed points in your life, like rocks in a river, the flow changes, so all I need to do is change those points and my life will alter its course to flow around them. If I put one foot in front of the other and take the next indicated action then change will follow. The results are none of my business right now. Where and how comes later, and in the grand scheme of things really doesn’t matter very much. As my therapist wisely pointed out - I can go through a lot of anxiety making the change, or spend the rest of my life regretting that I didn’t. The act of leaving, of starting fresh somewhere else, is more important than the specific location I end up in.
I wanted Lima, because of familiarity - I have been there many times. I wanted Thailand because it is exotic and there isn’t a need that would be left unmet. It appears, at least of this writing, that I have settled on Panama, because I can most likely continue my work, in a different atmosphere, with different people. And if that doesn’t work out I can always go somewhere else.
Money, you may say, is a problem. But remember that a dollar here is like ten in most other places. A little gets you a long way. I can afford to live a year with no income (although I wouldn’t want to) and I imagine that you could too. It is fear, not inability, that holds us back. I believe that the universe really does conspire to make us happy. I have never heard of anyone who left here with a halfway decent plan and ended up broke and homeless in another country. Perhaps you’ll find a new career, a new type of job. Perhaps you’ll come back, realizing you had to try it and satisfied that you did. But if you never try you’ll always wish you had, and spend the rest of your life wishing you had.
So first is the desire to leave. Second is the commitment to leave. I have done both, and the only thing holding me back is fear - the greatest enemy of change. If you are unhappy where you are then you gotta just walk through that fear and face the unknown. If I was 30 I wouldn’t think twice about it, so why not at 50, or 60?
Twenty years ago I subrented a four-hour block of time in another therapist’s office and started with one patient. I wondered how I was going to live, to support myself. But then came patient #2, then 3, and so on. At the risk of waxing spiritual I always felt taken care of. So here I am twenty years later. All I have to do is the same thing again. The evidence is already in that I can do it. I bet yours is too. So it is not necessarily a matter of doing something new - Just something again that you haven’t done in awhile.
Fear is the greatest enemy of change, and regret the most dismal consequence. Remember that courage is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to act in spite of it. Go for it. Like the commercial says: “Jut Do It.” All you have to do is click your heels together three times. Really. It is that simple. Not easy, but simple.
As for me, I have a few details to work out but I have nothing keeping me here. I don’t need to be rich, just able to get by fairly well. I will be gone by the end of Fall, and I promise to keep you posted..
Happy Trails

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