You’ve only got so much time left on this planet, right? Let’s be optimistic and say you’ve got twenty years. That’s about seven thousand days. Not an insignificant number, but a finite one, right?
What matters most is how you spend those seven thousand days.
If your basic needs are being met, then you can focus on the finer things, treating those you love well, with generosity and dignity, and having fun. You can treat others well and enjoy life anywhere, but in some places it will be easier. It’s hard to be gracious and generous when you feel under the gun. It’s hard to be relaxed when you feel that there’s not enough to go around and you’re not likely to get all you need. It’s hard to be a champion of others when you’re trying to hold onto the little you have.
One day you hear about some friends of yours who have moved to some little country you never thought much about. It’s thousands of miles away, they don’t speak English there, but your friends are enjoying themselves and they invite you to visit. You can’t, because you’re up to your ears in debt, just trying to hang on until…until…well, you haven’t got that part figured out yet. You imagine it will come to you, eventually, maybe along with a stroke of good luck, like winning the lottery or a mysterious and unexpected inheritance.
Three years go by, and you’ve lost a thousand of those seven thousand days. Your situation hasn’t improved. Your doctor has you on five different medications, and has informed you that you should expect to remain of them for the rest of your life. One or more of your kids is having chronic problems and you’re afraid to move too far away, in case they need you.
Meanwhile, quite a few of your childhood friends are dying. You find out via social networks. You’ve lost touch with them, because nobody stays in one place anymore, and you realize it’s only a matter of time before your name is the subject of such a flurry of correspondence. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls…
So how do you make the leap? When do you dare to rock your own boat so violently as to throw yourself onto a foreign shore?
You can actually do it quite quickly, in a matter of weeks. It’s easiest to sell most of your stuff at a garage sale, and in temperate climates those happen in the spring and early summer. Don’t be afraid to sell at a loss, just sell.
After you get rid of most of your posessions, you’ll end up with a certain number of plastic tubs full of photo albums, random pictures, kids drawings, and other personal mementos. Rent the smallest possible storage unit in the most out of the way place you can find and place those tubs inside. Use the garage sale money to pay the rent a year in advance.
Get a post office box. Pay the rent on that a year in advance. Give the key to someone who will check on it every month or two. Remember, you can do your banking and bill paying online. You can also pay property taxes online. You can sell vehicles remotely, signing scanned documents and then rescanning them and emailing them back.
In my case, I did all this and moved from Iowa to Thailand. I thought I’d be back within a few months, but now I’m coming up on a year gone and I still have no reason to spring for a return plane ticket. I’ve told my kids I’d love to see them, and will buy a ticket the moment they want to come visit, but so far they haven’t asked.
In the time that I’ve been gone, I sold my car and my motorcycle, paid my property taxes on some rental property I unwisely bought just before the crash of 2008, and in general, thanks to the Internet, conduct my affairs a lot like I did back in the States. You could, too.
Sure, if I had to do it over again, I would have taken care of a great number of loose threads that are still dangling back in the States, but I don’t lose sleep over them. They’ll work themselves out, eventually.