If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to a country where life is considerably cheaper than where you are now, you should read Tim Leffel’s book, A Better Life for Half the Price, now in its 2nd edition. Travel writer, author and experienced expat Tim Leffel has identified 19 countries where this is possible for people currently living in expensive countries like the US and the UK. One of them is Portugal.
Through his book and additional guides and coaching sessions, Tim aims to help you decide whether or not you’re ready for expat life and how to choose a suitable place to live. Drawing upon his own experience, extensive research and the stories and experiences of other expats living in the 19 selected destinations, he provides enough information to get you started on your rat race escape plan.
As one of the expats in Portugal that Tim interviewed to gain insights into the pros and cons of living here and the costs involved, I was keen to read the whole book. Especially the Portugal section.
I moved country four times in the space of 5 years so I’m familiar with both the perks and the challenges of relocating and starting a new life in a different culture. What I especially like about A Better Life for Half the Price is that it deals with both of these and doesn’t just gloss over the potential difficulties that lie ahead for wannabe expats.
Despite the premise of the book being to help you find a country where your money goes further, Tim makes it clear that there’s more to moving abroad than saving money or drinking sangria by a pool. In fact, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to making you question whether or not you’re really cut out for living away from your comfort zone, whether that be easy access to friends and family, food that doesn’t turn your stomach or systems and laws that don’t make you weep with frustration.
“It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but those who can adapt to a changing environment.” – Tim Leffel
When every day is different and you are constantly learning new ways of doing things, life can be exciting and fascinating but also exhausting. Some days are like wading through warm tar. Anything involving official paperwork is likely to involve repeat trips with extra documents and seemingly illogical, frustrating delays and complications.
Even simple tasks like doing the weekly shop or paying a bill can take twice as long, if not more. I lost a lot of weight when I lived in Caracas because I ended up dreading the supermarket checkouts. For some reason I never managed to understand, it would inevitably take about an hour to pay for my groceries, even with only one customer in front of me. Venezuela was definitely not the right place for me to live for numerous reasons and I left after a year.
“Finding the right place to live is almost as complex as finding the right mate.” – Tim Leffel
There may be success stories of people who went on holiday and fell so in love with the place that they bought a house and upped sticks to their dream destination, living happily ever after. Neither Tim nor I would recommend doing that. Again, one of the strongest messages in the book is the importance of trying before buying.
Although it may sound obvious, there’s a huge difference to the way you’ll experience and feel about a place when you live there as opposed to taking time out from your normal life to relax and have fun for a couple of weeks. The weather might be glorious while you’re sunning yourself on a beach in June but if you’re planning to live there year-round, you need to consider how you’ll cope with potentially unpleasant weather extremes.
To get a more realistic picture of what it’s like to live in the country, Tim advocates renting a property in a residential area for an extended period. Once there, use the local shops and services, hang out in public spaces and ask other expats what they struggle with. Current expats are a great resource when you’re researching and evaluating a destination so if you can’t track any down in person, find online forums and Facebook groups where you can ask questions and gauge problematic areas.
During your trial period, and especially before committing yourself by buying property, Tim suggests asking locals about crime and safety in the neighbourhood. I agree. I popped into a local police station during a house-hunting trip to Lisbon and got some very candid advice from an officer about the area I was considering. I had got carried away with dreams and the potential for a particular apartment which was blinding me to the realities of a rather run down part of the city. Talking to him helped remove the rose-tinted glasses and I made the sensible decision not to buy there.
“It’s hard to really know if a place is going to be right for you without doing two things: inner soul searching and exterior evaluation.” – Tim Leffel
The soul searching involves being honest with yourself, and your partner if you’re moving as a couple, about what’s really important to you and what you can and can’t live without. Even if that makes you seem less adventurous or even a little shallow, it’s better to admit and deal with your needs, fears and concerns before making a costly move that could destroy your relationship or make you miserable.
If, after reading about the reasons why moving abroad isn’t for everyone, you still want to give it a go, A Better Life for Half the Price, 2nd Edition can help you narrow down your options. In fact, Tim has already made your life easier by giving you 19 countries with the potential for halving your living costs without a drop in living standards where the economical, political and cultural aspects of the country are not prohibitively challenging.
Even if you don’t fancy any of them, you can use the book as a guide to the kind of information you should be gathering about any destination you have in mind.
If you’ve already got your heart set on relocating to Portugal, read these points to consider first.
As Tim points out, you’ll still need to do more research once you’ve chosen a country but he describes the pros and cons of living in 19 different places. Each country chapter discusses the cost of living, the potential for working there and the visa situation, peppered with anecdotes and advice from expats.
Get extra bonuses and support for planning to move abroad
Knowing that some people will appreciate support and guidance beyond what the book offers, Tim has created three different packages to suit different levels of interest. If you just want to read the book, you’ll get a couple of extra free bonuses thrown in. If you need more help, you can choose from having access to group support and additional expat advice or one to one coaching sessions to help you decide if and where you should move.
The book is also available to buy on Amazon.
Click on the image to find out more about the book and the packages available to help you find A Better Life for Half the Price.