Welcome to my attempt at simplifying a HUGE life decision, it isn’t simple. There’re loads of factors to consider before squeezing every possession you own into a bag, and saying ‘ta ta everyone, see you when I see you’. As I celebrate my 12th year since leaving my home, I can honestly say the hardest part was DECIDING to go. Once you arrive in your Happy Place, if you’re determined yet flexible, open-hearted yet strong-willed, things will go your way.
There are a few factors for me, and I’m going to list them below. The first thing that needs to be said is that we are ALL different. Sitting on a plastic chair on the side of a main road, with a beer in my hand and spicy noodle soup dribbling down my chin is my idea of a perfect dinner. Whereas other people prefer matching restaurant furniture, and no chance of being soaked by a 4-wheel drive flying through a puddle. Each to their own, but here is my list:
This is an absolute deal-breaker for me. I grew up on the Pennines in Yorkshire. If you don’t know where that is, don’t worry, I’ll paint you a picture. Just imagine a place where the sun shines 3 days a year, add in a nice, constant breeze of around 38mph, a blanket of pissing rain 10 months out of 12 and you’ve got it. I think it was when I went to Spain for the first time at 7 years old, that I realised my natural skin colour isn’t actually light blue with a hint of purple. From that life-changing holiday onwards, I’ve known I belong in the sun.
I think I feel the cold differently to everyone else, I may be half reptile. I certainly can’t function in temperatures of less than 25c anymore. Again this sounds like a sweaty hell for some people and I know many who can’t handle the heat. So do your research, what is your most comfortable habitat? Come join me in the jungle if you’re part-gecko, like me. If not, I hear Scotland is nice this time of year.
Oh Brits abroad, what a cultured bunch we are. I love nothing more than to see a load of lads from Manchester in the Maltese summer, glowing pink, cuddling each other and singing '3 Lions on a Shirt'. This may be how one behaves whilst on a week's holiday, but when you live in a place, you have to become part of your environment a little. This might mean learning a new language, covering your shoulders and legs in certain areas or honouring certain religious holidays that are not your own.
Your Happy Place will be somewhere that not only makes you feel comfortable, but also where you feel happy to change a little for that Happy Place. So if you absolutely insist on wearing hot pants once the thermometer tips 30c, then you probably shouldn’t move to Saudi Arabia, that sort of thing.
‘Culture’ is such a vague term, it includes religion, social habits, festivities, language, arts, music, attitudes, clothes, institutions and so on and so on. The only real way to find out if you like the culture of a place is to go and live it for a while. If you feel in the right place, if your soul feels happy, if you’ve met like-minded people living there, then maybe it’s the place for you.
I’m English, and as we all know, English food does not have the greatest reputation on Earth. Shame really as I used to love digging into a roast beef dinner, or stuffing my face with a pork pie. Until I realised that eating dead animals is cruel and inhumane and became a vegetarian, but that’s another post...
Food is so important to life. Choose a place where the food is fresh and abundant and to your liking. Bear in mind that you will have to eat it for a few years, this is one thing I didn’t contemplate before moving to Malta. I’m so up to my eyeballs in pizza and pasta right now that I would swap my daughter for a pad thai from a street stall. If I see one more bruschetta I may have to use it as a tissue to mop up my tears of despair…but I digress. Please choose your future home with this factor in mind. If you don’t like spicy food, don’t move to Mexico, if you don’t like potatoes, don’t move to Ireland.
Joking aside, food is the thing that nourishes you, the centre of a night out to enjoy with your friends, the aroma you will smell in the streets as you walk around your new abode. Don’t ignore this point.
This is my favourite restaurant in the world, The Fisherman’s restaurant on beautiful Koh Phangan. Amazing food and even better people. I miss you!!
I hate feeling skint, like anyone I guess. I never feel wanted in a place where I can’t afford to do the things I enjoy. All this is relative of course, but my team (me, my hubby and our curly-haired toddler), want to live somewhere where we feel financially comfortable, and where the lifestyle reflects the price.
For example, in Cambodia we can happily sit in a beach bar from lunch till dark, eating and drinking, knowing that whatever the bill, it’s not going to batter our budget. Let’s shoot over to the UK and try out a similar scenario; for the same money we’d be lucky to get a couple of pints each and a bag scampi fries! This inevitably means spending more time at home, which brings me onto rent…
Rental is of course always a massive part of the budget. But what I’ve realised is that the importance of a house, or at least a ‘nice’ house, differs from country to country. If you’re moving somewhere in northern Europe, your house is an integral part of your life because you’re going to spend more time in it. The weather is colder, it’s more of an indoor lifestyle, and therefore you want to have a decent amount of space and comfortable furnishings. If you decide to move somewhere a little closer to the equator, your house becomes something a little different. Living in a hot or tropical climate means you are outside most of the time. The home becomes a place to shower and sleep, to make your breakfast and to hang out on the balcony. These things must be taken into account when finding your new Happy Place, as well as, how are you going to make money?
Maybe you’re retired, or have a steady business already. If not, there are plenty of options for work around the world. The most flexible lifestyle is working online and many people do it very successfully. Online teaching, blogging, data inputting, proof reading, freelance writing; all are there to be had and all can serve for a decent life. Then there is the usual bar work, call-centre work, shop-assistant jobs; you just have to feel that your lifestyle is proportional to the work that you’re doing.
Are you ready to find your Happy Place?
If you want to find your way into another culture, country and lifestyle, you have to be realistic. We live a really simple life and are much happier than when we were on good salaries, with a car each, in the UK. We were so wasteful. Now, we cook every meal from scratch, with cheap, fresh ingredients. We only buy new clothes when we start looking like ‘hobos’, which is kind of the look we go for most of the time, but there is a line. ‘Darling, you have a hole in the arse of your pants’ is usually the time we consider a shopping trip.
Every penny we spend now is thought about and prioritised. I’ve dyed my own hair for years now, which is why if we cross paths at the wrong time of the month, I look like a scarecrow with yellow locks, but that’s not my priority, I can’t justify $100 every 6 weeks, so the straw hat will have to stay. The question is, is your Happy Place worth the little sacrifices? The answer should always be YES!
If you’re curious at all about leaving home sweet home for an adventure, and have any little niggles or worries, please get in touch. You might learn a few things from my mistakes and I’m happy to help. Let’s smooth everything out and get you on that plane/train/bus. Happy Happy-Place hunting! You’ll find it, and sometimes the hunting is the best part...
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