My friend and I constantly debate whether it’s better to establish some roots in another country or just remain in a state of perpetual travel. I currently live in Thailand, but I do a lot of backpacking as well. I’ve come to the conclusion that living as an expat is more stressful than living out of my bag on the road.
Life as an Expat
To be brief, moving to another country is not like being on vacation. You end up having the same issues and problems you had before in your home country—just in a new location. Sure, things are cheaper and easier to deal with, but they’re still there.
Many expats end up buying a house or condo in their new country. That comes with a big electric bill, a water bill, possibly some homeowner’s insurance, the neighborhood / condo fees, neighbors, home maintenance, etc. Suddenly, household chores take the place of relaxing on the beach.
A routine gets established. You get to know people whether you like them or not. Regular trips to immigration become necessary to fill out paperwork. Sooner or later, you develop responsibilities and join a club for local expats. Within a few months, you’ve turned paradise into everyday life again. It’s probably still paradise, but compare that to the alternative…
Living a life of perpetual travel is totally different. When you travel to a country with visa on arrival, it’s merely a quick stamp in your passport. If it’s a pain to extend it beyond the initial time period, just skip on to the next country when it expires. This avoids the hassle of having to deal with immigration.
Your only responsibility is you and your suitcase. You can rent a dirt-cheap room by the night or by the week. You’re not tempted to get an expensive place because most of your time is spent exploring anyway. If you get tired of the location, the city, or the country, just pack up and move on. Nobody knows you. Therefore, no one expects anything from you. Anonymity equals tranquility.
If you are young and can make money online, be a perpetual traveler. Keep going and see the world. If you’re young and don’t have money or online skills, settle down as an expat. Apply for a work permit and get a job. Simple.
If you’re older, living as an expat may be the better option. Search for a place that has good medical facilities. Check out the health insurance options in your newly-adopted country. Here in Thailand, health insurance is very reasonable and the medical care is on par with the West. Hell, my dentist is from New York City and has better equipment than my dentist in the States. The bill is a fraction of what I was paying in the U.S.
In Simple Terms
Expat life is paradise with some responsibilities, a routine, and security. Perpetual travel is absolute freedom with uncertainty, adventure, and a bit of risk.
I love living in Thailand. It’s a magical country. But, when I do hit the adventure trail with just me, my backpack, and my leather briefcase, it’s like I’m on vacation. I guess I have the best of both worlds.