Turning a trip abroad into a ‘permanent vacation’

December 21, 2010

Inspired partly by fabulous vacations to Italy, former American expat Kelly Carter (and her famous long-haired Chihuahua Lucy) moved to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Kelly's now writing about her two-year Italian adventure in "Bellini for One."

Inspired partly by fabulous vacations to Italy, former American expat Kelly Carter (and her famous long-haired Chihuahua Lucy) moved to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Kelly's now writing about her two-year Italian adventure in "Bellini for One."

Life as an expat wouldn't be so bad in lovely Mendoza, Argentina. Here I am trying it out during my recent trip, sipping a Gancia Batido (a classic Argentine cocktail) on the terrace of the Park Hyatt Mendoza.

Life as an expat wouldn't be so bad in lovely Mendoza, Argentina. Here I am trying it out during my recent trip, sipping a Gancia Batido (a classic Argentine cocktail) on the terrace of the Park Hyatt Mendoza.

British expat author Peter Mayle introduced millions to the "good life" in Provence through his best-selling books.

British expat author Peter Mayle introduced millions to the "good life" in Provence through his best-selling books.

We’ve all read books and watched films about folks (often single women, it seems) who travel to some exotic locale in search of self-discovery, fall in love with this new place, and decide to trade in their not-quite-right lives at home for a new one overseas. You UrbanTravelGirls know the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” motivated me to move to storybook-perfect Florence, Italy. The Frances Mayes book that inspired the film, Under the Tuscan Sun, has been translated into dozens of languages and prompted countless reader pilgrimages to Mayes’ adopted Tuscan hometown of Cortona.

 Author Peter Mayle jump-started the modern expat-exchanges-hectic-urban-life-for-adventure-abroad trend with A Year in Provence, a book that when became an international best-seller when first published in 1989. In it, Mayle chronicled his life as a British expatriate in Ménerbes, a town in this gorgeous part of southern France. This former London ad executive and his wife traveled to Provence on vacation but eventually took the plunge, relocating completely from the UK to France. And once his books caught fire and made him rich—no doubt inspiring legions of folks with visions of living abroad—Mayle became the patron saint of reinventing oneself in a foreign land.

But when does an UrbanTravelGirl decide that a mere vacation doesn’t do it, that she’d rather pull up stakes and actually MOVE to another country and build a life for herself there instead of here (wherever that happens to be)?

My family and friends always laugh at me because whenever I return from a particularly good vacation (as mine generally tend to be), I share the same refrain: “I think I could live there!” Those of you who’ve listened to me wax poetic about Buenos Aires know I’ve thought it and said it, as I tend to travel to places that fascinate me and hold some special allure. And because I tend to rent apartments when I go abroad, I purposely immerse myself in the culture to get a real sense of daily life.

And, if the place grows on me—as Montreal (where I’d planned to move if the 2008 U.S. presidential election had turned out differently), Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, and Buenos Aires did—then I entertain myself with visions of, “What if I actually MOVED here someday?” We all know it’s only a matter of time before I pull up stakes and seek an exciting new life—AGAIN!—outside the United States.

I’m not just inspired by books written by now-wealthy authors. I get it from real-life sistagirls, such as my good friend and fellow freelance journalist Kelly Carter, whose travels to Italy prompted HER move to Florence and Positano—AND who’s writing about it in an upcoming memoir appropriately named Bellini for One. And just yesterday, my Italophile friend Sharon Sanders who knows how I love Argentina sent me a Wall Street Journal article about a California couple who, after visiting the lovely wine-producing province of Mendoza, decided to buy a vineyard, building both a business and a fascinating new life.

But at the end of the day, visions of life in some fabulous villa (accompanied of course by some gorgeous local man with a heart-melting foreign accent) meet reality. Most of us aren’t independently wealthy (and if you are, most countries want you to PROVE it before they let you stay), so we need to figure out how we’ll make a living. But that doesn’t mean we can’t turn a great trip into a real life abroad.

For example, when I visited Montreal back in October 2008 with serious thoughts about moving there, I picked up brochures on immigrating to Canada (which actually seemed to be welcoming foreigners, as opposed to its neighbor to the south). Eventually, I might have looked into obtaining a working vacation visa that would let me “try out” my new country while still (legally) earning money. And if I’d decided to stay permanently, I might have sought out a Canadian immigration lawyer who specialized in helping Americans seeking a new life in their nation. Of course, there’s no ONE way to make such a life-changing move—and if you’re motivated enough to go, the Universe will meet you more than halfway.

So tell us, ladies—if YOU’RE one of those who moved abroad because you fell in love with your current home on your travels, what made you take the plunge?

Or if you’re one of us dreamers, what foreign country tugs at your heartstrings and why?

Nothing like a little fantasy to make life sweeter, yes?

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14 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Kelly E. Carter  |  December 21, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Maureen,
    I’m delighted to be included in the same company as Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes! Especially Peter, who also wrote A Dog’s Life. I read A Year in Provence when I lived in Italy and thoroughly enjoyed that book. I only hope that my Bellini for One will be as equally well-received as Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun. It is time to show that WE have these same delightful experiences as others — and with our dogs.
    There are so many enticing countries out there that i wish I had the ability to move to a new one every two years. Then again, what is stopping me? Nothing. We only stop ourselves. Keep inspiring us to travel and live our dreams!!

  • 2. Renee  |  December 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Love it! I still shooting for Italy…. some day…. ;)

  • 3. urbantravelgirl  |  December 21, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Kelly, I cannot WAIT to read “Bellini for One!” FINALLY, our living-abroad story will be told and since I know you and know the story, I KNOW it will be fabulous and fun and sexy and cool and hilarious!! Maybe you’ll be kind enough to do a guest blog post for me some day… if your agent will allow you once “Bellini for One” blows up! LOL!

    And you’re SO right — what’s to stop us (single or otherwise) from moving around and experiencing the world? Something for us ladies to think about for 2011!!

    Happy travels,
    Maureen

  • 4. urbantravelgirl  |  December 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Ciao, Renee — and thanks for weighing in! I think a LOT of UrbanTravelGirl readers would be on that plane WITH you to Italia… including me!

    Buon viaggio,
    Maureen

  • 5. Myra  |  December 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I have longed my entire life to go abroad. To London, to Paris, etc. My 50th birthday is coming up and I want with everything in me to travel abroad. How do I start? Do I book a travel agent? Do I book the room and flight separtely? This is one sista who wants to travel!!

  • 6. M. Antoinette Walker  |  December 21, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Well Maureen,

    I’ll let you know when I return in January if Thailand is calling. Merry Christmas Chica! Te Amo.

  • 7. Tammy  |  December 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Go Maureen! I never, ever stop fantasizing about a new life in a new place, even though I don’t get to travel much. I hope 2011 finds you in the land of your dreams. :-)

  • 8. urbantravelgirl  |  December 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Hola, Antoinette! I’ll be in touch before you take off for Thailand, Ms. Globetrotter. SO excited for you!!

    Maureen

  • 9. urbantravelgirl  |  December 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Hola, Tammy –
    What’s that they say, “From your lips to God’s ears?” Here’s wishing you a 2011 full of blessings (we know there will be a new one in the form of a precious baby girl!) and a year of wonderful new beginnings!!

    Maureen

  • 10. urbantravelgirl  |  December 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Ciao, Myra — and GOOD FOR YOU!! You asked good questions, but more than I can answer here. The BIGGEST thing is the desire to go abroad. Yes, it may be a bit more expensive to go to London or Paris for your 50th, but aren’t you worth it?

    Since you’re not quite sure where to start, you COULD enlist a travel agent that specializes in European travel. But do yourself a favor first for signing up for discount airfare websites like http://www.farecompare.com, which can alert you when fares to your chosen cities drop. Also spend some free time poking around sites like Travelocity.com and Expedia.com to see what hotels cost in your chosen cities… and what strikes your fancy. Not to oversimplify things, but you can book a trip to London and Paris about as easily as you can book one to Las Vegas… just give yourself time to survey your options.

    You can book both the airfare and hotel separately, but you’re likely to get a better deal if you buy them together (and you do NOT want to drive in most European cities — especially if you’ve never been there). So again, go to those discount sites and see if the prices look like something you can handle.

    GOOD LUCK, and Happy Travels!

    Maureen

  • 11. lauren  |  December 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I’m definitely a dreamer and for the past several years my dreams lead me back to Paris. If I could, I would pack up from the US and head to Paris and not look back. It’s one of those goals I’ve tried constantly to achieve and have come close several times but in the end, it never worked out.
    So until it happens, I will just keep dreaming : )

  • 12. family travel  |  December 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    As we’re on Urban Travel Girl » Turning a trip abroad into a ‘permanent vacation’ , There can be no doubt that it has become even more important to plan a cheap family trip. Travel insurance is very much a part of traveling. When times are tight and every cent is being stretched to the limit in order to have a family vacation it is so tempting to simply ignore insurance.

  • 13. Carolyn van Es  |  January 13, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Hi Maureen,
    as you know, I’m a lovepat! What made me take the plunge and move to Holland? Well…love…or, rather, the prospect of happily ever after.So far, so good. I also can’t wait to read Bellini for One. I’m going to go check out her website right now! Thanks for another dreamy post!

  • 14. AbbyBURKE20  |  October 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Do you understand that it is high time to receive the home loans, which will make your dreams come true.

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