I’ve been corresponding with 76-year-old world traveler Linda Brown and recently asked how she managed to travel with practically no luggage. (She travels by herself.) I also asked other questions about living the expat life.
BM: Linda, it’s hard to imagine you are traveling around the world with practically no luggage. What’s your secret?
LB: It’s the truth about the suitcases and I’m hoping to reduce that factor by one and pack everything into one rolling duffel. The other piece of luggage is a bonafide, 62-litre backpack, (which means I can claim to be a “Backpacker,” though that’s not my reason), which I now seldom wear but can if I need or want to. I roll it about if there are luggage carts at the airport….though I’m hoping to acquire an ultra-portable umbrella baby stroller as a buggy for it because I think it would work and why hasn’t anybody ever used a conventional stroller framework as a luggage rack? Sans baby seat, but with the stable four wheels and pusher part. I invent these things while struggling with what now exists as I grapple with airports.
BM: In one of the photos you sent, you are wearing a very nice white jacket. (See photo to left) Considering how light you travel, how did such a “non essential” garment find space in your bag?
LB: The white leather jacket is one I fell for in Montevideo, Uruguay, and have been carrying, with nowhere to wear it, for months. I love stylish clothes and will fall for them in a heartbeat, but they have to be packable. The jacket folds small and I wrap it in a plastic bag and it’s there for special times, with a long jersey skirt. My packing secret is that I cull when I exceed my luggage capacity. And really big suitcases are counterproductive on many fronts: extra luggage fees; dislocated shoulders from dragging them, they hold too much, so you permit yourself too much shopping… I don’t suffer in the least, for not owning more than one or two suitcases worth of stuff. Well, I do carry a daypack/backpack instead of a purse, even for everyday, and my heavy laptop goes in that…..not necessarily every day. My brains of the operation (passport, credit cards, IDs, checkbook, lipstick) are always worn in a belly bag….also every day.
BM: More and more people say they want to live the expat life. Where is a good place to start looking for guidance?
LB: International Living (IL) newsletter is an excellent source of advice; as well as Kathleen Pedicord’s “Live & Invest Overseas” newsletter. I’ve attended two IL conferences since 2012, and have been an expat for almost a year now, having gone to Uruguay in late November, 2013, then, Cuenca, Ecuador, where I will spend 9 weeks altogether, while it’s “too cold” for me down South. I’m in the middle of that period now, and this is a super-duper place to shift to.
BM: For now, what are your top location picks?
LB: Ecuador is less-expensive than Uruguay and warmer in their winter; but Uruguay is such a hidden treasure that it’s worth the cost difference and is still much less than the U.S. It feels European and the people are descended from French, Italian and German immigrants. Both countries have excellent & cheap healthcare and medical facilities; welcoming policies for foreign settlers (part or full-time); secure, stable and secret (Uruguay is sometimes compared to Switzerland) hands-off, banking policies; and also especially, Uruguay, a very-relaxed religious tolerance. Nominally, Catholic, but with a very casual, almost afterthought, observance. Uruguay is half-surrounded by water; has no natural disasters and the sky is blue, blue, blue, every day.
Ecuador is sweetly Catholic but certainly not in-your-face, and you can find lots of gorgeous old churches and cathedrals. I’m vowing to start attending Sunday service at the Main Cathedral, a block away from my apartment, just to feel the spiritual goose bumps produced by their beautifully amplified and reverberating guitar and song music on my soul. Never heard that before in any church! I am loving Cuenca, with its large expat gringo population, so I have an active social life and am saving money on living expenses right and left, but living very well indeed.
BM: Belize is getting a lot of play. What do you think?
I hear that Belize is great for those who want a lot less “civilization” and a lot of beach living. It’s hot and English-speaking, and a great bargain, economically. I do want to explore it, but can’t on this next trip. I get bored with beaches, since I lived near one in Clearwater, Florida, for so many years. But, I like a jungle/beach combo and a certain amount of hammock living, so I think I’d like it for awhile. Plus, it spells more adventure than these long-developed countries. “Volatile” is not a word that I have ever heard associated with Belize; so I doubt if it’s much of a factor. It seems to be a stable country, in spite of any near neighbors that may be potentially unstable.
The bottom line is that – contained in the nearby confines of South and Central America, there are numerous choices for great expat living. To say nothing, of a few Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand or some choice spots in France and Italy. Interested potential expats should sign on for International Living’s great flood of emails for a smorgasbord of possible new, fulltime or part-time, homes. For those who are concerned about the economic future of America and want a caustic dose of truth, I recommend signing on for the emails of The Sovereign Society, which is related to International Living. Both have their offices in Delray Beach, Florida. There’s is really simply TMI (too-much-information) to be transmitted in one article.
Please tell readers I’ll be happy to answer any other questions as one of the many very-satisfied American Gringo Expats.