Larry was a global nomad. Then he met Angela, a local girl in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. They got married, had a couple of kids, and put down deep roots in that community.
A decade later, Larry started bringing up the idea of living overseas for a year. He missed traveling abroad, and pointed out that in places with a lower cost of living it’s cheaper to go for a year and live like a local than to visit for two weeks like a tourist.
Most of Larry’s job could be done anywhere he has Internet. That meant he could keep his US dollar income while theoretically living on much less. He figured that in the right setting, they might be able to spend a lot on travel and touring the region, and still have some savings left over.
Third Culture Kids
His biggest motivation, however, was his children. He really wanted them to have the benefit of becoming “third culture kids“—people who lived for a year or more in another country before the age of 18. According to research, some of these benefits include:
- increased tolerance to other cultures and people of different backgrounds
- increased creativity and originality for problem solving
- improved language skills when immersed in a foreign language
Larry lived in East Asia for six years as a teenager, when his parents were Seventh-day Adventist missionaries.
“For me personally,” said Larry, “I found that living in a foreign culture benefited me spiritually. Coming home, I was better able to understand the difference between religious rules driven by culture (such as wearing a suit and tie to church, or those special veggie meat dishes at Adventist potlucks) and rules at the core of humanity, common to all (like the 10 Commandments). When you see the authentic expression of Godly praise using rhythmic instruments in places like Africa and Southeast Asia—behavior which would get a white kid thrown out of some Adventist churches in the U.S.—you realize how big our God is, and how wide are His arms to encompass such diversity.”
Larry wanted his children to understand these cultural nuances at a deep level, which can be magnified by living overseas as a child. (For more on Third Culture Kids, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_culture_kid.)
One day in April 2014, in a moment of weakness, Angela said that she would consider moving the family abroad for a year. So they started planning their adventure together.
To a large extent, the goal of giving their children the Third Culture Kid experience could be accomplished by living pretty much anywhere outside the U.S. So they started exploring ideas:
- Taiwan has several English-language Adventist churches, and a K-12 English-language school accredited by the NAD.
- Malaysia offers a “2nd home” visa program, where you can get a 10-year visa by depositing a modest amount of cash in a Malaysian bank. If you lived in Johor Bahru, you would only be short trip to downtown Singapore, but with substantially lower cost of living.
- The Philippines has a growing tech community with a very low cost of living
The trouble with moving to Asia is the time difference. To match his office’s work hours, Larry would need to work midnight to 9:00 a.m. every day. He was so committed to going overseas that he was willing to do that for a year.
Fortunately, Angela thought otherwise. One day, after talking about Taiwan for about a week, Larry casually mentioned that she could learn a little Mandarin to shop at local markets. “I’m not learning Mandarin,” she said. “If I have to speak another language, I’d rather speak Spanish.”
And that was that. They started looking southward.
Larry and Angela considered a lot of places in Latin America, but eventually met Paul Opp, founder of the People of Peru Project in Iquitos, Peru. After talking with him, they decided to move there to help out with their girls home in the Amazon Basin of Peru. In November 2015, Larry and Angela went on a scouting trip to Iquitos to prepare for their move, but soon discovered this wasn’t going to be a good fit for their family.
After coming home, they decided to push back their departure 5 months and move to Mexico instead. They then spent the next 3 months considering a number of places, such as Guanajuato, San Miguel, and Sayulita. It was a long process of doing online research and talking through their priorities. In the end, they chose Ajijic for their year of adventure in Mexico.