Making the leap to live abroad
While many of us dream of upping sticks and moving overseas with our families, few take the leap towards this ultimate family adventure. Molly Berry, the textile designer behind Guatemala-made Luna*Zorro, is the inspiring exception, having left San Francisco to move to Panama City where her son Joaquin was born, and then on to Antigua, Guatemala, where daughter Hazel arrived in 2014. Here, she dishes on the reality of “being on permanent vacation in the tropics,” what she misses about SF and the places to see in her new hometown.
“It seems to me that a lot of people would love the adventure of living abroad. Once they’re past the moving to another country part and on to the living part. Like when you go on a vacation, after you’ve completed all those hours of packing, flying and traversing time changes, and you’re actually in that hammock to the sound of breaking waves and it’s all worth the effort. Right? Making the leap to living abroad is very much like that.
I often catch a glint of wonder and excitement in the eyes of those who ask me what it’s like to “be on vacation in the tropics” in Antigua, Guatemala. Although it’s definitely not always a vacation around here it does still feel like we are living in a unique and exquisite place here in Antigua. The place we now call home is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a colonial little town of cobble stone and crumbling, colorful walls.
Don’t Forget to Pack Insurance
Living abroad can feel almost like an extended vacation. But life still happens, even in paradise.
If you’re buying property, it is a requirement in many countries that the insurer has a local presence. Many U.S. companies do not operate abroad. That’s why a real estate agent from the region can be a great source of information about reputable companies. Questions to ask when you are vetting insurers:
- Are there specific weather events related to location that should be covered? (i.e., typhoons, floods)
- What is an accurate cost to rebuild?
- Are there any exclusions?
If you’re going to be purchasing or shipping a car, the same rules apply—look for a company that insures where you are moving. You might also consider renting a vehicle only when needed, especially somewhere like Europe that has abundant public transportation. Chubb is one U.S. company that offers rental coverage for damage anywhere in the world, and will also cover liability worldwide when you purchase a liability limit of $1 million or more.
Whatever your plans for living abroad, allow time to do insurance research before you move. Online forums for ex-pats and fellow world travelers can be an excellent way to find out the right questions to ask for your specific location.
Tourists and locals alike are constantly surrounded by the richness of the Guatemalan culture, its vibrant hues and deep-rooted traditions. If I let my stream of consciousness run, I would describe Antigua like this: sun, breeze, volcanoes, ruins, foliage, fruit, textiles, children, hospitality, sincerity, and history. It offers mountains and oceans, rivers and valleys. You can camp your way across it riding an off-road bike or you can experience some of the highest levels of cordiality and authentic service that you can imagine. It is child-friendly and safe, totally affordable, progressive and yet traditional in a historically rich and cultural sense. It is a gem of a travel destination.
When I fly home to San Francisco, I still feel a sense of pride when I see the Golden Gate Bridge or feel the chill of fog on a walk at Chrissy Field, accompanied by the low, comforting sound of fog horns. There’s nothing like a bike ride to a Berkeley farmer’s market or a summer evening meal outdoors, with an orchestra of crickets, in Napa. I will always be rooted to the San Francisco, Bay Area because it’s where I was raised and it is where I plan to end up one day. But living so far from that home not only makes me appreciate it more, it also allows me to see the interesting, the peculiar, the spectacular, the typical, and the realities of living in a new country and neighborhood.
I may not be that far, geographically, from SF, but I am so incredibly grateful for the utterly unique world and life I am experiencing while living abroad with my husband and two young children. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything and I would wholeheartedly encourage any family considering a change, be it for a summer or indefinitely, to take the plunge. You don’t have to be independently wealthy or crazy, just free-spirited and determined enough to believe that you can make your life and take your family anywhere you choose.” -Molly Berry
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