The Expat Chat: Lifestyle Travels and International Living

The Expat Chat is a weekday podcast where we interview inspiring expats who have thrown off the constraints of western congestion to enjoy their dream lifestyle in other parts of the world...often for a fraction of their cost of living back home. If you want the travels of Rick Stearn with the freedom of Tim Ferriss this podcast is for you.Subscribe today.
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The Expat Chat: Lifestyle Travels and International Living




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Now displaying: September, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Colombia is a country that has been struggling to throw off its history of civil war and drug crime. A country that was well off the radar of travelers even 10 years ago has undergone something of a transformation. The capital Bogota offers good living at an extremely affordable price with an ever growing expat community.

Today we talk with Karen Attman, a US native who has spent the last 19 years living in South America, initially in Venezuela and for the last 3 years in Bogota, her husband’s native city.

In today’s interview Karen shares her experiences of Bogota, its affordability and why it is no longer the crime enclave that people have associated it with in the past. If you’re interested in visiting Colombia or relocating there then you’ll find plenty of useful tips and suggestions in this chat with Karen.

Sep 29, 2015

Being an expat doesn’t have to mean leaving your old life behind. An increasing number of people are enjoying the benefits of their home life while spending a significant portion of the year in other locations – and you don’t have to be a retiree to do this.

Jen and Jay Kerwood are Toronto natives who have spent the last 3 northern winter living in Cancun, Mexico. They spend around 8 months of the year there, returning to Toronto during the summer months when the weather is more settled.

Jen and Jay aren’t the baby boomer generation either – they are able to combine a portable worklife with the opportunity to travel and enjoy the best things that Mexico has to offer.

We apologize for the internet quality on this interview.

Sep 29, 2015

So what do you know about Korea? In my case not very much. I certainly wasn’t aware that I could leave my wallet on a public bench and have a better than even chance of getting it back! But this is just one of the many pleasant surprises I found out during my conversation with Dain and KJ Leathem, two expat kiwis who have been living in Korea for the last 12 years.

Today they share with us many of the insights to Seoul that only a local would know, including how keen Korea is to attract international students and why they are able to get their extended education at a cheaper price than in the west, plus why Korea is fast becoming a hub for medical tourism as well.

Sep 27, 2015

It’s a long way from Edinburgh Scotland to the heart of Hong Kong; not just in distance but also in contrasts. For Joanna Claire an opportunity to shift with her employer was too good to turn down and she made the move in early 2015. So far the experience has been wonderful for her making new friends and giving herself the perfect starting off point to explore much of Asia.

Joanna sat down for an interview with us and shared her perspective of being a young woman in one of the world’s largest business hubs. Here’s what she had to say

You can follow her blog at

What I learned from speaking with Joanna:

  1. Hong Kong is a friendly place, especially within the expat community. People are very welcoming to new comers especially as they have often been in the same shoes themselves and Joanna has already made a lot of friends during her short time there. Again, like any travel transition you need to be willing to put yourself out there in order to meet people and take advantage of the opportunity. Being in a work environment as Joanna is certainly makes it easier
  2. Hong Kong is extremely safe. Joanna has not encountered any crime or even heard of it happening to friends or anyone she knows. It will obviously be around and like all big cities it’s important to be vigilant but Hong Kong appears to be much safer than an equivalent western city of similar size.
  3. Hong Kong has more to it than the city itself. There is a rural area offering much more and some great beaches you can enjoy. Further afield it’s on the edge of China which offers unique experiences in itself and it’s a great airline hub. Joanna has already booked trips to South Korea and the Philippines, both only a few hours way and costing her less than $US200 for a round trip fare.
  4. There are two lifestyles in Hong Kong and you can choose the one that suits you. Eating out expat style can come with a heftier price tag, but if you’re happy to eat like a local the cost is much more affordable. Joanna often dines out with her friends for as little as $5-$10 and enjoys a wider variety of flavors as a result
Sep 27, 2015

Getting a gun pointed in your face is often an experience that would cause many to catch the next bus out of town but for Andrew Creelman he hasn’t allowed it to faze his enjoyment of living in Brazil.

Andrew has lived and worked in Sao Paulo as a teacher for a number of years. Initially from England he worked in Japan until a chance beer with a friend one night let to a spur of the moment decision he hasn’t regretted.

Andrew shares with us his experiences of living in Sao Paulo, the good and the bad, and why the longer he spends there the more he feels at home. He talks about the influence the people of Sao Paulo has had on him and how he is richer from the experiences he has had there. He runs his own English teaching business and shares his knowledge on this area along with his suggestions on dealing with Brazilian life through his blog 

What I learned from speaking with Andrew:

  1. Although security is an issue in Brazil it is relatively safe if you stick in the right areas. The one bad incident he has had he freely admits he was in the wrong part of town. Common sense always applies wherever you are travelling and it pays to ask a reliable source before you go wandering
  2. Maids are standard issue in Sao Paulo. A nice 3 bedroom apartment including internet and a cleaner for 8 hours per week will only set you back around $US1000 given the current exchange rate. Again this can change but if you’re earning online and looking for good quality living at an affordable price then Brazil might be an option for you
  3. Brazil is not for everybody. It has its problems and in large cities like Sao Paulo the contrasts of experiences can be extreme; but if you’re looking for adventure on an affordable budget then don’t rule it out of the equation.
Sep 23, 2015

Children can stop you from travelling – or it can be the very reason to be doing it. Today we talk to a couple who have certainly been leading an international lifestyle and have two very international children to show for it.

Matt and Hannah Curtis have spent the last two years living in Okinawa, a sub tropical island south of the mainland of Japan. Although a Japanese island it sits closer to Taiwan than it does to Japan. Since their arrival the Curtis’s have come to love the island and their people and are firm believers that you’ll get as much from a place as you’re prepared to put into it.

Raising children in a different culture can be a challenge and it doesn’t come without it’s downsides including proximity to family, but the pluses have been worth it. They believe both they and their children are richer for the experiences and today they share some of the challenges of living in another culture, and how it can affect your children in a positive way.

If you want to follow what the Curtis’s are up to and find out more about their travels follow their blog at

What I learned from speaking with Matt and Hannah:

  1. Enriching your children’s lives is a great reason to travel. It widens their horizons and teaches them more than they could ever learn in a classroom. Both the Curtis children are happy eating most things which will be the result of the experiences they have had.
  2. You’ll get out of a place what you decide to put in. The Curtis’s make the most of what Okinawa has to offer and they are richer for their effort. Others who make no effort in Okinawa find their experience is not so good but that’s the choice they make
  3. Okinawa is well worth visiting. I have to be honest I thought it was a Japanese city until I spoke to them, not an island off the coast. Although visas aren’t easy to obtain if you want to stay long term Okinawa can offer you a different perspective of Japan with a variety of scenery across the land and locals who are more than willing to make you feel at home.
Sep 23, 2015

One of the great advantages of the internet is the ability to create a portable income, one that isn’t time dependent and one you can earn from anywhere in the world. In fact if you’re an expat with a story to share that very fact could be a source of income in itself. If you’re looking for a means to earn some online income as an expat then blogging could be an option for you.

Today we talk to Yeison Kim and Samantha Wei who are enjoying the good life in Costa Rica. Samantha is from the United States and started their blog just on 3 years ago. They are currently getting around 80000 website visitors every month and now earn an income of around $US5000 per month from their blog.

We spoke with them about how to set up a blog, some mistakes they made in getting started and what options are available in monetizing a blog if you hope to go down this line. They share the secrets that have helped them get their blog to the point of being a source of income they can now comfortably live off while enjoying the pleasures of Costa Rican life.

If you’re interested in knowing their tips then listen to today’s show. These guys are very transparent about what they do and how they monetize it and you can get all the details including website traffic and monthly income on their website at or follow their stories from Costa Rica at  


What I learned from speaking with Yeison and Samantha:

  1. If you want to start monetizing a blog build your email list from day 1. When they started they focused mainly on social media fans but unfortunately you can’t control ownership of these lists and access to them can be more expensive if you want to advertise later. Building an email list gives you control of contacting people and it’s free.
  2. It’s important to have a niche. There are a lot of travel bloggers out there so you need to have a point of difference
  3. Don’t get hung up about keeping Google happy. Write good content that people will want to read and Google will naturally take care of itself (but you can do a few things that will help). Concentrate on making your posts and photos easy to read and neat to look at.
  4. Be genuine. Although they offer affiliate links to their followers they never offer a product they don’t believe in and they are very careful to protect the relationship with their followers. Blogging is not a quick buck. Don’t burn bridges, focus on treating your followers well and the money will take care of itself.
Sep 23, 2015

It’s never too late to become an expat and its certainly never too early. Sometimes a moment happens when you realize that the life you’re living isn’t what you want to do anymore. For Rika Purdey it was one lunch time sitting in the cubicle of her office in downtown Vancouver where she practiced as a para legal secretary. She took one look at the stressed out housewives sitting around her and made the decision that she didn’t want to be still sitting where they sat when she reached their age.

She had booked a holiday to the island of Roatan in Honduras not expecting it to be anything other than a break but four years on she has made it her home and is reveling in her new career as a dive instructor on the island.

In todays interview Rika shares the good and the bad of Roatan and the steps you will need to go through if you plan on getting residency like her – plus you’ll discover why she’s picked up the nickname of the Honey Badger!

You can get more information on Roatan from her website 

What I learned from speaking with Rika:

  1. Access to Honduras certainly isn’t as easy as other Central American countries, you can get a visitors visa but there is quite a bit involved to gaining residency if you want to pursue one of the various methods of getting it.
  2. Be prepared to wait for most things (except strangely enough doctors visits!). Most things require queueing - if you’re going to the bank give yourself at least a couple of hours. Honduras is like much of Central America and you need to be willing to accept the slower pace of life that involves.
  3. Roatan can be more expensive than the mainland and you need to consider the costs of getting anywhere which can add up. As a community though it offers most of what you need – sometimes at a price – and can cater to everyone from the young bar hopping set to older retirees and families in between.


Sep 22, 2015

Love Mexico? Happy to live in million dollar homes for free with the housekeepers and gardeners while the owners are away? If this sounds like the lifestyle for you then you’d better listen to today’s show. Jason and Deidre enjoyed a six figure corporate income in Kansas City but they were stressed, unhappy and never had any money left at the end of the month. The passing of a friend made them realize that life didn’t go on forever and that waiting for retirement was not the best way to live their lives.

3 years ago they packed up and moved to Mexico, spending a year renting before getting themselves into the housesitting game and they haven’t looked back. They regularly get more houses to sit than they can handle, especially from repeat clients, but are still driven by a desire for a new experience.

Click the podcast link to listen to the Mizes sharing their inside tips of Mexico housesitting. You can follow them in more detail at their website


What I learned from speaking with the Mizes:

  1. Mexico is easy to get into with 6 month visas being the norm for most travelers. Even leaving at the end of your stay needn’t be a problem with a 72 hour turnaround before you re-enter the country. The Mizes know people who have spent 10 years travelling in and out on holiday visas – that said do your homework and make sure you have the right paperwork if you’re serious about committing.
  2. Housesitting may not be for everyone but there sure is a lot of wins to it. You do have to shed much of what you own (and many see this as an advantage in itself) and saying goodbye to pets you get attached to can be hard but the pluses (did we mention the million dollar homes) the chance to travel and the serious reduction in travel costs make it all worthwhile.
  3. You can negotiate with rebels. Their hilarious story of being stopped on a country road is worth hearing in itself (don’t let it put you off Mexico though, their experience has been crime free so far)
Sep 22, 2015

Not everyone chooses the expat lifestyle but there are few who regret it once it’s happened. The global economic crisis put paid to Susanna Perkins plans to stay in the US and she was forced with her husband to find a more affordable location. A one week reconnaissance trip and they were off. Although Susanna wouldn’t recommend the speed of her transition the experience has proven wonderful as her husband and her settled into small town life making friends along the way.

Susanna has put her experience to good use. She has shared her experiences and knowledge via her website where she has her free e-book on finding your ideal expat income.

Sep 21, 2015

You don’t have to be seeking a warmer climate to make an expat move. Michael Long and his wife had been enjoying the warmth of Tampa but decided that life had more to offer them elsewhere. Michael had experienced life as an expat in Thailand as a younger man so knew the experience of a shift wouldn’t phase him. With his wife having US and Panamanian citizenship it seemed the obvious place to go.

15 months on Mike has been enjoying the experience but forewarns other expats that although Panama does offer a good life and he’s happier than in the US there are a few things people need to be aware of before making the shift. In todays interview we give a brief introduction to an expat living in Panama City. If Panama is on your horizon you’ll want to listen to Michael before you go any further

Sep 20, 2015

Being a single woman in midlife doesn’t seem like the best time to make a leap into the unknown but for Diane Dupres it proved the making of a new life. Originally from England but teaching high school drama in New Zealand Diane felt like her life needed a change, she was destined to spend the rest of her life “with crochet and cats” to quote her own words!

She made the brave decision to become an expat teacher, taking on a two year position in the Muslim country of Malaysia where she fell in love with the place, the people and the food.


We spoke with Diane between destinations and back in New Zealand where she has just completed her stint in Malaysia and is about to embark in a new role in Jakarta Indonesia. If you’re interested in the experiences of a single middle aged woman living in a Muslim country then this could be for you.(and if you enjoy Diane’s humor don’t worry, we’ll have her back in the near future to share with us how she’s enjoying Indonesia)

Sep 20, 2015

One of the biggest fears for any would-be-expat is throwing away the day job and moving overseas. Unless you’re well set financially then another source of income, however small, needs to be set up.

One great opportunity to earn a living in this area is by teaching English. As English speakers we are blessed to already know a language that is universal and many people are ready and waiting to learn it. There has been an explosion in this area in recent years and with the continuing evolution of the internet the chance to reach a captive market is getting easier and easier.

There are many misconceptions around this topic and today we speak with Jack Askew of who shares his knowledge about the increasing demand from English learners, where the online opportunities are heading and what you need to do if you want to get started as an English teacher, either online or in a foreign country.

You can get some handy hints on getting started in this space with Jacks free e-book 15 Amazing Tools and Resources for Teaching English Online

Sit back with a good cup of coffee and here what Jack recommends you do if you want to get started in this space.

What I learned from Jacks interview:

1.    Teaching English is easier than you think. You don’t need to be an academic to teach it, particularly in the online environment and you don’t need to have mastered a second language in order to get your point across. Most of the resources are available online that you will need and with a recent free British government course in teaching English having more than 1 million people sign up there is no shortage of demand

2.     You need to find a niche in which to specialize. If you teach English generally you will be facing increasing competition from other teachers but diving into a specialist area and becoming the expert in it is the way to make a good income for yourself (Jack gave the example of helping Australian immigrants deal with passing the English test to be admitted as a citizen as an example)

3.     Empathize with your learners. Learning language can be frustrating for people. If you have a good ability to listen and appreciate what they are going through then you will support them better and grow your business accordingly. Although learning a second language yourself is not necessary if you’re undertaking the expat lifestyle this could be a good skill to have and will help you understand the frustrations of your clients.


4.    Start one on one. Although this doesn’t leverage your time as well as online can it will help you understand the needs of your market and hone your skills better.

Sep 17, 2015

How long would it take you to get tired of Chicago winters and two weeks holiday per year? For Illinois couple Jackie and Junior Minchillo it wasn’t long. The corporate life of all day meetings and working into the night proved to be too much and in April this year they made their move to sunny Costa Rica with their pet dog Harvey.

After some initial problems with the first house they stayed in they have now settled into a local expat community in Playa Langosta a small beachside community of less than 1000 people near the town of Tamarindo and they haven’t looked back.

Their new life now gives them the best of both worlds with their income in US dollars while their costs are in Costa Rican colons giving them far more spending power for their dollar.

If you have Costa Rica as one of your potential relocation spots then you’ll enjoy hearing from Jackie and Junior. You can reach them both at Jackies blog or Juniors website where expats can share information

What I learned from Jackie and Juniors interview:

1.    Check out blogs before you go.  They struggled to find information from local businesses before they made the move but the expat community was a source of great help. It emphasizes the need to reach out to people in the locations where you want to go. All expats have been in the same situation and you’ll find no shortage of people ready to help you out, both online and when you arrive.

2.    Your job may be more transportable than you think. Although Juniors web design work was portable Jackie expected to have to throw in her job as a public relations consultant and start fresh, but once she spoke to her bosses they discovered a way she could continue to work remotely from Costa Rica. Is your job more transportable than you think? Don’t assume you have to give up the benefits of your day job. Jackie can continue to do the work she loves but with much better hours and a far more enjoyable and warm environment.


3.    Look at hubs when planning any flights you take. Jackie and Junior found they halved the cost of going to Brazil when they planned a trip from Costa Rica via Miami to what it would have been to travel directly to Brazil from Costa Rica. We regularly find the same thing in Australia when we travel in Asia – a flight routed through the relatively cheap hub of Singapore to other Asian destinations is usually cheaper than going directly from Australia to the Asian country you have in mind. 

Sep 11, 2015

Not many people are willing to leave suburbia, head for the jungle and run a business that gives all its profits away, but todays guests are the exception to the rule. Andrej and Karen Brummer said goodbye to two well paying jobs and left their western lifestyle to head for Laos 4 years ago. They swapped their big city lifestyle for an environment of jungles and temples on the edge of the Thailand border and have become an important member of their local community thanks to their western style café that not only provides training in hospitality and English for the local staff but helps fund the nearby schools in the town in which they live.

We caught up with Dre and Karen and discovered what made them choose Laos as the place they wanted to spend their life, how the jungle lifestyle has changed their purpose in life and how you can use your own unique skills to enjoy an authentic lifestyle experience for free.

If you enjoy their interview you can catch up with them both at or find them on Facebook at    

And now…let’s talk to Dre and Karen…

What I learned from Dre and Karens interview:

1.    Its good to spend time somewhere before you commit. Laos is a big jump for many people and is not a decision that should be made lightly. Karen and Andrej spent quite a bit of time there, visiting more than once before they made their final decision to shift.

2.    You can have the best of both worlds. Although they are living near a jungle in Laos they are only just across the border from the relative civilization of Thailand. This gives them the chance to return to a less primitive lifestyle and also access to better quality healthcare – something that’s not so easily available in Laos


3.    Although Laos can be described as a step back in time these guys aren’t roughing it. They live in a comfortable home, have access to western food and pretty reliable internet. Laos is one of the most affordable places in Asia (try less than $2000 per annum for a 4 bedroom home!) and is a country with virtually no crime – far safer than anywhere in the west that’s for sure!

Sep 11, 2015

In March 2014 John and Monika Mundell said goodbye to their 11 pet birds and set sail (literally) on an adventure that so far has taken them to 4 continents and counting. Their journey, often by cruise ship, has seen them visit Papua New Guinea, Japan, Russia, North, Central and South America and across to Europe where we caught up with them housesitting amongst the vines in the beautiful French setting of Pellegrue, a quaint village of around 1000 locals approximately one hour east of Bordeaux.

They took time out of their (let’s be honest) fairly relaxed morning to have a chat with our show about their experiences so far and they provided us a breakdown of their costs to date (John’s the money counter!) which has been surprisingly affordable given how much time they’ve spent on cruise ships (and no cheap inside cabins for these two!)

Enjoy the show and if you want to reach out to them both you can contact Monika at and follow their blog at


What I learned from John and Monikas interview:

1.    How Colombia is not what it used to be. These guys spent several months there and rate it their favorite place to return to. The old image of drug lords and random killings has largely disappeared thanks to a large scale clean up and Colombia is welcoming tourists and expats with open arms – plus apparently it has first class dental care; Monika has already earmarked her next lot of dental work for when she returns.

2.    Cruise ships are a very viable way to get around. These guys were averaging $15 0 per day when onboard a boat, certainly more than the cost of many if their longer term accommodation arrangements in cheaper locations but given they weren’t scrimping 9they admit they could have done it cheaper), and cruising involves food, accommodation, entertainment, and transportation all rolled into one it’s not a bad way to get yourself from A to B.


3.    You need less than you think. They started with several suitcases, packs and day bags but have now jettisoned much of what they thought they needed and are travelling with a combined weight of less than 60kgs – furthermore they aren’t missing for anything proving the fact that much of what we gather in possessions really aren’t necessary to have a happy life.