I moved to Japan over 12 years ago now. For the most part, this is a fantastic country. I love the food, safety, culture, artistic appreciation and aesthetics. Japan is a great. However, I also like many other countries in the world and would love an opportunity to live in those places to truly get a feel for the culture and people.
We are going to change careers and move to a new country by April 1, 2010.
My wife and I really want to experience other cultures and challenge ourselves professionally. To that end, we have decided to leave our secure business and lifestyle and try something different in a new country. We are both about 40 years old so this may be our last chance to really start over. We have enough savings to survive for a few years, but we are not rich by any stretch of the imagination. We feel we are very close to the age limit of being able to lose everything and still have a chance at a secure old age. I would like to share our decision processes and experiences over the next year as we extricate ourselves from our small business and embark on a new adventure in a foreign land. Here are the key issues that we have to consider.
Should we keep our house in Japan, or should we rent it out?
Mortgage rates in Japan are so low that it doesn’t make much sense to sell our house. There is very little capital appreciation, but if we were to rent out the house we could reliably make a little profit every month while paying down the bank loan. The choice we have to really decide on is whether or not we want to keep a home-base in Japan so that we can return on a regular basis. It is expensive to keep the house, but we really want a place to call our own.
Can we give up most of our material possessions?
It is expensive to keep an empty house, pay bills and insurance on a car for a large portion of the year when we are not here. We could rent out the house and sell or give away all of our furniture and possessions and live a much cheaper nomadic lifestyle, but do we want to? As much as I hate being tied to physical possessions, I do love some of my things. My guitars are so personal that I would never give them up. It is also nice to have two big computer monitors and my own desk. I really like my espresso machine and I am quite fond of my sofa. The rest are just things and don’t really matter. We just don’t want to live like backpackers full time. It is nice to have a place to call your own, where everything is familiar and yours. Will we keep the house? Stay tuned to find out.
Should we sell our car?
We have a great car and it is paid for so the primary expense is insurance and the Japanese automobile tax every two years. In Japan, cars are not really necessary because of the great train system but having a car opens you up to a whole new world that most foreigners in Japan never see. The main problem is that the resale value of cars is so low in Japan that it almost doesn’t pay to sell. We will probably get rid of the car though.
Where will we go for doctor and dental visits?
We have health coverage in Japan. It is a little expensive and the quality of doctors is not always great, but we are covered nonetheless. The main thing is to be able to understand the doctors in the foreign countries we are going to live in. I know there are great doctors all over the world, but it is still something we are discussing and debating. Should we keep our Japanese health care or get some international health insurance?
Do we want to live in a tropical paradise or would that get boring fast?
I love traveling to exotic countries and relaxing on beaches with beautiful weather, but I am a city person at heart. I love and need the excitement and energy of busy places. Three or four weeks in paradise is fine if it has decent a internet connection, but I don’t think I could do it for half the year. Where are we going to go? I have no idea. I am currently thinking of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Hungary or the Philippines. If you have any advice please leave it in the comments!
Should we sell our business?
We own a small English school as well as having a few internet ventures in the works. We are not sure if we should sell our school or keep it self running. Hiring a manager and staff will likely eat up all the profits, so it won’t bring in much money. Keeping the school would always give us a back up plan if our other businesses should fail. Another option we considered was trying to find a couple to jointly work the business, six months on and six months off, but there aren’t many that share our zeal for lifestyle design. We are probably going to sell but that hasn’t been 100 percent decided yet.
Should we buy another house in a different country?
We definitely want to keep our own places around the world. We will always have Canada, at my mother’s house. Now we have Japan. I also have many relatives in Hungary, so that will definitely be a regular travel destination for us. Having one more small apartment or house in another country would be fantastic. Hopefully somewhere warm to escape the winters of those other countries.
Where should we pay taxes?
We still need to make money, so it is likely that we will need a place to collect income, pay bills and pay taxes. We will probably keep a house in Japan, so this decision may already be made for us. We will have to see what happens.
There it is for the world to see. We are embarking on an adventure of lifestyle design. My wife and I are giving up a safe and secure life with good income and long vacations for something completely unknown and uncertain. Regardless of the outcome I know the next few years are going to be a great experience.