Ask the Expat
Taking Your Hobbies and Interests Overseas
by Volker Poelzl
Living Abroad Editor
I recently received an e-mail from a reader asking me if I thought it was possible for her to continue as an amateur viola player after moving to Argentina for retirement. She brought up a very important point that is easily overlooked when considering a move to another country: how can expatriates continue to pursue their hobbies and interests after moving overseas?
The reasons why people choose to live abroad are manifold, from employment to study opportunities, to business, retirement, and marriage. But we need to realize that we are taking our entire lives abroad, not just our job or study commitment. It is often the little things we leave behind that cause us homesickness and a longing for the “good old life” back home. Taking our interests, passions, and hobbies with us overseas is as important as bringing personal belongings or household items.
When moving or retiring overseas, it is therefore not only important to choose an affordable country or a country you love, but also a country, city or town, where you can lead a lifestyle you enjoy. This includes being able to continue with the activities, hobbies, and interests you have pursued for many years. In addition to scouting out housing, business or job opportunities, future expatriates should also find out if the place they plan to move to allows them to continue their favorite activities. It might sound attractive to retire to a small town in the Caribbean, but if you have a passion for theater or art, you will quickly run out of things to do there. If you enjoy reading, make sure that the small beach community you retire to has at least one decent bookstore. If you are a movie buff, make sure the local DVD store does not have just action movies and video games. When I lived in the Brazilian Amazon, the only large and diverse bookstore in the state capital Porto Velho went out of business. I bought about twenty books during the closeout sale, but I knew that stationary stores would now be the only places to buy books. The problem is that they mostly carry textbooks for high school students. From then on the nearest bookstore for book lovers was about five hundred miles away.
In addition to solitary activities such as reading or painting, there are also many social spare time activities you might want to pursue after your move abroad. Among them are your favorite sports and ball games, yoga and dancing classes, fitness clubs and gyms, playing cards or chess, playing music with a band or orchestra, clubbing and bar hopping, and much more. There are numerous community websites for expatriates where you can find out about social activities in cities around the world. Check out our Living Abroad by Country section, choose a country of your interest and select the “Expatriate Websites and Resources” section to find community websites for expatriates.
Of course, it is impossible to find the perfect place that offers everything you desire in any expatriate destination. Moving abroad always requires some compromises and changes in lifestyle. But as long as you are able to prioritize your habits, hobbies, and interests, and determine what kind of lifestyle is truly important to you, you will be able to make the right decision about where to move. And as a result, your time abroad will be much more enjoyable.
Author's note: This column has an interactive format, and readers are encouraged to submit questions, suggestions, and commentaries, some of which will be addressed in the upcoming issues of the Transitions Abroad Webzine. If you have questions about living abroad that you would like have addressed, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Volker Poelzl is a frequent contributor to Transitions Abroad. He has traveled in over thirty countries worldwide and has lived in ten of them for study, research and work.