Over a week ago, an interesting article was published on a website known as Expat Chronicles that you can read here.
It is titled “Expat Strategies: Self-Determination vs. Serendipity.”
To summarize the main point of the article, it’s about the way that an expat can choose which Latin American country to relocate to.
Is there a better way of doing it?
Where the author, a man named Colin from the US, relocated to Peru over a decade ago.
Soon enough, he found himself spending time in Colombia before relocating back to Peru.
During this time, he had local job opportunities.
And, from his perspective, one solid way for an expat to choose which country to relocate to is to instead let the country choose you.
After all, there are plenty of Latin American countries to relocate to.
And, for those thinking of a life as an expat in any country in the world and not just Latin America, you definitely have A LOT of options.
….Outside of North Korea and Syria, I suppose.
So how do you choose a country then?
Well, by letting the country “choose” you, you can at least reduce the number of countries to have a future in.
In many cases, that means that said gringo, such as in the case of Colin, can look for job opportunities and go for the best job offer.
In that case, which country has a stronger and more open economy for said gringo to find options in?
And, perhaps more commonly, said gringo – like in the case of others – can go on Colombian Cupid and find love from a single mother of several children that all live in the barrio.
Many such cases.
90 Day Fiance Ximena
Or however he found his “media naranja!”
At any rate, it’s an interesting topic.
This article will address both the point of the article but, similar to most of my articles, address various related topics that are brought up or relevant to the other more minor points of the article by Expat Chronicles.
Let’s get to it!
Is the Strategy of Serendipity Smart?
I'd definitely say that this approach to it is "smarter" in the sense that coming down here with a job lined up provides various benefits.
First, it obviously gives you a path to being legal down here without having to do visa runs, buy property, marry a local woman, etc
In Mexico for example, we’ve been having a crackdown on "illegal" Americans. Those who are stopping visa run types from doing anymore visa runs by giving them only days on their next FMM card and having agents stopping people asking for their papers on buses or even in the streets.
Of course, enforcement of both above varies GREATLY by how touristy the area you live in is for obvious reasons as that's where those who do visa runs or overstay tend to be.
But you now have people who have spent years or decades in Mexico now being told "time to pack the bags" unless they managed to get a local woman pregnant and/or married a local.
Take Peru also.
I remember another article on Expat Chronicles written years ago referencing a woman that would do visa runs from Peru to Chile (I believe to the city of Arica). I believe this might've been the article I was thinking of but I'm not sure. It touches the topic anyhow to a degree.
From what I have read though, we gringos can't do visa runs in Peru anymore as I found out here. And you have Mexico that is becoming stricter these days as I said before.
"Peru has become stricter as far as these restrictions are concerned. Visa runs which are so popular among digital nomads are no longer possible. Once you have used up your 183 days, you have to wait for 6 months before you can come back."
Over time, plenty of countries in Latin America have become stricter with higher requirements to live down there.
By coming in with a job lined up, you already have the legal situation worked out as you’d get a work visa.
Second, as we have said, this option at least narrows your options to make a decision on where to relocate to.
Third, you could argue that someone with a local job will have more insight into how the country works beyond a superficial level. While expats can get that insight without a local job, it definitely helps and those experiences would be interesting to have.
Fourth, I imagine there’s probably some cool career benefits to putting on your resume that you have done business abroad.
Fifth, having a local job, even if it doesn’t always pay a high salary, at least offers the benefit of not being worried about how you’re going to make money to support yourself.
I know plenty of Twitter money gurus would scoff at that idea and there’s plenty who make insane money online (with the other benefits of self-employment). Still, having a stable job can be nice versus looking for your next client online all by yourself (with no career benefits).
But, when it comes to employment options under the strategy of serendipity, I think there are some other points to mention.
Employment Under the Strategy of Serendipity
First, not every gringo who has a job down here is actually legal with a work visa.
The classic “illegal English teacher” or some backpacker type working in a hostel for room & board.
On top of that, your job could always go away and now what are you going to do? How easy would be to get another one? I can only speculate anyhow as I've never had a local job down here but I imagine the process can be complicated obviously as a foreigner.
I’ve heard of gringos having to leave Latin America for work reasons not playing out how they hoped.
So, to some degree, I question if being “chosen” by your Latin country for work reasons is the best way to go about it if your plans are to live here for decades.
At some point, I would think about getting off the work visa to find another way to be legal (like marriage) but, from a legal standpoint, it definitely makes A LOT more sense than the “wondering gringo” or “digital nomad” that does visa runs forever and ever.
When it comes to money though, I guess that's where I would wonder how much of an advantage is the "come in with a local job" approach. I can only speak from my own experience but most of the gringos I have met who got in with a local job were not being paid much compared to what they could MAYBE make working online.
Of course, you have your journalists that work for professional news organizations back home, the representatives for Canadian mining companies, US State department officials and more.
There absolutely are HIGH paying or decent paying jobs down here for the gringo.
But most gringos I have met who work a local job down here are not breaking more than 1,000 USD per month.
Maybe I just meet the poor ones?
I am young though so that might explain why I haven’t met many “mid-career professionals.”
Regardless, that’s only been my experience anyhow that quite a few gringos with the local job aren’t pulling big numbers.
After all, Latin America has no shortage of gringos working in hostels or teaching English for not very much cash.
On the flip side though, it's not like every one of those "work online" types are as successful as they make themselves out to be while selling Gumroad courses on Twitter making more money teaching people a skill than what they actually make themselves with that skill.
To make it with the “local job” approach, I’m of the opinion that you really need more useful skills than what you’d need to make it work back home.
For example, let’s take teaching English.
You got plenty of gringos with few skills teaching English down here and not making much from it while others do pull in better.
It's the difference between the German teaching English at a no name school for 500 bucks a month in Xela, Guatemala versus the American teaching English at a private university like Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia making 1,500 (both characters that I've met).
One has no real credentials and the other has years behind in teaching and proper degrees and certifications to get him a better job.
Compare that to other countries in the world.
Before I came to Mexico, I had a friend working (and living) in China with a Chinese wife and kid who said he’d help me get an English teaching job in China.
Though I have a BA degree, I don’t have any English teaching skills whatsoever and he was just throwing out there a possibility of maybe earning close to 2,000 USD a month at his school.
There’s no way, from what I understand, that I’d be able to get that in Latin America without stronger credentials.
Perhaps Latin America was financially easier on the English teacher two decades ago when us gringos weren’t as common down here but it doesn’t seem like the best career path forward unless you do it smart.
Equally so, I’d imagine that’d have to be the case for other professions.
At the end of the day, most countries in the world, like in Mexico, can be very strict with permitting any foreigner from taking a local job and most locals would find it weird hiring a foreigner anyhow with non-native Spanish.
Think of all of your friends back home. Those who became nurses, policemen, car dealers, technicians, etc. While it's true no gringo is even applying for those jobs (especially given how low they might pay), most wouldn't be considered for the position anyhow.
Perhaps for those reasons (among others), gringos are limited with the option of picking their Latin country by who will hire them as the amount of jobs are relatively limited anyhow.
It actually reminds me of a story I wrote about before where I met another foreigner who LOVED Mexico so much that he started contemplating all the ways he could get a job here.
He really wanted to “work with his hands” and maybe be a car mechanic.
Long story short, a Mexican woman named Maria and I had to “bring him to reality” in explaining most jobs in Mexico – almost all of them – are “not available to him.”
That’s just how it is.
Perhaps for that reason also, many end up working online.
But working online doesn't really connect you with any country to live in (unless it involves selling products made in one country to another country but that does involve a physical element beyond working from your laptop).
It doesn’t help reduce the options of Latin American countries to choose from.
No work visa in most cases.
So, unless said gringo can find a local job that pays well with the proper skills (many don't) or unless said gringo has a specific person he is in love with (to marry and/or has kids with), it's easy to see many don't go down the strategy of serendipity where they “are chosen” by whatever Latin country.
Said Latin country isn't even considering them in the first place.
Now, to be fair, some of the above actually addresses the practicality of being able to pursue the strategy of serendipity
Not that if it is smart or not.
In short, I’d say it is smart for legal reasons only if said gringo can make it work financially in said country.
If he is going back home to earn USD because he’s gone broke like Paul in this video here (regardless of if he went there for love or a specific job), then it’s not very smart.
90 Day Fiance Paul video
So, for the gringo in that scenario, it’s only smart in my opinion if the local job that “chose” him was well paying or if the woman he fell in love with online plans on coming home with him where he could maybe make it work better financially (assuming he can’t find any other way to support a life both of them in her country).
Still, we have the other option too: path of self-determination.
The Path of Self-Determination
This is the gringo who isn’t going to any specific Latin American country because he obtained a job in that country or for a local woman he met on a cam model website that is sending tit pics for “shopping money.”
Perhaps said gringo is an old person who wants to retire and is convinced that he could make his retirement income of 1,250 USD per month could work better by Lake Chapala in Mexico than in rural Wisconsin.
Maybe said gringo is a perpetual traveler but wants to settle down someday to the Latin country that he simply liked the most out of the others
Perhaps he is thinking strategically about where to best to relocate to after a nuclear war starts.
Or, perhaps more seriously, maybe he chose his Latin country based on reading Nomad Capitalist articles on the best Latin country to live in for taxation purposes as I wrote more about here.
Regardless of his reasoning, there is nothing more concrete like a marriage to a local or a local job that is tying him to specifically THAT country with the legal benefit of residency and/or citizenship provided.
Is it a better strategy?
We already covered some of the positives of the path of serendipity but let’s cover some of the benefits of the opposite.
First, it should be recognized that every gringo has his own different needs for what he desires in a new country.
There are some Latin countries that would be absolute “shit holes” for him and other countries that fits what he wants in life.
While you might be able to get a job more easily in Peru, what if you absolutely would hate a life in Peru?
Perhaps you are like me and don’t eat fish so that some of the more famous cuisine of the country doesn’t work for you (but you have a mother-in-law who insists on making you ceviche because she loves you).
Or maybe you don’t like that Peru doesn’t have a territorial tax system like a lot of aspiring expats talk about these days.
Not a fan of the beaches in Peru compared to what you’d get in Colombia?
And, as I wrote here, we all have places where we “get along with the locals” in some places more than others.
A man who finds the people of Pereira, Colombia friendlier than those in Montevideo, Uruguay.
It’s similar to a man who prefers living in Lima and can’t see a life in any other part of Peru because Lima just fits what he’s looking for and the other places less so.
The fact is that there are many other factors to consider when it comes to deciding where to relocate to in terms of country and city and the benefit of “self-determination” keeps the option a little more open.
Second, a path of “self-determination” can also involve traveling around a little bit easier than the strategy of serendipity
While someone who has come down here because of a job or a marriage can travel, they do have more limitations in their life.
If you have a specific job that requires you to be there 5 or 6 days out of the week, then you don’t have as much time as the dude who works from his laptop.
Quick Point: Of course, what I'm talking about here are "digital nomads." I understand they are a different topic than someone who chooses a life of self-determination or serendipity. I'm only saying that those of self-determination likely can exploit this benefit a lot easier than those of serendipity.
Anyway, with that extra travel, you can also more easily “test the waters” in various countries before deciding on a place that you like above the rest.
It also lets you know which countries you WOULDN’T want to live in for decades.
For example, while I wouldn’t mind visiting any of the following countries, I don’t think I’d want to live in them after having visited: Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela and Guatemala.
Of course, you are getting a VERY superficial knowledge of each country since you aren’t even doing basic things like opening a bank account or getting healthcare done in any of those countries.
But it’d not a bad idea to start with the superficial to get a “broad” taste before “digging a little beneath the surface” for when it’s time to settle down.
Still, what I just said above isn’t the most applicable to every single aspiring expat.
Limitations in life can make it where that type of travel to begin your life in Latin America (which is how I got started) include at least of the following:
- Obvious money issues. Even if you work remotely, it costs money to be on the road and enjoy the experience.
- Productivity issues. Even if you work remotely, it’s recommended to “stay put” for 3 months to a year in each place you visit because it’s hard to be productive otherwise with work, your diet, finding a right gym, etc.
- You can more easily get “burned out” and tired of traveling if you are constantly on the road.
- Loneliness. I remember leaving all my friends behind in Cochabamba, Bolivia and being lonely again in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Or all the women you meet – some of whom you like beyond just sex – that you miss and wish you could see again.
- Fear. Even relocating at all is something people would be very nervous about and some expats prefer reading about which area to choose from in the comfort of their home in Indiana before picking one place. To tell them to drop that and just travel to a vast amount of areas that few Youtube influencers can tell them about would be a harder sell.
- Age! I'm inclined to believe that an old man in his 60s or 70s has less "energy" so to speak to travel like that than a young 20 year old. Granted, said 70 year old isn't taking the path of "working a local" job either but that's a separate point.
Finally, there’s one other downside to the constant traveling before picking a place to relocate to.
You have that "manosphere" type that travels forever and ever. His life involves mainly new cities to visit and new pussy to penetrate.
So, for those guys or anyone else really, you might not know when to settle down and, in worst case scenario, spent so much time traveling that all of the countries where you WOULD want to live in have stopped visa runs and are harder to immigrate to beyond getting a local chick to marry for that “Latin American Green Card.”
Like how Mexico set its monthly income requirement for temporary residency to 2700 recently when it was 1700 when I began living here.
Then you are potentially stuck with the poorer of Latin American countries to legally immigrate to like Paraguay or Nicaragua (unless you now plan on trying to find a local job or chick to marry in whatever country).
So, as you can see, there are obvious limitations with this way of “picking your Latin country” where you just travel around like the Gringo Christopher Columbus before settling down based on which area you liked the best.
At any rate, those are the two main benefits I see, for right now anyhow, with the “self-determination” strategy.
- Easier to pick the right country that has conditions for what you want beyond a local job (of which you wouldn’t be able to get 95% of them anyhow) and beyond love (which every Latin country has hot women. Even Guatemala! I think….).
- And you can go about this strategy of self-determination by traveling around first a little bit easier than if you had a local job tying you down. That easier travel with the experience alone is a benefit in of itself.
Ultimately, I can’t tell you which other factors to consider or strategy is right for you.
We are all different and your life circumstances and desires will influence greatly which path works best for your situation.
Be it you are a young man in your mid to late 20s who wants to take his business career internationally with a job in another country or you are an old grandpa in his 70s who wants to retire.
Very different set of circumstances that’ll give you some shared priorities but also many different ones regarding where to relocate to in Latin America and which strategy works best for you.
But, having said all of that, there are a few other points I’d like to bring up in regards to specific things said in the article by Expat Chronicles.
Thinking About Venezuela
There are some quotes in the Expat Chronicles article that I find interesting as they relate more to economics so let’s get to it.
“If someone chose to make it in Venezuela in 2008 – not brought in by an oil company, but actually chose Venezuela and moved there on the grind – they probably wasted their time. That’s an extreme example and those expats may not be cut out for business in the first place, but self-determination could lead you astray.
First, I agree that, in the case of Venezuela, that they’d be “led astray.”
But if we were to take the example of Venezuela (though few gringos are picking that country anyhow and most Latin countries aren’t that bad), you could recognize how Venezuela used to be a much wealthier country in Latin America not too long ago.
Our parents would probably remember Venezuela in its better days. Was arguably one of the nicer Latin countries to choose.
And, back in the days of when Venezuela was nicer, how many folks were predicting that it’d be as ugly as it is now?
In fact, plenty of Latin countries have had a WILD ride in the last 50 or so years.
Countries that were either going through civil war, fighting domestic narco groups, being invaded by the US (Panama) and more.
Like Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, etc.
From my perspective, while all of these countries have seen considerable growth over the last few decades (though Nicaragua is in a bad political climate currently), it’s also quite possible that they could all slide back into chaos.
In part, I do sometimes think about what country I’d like to settle down in to raise a family (like Chile) given its better economic and political climate but I also sometimes internally pushback against the idea because a lot of these countries don’t seem to always be the most stable.
In theory, we could always say that someday Peru might end up Venezuela. After all, you got a leftist president in Peru and, in typical Latin American fashion, you always have those on the political right who cry "we'll become the next Venezuela!" whenever someone on the left wins.
Like with Chile or with Mexico also.
Of course, there's some bullshit with all that anyhow. Political exaggerations first and foremost.
And very different "on the ground situation" where Peru, as of right now, doesn't have the same conditions that Venezuela had to become Venezuela (politically, economically, etc).
At any rate, it is smarter to consider economic (and political) conditions for deciding where to live (like which country has more job opportunities to offer you) but I do caution against it a little bit even though we can’t predict the future perfectly anyhow and can just use the information we have at hand now.
And also, as we'll see next, sometimes the economic conditions on the ground aren't always as important to us gringo expats.
The Gringo Reality of Love & Economics in Latin America
There are two points to be made in this section of the article that have to do with the following: Love & Economics.
In the Expat Chronicles piece, I agree with the idea that a country with a better economy will have more job opportunities for the gringo pursuing a strategy of serendipity but I also do find the idea a tiny bit odd also. Here's a few quotes that in particular caught my attention:
"In providing context on Latin America, I often point out that Peru has been the economic star for the last 20 years. The leaders may change a little depending on the time range you look at, but Peru is at or near the top across the board for indicators such as economic growth, poverty reduction, foreign investment and infant mortality."
"For years I advised aspiring expats not to do what I did. Don’t worry about a job. Pick where you want to live and just get there. You can make it happen. But now I see the value of serendipity, at least the way I did it. By getting a job first, you’re narrowing the prospects to countries whose economies are growing, whose companies are open to foreign expertise and whose legal environments are fairly open."
"Even if a self-determined expat doesn’t choose the best economy, most make out OK. The ones I know who chose Brazil and Argentina are doing fine."
The point that I want to make anyway is that while the path of serendipity can typically require more often that the gringo pick a country with a stronger economy, I do question how much the "strength" of the economy really matters for other expats not as dependent on finding a local job, starting a local business or even raising a family locally down here.
We expats are, to some degree, sheltered from economic conditions on the ground but it depends heavily on the type of expat you think of.
If someone were to have a business selling products from Latin America to customers in the US, then the economic conditions on the ground in that Latin American country are probably more important to consider.
Equally so, as the author rightfully points out, a country with better economic prospects will have more jobs available for the expat going down the path of serendipity where he'll go.
On top of that, the author also merges the topic of love with economics under the path of serendipity where expats looking for love abroad will find it easier in countries with weaker economies but those who he knew personally having it "the best" were those who found love in growth economies.
"The more common form of destination serendipity in practice seems to be going where your foreign spouse or significant other is from. Many gringos who met their wife or husband back home take the leap in a new country where they have in-laws and personal networks. Like me, they didn’t choose the country so much as the country chose them.
This worked out well for everybody I knew, given I lived in two growth economies. But as a strategy the odds are unfavorable because the local population of foreign mates is determined by who is leaving their home country for Gringolandia. Citizens of the economic dogs are overrepresented in that group."
In the States, you’d be exposed to a disproportionate number of Salvadoreans, Hondurans, Venezuelans and Dominicans, while underexposed to Chileans, Peruvians or Panamanians. And that will hold true forever. Whenever a country goes through economic troubles or war, their citizens will flood into the rich world. When a country is doing well, their levels of outward migration fall."
Though, when sticking to the topic of love, I'd wonder how "unfavorable" it really is for those finding love in "growth economies" versus poorer ones.
For one, if you choose to have kids with a woman in Latin America, I'd personally prefer a country with a growth economy because said country will offer them a better future than a poorer one (though you could always raise them in the US or they could always go to the US as adults anyway to be fair but I'd still prefer a more stable country anyhow).
On top of that, I'd say it's not just economic conditions that determine where the gringo will more likely find his love abroad but also which countries are advertised online as having hotter women (Colombia, Brazil, etc).
Even in Latin American countries that have bigger economies like Colombia or Brazil, said gringo can find women online who are interested in foreigners.
Especially when we foreigners typically have more money than those down here, how you have women living in poorer conditions in either country who wouldn't mind a wealthier foreigner, how you have foreigners looking for single mothers as I wrote here and you have other influences that bring about some women from those countries looking for foreigners.
It could then also be asked if those gringos are truly going down a path of serendipity? If the idea is that they didn't choose the country but the country chose them, then how much did the country "really choose them" if they only started looking for love abroad in that country because they heard it had better women?
90 Day Fiance -- Ricky and Ximena
While there are gringos who "got chosen" because they accidentally found love with a woman from any random Latin American country, I don't know if I see the gringo being "chosen" by said country if he was purposefully looking for women from a specific country because he was told how hot or traditional the women are from there.
Regardless anyway of if that falls under "serendipity" or not, it doesn't matter too much as how the gringo found love anyway depends on the gringo in question! Everyone is different.
Moving away from love though and back to economics, let's go back to the other main point I wanted to talk about in this section regarding how, for some foreigners, "economic conditions" on the ground don't matter as much.
While we have those foreigners looking for a local job or having a business tied to the local economy down here, you also have the stereotypical image of the old man expat who is 70 and wants to live on a beach.
Conditions like infant mortality, local job opportunities or economic growth have less importance for a lot of gringos (especially those who don't go down the path of serendipity).
Said expat, like other expats, might have access to USD through a retirement income or working online. They could live a good life in a country economically worse than Peru like Guatemala. I've met those types. They don't discuss "infant mortality" or "FDI."
In fact, one could argue that the worse economic conditions on the ground makes their life better (in some regards). Obviously, if the economy goes "full Venezuela," crime goes up beyond levels that they will tolerate and they ditch.
But most Latin countries aren't Venezuela.
These types -- like plenty (but not all expats) -- are exploiting an exchange rate advantage where the local currency is crap compared to the USD and they can afford an easier life.
If a country like Nicaragua (as poor as is it but with plenty of the beaches and cheap prostitutes expats enjoy) were to become as economically prosperous as Norway, I guarantee you that plenty of expats would ditch Nicaragua. It's too expensive for them on their 1,250 USD/month retirement fund.
Now they can't afford buying a local home for 100,000 USD because it now costs 300,000 (or more!).
It seems to me, at least from what I observe, that so many benefit from worse economic conditions.
That isn’t always the case though as countries becoming richer bring with them more investment, can afford better infrastructure (like you can see here in the Peru is Rich AF series), have more businesses from the US that gringos miss like Best Buy or whatever else, become better places to raise children as we said before, etc.
But, to a degree, we do have a weird relationship with “economic growth.”
Just the other day, I was outside waiting for some gorditas to be cooked for me and made small talk with a white Mexican woman who was eating at the same place I was.
It was a street food spot nearly outside my apartment and we were both sitting at the same table.
She started complaining to the female cook about the devaluation of the Mexican peso.
And I chimed in saying "well, that's not too bad is it?"
She said to me "What?"
And I explained that, given I earn USD, a devalued peso would be quite nice. She didn't find that offensively and actually a little bit humorous.
We talked a minute more on it before she asked me other things as she realized I was a foreigner and asked the usual questions of “where you from?” and “why do you like Mexico?”
Truth be told though, I do want a devalued peso!
In the same way that, funny enough, I've seen plenty of expats or digital nomad types on Twitter talk about how great it would be to live in Argentina right now given how fucked their currency is these days.
Either way though, like I said, I'm not like every expat (even if most would benefit from a devalued peso).
For example, you have those who work a local job getting paid in local currency as mentioned before.
A devalued currency isn’t so nice anymore with a local wage!
You have others who have children with a local woman from Latin America.
Maybe she is also working a local job that pays in the local currency.
And scenarios could play out where maybe they raise that family in Latin America or, even if they raise them back in the US, the kids could someday return to live in Latin America as adults.
In either scenario, I think said expat would value a country with better economic, social and political conditions where it is a stable country to live in versus the single expat whose interest in said country doesn't go beyond how expensive the prostitutes, drugs and beach homes are.
Rooting For Your New Country
But, on that note, I also think that said expat, after enough time in whichever Latin country, naturally develops a stronger fondness for the country regardless of his motivations to be there.
From the expat who "got chosen" by his country and took on a good job offer to the one who chose the country because some Youtube influencer told him how "he could live like a king on 1,000 in Cuenca, Ecuador."
I'm only talking about my own experience anyhow.
But, over time, you DO make local friends. You DO fall in love with local women. You have MEMORIES and a LIFE there. In short, while worse economic conditions might make your life a tiny bit cheaper there if the currency is devalued, you also want what is best for the locals because you want to see this country that you have called home over many years or decades to succeed.
Having said that, no aspiring expat would think that way when it comes to "picking a Latin country to live in" because he doesn't have that connection yet (unless he's Latino looking to reconnect with the roots of his family).
But that was all quite a long talk about economics and I'm not an economist.
To summarize, I have my doubts regarding how important local economic conditions matter outside of extreme situations like Venezuela. I see them mattering when it comes to....
- You having local children to raise in the country.
- When inflation is bad (like I noticed in Argentina years ago).
- You don't want the local gordita lady across the street to suffer too much from local currency devaluation because you think she has nice tits.
- Ability to find a local job in Latin America
- And for those who run a business where said economic conditions could impact it beyond ways I understand.
So, in short, I don't see many expats truly considering "economic conditions" when they go for the self-determined route (unless they are thinking of how to live like a king on 1,000 due to the exchange rate or how cheap the homes are).
But, for those taking the serendipity route, I think local economic conditions are more crucial and, perhaps in the case of Colin, influence where said expat ends up if said expat is looking to relocate based on where the best employment opportunities are.
An Unexpected Turn Towards Serendipity
Finally, one last thought that I had that I feel like bringing up (and perhaps as a way to finish this article) is to mention that it’s possible someone might turn towards serendipity while not aiming for that initially.
For example, let’s take my situation.
I moved to Mexico because I got tired of traveling from country to country and wanted to pick a Latin country to know better while staying put somewhere.
I had no job or local woman tying me to Mexico.
I chose Mexico because “why not?”
There were a few minor reasons like “I don’t know Mexico too well compared to other Latin countries” and “it’s close to the US.”
But really it was more of a “fuck it” moment as I was contemplating a life between Mexico, Colombia and China after college.
After choosing Mexico, I met numerous women along the way while dating down here also.
And even met one Peruvian chick that I liked a little bit but we never got serious and who I wrote about here.
One of the reasons was I knew she’d be going back to Peru anyway and I didn’t like her enough to relocate to Peru.
But let’s change the circumstances just a tiny bit.
Let’s say that we fell in love with each other and I felt like I just HAD to go to Peru with her.
In that circumstance, is that not then switching from a path of self-determination to a path of serendipity?
Where, in theory, I could’ve married her and then this blog would not have a strong Mexican focus but instead a strong Peruvian one.
And, outside of love, I could see the same thing happening in regards to employment.
In either scenario anyhow, one could argue also that this isn’t about choosing which strategy is best for you but simply life sometimes just happens and brings us to where we are.
While the self-determination gringo is probably more analytical in where to go, the one of serendipity can also be so but is perhaps more likely to end up where he did because “that’s how life played out.”
At any rate, it’s a question I’d ask – could someone switch from going down a path of self-determination to one of serendipity.
Logically, I see how it could happen (though I’m not sure how many gringos actually do that).
Final Thoughts: A Summary
Anyway, let’s summarize given the length of this article.
The fact is that I don’t actually disagree whatsoever with the point of the article discussed today.
There were a few sentences that I might not agree with depending on if I read right what the author was trying to convey but they’re not as important and would distract from the main message.
As I said, I think it’s very smart to choose your Latin country or “be chosen” by based on where you can get a job.
In fact, it’s almost comical for me to write that sentence above because that is the LITERAL expat opposite of what I did.
But yet it sounds so obvious for what you should do that it shouldn’t even need to be said.
Yet we have our gringos, such as myself, who were also young in their 20s, chose a life in Latin America but decided to tackle “self-employment from the internet.com” instead of coming in with an actual job offer.
Still, while I think Colin’s approach is more logically sound, like I said, I think there are numerous benefits to doing it the other way by “picking a country” instead of being “chosen.”
And, for me personally, I think the “self-determination” route works better.
But that’s just me.
For others, it entirely depends on your life circumstances anyhow and what you even want being from the expat experience.
The retired grandpa with a wife already is less likely to “be chosen” by his country through marrying a local or finding a local job given he is married and retired.
The young expat like myself – perhaps a bit easier than how it was in 2008 – can find online opportunities that pay better than most local jobs anyhow and of which makes it easier to travel around and get a better taste for which country best fits what we want in life.
Not to mention the challenges – legally and practically – for us to find a local job or a woman to marry and so a path of serendipity isn’t always practical.
On top of that, said gringo might not even want to be an expat for the rest of his life and might jump with the knowledge ahead of time that he’s only in the game for a few years.
In that scenario, a path of self-determination might possibly make more sense.
For one, if he wants to travel around forever with limited time, it sure would.
Even if he wants to live in one country, he wouldn’t need to worry about the legal benefits that come with serendipity in a country that visa runs allow (though, in a country like Colombia, perhaps serendipity would work better as tourist visas only last 6 months there with no visa run option).
Furthermore, I’ve known gringos who prefer “hopping” between Latin countries.
Like one man I know who prefers spending half the year in the DR and the other half in Colombia.
For him, the option of finding a local job or marrying a local woman is not necessary and unlikely if he is always on the move. But his style of living is exactly how he prefers.
On the flip side, like we said before, sometimes life also just has a way of putting you down a path of serendipity regardless as you fall in love or find a great job opportunity.
Perhaps, during his hopping around, he finds love someday in Colombia.
Maybe a nice woman that he wasn’t expecting to fall in love with and then he marries her.
Perhaps had no real plans to live in Colombia forever but that’s how life happened then.
And we could go all day anyhow regarding the different life scenarios where one strategy might work better than the other.
So, in short, I wouldn’t say that either strategy is better than the other. Only depends on the circumstances.
At the end of the article by Coin, we are left with this quote here:
“But I have a new pride in my strategy of serendipity. And instead of saying “don’t do what I did,” it’s not a bad idea.”
I would take it a step further than that and say “it can be a great idea.”
Definitely not, at least from my perspective, something to ever tell people to “not do that.”
For, as said many times now, the options to path to a life in Latin America – serendipity or self-determination – can both work great depending on your circumstances and those vary so much by person that it’d be impossible to give life advice anyhow on which is better without knowing specifics of the person.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say for the summary.
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