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A Better Life for Half the Price by Tim Leffel

Better Life for Half the Price
Buy a Better Life for Half the Price.

I won’t mislead you by pretending I was not already a Tim Leffel fan before reading A Better Life for Half the Price. We have things in common. He’s a longtime expat with a special affinity for Latin America, as am I. He’s a frugal traveler; I’m a frugal traveler. Heck, we even both taught in Korea and Turkey. We’ve even been known, from time to time, to write for the same website (hint: it’s this one). On the surface, it was easy to guess that the book and I were going to nestle in well together.

Also having written a classic, The World’s Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Tim Leffel is a go-to expert on going global as inexpensively as possible. (Editor's note: He has also written a fine book on Travel Writing with an associated blog.)

However, it was exactly these commonalities that had me quite honestly a little concerned about reading his book. Undoubtedly, Tim would spend some time establishing the reality of living abroad. I wondered whether it would be time well spent.

There's an old expat yarn that many of us have spent time voicing a few too many times (or after a few too many): Living abroad is not nearly as difficult as you might think. Living abroad isn't a matter of being “lucky.” Living abroad doesn’t require a massive trust fund.

Was I really up to going through all that again? As it turned out, I was interested in hearing it all again, and the case was compelling.

To his credit, Leffel has an easy-going conversational prose style that transforms the subject into both an enjoyable and informative read. What’s more, his take on expat living isn’t his alone, but rather the shared stories of over 50 different interviewees from countries all over the globe, living in countries worldwide. The angle Tim takes offers many and varied perspectives, all of which ensure that the information is fresh and first-hand, even for those of us who are no longer in need of convincing.

Reading the book felt a bit like having a round-table with seasoned pros. If I already needed to be put at ease, the advice offered would have more than done so, and it would have had me strongly motivated to change my life. Check out this article about finding a property in Latin America to get an idea about some of the options Leffel discusses.

On the other hand, I really respect the fact that Leffel lays it all out there for readers without sugarcoating: Some folks just aren’t meant to ship off to exotic countries. While I’ve spent much of my time verbally wondering why more people aren’t expatriating, Tim is a more astute in recognizing that this life isn’t for everyone. He highlights some of the self-analysis recommended before making such an important move. There is a key section (“Are You Cut Out for This Life?”) in the book for people looking to move abroad for the first time that should read once or twice, while being honest with yourself. If you feel yourself ready for more, Leffel is an excellent guide to help you navigate through the processes of choosing a destination, setting up a home, and earning a living.

In my case, the most useful part of this book relates to the many individual country profiles. Not only does Leffel pluck out some top destinations for living cheaply, some of which had never occurred to me, but he has also done a lot—and I mean a lot—of the legwork for potential expats. He explains the standard pros and cons of each country, introduces us to some resident expats (and their blogs), provides multiple perspectives on housing costs (and other concerns like health care and transportation), and provides details about the hard realities of acquiring a visa (or in some cases, not bothering). I’ve been looking to change my base from Central to South America, and the four profiles of South American countries all had me yearning for relocation. Here’s a shortened sample article on Living and Moving to Mexico that provides the type of detailed information Leffel also offers on 18 different countries.

In the end, should you have any doubts remaining, Leffel does his best to address them with factual sections on safety, work, and family. The book preps readers for the reality of announcing such a move, whether moms, best friends, or whoever else might question your decision. He provides ideas for empathizing rather than arguing over any possible backlash from relatives and friends for moving abroad. A father himself, he also offers many informative pages dealing with the issues of schools and adjusting children to their new settings.

Finally, Leffel thoughtfully provides an extensive list of useful websites and blogs to help research the nuts and bolts of making a move to actually seek out a better life for half the price actually happen.  

For those content to stop at an overview, the book is all you need. Leffel’s book is $22—an inexpensive investment to explore a distant curiosity.

However, for those who swiftly reach the end of this page-turner of a book, there are more extensive options: For $89, Tim Leffel offers membership in a private Facebook group of expats, bonus webinars, recorded interviews, and a regular newsletter.

Then, for $199, Tim offers anxious émigrés a highly personalized option to receive live webinars with question-and-answer time, conference calls about destinations, and two private coaching sections.

In sum, the cost of the book, as well as the related options Tim offers in order to make such an important decision may be some of the best money you could spend if you are contemplating making a move.

Jonathon Engels Jonathon Engels earned an MFA in creative writing. He has lived, worked and/or volunteered in seven different countries, traveling his way through nearly 40 countries between them. His many interests include permaculture, veganism, and ways to live sustainably.

Related Topics
Living Abroad by Country
Tim Leffel's Columns and Articles for Transitions Abroad

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