A Better Life for Half the Price by
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
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
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
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
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.
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.