“You’re moving WHERE?”
“To Uruguay”, we said.
“A little country nestled between the giants of Argentina and Brazil, in South America” my husband and I told our family and friends in the USA in the summer of 2007. A year earlier, we had sold our house and many of the things in it. We’d sold one of our two cars a few years previously and were on our way to a serious downsizing.
It was a rebellion of sorts from the consumerism and greed of our 20’s, as well as re-evaluating our desire to live in the inherently consumer-driven society of the USA, how we wanted to raise our infant daughter, and our professional goals moving forward.
We wanted more quality time as a family, not the all-too typical 9-5 rat race. I was already self-employed as a Kitchen and Bath Designer, my husband was a travel agent with an international student travel company. His decision to become self-employed as well, gave us the flexibility to make the leap to being location independent.
We researched many locations including Spain (too expensive and not the right time zone), Central America (hot and some political unrest), Argentina (very good and still on our radar) but we knew that we wanted Spanish speaking, lower cost of living, high standard of living, warmer, and a family-friendly atmosphere. Everything pointed us to Montevideo Uruguay.
After an initial visit to Uruguay and Argentina in March 2007 with our then 3-month-old daughter we knew that we had found the right place for us. We moved a year later with our then 15-month old daughter, our two pugs and only the things that they would allow on the plane. No international moving container for us. We were still packed heavy in my opinion with 3 suitcases, 12 boxes, a few carry-ons, carseat and a stroller.
We made the tough decision to bring some good quality things with us that so we wouldn’t have to buy new (and quite possibly at lower quality), including a desktop computer and two monitors for my husband’s business, bedding, a few kitchen implements and a wooden highchair.
In Montevideo, Uruguay we can live without a car. The weather is warm most of the year, so we don’t have a clothes dryer. We rent a 2 bedroom, furnished house that has no central heating or air conditioning, but a central fireplace and small electric heater/AC units in the bedrooms to turn on as needed. Health insurance costs are a fraction of what we used to pay every month for very high quality care, even though I have type 1 Diabetes.
Produce is sold in local “ferias” (farmers markets) nearly every day in Montevideo. This is where we buy local in-season vegetables as well as eggs and fish for a fraction of the cost of the grocery stores.
I cook more and as a result, we eat fewer processed foods and go out less. Since there are fewer recycling options here than we’re used to, we reuse or recycle everything we can ourselves. Luckily, we can purchase some items in returnable glass bottles and there are recycling facilities for many plastic items.
Coming from a frugal family and being creative, I tend to see the new uses in every day objects. Old yogurt containers and a ball become a bowling set for my 2-year old daughter. Beautiful jelly jars hold my office and sewing supplies and are just so pretty. We not only don’t want to buy new things but since we only plan to stay here 2 years or so, we have the motivation of someday having to sell or move all of the things that we acquire here.
All of my daughter’s clothes are second hand, homemade or repurposed, as are many of mine. I’m happy to support local businesses and try to buy handmade whenever possible. We also have a strong community of expats here from all over the world, which is a great resource for used items. I purchased a used crib from Amsterdam that we’ve already passed on to another family as well as a high-quality stroller from Australia.
I’m so happy with our decision to downsize our lives and live abroad. It has provided us with so many more opportunities to travel and spend time together that we would not have been able to do otherwise. Sometimes I miss our old life in our 2400 sq ft house in Minnesota, with two cars and lots of stuff. But that only lasts a moment, before I think of two key points of my personal mantra:
• Use ingenuity to see new life in ordinary objects.
• Live simply. Fulfillment is gained from relationships and experiences. Not things.
>> Lisa has a blog at http://urmovingwhere.com