JS 82: Advice for Expats with Louise Lague and Tom Lichty Authors of ‘The Expat Almanac’

November 5th, 2014 by Jason | Comments Off on JS 82: Advice for Expats with Louise Lague and Tom Lichty Authors of ‘The Expat Almanac’

expat_almanac

Traveling authors, Louise Lague and Tom Lichty use today’s Jet Setter Show to talk to Jason Hartman about their new book, The Expat Almanac. In both the book and the podcast you’ll find tips, advice and tales to make the transition that little bit easier when dropping everything and either moving to a new country long-term or just staying for a few weeks or months at a time. 

Key Takeaways

02.30 – Unless you have access to unlimited funds, renting both at home and abroad is a luxury you may have to give up.

04.15 – If you can’t or don’t want to go through the process of visa applications, you will have to adhere to each country’s immigration policies, which for many involve a maximum stay of 90 days.

06.03 – If you know the town you’re going to, do some research to make sure you’re staying in safe, desirable neighborhoods.

07.45 – When looking for more affordable accommodation options, consider looking at websites specializing in house-sitting  opportunities.

11.57 – Even when everything seems to be going wrong, the people you meet can change your fortunes and help you out.

13.12 – Blue Cross medicare insurance is one of the few which offers overseas coverage and specifically refers to coverage in life-threatening events.

16.13 – Find out more information about Louise and Tom’s book, The Expat Almanac on www.expat-almanac.com

 

Mentioned in this episode

www.tripadvisor.com

www.cntraveler.com

www.nytimes.com

www.airbnb.com

www.HomeAway.com

 

Tweetables

Visa runs are fun when you can just cross the border, have a cup of coffee and then go back down the Tijuana. Tweet this!

When renting an apartment, you don’t want to end up with a place with a chalk outline on the sidewalk outside! Tweet this!

You don’t have to be old to get into medical trouble overseas, but you do have to foot the bill! Tweet this!

 

 

Transcript

Introduction
Welcome to the Jet Setter Show, where we explore lifestyle-friendly destinations world-wide. Enjoy and learn from a variety of experts on topics ranging from up-scale travel and wholesale prices to retiring overseas, to global real-estate and business opportunities to tax havens and expatriate opportunities. You’ll get great ideas on unique cultures, causes and cruise vacations. Whether you’re wealthy or just want to live a wealthy lifestyle, the Jet Setter Show is for you. Here’s your host, Jason Hartman.

Jason Hartman:
It’s my pleasure to welcome Louise Lague and Tom Lichty to the show. They head up and are the authors of The Expat Almanac: Sell it all. Pack a bag. Hit the road, and I think we’ll hear some very exciting ideas from them today, and they’re coming to us from beautiful Portland, Oregon. Louise and Tom, welcome, how are you?

Louise Lague:
We’re great, thank you so much for having us on, Jason.

Tom Lichty:
Thank you, Jason.

Jason:
It’s good to have you on the show. Tell us how you came to write The Expat Almanac and what the inspiration was.

Tom:
Imagine a beach in Mazatlán – I think this was in 2011 or 2010. We were waiting for a table at a restaurant. It’s warm, there’s sand, there’s surf, and I turned to Louise and I said ‘Why can’t we just keep doing this? We’re retired, the kids are all grown up, we have our financial house in order as much as financial houses are ever in order, let’s just sell everything and put what’s left in a bag and go!’ So that’s how this came to pass.

Jason:
Fantastic. How long did you travel for? It sounds like you’re not traveling now. Is Portland your home?

Louise:
Well, we left from Portland and we traveled for a year, and now we’re back in Portland for another year – we’re renting. Who knows if we’ll take off for another year? You never know, but we’re here and the kids are all around us in this town so it’s a lot of fun.

Jason:
Right, good stuff. Tell me some of the things that you cover in the book and let’s help our listeners learn some good tips here.

Louise:
OKay, well one of the first things, and Tom talked about this idea, which is ‘How can we afford this?’ We had to go homeless. We had to not be paying two rents. The only rent we would pay was abroad, not with a home. We were renting so that was easy because we just waited until the end of the lease. Then there was a question of getting rid of the stuff, and that was done with an estate sale, but there were lots of months of agonizing and thinking ‘What here do I want to see again?’ Then there was the planning where we would go, and where would we live? What we were doing was spending from 3 weeks to 6 months in various places, and I had the great fun job (literally!) of picking out what apartments we were going to stay in. That can be tricky and complicated, and you never know what you’re going to find at the other end. You just follow the beautiful photographs of the apartments. That’s one of the things we cover in the book – how to do all that preparatory part.

Tom:
Our first plan was to live for 6 months, and it didn’t take very long to discover that you can’t do that without a visa. To get a Spanish visa, you have to go to the Consulate and take a number of papers with you which I won’t enumerate here, and present them to the Consulate. The Consulate will then call you back after they’ve reviewed the papers, but the flaw with that is that the Consulate for us is in San Francisco, which meant that both of us had to fly to San Francisco to present the papers, and then a couple of months later, both of us would have to go back to San Francisco to pick the papers up!

Louise:
It was just too much trouble.

Tom:
It was too much. So we ended up staying no more than 90 days in Spain, which is as long as you can go without a visa. In fact, it’s that way throughout Europe, so that limited our European stays to three months.

Jason:
So always 90 days? No 6 months in Europe?

Tom:
No.

Jason:
And a lot of people do visa runs, right? How long do you have to leave? Can you just go to another European country? It’s so easy, they’re right next door to each other and then you can come right back in!

Louise:
A lot of people do that, yeah. They stay for their 90 days and then they go to France for a week, and then they come back.

Tom:
And they get their passport stamped.

Louise:
Those are like the permanent expats.

Jason:
So the visa issue is one that everybody has to watch. I know a lot of American expats live in places like Thailand, and I believe it’s every six months that they have to do their visa runs. They’ve got a little bit more time there, but again, that’s not really that big of a burden, is it?

Louise:
Oh, not at all! No, it’s fun to cross the border.

Tom:
Mexico was 6 months also, and a lot of Mexican expats just go up to San Diego, have a cup of coffee and then go back down the Tijuana.

Louise:
[Laughs]

Jason:
Yeah, interesting to see the completely opposite immigration standards applied to those two countries – the US and Mexico on the border. It’s somewhat ridiculous. Tell us about some of the surprises. You’ve got a lot of stuff in here; the plan, the anticipation, the Spanish villa which I think you were alluding to there, packing tips, health issues.

Louise:
All that is in there, and one of the fun things is about even just renting an apartment in a foreign country. You may know what town you’re going to, and if it’s a big enough town, you must remember that there are neighborhoods in every town. Something that looks like ‘Oh boy, two bedrooms and a fireplace!’ could be in a really rotten neighborhood if the price is right! One must find these little ways – it’s very easy now to find out on the Internet where the good neighborhoods are in terms of safety, beauty, convenience and also public transportation.

Jason:
What websites? When you say ‘Find out on the Internet’, are there any website you want to recommend?

Louise:
www.tripadvisor.com is very good, I use www.cntraveler.com a lot [Condé Nast Traveler], The New York Times’ travel section online. They have a ’36 Hours in a City’ feature which will point out the good neighborhoods, and of course, the interesting neighborhoods. You don’t want a place with a chalk outline on the sidewalk outside your apartment! We were in Rome where there was a homeless person sleeping in the doorway and blocking it all night.

Jason:
Oh my gosh!

Louise:
Yeah, and it was in a good neighborhood. Of course there are always surprises. You cannot travel if you’re not ready to be surprised, or even dismayed.

Jason:
That’s the whole point of it; have some adventure. So those are some good website resources, I appreciate you giving those out. Since we’re talking about websites and we’ll go back into those other topics in a moment – do you have any other websites that you like or any good online resources that you want to recommend to our listeners?

Louise:
One thing we’re toying with is the idea of house-sitting in the future, rather than paying a double rent. We did find a couple of websites, but I can’t give you the names right now. They’re all about people listing their houses that need to be house-sat, and usually they require someone who can take care of cats or dogs, so that’s a lot of fun. You can just Google ‘House-sitting websites’ and they’ll come up.

Jason:
That’s the house-sitting concept. Are you usually just getting the house for free or are they paying you to house-sit?

Louise:
I think it’s a trade – you get the house for free in return for feeding Fido.

Jason:
Right, yeah, taking care of the pup. What about AirBnB and the different sharing websites out there? I think those have really opened up a lot of great opportunities for owners and for visitors.

Louise:
Those have been amazing, and especially in the more European cities. If you’re staying for more than 3-4 days, you don’t want to be eating every meal out, so if you have a little kitchen and a place you can escape to, it’s great. I like AirBnB and I like HomeAway. The trouble is that they have become so popular that I find houses are a little expensive there. Another way to do this is www.HolidayLettings.co.uk, an English based UK site, and they will do Europe and they’ll have a different array of houses to HomeAway. If you go to a rental agency within the town or to the Chamber Commerce website, they have a little ‘Lodging’ button, and you’ll find all these little places to stay that are not going to be marketing themselves for big bucks or being on HomeAway. They just need a few people every summer. The out of the way sites are really the way to go, like the B&B networks, that kind of thing.

Jason:
Good, good. Tell us about some of the best and worst experiences that you’ve had on your journeys.

Tom:
There was a moment when we were sitting on a balcony overlooking the Costa Brava in Spain.  It was a beautiful day, but quite suddenly, I got a headache. I don’t get headaches, and I mentioned it to Louise. We let it pass and went off in search of aspirin or something like that to deal with the pain, but it didn’t work. To cut to the chase, I had experienced a spontaneous subdural hematoma, which is a big blood clot on the brain. This one came about spontaneously, but often it’s the result of a traumatic event. In this case, it just happened by itself. I was whisked away in an ambulance to a hospital, and they had to take a Black & Decker saw. Well, I don’t know if it was Black & Decker..

Louise:
Probably not.

Jason:
[Laughs]. Hopefully not!

Tom:
They cut a big section of my skull away. This is major brain surgery. We endured that, I’m recovering and we’re about ready to be checked out of hospital. Louise has gone back to our apartment in Spain and picked up my clothes and she comes back into the hospital, asks me how I’m feeling and I tell her I’m not feeling well.

Louise:
That’s right. He was standing in the middle of the corridor, clutching his chest. I said ‘Right, go sit down’ and I went and found a nurse. All of a sudden, there were gazillions of doctors. This is a teaching hospital, by the way, with interns. They were all rushing in there, and he’s having a heart attack.

Jason:
Oh my gosh! One thing after another.

Louise:
Yes! He was having a heart attack, so he was in there for another week. Of course, this ripples into our year journey and they were speaking Spanish but I didn’t understand Catalan. Fortunately, we had fabulous landlords and new friends around who really came to our rescue and showed us that special European hospitality. It was pretty wonderful in the end. Tom was bald for a while, but he learned how to wear a do-rag, and now his beautiful silver hair is all back.

Jason:
Tell us about the medical care there. It sounds like you thought it was good?

Tom:
It was excellent. The hospital looked old, but the staff were wonderful and when it came to the part of the hospital that you care about, which is the surgery theater and places like that, it was [great]. I’ve had heart attacks in the past and so I’m kind of an expert in hospitals, and this particular hospital was as good as they come.

Jason:
Right, and so how about the payment for the medical services? How was that handled? Was that through your American insurance?

Tom:
We are insured through Blue Cross; we have medicare and we have a Blue Cross supplement. We picked Blue Cross because they were one of the few that offered coverage overseas. Their coverage says specifically ‘We will cover life-threatening events while you are overseas.’ Good! Brain surgery and a heart attack – those are life-threatening events. In order to get out of the hospital, they are going to want money, and it’s going to have to be your money. One of the points here, Jason, is that if you’re going to travel overseas, you don’t have to be old in order to get into medical trouble.

Jason:
Sure, of course.

Tom:
And if you get into medical trouble, be prepared to cover the bill. My bill was $21,000.

Jason:
So how did you pay them? Did you wire them $21,000 before you left the hospital?

Tom:
I did exactly that. I wired them $21,000 before they let me out.

Jason:
And Blue Cross paid you back?

Tom:
With the life-threatening event part, as it turns out, about half of my medical bill was room charges. Half of that $21,000 was room charges which, according to Blue Cross, is not life-threatening.

Jason:
I guess they think when you go to the hospital, you don’t need a room to recover from surgery.

Louise:
If the nurses were really mean, they might be life-threatening, but they weren’t. They were wonderful.

Tom:
So I ended up paying $9,000. The irony, of course, in all that is that had this happened in the US, a) Blue Cross would have paid for all of it, and B) It would have been much, much more than it was in Spain.

Jason:
Right, yeah, very interesting. Any final tips you want to mention to people? Please do give out your website, too, that’s an amazing story and I’m glad you’ve recovered from that. Wow, when you talk about health problems overseas, those two are about the biggest!

Tom:
Do take with you, of course, your medical health insurance card with the phone number on it. Also have with you a list of all your medications. Have with you your weight in various measurements.

Louise:
Yeah, in kilograms and stones.

Tom:
The anesthesiologists get very picky about things like that! But most of all, do have the availability of enough cash to cover whatever kind of medical event may occur. If you get in a car wreck, it can become expensive – and just as expensive as brain surgery and a heart attack was for me.

Jason:
It sure can. Good advice from someone who definitely knows. Tom, give out your website and tell people where they can get the book.

Tom:
Thank you, Jason. The website is www.expat-almanac.com, and that website will take you both to our blog – the blog is how the book came about, and it will take you to the book. The book is available on Amazon, both as Kindle and as hard copy.

Jason:
Good stuff. To you and Louise, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tom:
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Outro
This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.hartmanmedia.com, or email [email protected]
Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network Inc. exclusively.

 

 

 

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