If you’re going to try out international living, the whole world is on the buffet table and that can be a bit intimidating. It’s like being faced with an entire store full of wine bottles when you’re clueless about wine and just want to buy something to bring a friend who invited you to dinner. One place to start is the climate. If you could pick your weather—and you can—what kind of weather would you want?
As outlined in A Better Life for Half the Price, there are three main buckets that go into decision making when figuring out the ideal place to live abroad. There are the wallet decisions, the head decisions, and the heart decisions.
The wallet one is key for most people—what can you actually afford? Or how much are you trying to reduce your expenses? If you’re starting a business, how long does your runway need to be before you’ll be profitable and can stop bleeding cash?
The heart one is hardest. That mainly involves actually going to a place and giving it a trial run. Do you feel happy, energized, and fulfilled there? It’s emotional rather than logical.
The Pros and Cons of a Place’s Climate
Climate and weather are a head decision because although you may get very negatively or positively emotional when faced with a certain climate, you can look up the averages and put them on paper. There will be unusual spikes and dips now and then, but global warming aside you can get a general idea of what to expect. Prague will be cold in the winter. Saigon will never be. Cuenca will be cloudy and chilly a few months every year. The Baja California Peninsula will not be.
So what are you looking for? If you get depressed with a lack of sun, then you probably don’t want to be in most of the northern USA, Canada, Europe, or east Asia in winter. If you hate hot and humid weather, you probably don’t want to move to Southeast Asia, Central America, southern India, or coastal Colombia. Sometimes it’s easier to start striking places from your list than it is to fill a blank page with the possibilities.
What if you want a “Goldilocks” climate that never gets all that hot or all that cold? Some of those have become expat havens for retirees: Boquete (Panama), Medellin (Colombia), Lake Atitlan (Guatemala), and Mexican destinations Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, and Oaxaca. There are plenty of others that fit the bill but just don’t have a lot of expats living there. I have that kind of climate in Guanajuato, which is at 6,500 feet in altitude. Our house doesn’t have heat, air conditioning, or insulation and that’s the norm. Apart from a couple space heaters we pull out for cold snaps in winter, there’s no need. (So as you can imagine our utility bills are next to nothing.)
Checking the Temps in Each Destination
One of the members of my Committed group posted this Weatherspark site in our private Facebook group and it’s a great resource for checking average temperatures in a given place. You can find a whole slew of other data on cloud cover, precipitation, wind, and more but here for example is the temperature range for average highs and lows in Medellin, Colombia:
Here it is for one of the most popular “location independent living” magnets of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I once spent six days in Chiang Mai and it rained buckets the entire time. Sure enough, when you look at the rainfall section for that city, for the months of June through August you’ve got a 2/3 chance of cloud cover and rain every day. For people coming from London or Seattle, that’s probably okay. If I moved there from Florida I’d need to find somewhere else to go for a few months a year.
What’s Your Ideal Climate?
That’s the thing though: weather preferences are very personal. True, most of the snowbirds in the tropics are coming from miserably cold places that get lots of snow in the winter. But obviously some people like those winters or they wouldn’t keep living there. Others want to live somewhere they’ll never need gloves or a winter coat, but they don’t want to sweat a liter of water every time they walk out the door. Others are happy if it’s hot every day, especially if they live by a beach.
So while you’re putting together your list of ideal factors (mountains or beach, isolated or close, urban or rural) don’t forget the factor that can really affect your mood: the weather. It’s not just a subject of small talk. It could be the difference between you loving a place and hating it.
Ideally try to do your trial run when you can see some of the worst time to be there. The rainiest season, or the coldest, or the windiest. If you still like it then, you’ll really love it when it returns to the norm.