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Jeff Kontur: Toward the expat dream

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If you are dreaming of becoming an expat, but you are overwhelmed by the research you have to undertake and the process of putting all the information on different countries together, Jeff Kontur an author and aspiring expat — has the solution in his new e-book "The Move Overseas Checklist".

Jeff Kontur

Jeff Kontur is an author, freelance marketing copywriter and aspiring expat. He values warm weather, history, culture and a well balanced quality of life. Copies of his Move Overseas Checklist ebook and worksheet can be found on his travel blog Amazing World Adventures.

Hello Jeffrey, can you tell us a few things about yourself? Where do you live, what do you do?

I currently live in Delaware, USA though I am preparing to sell my home and begin my expat journey. I have been divorced since 2010, and my daughter is now attending university about six hours away. So I have very little holding me back!

While I still have a day job managing computer systems, for the past several years I have been working diligently to make my income more portable. One key part of that is working to build up my client base as a direct-response marketing copywriter.

You have recently completed an e-book called The Move Overseas Checklist. What is it about and who will benefit from this manual?

The Move Overseas Checklist started out as a very personal project. For many years I’d had my sights set on moving overseas. The trouble was, I didn’t have a specific destination in mind. So I was looking at lots of places that met at least some of my criteria such as warm weather, more reasonable cost of living and a less polarizing political climate. I was gathering so much information that what I needed was a system for keeping everything organized.

The e-book is something I wrote to describe how the system works. It was prompted by like-minded friends who tried out my system and urged me to share it more widely.

The book comes along with an excel spreadsheet. Can you tell us how it works?

The e-book just describes the system. The crux of the system itself is the spreadsheet.

I built this elegantly simple spreadsheet for recording information I found about the places I was researching. As I applied “scores” to indicate how well each place seemed to suit my needs, I was easily able to create formulas which enabled me to compare different places against one another.

This is really the meat of it. Of course, there is no substitute for visiting a place in person but this spreadsheet enables anyone to quickly and easily look at dozens of places and narrow those down to a short list of the most promising ones.

I use it as a screening mechanism and have personally screened more than 60 different cities on every continent except Antarctica. There’s no way I would have been able to visit that many places in person.

You aren’t an expat yourself. How did the idea for such a book come up?

This all came up because it’s one of my strongest desires to become an expat. After my divorce, I had only a small nest egg left over. It didn’t seem sensible for me to spend what little I had wandering from place to place, hoping to stumble across the right one for me. Like most, I began researching online. I quickly found that I was looking at too many places and too much information about each one to keep them all straight. The information was getting jumbled.

You have done a lot of research on expatriation. How well-prepared do you consider yourself to be for your expatriation project?

I’d like to think I’m better prepared than many. Aside from the incredible amount of online and in-person research I’ve done, I speak three languages and have many skills that could only prove beneficial. For instance, I’m pretty handy at fixing and building things.

I’ve visited countries in Europe, Africa, and throughout Latin America so I have no delusions about places being exactly like the U.S. only cheaper and with better weather. I’m ooking forward to a simpler, more rustic lifestyle.

If you were to move out of the USA, where would you like to live and why?

I’ve looked at over 60 places in all different parts of the world. Plenty have a lot of great things going for them.

Right now the countries which have the most cities that rank very highly for my personal tastes are Mexico and Colombia. Naturally they do well in terms of cost of living. Their climate also suits me. Both countries have varied terrain but I’ve been looking mainly at the warmer regions. A more off-the-beaten-path place that is always in the back of my mind and ranks highly with me is Sri Lanka.

Which parts of expat life you find the most appealing and which the most challenging?

The appeal for me is in the adventure. Exploring the unfamiliar, learning history from a different perspective, seeing new sights, celebrating different holidays.

Most challenging so far has been narrowing down my options. I’m actually giving serious thought to being a full-time nomad. At least for a few years. After all, I’ve only been to 17 countries so far. That leaves more than 180 more that I’ve never seen.

In your opinion, how well-organised and prepared are American expats? And how well do they adapt to life in a different culture?

Since I haven’t really started my expat journey yet, and very few of my American friends could ever imagine living outside the U.S., I don’t have a very good sense of how prepared others are. I can say that before going to all the trouble to build my spreadsheet I looked around to see if such a thing already existed. I was not able to find one. This leads me to presume that most people are creating their home-grown systems just like I did.

That’s a key reason why I decided to turn this from a personal project into one that could help others. The e-book wasn’t necessary for me but it is vital to someone else who wants to figure out how I put the spreadsheet together and how to get the best use out of it. So now the two come as a bundle and are available on my website.

As far as adapting to other cultures, I can’t presume to know about Americans in general, but I do hear often that Americans are thought of as loud and brash. This is a view that I think first grew out of American government policies, especially military policies. Unfortunately, far too many individual Americans seem to reinforce the belief through their behaviors.

The Move Overseas Checklist analyses several factors of life abroad, such as cost of living, the environment, healthcare, culture, etc.. To you, which factor plays the most important role in a good quality life and why?

Quality of life is a very holistic thing. That’s one of the reasons why I look at nearly 70 different measures of quality of life with my spreadsheet. Asking which is most important is a bit like asking which vitamin or mineral is essential to one’s diet. They all carry some degree of importance and it’s more about finding the right balance.

This is not your first book. What are your other books about? What motivates you to write books?

This is my 6th book, but the first that I’m putting out as purely an e-book. The reason for that is the spreadsheet. There is simply no way to provide that other than electronically.

All my books are nonfiction, how-to type books. I have written and published two on the subject of photography, one on marketing, one on writing a killer job resume, and one on tips and tricks for using Microsoft Excel.

I’m just naturally a teacher at heart. I spent nine years teaching workshops and seminars on photography, travel planning, Mac productivity and other topics. So writing books that teach others how to do things that I already know how to do well just seems natural. (I’d like to think I’m also a good student. I read tons of books written by others on topics I don’t know well.)

What are your plans for the future?

My immediate focus is on making my whole life smaller and more portable. That includes getting my house and a lot of my possessions sold. I’m still building up my copywriting client base. I’m also going into business with a like-minded friend to launch a new business venture which we both expect will have us traveling quite a bit once it gets off the ground.

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