The saying “location is everything” can be just as true for lifestyle as it is for business and real estate. Getting to know a new culture in a paradise location may bring a sense of wonder to everyday life – the sunshine, the beautiful landscapes, the curiosities of an alien culture, the constant buzz of activity, all while surrounded by other expats who are just as happy as you to be alive.
Many expats say a move abroad seems to benefit their health, influenced by this new sense of variety and less stressful lifestyle.
But while much of this can extend your life expectancy, other factors can neutralize the positive effects on health, and even reverse them.
Let's look at some tips for maintaining your most precious resource – your health – while living in the world's most exciting, beautiful places.
1. Resist the allure of the party
Even for the most cautious drinkers, partying too much can be a serious temptation when living in a place that most people consider a vacation destination. When everything is so new and surreal, it can feel like you're on vacation all the time – and what do people tend to do when they're on a holiday? They let loose – often spending more time in bars, having an extra drink or two with dinner, and cracking open a bottle of wine or a beer back at the room.
If you start off your new life like you're on vacation, you run the risk of building bad habits that can turn into problems. The key to balance, of course, is setting limits. Limits can be placed on nightly budgets, how many nights you can let loose (restricting this type of fun to the weekends is always a good start), the number of drinks in a sitting, and what exactly constitutes a celebration.
You also need a plan for dealing with people; if you live in a popular destination, the people you meet really will be on vacation, and they may often expect you to join in on their fun.
2. Make working out a priority
Even if you're not the partying type, the laid-back atmosphere of your new locale may put your fitness regime on the back burner – but staying fit should be a priority no matter where you live. Saying it’s a major influence on good health is no revelation.
A decent-sized city in just about any country should have at least one clean, modern gym. Shop around a bit though, as the ones that cater to expats will often be overpriced.
Do you plan to move a lot? Are you a mobile worker who can travel the globe working online? In this case, the best workouts are those that require no equipment, leaving you no excuse to skip a day. Put together a strength-training routine with body-weight exercises, like crunches, pushups, and pullups.
Walking or jogging new neighborhoods offers a great way to get up close and personal with your surroundings while getting a cardio workout. If renting or buying a condo, a pool can be an asset – there's no better way to wake up in paradise than a morning swim. Or, if you want to get closer to nature, dive in the ocean on a regular basis.
Also, fill your time with outdoor activities like scuba diving, hiking, bicycling, surfing, rock climbing, or whatever else strikes you. A move abroad is often about embracing life – so get out there and do it!
3. Know the safety risks
Many expats report that they feel safer walking down the street even in a third-world country than they do back home in America. Often, the statistics back them up. That said, just because violent crime rates may be lower in your new destination does not mean there aren't other dangers to consider.
Traffic conditions are a notable risk in many places outside of the US. In Southeast Asia, for instance, expats can fall into the habit of driving small motorbikes everywhere, like the locals do. But road conditions can be unsafe as it is, and many expats are untrained in their new environment – not to mention the habit many have of doing things they would never do at home, such as driving a motorcycle after drinking alcohol.
For these reasons, motorbike wrecks are an all-too-common cause of death for expats in many Southeast Asian countries.
Corners can often be cut in developing countries as well – substandard construction practices being a good example. This can cause a real risk during earthquakes or tropical storms. Safety considerations can also be too lax when it comes to public transport.
Finally, new diseases can always be a risk abroad, so make sure you're up on all of your vaccinations and get regular checkups with a doctor who speaks good English.
Don't be paranoid about these things, but understand the new risks specific to your location so you can find ways to address them.
4. Make health insurance a priority
Don’t leave your home country without figuring out health insurance first!
Even if you already have a health insurance plan, chances are that it won’t cover you in your new home, even for a short time, or won’t cover risks specific to the new location. Fortunately, there are some great international health coverage policies designed for expats and perpetual travelers.
While it's true that medical costs in some cheaper countries may be low enough to make self-insuring a possibility, it's still a good idea to get coverage for the biggest, most expensive emergencies. If you're still employed, you might also consider how viable paying your own medical costs will be if you're left unable to work after an injury or illness.
Make health and safety a priority. If you want more information about health insurance for expats and their families, visit http://www.cignaglobal.com.