I never seriously considered moving out of the USA but now I love Bolivia! (Part 1 of 2)

by Paul Danielson
(Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

How did you first hear about Bolivia and/or become interested in Bolivia as a possible place to live?

I first heard about Bolivia when I met my neighbor (and future/present wife) in Burbank, California, USA. She had been in the USA for 11 years when I met her, and we dated for a couple years before marrying, after which we “imported” her remaining two children who were living in Santa Cruz. I first visited Bolivia with her on a two-week vacation and then returned a few times over the next few years to take care of the kids’ immigration paperwork and just to visit her (humongous) family. It’s still amazing to me that I knew NOTHING about Bolivia (nor could have likely pointed to it on a map) until I met my future wife. We met as neighbors in April of 2006.

Where are you from originally and why are/were you considering living overseas when you first took Bolivia into account as an option?

I am originally from Pullman, Washington (state, not D.C.) USA, and I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would be living in Bolivia, our anywhere out of the USA, for that matter. I came to love Santa Cruz during 7 years of visiting, and although my wife and I knew our future would involve at least yearly trips to visit her family here, we only briefly discussed on a few occasions the possibility of eventually retiring here, or more likely, buying a home here and “timesharing” our lives between the two countries.

Which languages do you speak? If you do not speak Spanish, has this made adjusting to, and living in Bolivia more difficult for you?

I did not speak a word of Spanish when I met my wife, in fact, I took German as a second language in school in the USA, but soon after we met, I took a conversational Spanish class and practiced with my future wife as well as a Peruvian co-worker and anyone I could find that spoke Spanish (not difficult in Southern California *L*). I understand almost everything I hear in Spanish (and can always get the gist of the conversation) but vocabulary and dialect/accents throw me off. I could really use more Spanish classes; my salvation in many cases is my wife, who can take over for me when I falter. However, I also find that I am able to do just fine when I am alone and out and about in the world, so perhaps I use her as a crutch more than is necessary. I have never NOT been able to get across to natives here what I want or need (so far).

Did you come here as an individual, couple or family?

I came here with my wife and our youngest child (son), but he decided soon after we arrived here that he wanted to go back and live with his older sister in California... so now it is just my wife and I here. Well, the two of us and her gigantic family, that is!

Are you planning to live in Bolivia short-term or long term?

That depends. We are here primarily for the foreseeable future, but bounce back and forth between here and California because my wife needs to maintain her residency there as well, and I need to pursue mine here. Our plan is to live here while my wife’s father requires her care. After that, we will likely spend more time in the USA than here, but our plans now are to maintain a permanent residence in both countries.

Do you work or plan to work or start your own business in Bolivia?

That is an open question at this point. We need to have money coming in *LOL* so I will have to work, whether for a company here, or for myself in a business we may startup. I have always been a cog in the corporate machine for my entire career (35+ years) doing computer programming and other Information Technology-based work, but life here appears to be more supportive of business ownership, so my career may take a 180-degree change of course.

Is Bolivia the only country to which you contemplated moving, or did you consider other choices? If so, why did you ultimately choose Bolivia?

I never seriously considered moving out of the USA for any reason, nor during any period of time in my life... so no, Bolivia was/is the only country I ever considered besides the USA. We ultimately chose to live here because my wife’s father had a couple of strokes, and my wife feels that none of her brothers are sufficiently able to take care of him. My career was at a point where I could leave, so here we are!

What steps did you take to research about Bolivia to prepare yourself prior to arriving?

Not much, really. Talk to friends (most of our friends were/are Bolivian or Peruvian) and her family, did some limited personal research when we came here to visit, and researched the actual move using your wonderful site (BoliviaBella.com) and later, the "Expats in Bolivia" Facebook group. I was not nearly as thorough in my research as I would have been were it not for the “emergency”-type nature of our decision to move here.

What do you miss most about your home country?

My family and friends. Outside of that, I miss the availability of “stuff” and the ease of ordering things off the internet. I miss the ready-availability of work (in my usual field, anyway) and products that ease the quality of life (pre-made pie crusts and pumpkin pie filling, as examples) but am slowly finding out that, "Wow, I know how to make that from scratch... it’s just been a LONG time since I have". I wish my Mom was still alive to ask her more about how to make stuff, but with the intent and the recipes she left, I find that (surprise! *LOL*) I can make just about anything I need. After all, someone had to teach Pillsbury how to make pie crusts before they could freeze and sell the premade ones!)

What do you like/love/appreciate most about Bolivia?

I would have to say the people, as a general rule. Life here is laid back more so than in Los Angeles, California, so that is both a good and a bad thing. Less stress in general, unless you need some paperwork or work of, well, ANY KIND, done in a hurry. I also like the lifestyle here... again a double-edged sword, but life here is in many ways a generation or two “behind” life in the USA, values in general are still “old-school” and people like to visit before they get down to business. Here you can see pictures of Jesus in a government office, which you will never see in the USA anymore. To hell with “political correctness” here. I love that. The country is beautiful also... and there are no super-highways... also great unless you need to get somewhere in a hurry *LOL*

Did you relocate on your own, or do you work for a company that relocated you to Bolivia?

We relocated ourselves. A nightmare I am not ready to discuss in detail yet. Suffice to say most of our “issues” centered around the process of getting our “stuff” and pets here. Finding and buying a house was simple and painless. Filling it with our “imported/relocated” stuff... not so much.

If your plan is/was to retire in Bolivia permanently, how did you prepare financially, and in other ways to make that possible?

This is the weak link in our plan. We are living at present off savings, retirement funds, inheritances. We need to get to work to stop the everyday “bleeding” of money from these sources so that we can use them as the ‘back up plans’ they are supposed to be. If we had the opportunity also, my preference would have been to get my wife’s citizenship taken care of before we needed to come here. Now that will have to wait for a while. Please click here to continue reading Part 2.

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