CARIBBEAN PROPERTY MAGAZINE
Living, Working and Investing in the Caribbean
C O U N T R Y F O C U S : HONDURAS
Honduran Living - Anatomy of a Trans-Pat
By Janine Goben
I prefer the term “trans-pat” to “ex-pat”, or ex-patriot. If you give up your citizenship to replace it with another, maybe “ex-pat” might be appropriate, but when you retain your citizenship and have legal residency in another country, “trans-pat”, or trans-patriot might be more appropriate.
Try telling your friends and family that you’re considering moving to a Caribbean island and see what the responses are!
This will certainly separate the risk-takers from the conservatives; the adventurous from the timid; the global-thinkers from the local-thinkers; and, perhaps, the weak from the strong.
When my husband and I made the announcement to our friends, you would think we had just parted the Red Sea. On one side were the cheerleaders, encouraging us at every stage. On the other side were the pessimists, those who were convinced everything would go wrong and we would never be seen again!
As it turned out, everyone was right – to a degree. We had a few disasters, but we overcame them and are still here on Roatan, a 49 square mile island off the north coast of Honduras, after 9 years…and happy to be in such a beautiful and friendly country.
So don’t think you’re crazy for even entertaining an idea like this – it can be done, and it can be the best move you ever made.... or not.
Certainly, if you’re looking at re-location as an opportunity to make a real estate investment and return on that investment, you’re not crazy.
But what kind of person actually does this?
LOTS OF PEOPLE TELL US "YOU'RE SO LUCKY LIVING THERE. I WISH I COULD"
Lots of people tell us “You’re so lucky living there, I wish I could”. Well, you can. And yes, it’s a leap of faith for some. If you’re reading this article you already have the right anatomy.
Roatan is a scuba diving Mecca, for those in the know.
The barrier reef which fringes the island is the second largest in the world, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia being the largest. There are two main industries here; tourism and fishing. Being a tourist is always fun and carefree (well, almost always!) but living in a tourist area is quite different, so if you’re considering such a move, come and visit for a few months, or at least a few weeks.
Switch your mind to that of someone living there, not visiting. And come at the least desirable time of year for you, this way you know you can tolerate the climate, number of tourists and way of life…it makes the good times better!
Research is good and necessary, but there’s no substitute for hands-on experience.
One such “Trans-Pat” is a young, attractive, single woman from England.
Louise started thinking about relocating at age 21. The cost of living, the weather, the opportunities….these were all fuel for the fire. When she was 21, Louise spent 6 months in Australia, and determined that yes, she was inspired to relocate to a more relaxed way of life, and Australia certainly was a good choice.
But Australia has a daunting points system to satisfy for anyone wanting to live there. Ironic, really, when you consider Australia was originally colonized with the criminals and outcasts that England considered undesirable.
Centuries later, but, payback!!
Once back in Jolly Old England, Louise started working on a career. Prior to her Australia trip, she had been accepted into a local college for a field in sports physiotherapy, but while she was gone, the college closed down, so there was no longer a place for her.
Temporarily, she went into the family business; an auto repair company, which her father had recently expanded into auto recovery. Temporary.
Three years later Louise was running the new auto recovery division and 5 years after that, her father retired and she was running the entire company. Temporary.
Now 29, Louise started to wonder how it happened. Where was that excitement, that passion and desire she had in Australia? So she started to focus back on Australia and found she was bitterly disappointed that she hadn’t pursued the dream, that she had joined the rat race.
Imagine the dilemma: the dream is just out of reach because now she felt responsible to her family – she had commitments to fulfill, but the pull of relocation was strong.
Like many women her age, she had a close circle of friends, all with like interests, all of whom were global travelers.
THEY FOUND THEIR SOCIAL CONVERSATIONS REVOLVED AROUND ESCAPE. ALL WERE IN AN UPPER WAGE BRACKET WITH HOMES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
They found their social conversations revolved around escape. All were in an upper wage bracket with homes and responsibilities.
Together, they started going to travel expos. (They never saw Roatan at any of these expos) Their focus was still on Australia, but the difficult application system and the length of time it took to wade through the process and qualify to apply took the continent off the radar screen.
One Sunday, at a weekly gathering, they all brought their laptops and searched “islands of the world”. Although all of the friends had visited Asia, Australia, India and extensively in Europe, none had been to Central or South America. They looked ay the Galapagos Islands, Papua New Guinea.
They checked government websites for GDP, population and other demographics. Government websites are scary places – while they give you a lot of good information on economics and population, almost all of them warn against traveling in other countries!
For entertainment, check what the US state department has to say about London!
Government conclusion: don’t leave home!!
Finally, someone landed on a web site offering tours to Roatan. They called and booked a tour. What’s the down side? The worst case scenario was that they had a great holiday!
In June of 2003, 6 of the friends got on a plane for Roatan. Between January, when the plan was hatched, until June, they became voracious researchers and read everything they could find on Roatan; they were comfortable they had made a good decision.
On the plane, Louise picked up a Roatan island publication, Bay Islands Voice, and read an article about an unfortunate event which had occurred to an American couple on Roatan.
They panicked. Had the government warnings been accurate? "Were we heading for a barbaric island, never to see our families again?" Louise remembers. They gathered in the rear of the plane and formulated an exit strategy, in case they hated it or felt frightened when they got off the plane. That strategy was to immediately go to Costa Rica.
As soon as they landed, their fears melted away. The property manager they had contacted to rent a house was there to meet them. A rental car was produced and the friendliness of everyone made them immediately feel at home.
The group spent 2 weeks exploring, one week with the tour provider, and another on their own. They looked at business opportunities, land and houses.
By now you know that this is a savvy group, so it won’t surprise you that they went home to re-group and make a decision. In the end, 2 of them decided that Roatan was not for them (one is now in Australia and one in India), and the other 4 bought a home under construction on the west end of the island.
Louise and Max moved to Roatan full time in 2003, the other two bought for investment and holidays. Last year they sold the house and Louise and Max bought a lot in a different development, Lawson Rock, and then started building another house. The 2 investors who took their money out of the sale doubled their investment.
Last month, Louise and Max went to Portugal to scope out the lifestyle there. They love their adopted home on Roatan and will probably keep an investment here.
BUT THEY ARE READY FOR ANOTHER ADVENTURE AND MAY MAKE ANOTHER CHANGE IN THE NEAR FUTURE
But they are ready for another adventure and may make another change in the near future.
Being single in a tourist region is not conducive to lasting personal relationships – most of the young population is transient, so the appeal of a more stable population is pulling them elsewhere.
Portugal is only 2 hours from London and their family and friends. Portugal is part of the EU, so working there is easy for these Brits, they don’t need a work permit.
Louise embodies the term “trans-pat”.
She is willing to reinvent herself many times over.
You should consider this story as you contemplate whether relocating is for you.
Just remember you can always return to your roots, or you can change again.
It’s a big world – you don’t have to stay in one place if you don’t want to. The world is a smorgasbord, so try a lot of it.
And remember Louise – who maintains the anatomy of a trans-pat.