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Could You Live Abroad and Keep Your Job?

You don't have to tell Barry Frangipane that the Internet has made the world a little smaller.

Frangipane, a software engineer, was used to telecommuting from his home in Tampa Bay, but he didn't realize how far telecommuting could reach until he read Under the Tuscan Sun, a book about an American who chucked it all to live in Italy.

"The key about Under the Tuscan Sun was that they had a ton of money," said Frangipane, author of The Venice Experiment, a memoir that chronicles a year living in Europe while he telecommuted to his software job in the States. "Shoot, anyone could move to a foreign country with a ton of money. We wanted to see if a typical middle-class couple could do it, with a job. We looked at the realities of it, and theorized it could work. On the downside, my wife Debbie wouldn't be able to keep her job, as she did not telecommute. On the upside, we could sell both cars and eliminate the monthly tab for two car payments and the associated insurance. Further, we both prided ourselves on being great cooks, so we'd be able to experiment with European dishes in our own kitchen -- in Europe!"

They settled on Venice, and lived 13 months, sending emails to their friends about their experiences. Those emails served as the inspiration for the book. Through their experience, they devised the following tips on how others could make an American living while living abroad.

  • Telecommuting. The changes over the past 10 years for telecommuters have been subtle, but together they have produced a tipping point making the idea of extreme telecommuting a reality. Advances in the quality of videoconferencing make meetings as effective as they would be in person. Google and Facebook have both launched free high quality videoconferencing in the past year. I was gone for 13 months, and most of my clients never even knew I had left.
  • Housing. Accept the fact the living quarters are a little smaller, and a little older. American housing, like just about everything else in America, is big compared to the rest of the civilized world. Having said that, you'll wind up spending your non-work time seeing sights and exploring your new hometown.
  • Cars. Choose a place in which travel by car is not necessary. In Venice, everything is connected by the small tributaries and waterways that thread through the city. Most everything you need -- shopping, groceries, business services -- was a brisk walk or gondola ride away.
  • Cook. You could spend a small fortune eating in the tourist trap restaurants, or you could buy fresh groceries every day and live as the locals do, creating your own meals and stopping by the smaller, lesser known eateries and cafes frequented by the locals.


"For those of us who telecommute to work, we can now live out our dreams, and live most anywhere in the world," Frangipane said. "And I have heard all the excuses, with people saying, 'I can't just up and move to another country.' Well, ask yourself. Do you have any real concrete reasons you can't go? Or is it just that you're afraid you might like it too much?"

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