How To Prepare To Become An Expat

According to Wikipedia:  An expatriate (commonly abbreviated expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing.

This does not mean that you are to never return to your home country or that you have to renounce the nationality you were born with.  It simply means that you are currently living outside the country you were born in.

Being an expatriot is an exciting adventure but one that is not short of challenges.  When you are considering becoming an expat, keep the following in mind:

Go On An Extended Stay

Taking a week long vacation to a favorite, all-inclusive resort in your country of choice is not getting the whole picture of how society works.  Anyone choosing a new nation to live in is strongly advised to take time out to visit that country over an extended period of time and live “in town” by renting.  Pick up local newspapers, try the local transportation system, buy groceries, go shopping, locate churches, ect.  Get to know what real life is like for the locals.

If you are planning on working there, talk to locals to find out the process for obtaining a work visa, what kinds of jobs are available, what the rate of pay is and how much taxes are.

Pay attention to safety.  Do you feel safe going out at night?  Are people walking or riding their bikes?

Write Down Your Expenses

Keep a journal of what you are spending on rent, utilities, transportation, groceries and entertainment to see if it is actually feasible for you to live there.  After a month or so, you will have a good idea of what you need to earn to live there.    It’s great to do your research on line before you leave, but each region can have subtle differences that may add up depending upon how close you are to a metropolis or the beach, ect.

Explore Health Care Options

Does the location you are moving to have health care facilities near by?  Visit a local doctor’s office and the hospital to see if they speak English.  Consider purchasing international health insurance and include this in your expense report.  Even in countries where there is a state funded healthcare system there are often limitations to the scope of care given for free.

Make Friends

Participate in activities that will allow you to establish friendships with people.  Volunteering is a great way to meet a group of people with like interests that you will get to see over and over again.  Notice whether or not the locals are accepting of foreigners and if the language barrier is not too great.

Friends are great resources for making your expatriate experience more successful.  They will give you all kinds of referrals for doctors, dentists, restaurants, activities, ect.

Make Fatteh for An International Breakfast Idea

Fatteh is an ancient dish commonly served in the Middle Eastern areas of Egypt, Beirut, Jordan, Damascus and Palestinian territories.  There are regional variations to the dish, but the common ingredients are pieces of stale, toasted bread, flat or pita bread as a foundation upon which various ingredients are added such as layers of chickpeas, yogurt, and pine nuts.  Arabic flat bread, works the best as it refrains from getting too soggy the best.  

In Syria, fatteh consists of three layers or four layers of flat bread soaked in stock, a middle layer of the main ingredient and finally a yogurt and tahini sauce topping.   Middle layers can consist of chickpeas, chicken, stuffed aubergines or kidneys.

This recipe is a Lebanese breakfast fatteh:


1 kg plain yogurt

6 cups of canned chickpeas

2 cloves of crushed garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

2 pita or flat bread loaves or packages

1/2 cup of pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil for frying flat bread

salt to taste


Cut flat bread into cubes and fry in a pan until crisp.  Set aside

In a cooking pot, heat the chickpeas with a small amount of water

Drain the chickpeas and put them in a serving bowl

Sprinkle with cumin, salt and the fried bread cubes

Add the crushed garlic to the yogurt, mix well and pour it over the bread and chickpeas

Sprinkle with fried pine nuts and serve immediately


To save on calories, you can also bake the bread and not use the oil


Qigong For More Vitality

What is Qigong?

Qigong is the integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions.  The word Qigong (Chi Kung) is made up of two Chinese words.  Qi is pronounced “chee” and is  translated to mean the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe.  The second word, Gong, means accomplishment that is cultivated through steady practice.

Together, Qigong, means cultivating energy and it is a system practiced for health maintenance, healing and increasing vitality.

There are many levels of Qigong practices that vary from simple, internal forms to the more complex and challenging practices.  You do not need to be intimidated by the practice as anyone can participate.   There are Qigong classes for children, senior citizens, and every age group in between.   If you cannot find an instructor or class near you, there are books and video’s available.

The most important thing to do when beginning Qigong is to find a style you feel comfortable with and develop a consistent daily practice.   It is recommended by experienced teachers to stay with a form for at least 100 days.  A consistent practice is the most important asset you can develop.

The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system.   It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions.

Those who consistently practice Qigong find that it helps speed recovery from illness. Western scientific research confirms that Qigong reduces hypertension.

Here is a great video as an example of one practice:

A Healthy Snack Idea from Trader Joe’s

We all know what a super food Kale is, but what makes kale so special?

Move Over Popeye

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K.  It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K and sulphur containing phytonutrients.  Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of  kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

But wait, it gets even better:  Trader Joe’s has come up with a fantastic healthy snack idea using Kale.  So if you are looking for a yummy snack idea that won’t totally derail your healthy diet, here it is!

Recipe Reprinted from Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Skinny Dish!

1 bunch kale (about 10 ounces), stems removed, torn into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place kale in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir and return to oven for about 15 more minutes until kale is crisped. Store in a zipper-sealed bag for up to 2 days.

Nutrition score per serving: 66 calories, 5g fat (0.5g saturated fat), 5.5g carbs, 2g protein, 2g fiber, 1g sugars


The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

During the winter months, it’s important to get outside when you can to soak up a little Vitamin D and sunshine.  Although we have heard for years the negative side affects of the sun, a little natural sunlight goes a long way to promoting good health. It doesn’t take much, only 10 minutes a day.  That much exposure will not typically be enough to burn you.

Sunlight and water are two vital components to a healthy existence.  Natural sunlight happens to be one of the greatest healing remedies that you can find in nature.   After all, plants thrive on it!  Here are just a few of the health benefits that can be gained from just 10 minutes of natural sunlight a day:


Health Benefits of Vitamin D

  • Sunlight stimulates your appetite and improves your digestion, elimination, and metabolism
  • Natural sunlight enhances your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells in your blood
  • Sunshine encourages  circulation by stimulating the production of more red blood cells which increases the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • Natural sunlight increases melatonin.  Melatonin is a natural hormone made by our bodies that enhances sleep and slows down the aging process
  • Sunlight helps to balance out your hormones.  It may even help to relieve certain symptoms of PMS
  • Sunlight helps your body convert a form of cholesterol that is present in your skin into vitamin D which results in lower blood cholesterol levels
  • Natural sunlight is a natural antiseptic.  The rays can kill viruses, bacteria, molds, yeasts, fungi, and mites in air, water, and on different surfaces including your skin

If you can’t take a tropical vacation to warm up your bones and your skin, try just taking a brisk walk through the park for a few minutes.  The fresh air, sunshine, and all that Vitamin D will do a body good!


Increase Your Libido With Fruit

Another reason to eat more fruit!  The food pyramid says that we should try to consume 2-4 servings of fruit a day.  Well as it turns out, fruit has a lot of health benefits that also improve your sex life.

Fruits that contain high levels of certain vitamins and minerals increase your nitric oxide levels which help to open up blood vessels and increase blood flow.   Of course, feel free to incorporate some dark chocolate in with all this healthy fruit for even more health benefits.


The pomegranate is probably one of the most well known fruits for increasing your sex drive.  Pomegranates have had a reputation as a superfood for some time, with their high levels of antioxidants thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.  They have high levels of iron, vitamins A, C and E.   Iron helps maintain a good oxygen supply to the body, vitamin E can reduce ageing in the brain and might help prevent Alzheimer’s, while Vitamin C boosts skin, teeth and bones.

Pomegranates’ polyphenolics, tannins and anthocyanins could also have beneficial effects.  Tannins have been shown to lower blood pressure and stimulate the immune system, while anthocyanins help protect blood vessels and reduce inflammation.

When buying pomegranate, going fresh is always your best option, but if you do not have fresh pomegranate near you, you can always buy the juice.  Try to find a brand with no added sugar.


Figs are high in amino acids and amino acids play a vital role in normal sexual function and also help increase levels of nitric oxide in the body.  Fresh figs can be found from late summer into fall in grocery stores and there are all kinds of recipes out there to incorporate figs into your diet.  A bit of crackly skin is fine, but stay away from figs that are too mushy, oozy or obviously moldy.  A sign of a perfectly ripe fig is when you see a bit of bend in the stem and feel the skin is supple.  When you get them home, keep them at room temperature for best flavor and eat them within two days.


By this time, you have undoubtedly heard of the many health benefits of avocado.  To name a few, avocados are an excellent source of glutathione, an important antioxidant that researchers say is important in preventing aging, cancer, and heart disease.  The avocado also contains high levels of folic acid to help metabolize proteins giving you that needed energy boost.  But one more added benefit you may not be aware of:  They are also known to benefit a women’s libido due to the high potassium content.


Bananas help to increase sex drive and boost the male libido largely due to the presence of the enzyme ‘bromelain’.   Bananas are also a good source of B vitamins like riboflavin and potassium, which increase the body’s total energy level and are vital for sex-hormone production!


Fresh dates are made of soft, easily digestible flesh and simple sugars like fructose and dextrose which help replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly.   Just like the pomegranate, they contain health benefiting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins which have been shown to lower blood pressure and stimulate the immune system.

So when you are out at the grocery store looking for some fruit to fill your 2-4 servings a day, keep these tasty fruits in mind for added health benefits!

Healthy Valentines Day Treats

In case all that Valentine’s Day candy is tempting you in the grocery stores nation wide, don’t despair.  There are plenty of healthy sweet treats you can give to your(self) and your loved ones.

Researchers have found a link between sugar and unhealthy levels of blood fats which can lead to dyslipidemia or higher triglycerides and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  Although there is no conclusive evidence that high cholesterol is a direct result of consuming too many sugary foods, moderation is always the key when consuming sugar.  The AHA recommends that women limit themselves to about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, or about 100 calories and men should aim for about 9 teaspoons a day, or 150 calories.

Just how much sugar is that? A 12-oz. can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or about 130 calories.   The problem arises when you have that one can of soda, and then you also consume foods with hidden sugars like cereals, condiments, yogurts, and deserts.

So to avoid loading up on too much sugar this Valentine’s Day, try some of these healthier options:

  • Sugar-free Chocolate Covered Strawberries
  • A Fruit Bouquet w/ Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce
  • Dark Cocoa and Raspberries
  • Homemade Granola
  • Melted Dark Chocolate with Sliced Apples
  • Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 86% Dark Chocolate Bars
  • Green and Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate
  • Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt
  • Sugar Free Yogurts

You can also go the totally sugar free route and give:

  • A New Pair of Running Shoes
  • A Gift Certificate for a Massage
  • Pay for a Yoga Class
  • Scented Candles
  • DIAMONDS…Lots of Diamonds

You will be happier and healthier by leaving all that Valentines Day candy in the store and spoiling your(self) and your loved ones with healthier alternatives this year.!



A Powerful Snack That Travels With You

If you are planning on traveling to a foreign country, or relocating to one, you want to do everything you can to take care of your health.  Staying aware of what you put into your body is the number one way to stay healthy!  With this in mind, we have a great snack recipe for you that is simple to make, tastes good, is easy to take with you on a plane and is full of essential vitamins and minerals.

The snack recipe today is almonds dusted with cocoa, a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals!  Here are just some of the health benefits:

  • Almonds are high in the essential minerals calcium and magnesium.  Both of these minerals help metabolize fat!
  • Almonds are also one of the the best sources of Vitamin E.  Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps your body with muscle repair after a workout AND keeps your skin smooth and moisturized!
  • Almonds help keep you slim and trim because they have a low glycemic count.  The low glycemic count keeps your blood sugar from spiking so you stay full longer and prevents you from craving sweet treats throughout the day.  They are also full of healthy fiber and fats which your body needs too!
  •  Cocoa is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! It contains sky high levels of antioxidants that keep your skin healthy and radiant!
  • Cocoa is full of  iron, magnesium and trace minerals
  • Cocoa contains high doses of mood enhancing phytochemicals…and who doesn’t want a healthy dose of those?

To take this healthy snack with you, simply take a zip lock sandwich bag and add 1/4 cup of almonds, 2 tablespoons of pure cocoa powder or cacao, 2 packets of Stevia, and shake.  You now have a healthy snack that will easily travel where ever you do!

There Are Health Benefits To Travel!

Travel should actually be considered a healthy activity since there are so many aspects to travel that engage your mind, body and soul.  The next time you think about buying a new dish washer over taking a trip, consider this:

Change From the Norm – We all know how it is to be stuck in a rut.   Travel offers an escape from the routine and a break up of the monotony.  You’ll do things you don’t normally do while you travel, whether it’s experience new places, try new food or even meet new people.  Having to navigate your way through a foreign country challenges your brain too as you try to navigate buying groceries, finding a good place for lunch and counting your pesos!

  • More Exercise – Even if your trip doesn’t include heart-pumping activities like hiking Machu Picchu or skiing Vail Colorado, the distance you walk on a day to day basis while you are traveling is sure to be greater than normal.  Whether you are exploring the halls of a museum or climbing the stairs of a Mayan Ruin, you’re sure to get an extra dose of walking….and all that walking helps burn off all the new yummy food you get to try!
  • You Get Out – In any trip you are more likely to be outside longer than usual. Whether you’re taking the kids to Disney World or retreating to the Maldives Islands,  just walking between destinations and being outdoors offers plenty of health benefits. Not to mention all the D-vitamins you’ll soak up from the sun, as long you protect yourself accordingly.
  • Reduces Stress – Chronic stress does a number on your health.   It can cause a number of different diseases and have a negative impact on your immune system.  It’s pretty difficult to be stressed while you are watching a sunset in Tulum, Mexico or drinking wine in Paris, France.  The stress you may take on by trying to navigate your way through an airport or figure out the exchange rate is a different type of stress.  Stressors that force you to think outside the box are actually good for you while stress from worrying about getting the stain out of your rug is a negative stress.

The positive affects travel can have on you will last for months after.  Travel can broaden your world and help you to think differently about things.  The memories travel can create will last a life time.  So treat yourself to the trip of your dreams.  What are you waiting for?

For All You Early Risers….

Not only does exercising first thing in the morning burn a higher percentage of fat but it’s a great way to start your day off on a positive note.  The endorphins you fire off will carry you for hours giving you motivation you need to get outside and have some fun!  Not only that, working out in the morning burns more calories for the rest of the day, so it’s a double whammy of positive energy!

Even if you are a retired expat living in Mexico,  shopping schedules, lunch, golf or volunteer work may derail you from your early evening workout, so it’s better to get it out of the way before anything can get in your way of sticking to your early morning workout!

If your not a morning person, here are a few tips on how to get moving early before anything else gets in your way of your health goals:

  • Try getting to sleep just a little bit earlier so you still get in 7-8 hours a night.
  • Have a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso on ice.  There are a lot of new health benefits to having a little coffee each day and if this is the best part of waking up early, then please enjoy your cup of coffee before heading out the door.   Try to refrain from eating breakfast until after your work out as you will burn more calories if you do and you will feel more light.   When you eat before a work out, you are burning the calories you just ate.  When you work out first thing in the morning after fasting all night, your body uses your stored fat as energy rather than your breakfast.  You will get more results faster by exercising on an empty stomach!
  • After your cup of coffee, try some stretching before your work out.  Stretching not only gets your blood pumping but it also wakes up your brain too.
  • Visualize how much better you are going to feel all day as a result of your commitment to your exercise routine.  You will look better physically, feel better emotionally and people who exercise in the morning tend to have better eating habits throughout the day!

There are a lot of health benefits to waking up early and fitting in your favorite exercise routing before anything else can get in your way.  What do you do to get yourself up in the morning?  Leave us a comment, we would love to share it!