If you could move anywhere for 6 months to a year where would you go?
April 27, 2016 3:26 AM   Subscribe

We currently live in the US Virgin Islands. We have a healthy little 15-month old boy and we are hoping for a +/-2 year difference in age for our 2nd, so family planning begins now. Zika is expected to rip around the Caribbean islands for the foreseeable future. That means we have to move.

I work from home but have to travel to China for about a week every 6 weeks. My wife is caring for our boy full time. I'd like to shorten the flight time so I don't spend 2 days coming and 2 days going, and we'd like to live somewhere Zika free (or at least a much, much lower incidence of Zika). Thoughts are Camden, ME (we've worked and lived there a bit, no closer to China, but closer to family), Bainbridge, WA (we spent 6 weeks there last year and loved it), Mallorca (lived there 3x), south of France, Sweden, or ??? We are both from the US NE and all 4 of our parents are there and aren't well, but all 4 are divorced and none get along and are all too infirm to help with childcare (but not so infirm we need to be there full time). We'd like to live somewhere relatively affordable, good weather, nice people, good food, child friendly, and just sort of enjoy each others company and the day to day. We aren't looking to freeload off of gov't services or anything. We are lucky enough to have 5 weeks out of every 6 to enjoy life so I feel like we should make lemonade out of this Zika thing. We'd happily stay here in the VI, but the risk of Zika is too high for our tastes. One note, I think we'd retreat to somewhere more traditional for the late stages of pregnancy/the actual delivery. So, if you could move anywhere for 6 months to a year, where would you go?
posted by karst to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about Australia? It ticks all of your boxes and is closer to China besides. Weather is wonderful, the US dollar is strong so it's reasonably affordable, the people are chill and friendly, the food is excellent, it's a great place to raise small children. I'm an American expat with small children and I love it here. Plus the prenatal healthcare is really very good; it would be more expensive for you than if you were a citizen or permanent resident but it's still pretty affordable I think (probably worth checking though..) The only other thing I'm not sure about is what your visa situation would be, but I imagine that would be an issue for any international locale and you'd just have to look into it.
posted by forza at 4:17 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm an American expat who had a baby in Sydney and had an excellent experience; there's tons of family and toddler friendly stuff to do, and I run a meet up group for expat families with little kids. PM me if you have any questions.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:33 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh and in terms of affordability, Australia varies pretty widely in terms of how much it costs to rent. Sydney and Melbourne are (frankly speaking) kind of insane from my perspective as someone who doesn't live there, especially if you need to live close to the city centre; but since you wouldn't be constrained by the location of your job in the way most people are, you would probably do fine living either in the outer bits of those cities, or in smaller cities or towns (e.g., I live in Adelaide and it's much more reasonable in terms of housing prices, and a lovely city besides).
posted by forza at 5:01 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Southeast Asia. Beautiful, cheap (with the exception of Singapore), good cheap food, variable but decent infrastructure, parts are English speaking, and easy flight to China. Good private education. Added bonus of good private medical facilities (medical tourism is a thing).

I would look at Penang in Malaysia or Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.

There are politics problems and government and yada, but if you have a reasonably good Western-standards income and can pay Western-standard prices, you will be insulated from the problems that affect local people. I hate to use the word 'expat' (because why can't they just be called white immigrants?), but there you go.

To the US, it is a 19-24 hour direct flight one way.
posted by moiraine at 5:39 AM on April 27, 2016

Split, Croatia.

Fantastic weather most of the year, carefree Mediterranean lifestyle (read: BEACHES), and still relatively affordable by European standards (and of course infinitely less expensive than Australia, as many here have suggested). More pertinently, the country is becoming a major medical tourism destination.

Once you tire of the surrounding islands (or the rest of the country), it is conveniently a stone's throw away from other attractive European destinations.

Best of luck with your decision -- or should I say -- sretno!
posted by lecorbeau at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you need to take Visas into consideration? Croatia, France, Sweden (and I think Germany, but am not totally up on this) will allow a temporary residency of up to a year (with reason, you'd need to apply) but not all European countries will allow a stay for longer than ninety days in any one six-month period.
posted by freya_lamb at 6:37 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

You need a place where there are both limited numbers of people who travel to Zika-affected countries and a very low risk of the possibility of infected mosquitoes locally, ideally with a good health service that works in English.

To me this sounds like:

- most non-capital cities in northern Europe or Canada, like Cork or Halifax or Hamburg

- regional Washington state - Bainbridge Island sounds great and Seattle to China is a growing air route

- Malta?
posted by mdonley at 7:22 AM on April 27, 2016

Also, do look into the risks of flying after a certain date in the pregnancy, not just physical but legal/financial: can you find a good ob/gyn? Will you be househunting and eight months pregnant at the same time? It may make sense to stay in North America if those are serious concerns.
posted by mdonley at 7:25 AM on April 27, 2016

I'd be tempted by summer and fall in Sweden, followed by summer and fall in Australia, if your six months turns into twelve.
posted by puddledork at 7:32 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hawaii ticks a lot of your boxes and is perfectly located between your mainland family and your work in China. We have some travel related cases of Zika but fewer than many states on the mainland and no local vector transmitted cases as of right now. I'm on Maui; Oahu is more built up/urban; Kauai is more nature-y; I'd avoid the big island during pregnancy due to dengue fever risk.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:50 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cambodia is close to China. It has quite lax visa rules and actively welcomes expats. It is cheap and you can travel all over the region for a pittance. You might need to plan to go to Australia or something for the actual birth. Supposedly, the healthcare situation has improved, but, it is still relatively primitive in many ways.

You could also look at parts of the West Coast. The Central Valley of California is substantially more affordable than the more famous coastal areas, still lets you access a lot of wonderful stuff, and would be closer to China for you. Or you could look at parts of Oregon or Washington. Depending on what you like, there are both big cities there and interesting little rural nooks.

A nifty, small (tiny) town is Sequim, Washington. It is the driest point north of probably San Francisco because it is in the rain shadow of a mountain. The other side of the mountain has a rain forest. You aren't far from a ferry to Canada. You also aren't hugely far from Seattle, where there is a good airport.

There are lots of interesting places on the West Coast. It just depends what kind of lifestyle you want to try out for a few months.

Alternately, Australia or New Zealand if you want to be outside the US, close to China and someplace where English is a big thing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2016

Thanks for the input. I think SE Asia/Laos/Hawaii are all great places to live, but too high a risk of Zika showing up there. If a spot is in Malaria or Dengue territory then it will be ripe for a Zika outbreak. We went to Kauai last year and it broke my metric for cool islands. Oh well.

Australia/New Zealand are great options. My wife loves both spots and I've always wanted to go. Naive question, it's pretty tropical in a lot of Australia, right? No mosquito problems? The Whitsundays would be right up our alley in theory.

I was thinking about Croatia/Slovenia. They're both cheap and scenic, and close to the big European capitals. Turkey, too, honestly. I think a lot of the unrest is in Ankara and Istanbul. We loved the whole coast around Bodrum/Marmaris. It's pretty arid there, so presumably no skeeters.
posted by karst at 11:16 AM on April 27, 2016

I have recently become enamored of Valencia, Spain, having spent about a month there all told over two years. Weather like Southern California but walkable and bikeable with good public transit. Great food. Lots of cool old architecture. And SO CHEAP.
posted by gusandrews at 6:13 PM on April 27, 2016

Northern Australia is pretty tropical, but southern Australia is not. Even in Southern Australia it gets pretty hot in the summer -- December through February -- but it's dry, not tropical. And the rest of the year is really lovely, climate-wise (plus some people love the summer heat).
posted by forza at 9:12 PM on April 27, 2016

This has been brought up a few times now. I assume you're more concerned about microcephaly in a baby, rather than Zika specifically, as you mention pregnancy.

As an FYI, from a pregnant mother in the first timester who is infected with Zika is 1 in 100.

In other words: You have a 99 percent chance of having a normal baby, even if the mother is infected with Zika in the first trimester.

Adding in the base rate probability of being bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus in the first place, if you lived in places where no stagnant fresh water was around (i.e. beach or city), is very low. (Note that dengue mosquitos only breed in stagnant waters). I would give a conservative estimate of 1 in 100, although it probably is a lot lower than that. If in a tropical area where no Zika virus outbreak has been found or no Zika-carrying mosquito has been found, well, I would hazard a conservative guess that it's 1 in 10,000.

So the chances of a baby being born with microcephaly in a tropical area like Hawaii or SE Asia is 0.0001 (base rate for Zika virus) * 0.01 (microcephaly specific) = 1 in 1,000,000.

In other words, there may be a one in a million chance that your baby is born with microcephaly, if you choose to live in a tropical area.

You obviously can choose where to live, but I thought I would point out some statistically irrational thinking. There's probably a much higher likelihood of being in a car crash.
posted by moiraine at 7:47 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

From your linked article it says 66% of the population got Zika. I have a feeling you may have experience with statistics but not tropical diseases, the tropics, or babies. I've had Dengue, I've had Chikungunya. Virtually everyone I know has had both as well. Zika has the same r0 number as both of those. So bass on your linked article, 1:150 chance of a microcephalic baby is totally unacceptable.
posted by karst at 9:09 AM on May 4, 2016

To clarify:

I lived in a large city in SE Asia about 5 degrees North of the equator for the first 19 years of my life. I have never gotten dengue, and neither has anyone in my family or extended family or friends or classmates. When I hear of dengue, it is always in the context of someone's aunt friend.

And I lived there for 19 years! 6 months would significantly reduce those chances.

My experiences are in a large city in SE Asia, which is why I took care to point that out.

Like I said, you have more chances of being in a car crash than being infected by dengue or Zika or other mosquito-transmitted diseases. Of which several of my family members and classmates have been involved in.
posted by moiraine at 12:11 AM on May 5, 2016

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