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Scott: A Careful Pioneer’s Guide to Following Your Dream

I was never the adventurous, pioneering sort. Not risk-averse exactly, but not the kind of person who would jump out of an airplane, tease an alligator, or buy penny-stocks. I did, however, ask Jessica — a woman twenty-three years my junior — to marry me (very brave of me, I think), and her “yes” to my proposal set us on a course that would, just a few years later, have us retiring to a little olive farm in southern Italy and then to the Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur. So, how did our dream of a comfortable, uncomplicated, idyllic life in retirement square with the decisions to quit our corporate jobs in the US, sell our two-story penthouse in Pittsburgh, separate ourselves from family and friends and move to Puglia then Kuala Lumpur?

Growing olives in a small, rural village in Puglia put me in a zone from which I could only see comfort with a good pair of binoculars. I had never been a farmer, knew nothing about olives or the making of olive oil, barely spoke Italian and spoke not a word of Pugliese dialect, and was well aware that Jessica and I would be dealing routinely with the vaunted and feared Italian bureaucracy in all of its hydra forms. It turned out, however, that the things that challenged us — the impositions, the inconveniences, the feelings of being a child in an adult world — these were the very things that drew us to the new life we chose. It was a test of ourselves, our adaptability, our tolerance, and our patience. A test that we passed though, and having done so, it was time to graduate.

We could not have moved our lives to Malaysia without having first had the Puglia experience. Living in Italy provided us with a sense of confidence in our ability to overcome cultural, lingual, and social barriers in order to survive. We carried that confidence with us to Kuala Lumpur and found that, despite being part of an ethnic minority (a new experience for us) and living in a non-secular country (another first), we could establish a new and very satisfying life — one that puts us face-to-face with cultures that are so very different and so very rich, with people who have so much wisdom and vision to share, and with so many opportunities for Jessica and me to further push our personal boundaries, each one of these opportunities being an adventure.

I never thought of myself as the adventurous, pioneering sort. But, perhaps, I am in my own anti-bungee-jumping and look-both-ways approach to life. I have counseled others who are considering the “expat life”, and my advice has always been the same: follow your dream. Do not allow fear, stories of others’ failures, or the opinions of those around you to intervene or steer you off course. Find your dream and make it come true, and — if that makes you a pioneer — wear the moniker proudly.


Scott and his wife first moved abroad from the US to Italy, and now reside in Malaysia. They had many reasons to stay home, but decided that the call of adventure was too strong to resist. The culture shock and being so far from loved ones was difficult, but curiosity, openness, and patience has helped them overcome any challenge. Since moving abroad, Scott has truly appreciated seeing how people all over the world seek to achieve health, happiness, sustenance, and love.

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