A Life Abroad in 100 Countries with Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup

Episode Description

In this episode of the Expat Empire Podcast, we will be hearing from Mikkel Thorup. Originally from Canada, Mikkel got his first taste of traveling when he was 15 years old and never stopped since. He has since lived in 7 countries and visited over 100 countries, circumnavigating the globe more than 250 times based on his air miles so far. Through his podcast Expat Money Show, Mikkel shares financial tips and advice for current and new expats.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The trade-offs between being a long-term backpacker and having a home base abroad to operate from
  • Which countries are best to help you get your next foreign passport
  • How to legally minimize the taxes that you pay while working abroad and as a digital nomad
  • How to think through raising a family and make schooling decisions while abroad

…and much more! You can find Mikkel at expatmoneyshow.com and expatsecretsbook.com

Eli Hermit produced the music for this episode, please check him out on Bandcamp at elihermit.bandcamp.com/

Expat Empire updates:

Learn more about Expat Empire and schedule your free consulting call to plan your move abroad at expatempire.com!

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Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Expat Empire Podcast, the podcast where you can hear from expats around the world and learn how you can join them.

Hi everyone, thanks for joining us today for the 18th episode of the Expat Empire Podcast. 

Before we jump into today’s interview, I want to take this opportunity to give you a quick update on Expat Empire. Since the last podcast episode, we have released our eBook called Top 10 Tips for Moving Abroad, which contains my advice for questions to ask yourself, things to keep in mind, and decisions to make when you are planning to move abroad. It is available right now for free when you sign up for the Expat Empire Newsletter. 

I was also featured in the Whats Cool podcast to talk about my journey around the world and how I am helping others to make it happen through Expat Empire, so check out the episode to hear more. We have the 6th Expat Empire Porto meetup event next week on Tuesday, October 20. If you happen to be in Porto that night, we hope to see you there. 

Last but not least, I have recently been receiving many consulting requests from individuals just like you who are looking to finally make the move abroad that they have been dreaming about as soon as the current situation gets a little clearer. It is never too soon to start planning for your next big life change and it’s best to be ready to take the plunge as soon as the window for international travel reopens because you never know when it will close again. 

Whether you are looking to make your first move abroad, transition into life as a digital nomad, or just want someone to talk to about your travel and moving dreams, we are ready to help you think about the next steps in your journey abroad. We are currently offering a limited number of free 30-minute consulting calls to help people just like you to jumpstart their moves abroad, so please contact us to book your time before it’s too late and all the spots are taken!

You can get links for all of these updates in the show notes for this episode. 

With all of that said, today we will be hearing from Mikkel Thorup. Originally from Canada, Mikkel got his first taste of traveling when he was 15 years old and never stopped. He has since lived in 7 countries and visited over 100 countries, circumnavigating the globe more than 250 times based on his air miles so far. Through his podcast the Expat Money Show, Mikkel shares financial tips and advice for current and new expats.

Without further ado, let’s start the conversation.


David McNeill: Hey, Mikkel thanks so much for joining us today on the Expat Empire Podcast.

Mikkel Thorup: My pleasure, David. It’s great to be here.

David McNeill: Thank you. It sounds like you’ve had actually quite an interesting background in terms of just really spending time all over the world, but it’d be great if you’d get into that a little bit more and just tell me about where you grew up, where you started your travels and where it’s led you so far, at least at the high level.

Mikkel Thorup: Wow. Okay, well, I’ll try to make this a somewhat short answer. But I’m originally Canadian. I’m from Southwestern Ontario. I left as a teenager. I just celebrated my 36th birthday so you can do the math. That’s about 20 years overseas.

David McNeill: Congrats.

Mikkel Thorup: Thank you very much. Thank you. It feels weird. I still feel like a child sometimes, you know, and then I look back and I’m like, but I’ve done a lot of things, you know, and I’m still having trouble kind of balancing those two things. But yeah, I’ve basically dedicated myself for lack of a better word to being an expat and to really helping expats, and people become expats and I focus mostly on the financial side of it because that’s where my passion is and my background is.

But yeah, I’ve lived overseas in seven different countries. I’ve traveled to 102, 104, somewhere around there. I’ve flown around the planet more than 250 times. So like I’ve circumnavigated the planet more than 250 times if you add up my air miles. Yeah, so being an expat living overseas and traveling is really like, that’s what I’m all about so it’s really exciting to be on your show, David.

David McNeill: Awesome. Thank you. Yeah, so if you’ve been to somewhere between 102, 104 countries, I’m actually quite curious on where your next intended or top desired destination would be?

Mikkel Thorup: We are actually looking for a new place to relocate right now. So it’s me, my mother, my wife, and my daughter, the four of us live together over here in the Middle East. We’re based out of Abu Dhabi. We’ve been here since 2011, but we use this kind of as like a central hub and that’s what I’ve really done for a lot of my travels is I use the hub-and-spoke model. So next is like, where do I want that hub to be? So we were looking at Thailand and there’s some really exciting things going on over there, especially in the entrepreneurial space, but the visas are a little bit difficult to get.

We’re looking at the Philippines where the visas are easier, but it’s very hard to open a business there. So we’re kind of weighing and balancing everything like that. But yeah, we’re looking at Brazil, we’re looking at Panama, a few different countries. Now I’ve visited all of these places, but I’ve never lived there. So there’s some definite differences between going as a tourist and going there to live. And then I suppose the addition to that is going there and building a business, you know, the financial side of living as an expat in these countries, which can all be a little bit tricky, but there are ways to navigate it.

David McNeill: Yeah, definitely. So you started your sort of travel expat career it sounds like around 15 years old. What was the first thing that kind of got you started there and where did you first move to and how’d you make it all work?

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah, so I started traveling overseas when I was on Team Canada for martial arts. Martial arts was my life. Unfortunately, now I’ve got a back injury, I don’t do anything these days. But back in the day, that was everything to me and I actually competed in the Worlds in Ireland. So I went with my father to Ireland, England, and Wales, and we were gone for about a month. And after that first trip, when I was a teenager, I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. I love traveling.” So I saved up a little bit of money and I left home and actually went over to Western Europe.

So I think I flew into the UK. Then it was like England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, flew down to Spain and then like basically ran out of money. So I went down to Morocco and that was my first time ever being in, first of all, a Muslim country or a developed country or anything like that, and started traveling around there. And that would have been around 2001 or 2002 I suppose, 2001 maybe, and spent two months there. And we were at like in the Sahara Desert, we were in the mountains on the coast. Like it’s just such a stunning country. And yeah, since then, man, I’ve been hooked and I just have never stopped. I just keep going and going and going.

David McNeill: How has it been actually to keep it going for so long? In my personal experience, I’ve done some longer trips, but only a couple months of my own. So, totally different amount of time than what you’re talking about. But just keeping up the pace, how do you manage it over time? How does it, you know, stay fresh and interesting and at the same time, you know, allow you to maybe build some friendships and not something where you’re just getting to know people for a night or two? Yeah, just keep the passion.

Mikkel Thorup: So basically I was a backpacker. You know, I had my tent and my rucksack and a jar of peanut butter, and I would do hitchhiking and things like that. And that is awesome. It’s very interesting but it is very tiring. Like this is not sustainable. I did 18 months of hitchhiking through Central and South America. That was great when I was 22 or something like that, you know, but now with, you know, my daughter’s almost three years old and stuff, that’s certainly not how we travel anymore.

So these days, like I said, we do the hub-and-spoke. So like, for example, when I lived in Australia, I lived in Melbourne. I was there for three years. During that time, I visited all of Australia. So we were up in the West coast up to Sydney, we went down to Tasmania the center, we went over to Fiji, I was in Fiji five times, Tonga, Vanuatu, we even touched on Asia and stuff. And then after that, I moved to Singapore, and then from Singapore, I went to Cambodia and Malaysia and all these cool countries out there.

And that’s a lot more relaxing because you can kind of leave all of your things in one place and then go for a week, go for two weeks, three weeks, something like this and you always can come back. And then you’re not carrying everything with you. But when you’re on the road, like as a backpacker or extensive travel, like 18 months, I had my entire life in that bag, you know. That was everything, cold weather, warm weather, camping gear, food. We didn’t really have much electronics 20 years ago, but, you know, I think I had a CD player, maybe a Discman. I think that’s what they were called.

David McNeill: Yeah. Yeah, the world’s changed a little bit. Yeah.

Mikkel Thorup: Oh absolutely. Like now, okay, I’ve got my phone which has all my music which is my computer as well. I run half my business from my, you know, Galaxy Note 8 and I’ve got my Kindle which has my books. I’m a voracious reader so I read and read and read. So that’s very handy. You know you can bring 2,000 books with you. I used to bring in a stack of 20 books while I was backpacking and didn’t want to throw any of them out because I had made, you know, little notes in the sides and stuff, highlighted and folded papers and pages and stuff. But I’d say that things are getting easier, not more difficult.

David McNeill: Right. And how’d you pick the first place that you decided to, maybe as you can say, put down some roots, even though obviously you’ve continued to move around using that hub-and-spoke model? But how did you pick those places and the first one in particular?

Mikkel Thorup: Okay. So let’s think back. So my second trip was by myself, that was Europe and North Africa for five months. When I came back from that, man, I was broke, I had no money at all. So I went back. I was, I want to say like 17 or 18 or something like that. I went back. I was at my dad’s house for like two weeks and I was like, “Oh, I don’t like this anymore.”

David McNeill: Yeah. I’ve got to get back on the road, right?

Mikkel Thorup: Got to get back on the road. So I moved out to Western Canada. I have a sister who lives in Calgary. So I spent a week at her place. She drove me out to the ski resorts, basically dropped me off. Found a, I don’t know if it was a youth hostel to start or what it was and then just started looking for jobs in the ski resorts and things like that. And then from there was able to save a good chunk of change which has allowed me to go down through Central and South America.

And at the end of that, my brother came over from Canada and we were in New Zealand for 12 months and he was just pretty organic, you know. Like, I don’t think at 23 years old or 22 years old, I had much of a plan, you know. Everything just kind of fell together and it’s like, he’d meet some pretty girls and the girls are headed over here and they’re like, “You want to come?” You’re like, “All right, let’s go.”

David McNeill: Sure. Right.

Mikkel Thorup: I was a typical backpacker, drinking, you know. I was not very mature at the time but I had a fantastic experience and it definitely helped me to grow up very quickly.

David McNeill: And how did you manage going from where you’re, I assume using Tourist Visas around the world to travel here and there to staying in a place for a year or in the other cases where you’ve been for multiple years? How did you make that happen?

Mikkel Thorup: So Canadians, we have a Working Holiday Visa, which is available and I know that Australians and British and Irish and stuff have similar programs. So my first one was a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand which would give me 365 days and I lived in three or four different towns during that time and just had odd jobs. And then when we relocated to Australia, I got a second Working Holiday Visa, which is another 12 months. And I know that they’ve been able to extend that if you do fruit picking and if you do different things like that but I went down a different route.

So the company I worked with at the time offered me permanent residency through what was called a 457 Visa. It was like a Skilled Migrant Worker Visa and basically, we just had to prove that an Australian could not do the same work that I could do. So because of special, not education, but special experience in my field we were able to prove this. Now I will preface this saying that this visa was available when I was there in 2005 or 2006 so I’m not really up to date today with the immigration process for Australia. But I would be an Australian citizen right now if I hadn’t met a girl and moved to Singapore to be with her.

David McNeill: Oh okay.

Mikkel Thorup: I’d be very happy in Australia. I think it’s just such an amazing country and they’ve just got so much to offer there, you know, David. Like it’s just amazing.

David McNeill: Yeah, it’s an amazing place. I would also like the opportunity to live there. And yeah, it sounds like you’ve gotten to see a lot more of it than I have so I’ll have to make my trip back soon.

Mikkel Thorup: Oh, you absolutely have to. It’s just like every nook and cranny in Australia is just so interesting and it’s so different from what we experience in North America. Although it is an English speaking Commonwealth country and there’s a lot of similarities with Canada, just the natural beauty and the geography and the way that things are set up is just so different but they got it figured out. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a great place.

David McNeill: Yeah, definitely. So as you were traveling around the world at different points and you get to a brand new city, is there anything in particular that you try to do to get acquainted with that city or just kind of get set up and make the most of your time there?

Mikkel Thorup: I am the biggest slacker when it comes to stuff like this. Like first of all, I don’t do any research before I go. Like it’s as minimal as possible. Usually, I will just show up and figure things out as I go. Now with a wife and a child and my mother who takes care of my child, who cares for my daughter, I have to be a little bit more careful now. But like I said, I’ve been in Abu Dhabi for going on eight years now so what happened when I arrived here is very different now when I’m leaving here if that makes sense.

David McNeill: Sure. Yeah.

Mikkel Thorup: Okay, let’s put things in perspective. So right now we’re looking at Panama. It’s top of the list right now. They have what’s called the Friendly Nations Visa which is basically you make an investment into the country, small amounts, you know, $5,000, $10,000, you open a company which holds the investment so an apartment or some land or a business or something like that, you get a local bank account and there’s several other things that you need to comply with and that will give you permanent residency. After five years of holding permanent residency and proof that you are actually migrating to Panama, they will give you citizenship.

Now there is more paperwork that has to be involved and it can be an application process that might last another 12 to 24 months afterwards, and you have to get approved and everything like that but it really is one of the easiest places in the world to move to as an expat. And, you know, people are doing it from all walks of life. I think there’s something like 40 or 42 countries that are eligible for the Friendly Nations Visa. So if you’re an American retiree, your social security check is going to cover what they need to see for income and you can move down now. So I do research on things like that.

And I might do research on, you know, where are we going to stay for the first week or two for an Airbnb but the rest of it we’ll explore and experience as a family. We’ll see, you know, what’s a cool area, where do we want to live? And, you know, luckily I have friends in most places in the world by now so it’s like a good buddy of mine, he’s the VP of a bank in the Caribbean and he’s just relocated to Panama. So he said, “Come on down.” You know, “I got beers in the fridge. Like we’ll figure things out when you get down here.” I was like, “All right, that’s good enough for me.” Yeah.

David McNeill: Sounds pretty good. Yeah. Nice. So, just so, I guess, I and my listeners can understand so where have you kind of set up shop? So far it sounds like Australia and Singapore and now you’re in Abu Dhabi. Any other spots?

Mikkel Thorup: So, yeah, so I was in Western Canada for 18 months. I was in the Arctic right next to Greenland for 366 days. I wanted to do one year. The day after my year was up, I was gone. It’s a beautiful place in the world for natural beauty but the situation there is very messy. So a lot of alcoholism, drug abuse. It’s a really sad situation. So I worked at a crisis line, I volunteered, I should say, at a crisis line, and some of the stories we would hear from the Inuit communities up there were really terrible.

David McNeill: Yeah, I can imagine.

Mikkel Thorup: So I was there for a year. Where else have I been? I don’t know, a couple of other places. I’ve been in Guatemala for six months. I was in the States for several months as well and… But yeah, now I think what we’re going to do is maybe spend part of the year between Panama and the other part somewhere in Asia. So like I mentioned, we’re looking at Thailand, at the Philippines, Korea. My best friend has a business in Korea in medical tourism so he would like us close there.

He’s the godfather to my daughter so we might move over there. You know, it’s so fun being an expat, David, because I can make decisions like this. And if you don’t like a place you can leave and you can change and, you know, things don’t have to be forever. You have a lot of options.

David McNeill: Right. And in terms of the career you’ve developed over the last years living as an expat, does that come from all the research and experience that you’ve had traveling around, trying to, you know, make businesses work and understanding tax situations, visas, passports, and so on? Is that sort of what you’re taking and bringing to the table in terms of your business or have you found other avenues and routes to be able to make an income on the go?

Mikkel Thorup: So it’s kind of like a three-prong approach. So the first is absolutely what you just said. Real-life experience being on the road, doing this every single day for 20 years. The second one which I briefly touched on is I am a voracious reader. So to put things in context, I read a book every two days. I do around two to three days. So I do about 120 books a year and they’re all, you know, economics, business, law, these types of things. You know, I’m not saying I read 120 Tom Clancy books a year. Like I work hard with that. And then I suppose the third part is just my network.

So because I have a podcast of my own, The Expat Money Show, I’ve had an opportunity to interview something like 70, 75 entrepreneurs, and investors who travel around the world and from that has allowed me to refer to them when I don’t know the answer to something. So a lot of them have become really, really good friends and I visit with. I’m also a member of different mastermind groups. Like for example, last year I was in Chicago four times for a mastermind event that, you know, cost me 15,000 U.S. to be a member plus flights back and forth and hotels and food and everything.

So that was a $30-40,000 commitment on my end to attend these masterminds. And it was 18 of us business owners in a room who are all doing, you know, good numbers and we help each other with our businesses. And networks like that are just so, so valuable. These are things like you can’t just go and Google search the answer to some of this stuff, like on building a business or the marketing or the sales, or… You know, you need to talk to someone who’s actually done it.

David McNeill: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I guess jumping back a bit because I still had a question, I realized, from one of the previous things that we talked about. So you mentioned your potential plan in the future to move to Panama and get permanent residence and eventual citizenship there. Have you made it a goal to try to get citizenship in multiple places? What’s your kind of thinking around that and your planning as far as having that be a potential future goal?

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah, absolutely. So we follow and I don’t know how much your listeners are familiar with it, but it’s called the PT theory and PT would stand for permanent tourist or previous taxpayer. This is kind of the outline of what we follow. So Panama is a really fantastic country because as a resident there, you are only paying taxes on money that is earned inside the country. So even though you have a right to work there, so if you worked, you know, as a hairdresser or you worked in the grocery store or you worked in an executive job, I don’t know what people’s fields are, but if you have that, then you’re going to pay local taxes.

But if you have an online business like mine, like I do coaching and consulting for helping people to mitigate their taxes in a, you know, legal manner, I’m not paying tax on that. So I’m a Canadian citizen who is a non-resident of Canada, therefore I don’t pay taxes there. I would be a resident of Panama but I have an online business and my business will be set up or is set up, I should say, in a Caribbean nation. So I have an offshore structure that houses my business where my money and income come into that. And then as for actual living, we might live in Korea for example where they have a six-month Tourist Visa for Canadians and English and many other nationalities.

So this is kind of the outline of how the PT theory works. Now, Panama will lead to citizenship if I can prove that I really want to live there, that I want to migrate there. So things like that might be a gym membership, a rental agreement, how much time you spend in the country, are you contributing to the economy, things like this. There are a couple of other countries that we’re looking at. Like Brazil has a really interesting program. If you give birth in Brazil, the child automatically becomes a Brazilian citizen and if you are the parent or guardian of a Brazilian citizen, you can apply for permanent residency and citizenship. And that only takes 12 months so you can actually become a Brazilian citizen in a year.

Now you have to show a certain knowledge of the Brazilian country and history. You need to be able to speak at least basic Portuguese. I speak Spanish as a second language so I’m kind of hoping that will be transferable and I will be able to learn Portuguese. But I believe if I put my head down and study that’ll be okay.

David McNeill: Is that the only other foreign language that you speak right now, Spanish?

Mikkel Thorup: So I speak a good amount of Mandarin. My wife is from mainland China, which makes everything we do with travel a little bit more challenging.

David McNeill: I can imagine.

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah, China is, they’re very strict with the countries. It is opening up now. Every year, there are more countries she can travel to visa-free. Like we’ve got a trip planned to Serbia together as a family in a couple of months and Serbia she can go to visa-free. So I studied a good amount of Mandarin so that I can speak to my mother and father-in-law. Also, my daughter speaks fluent Mandarin and understands everything but I wouldn’t put myself at fluent. Not yet, at least.

David McNeill: Just on the point of your daughter, she’s still obviously quite young, but as you think about future schooling and so on, are you thinking more homeschooled route or utilizing that base country in a hub-and-spoke model to provide schooling there? Do you just have any general thoughts about how you might make that work?

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah, this is a great question because I am very, very focused right now on the schooling aspect and what we’re going to do. So our initial instinct was just to do homeschooling. And the way that we look at homeschooling is following a proper curriculum that is set out by somebody, could be a government, could be a private agent, a private network, things like this, but you’re following a set schedule, you know, and material and test work and things like that. And this is what we thought we were going to do but actually, as I started reading and researching and understanding more, there’s opportunities like unschooling and world schooling. The differences being that they’re more interest-based learning. So if she has an affinity towards… I don’t know. Like right now, okay, she’s two and a half, she’s obsessed with ballet. Every day, ballerina shoes, she’s dancing and she’s singing and it’s all dance, dance, dance, dance. She wants to watch this stuff.

And we buy her dresses that look like that and toys that have like that and soon she’ll be in dance lessons. If that’s what her passion is in, then I’m not going to try to teach her trigonometry or things like this. Like, it doesn’t make sense, you know. As long as she knows how to read, write, and spell and understands arithmetic, the majority of the other things can be interest-based learning. And when she knows how to do arithmetic and read, write, and spell, she can teach herself pretty much everything. And we can be there to facilitate that, to guide her as opposed to someone being like, “okay, this is what you must learn,” and like cramming, forcing down information into her throat all day long for seven hours, you know. I am totally against it. I’m really outspoken and against government-run schools and mandatory and compulsory schooling. I know and understand the detriment and the damage that this can do on a young mind and I just don’t believe in it at all.

But I think something like having a project, you know. Okay, we want to go as a family and visit Greece, for example. So maybe a couple months leading up to that, we’ll research Greek food and we’ll eat Greek food at the house. We’ll learn a little bit of the Greek language and we’ll learn some history. And if we want to do some maths, maybe we’ll learn about Roman numerals and how the Greeks used this early type of numeral systems. And there’s different ways that you could do things if you’re talking about visiting a place. Opposed to just learning about history in an abstract way where it’s rote memorization and your dates and facts and figures, let’s do things holistically and really make it all-encompassing so that you have a good understanding of it. And I believe that when you actually visit a place afterwards, you’ll have a much deeper experience and you’ll understand and be able to connect with the people there because I think that’s the important thing.

David McNeill: So going back to your travels a bit, you’ve been to over a hundred countries. I know that there’s probably too many stories to talk about, so I won’t go down that route, but are there any particularly favorite countries that stand out in your mind that you’ve gone back to multiple times that just have a special place in your heart?

Mikkel Thorup: Yes.

David McNeill: If you can pull through the history books of your travel.

Mikkel Thorup: Okay, so let’s think for a second. For countries that I go back to multiple times, I’m in love with Germany. I think it’s just such a stunning country. I go over and over again every year, specifically Bavaria. I have some business there so I return often.

David McNeill: I’m glad to hear it because I’m based in Berlin so…

Mikkel Thorup: Are you really? Oh my God. Such an amazing country.

David McNeill: Yeah.

Mikkel Thorup: Everything except for the taxes. The taxes I got a bit of a problem with there but really the food, the people, the culture, it’s just unbelievable and I’m in love with Germany. I’ve been to South Korea definitely more than 60 times, maybe even 70 times. I’m not sure exactly. I’ve been more than 60 times for sure. Like I said, my best friend from back home, he’s been over there for about 15 years. So he’s the godfather to my daughter. We go back and forth visiting each other. We do a lot of business together as well so I go back there many, many times.

As for just downright interesting countries, I’ve been to Iran. I’ve only been once so it’s a little bit different but it is so not what the rest of the world think it is. You know, it has like a really bad reputation, axis of evil and, you know, oppression and things. And I always try to separate between government and people, you know, government and country, like deep down in my soul. So Iran, I didn’t go there for political reasons. I spent time with the people, I visited the mosques, I went to the history, I ate the food and had conversations with the locals and observed life there. This was unbelievable. Like my God David, so stunning and so different than the middle East.

You think, okay, Muslim country, maybe they’re quite similar. No, they’re so different. First of all, they’re Persians, they’re not Arabs which is really, really different. So in Abu Dhabi, this is a Gulf state country, this is the Arabic world. Like I mentioned Morocco earlier. Okay, Morocco has a lot of Arabs in it, but they also have Berbers, they also have a big influence from Spain and Portugal and it’s a real melting pot, you know. They speak French there. It was colonized by the French for a long time. That’s quite different. So the Muslim world is massive and you can’t make sweeping ideas about the people based off of what happens in Baghdad. Do you know what I mean?

David McNeill: Absolutely. Yeah, that makes sense. Now that you’ve gone to so many countries, I have to ask, do you get some quizzical strange looks when you’re going through security and maybe getting your passport stamped in the cases where it has to be? Did their eyes cross as they looked through all the stamps in your passport?

Mikkel Thorup: Well, it’s funny because you know, they start at page one and they’re looking for a place to put a stamp and it’s like flip, flip, flip, flip, flip.

David McNeill: Right. Might take a few more minutes. Yeah.

Mikkel Thorup: Exactly. But I have a business passport so I’ve got additional pages and stuff in there. So that definitely helps. But I think our passports are good 10 years. There’s no way it will last 10 years, especially you start going to African countries and stuff. And I love Africa, we go on Safari every year. And a lot of those visas, if you need a visa for the country, are full-page stickers, you know, that take up a lot of room.

David McNeill: In terms of your business, is it challenging to be able to manage it so remotely, or…? Obviously, it’s very freeing and has a lot of benefit but I’m just wondering if there are any particular challenges there?

Mikkel Thorup: Well, okay, so besides the obvious, it’s like the time change and stuff. I should take one step back. The core of my business is to help people who either want to move overseas or people who are already overseas to make sure that their businesses are structured in a tax-favorable manner. So we do that with offshore bank accounts, offshore incorporation. If they have wealth, we use offshore gold and silver vault storage, offshore real estate, things like this. Now the podcast is like my media. This is how I connect and this is my platform for connecting with people.

So I also have a blog and a newsletter and a book and things like this. But for the podcast, trying to schedule people, you know, when I’m in a different country every week or every two weeks and trying to make sure that the time change is correct. Like today, I’m being interviewed by a gentleman who lives in mainland China for a Chinese podcast about structuring a business in China and they’re four hours ahead of Abu Dhabi. So at 7:00 p.m. here is like 11 o’clock at night there so he’s staying up late. So obvious things like that are challenging.

But I think an internet business is an internet business, coaching and consulting is coaching and consulting. Whether you’re doing it on a beach in Thailand or in downtown Dubai or Abu Dhabi like I am here or you’re living in Berlin, I think a lot of them are quite similar if that makes sense.

David McNeill: Yeah, definitely. So could you tell us a little bit more about your new book Expat Secrets and what went into it and what readers could expect to learn from it?

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah, absolutely. So the book is available right now on Amazon. I am very, very proud. It has hit number one bestseller. I think it’s been the number one bestseller on Amazon for about 11 or 12 weeks now which is really fantastic. I’m very humbled by all of the people who have found the book helpful and on all the amazing comments I have gotten from people. But basically, the book looks at the offshore markets. So when I use the word offshore, really what I’m talking about is something that is outside of your country of birth and is usually quite tax favorable.

So think about countries like Switzerland, look at Belize or Seychelles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vanuatu. There’s lots of countries in the world that would qualify as an offshore country. So we look in-depth in the book about the offshore countries and we talk about the offshore banking, offshore company formation, offshore real estate, all the things that I just mentioned a minute ago. And it’s a real meat and potatoes type of book. I tried to take these really complex ideas and make them as simple as possible.

I tried to make them as concise and I looked at what I could remove from the book not what I could put in. Because if I tried to put in every single thing that I know about the offshore markets and being an expat, David, the thing would be like 10,000 pages and no one would ever read it and it would just be a monstrosity.

David McNeill: Yeah, you might need a few more volumes.

Mikkel Thorup: Exactly. So what I did was try to give an overarching understanding of how all the pieces fit together. So when you need additional help with these things, there’s resources online, where I send you to. You know, the book comes with a whole bunch of extra special reports that I’ve wrote which literally doubled or maybe even tripled the length of the book, but you don’t need every piece of those, you know. Like I mentioned earlier, my best friend lives in Korea, we talk about medical tourism.

So I have one chapter in the book on medical tourism but then I went out and wrote another 10,000 words on medical tourism or maybe another 20,000 words on medical tourism in Asia. And that resource is available. Once you buy the book, there’s special links where you can download that. So I try to look at things through the lens of a global perspective, opposed to what’s in my hometown, what’s in my state or province or city or county, or, you know, even country. Like I look at things, what’s in the world?

So using medical tourism, as an example, when my mom needed to get eye surgery, I didn’t send her in Canada or her hometown, or even here in the U.A.E., I looked at, okay, where are the best medical facilities in the world? Okay, they’re in Korea. So I shipped her over to Korea for two weeks. She had her eye surgery. It’s cheaper, it’s better quality and she got a vacation out of it as well.

David McNeill: Doesn’t get much better than that. Yeah.

Mikkel Thorup: It doesn’t get much better than that. So these are the types of things that I talk about in the book. But in the book, I just highlight, okay, what is medical tourism? Where are the best places? How does it work? For the in-depth stuff, I have special reports written on it, you know, and that way I feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds. And like I said, the book is available on Amazon right now. It’s, I don’t know, 16 bucks or 18 bucks or something like that.

I’ve had people who read it and were like, I’ve been searching for this information for two years, reading online and all of a sudden it’s all in one place for nothing, you know, what it would cost you to go out for lunch like it’s peanuts. But yeah, like I said, the response has been fantastic.

David McNeill: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I definitely can understand and echo that sentiment that you can search around online for it, you know, it ends up being outdated information that’s specific to one individual and it doesn’t even give you that comprehensive overview. So to have one place that people can look for all that information in a handy package and also with links to even more content sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah. And if I’ve had a podcast episode or a guest who explains this stuff better than I have, or could, I just reference the link to this podcast, you know, to this information. So this gives you the framework for how everything works as an expat, how the offshore market fits together, and how your finances and your taxes all fit into place so that you do things right the first time. Let me tell you, if you make a mistake with some of this stuff, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars in difference.

Like, okay, so if you’re an American expat and you live overseas and you’re going for the foreign earned income exclusion, and you screw it up, man, you know, like that could be $20,000, $30,000 that you’re not going to save. Like you’re going to be owing the IRS. It could be $104,000 worth of deductions that you lose out on. So this is important stuff, man.

David McNeill:Yeah, absolutely. So I was just wondering in general, as we conclude the episode, if you could give our listeners who are thinking about moving abroad for the first time some advice or any particular tips or pointers that you think that they should keep in mind or just advice overall as to how they should make their first experience abroad, their first move abroad.

Mikkel Thorup: Well, number one, is just get out there and start exploring. Like, if you are sitting in an office right now and you’re back in North America or Europe or something like that and you’re thinking about moving overseas, thinking about leaving your job and trying to figure how it’s all going to put together, just go for it, just jump in headfirst. Take whatever money you got, sell everything you have because you don’t need it anymore; it’s amazing how little you need actually when you’re traveling, there’s so many interesting things to do, and just get out there.

Then once you actually start traveling and experience things, if you need some extra help, then, you know, listen to more episodes like your excellent podcast. Come listen to mine. There’s lots of free resources out there that will help answer a lot of these questions. But the number one thing is you got to get moving, you got to get out there. We can’t help on the tax side of things. We can’t help on the structuring of businesses or protecting your assets overseas which we didn’t even get into today but are all extremely important. Can’t do any of that stuff if you’re sitting in your little cubicle back home, you know.

David McNeill: One hundred percent. That’s great. Thanks for that advice. And how can our listeners find out more about you and what you’re doing? You’ve mentioned a couple of, you know, things that you’re up to, but what’s the best way for people to keep in touch and just keep updated on what’s going on in your life?

Mikkel Thorup: Yeah, absolutely. So my website is called The Expat Money Show. You can go to expatmoneyshow.com. At the moment, I have a special report, it’s called 15 Global Strategies to Protect Your Wealth. I worked with an asset protection lawyer who is actually a mentor of mine and went through and wrote this report. It’s very short, it’s very concise. It outlines how to protect your assets. It is very, very good. I’m actually extremely proud of it. You can download that for free at expatmoneyshow.com/protection. And if you want to get a copy of my book, just go to Amazon search, Expat Secrets. If you’re in the United States, you can even go to expatsecretsbook.com, that’ll redirect you to the correct page. You know, pick that up. If you have any questions, hit me up on my website. I’m always here to help.

David McNeill: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for all of your insights and amazing stories of your expat life and travels abroad. And I look forward to seeing how your business and life develops overseas and hope to speak to you again soon in the future.

Mikkel Thorup: Absolutely. Thanks so much for your time, David. I really appreciate it.


Thanks to Mikkel for sharing his story with us. You can find out more about his podcast at expatmoneyshow.com. The full transcript for this episode is at expatempire.com.

Music on this episode was produced by Eli Hermit, please check him out on Bandcamp and Spotify.

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As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.