I’m 40 years old and have a 401K. I have read I can avoid paying the 10% penalty by doing regular, lifetime distributions from the plan. Is this true and am I missing any gotcha’s? (I’ll be leaving the USA and regular withdrawls will finance very early retirement)

This is not true. You have to roll over your 401K to a Roth IRA and cannot start distributions before 59 1/2.