Moving abroad is a terrifying prospect until you do it and realize that all the nervousness and fears were energy wasted. After years of living abroad, Tom and I have found it easier than living in America—shocking actually. Our way of life is simpler, with fewer bills to pay, we spend far less money (even though we’re not shoestring backpackers), and we get adventure every day while living in Vietnam. When we get questions about how we decided to move abroad, the answer seems simple. It was a no-brainer decision. We had the desire to travel and moving abroad was the easiest way to satisfy that.
Uprooting your life and moving abroad is easier than you think. If the only thing stopping you from moving abroad is the fear of not knowing how - we didn’t either. Now we’ve lived on two different continents and have been to 17 countries in the past two years, each time having to uproot and start over, finding work and making money.
Why it’s easier than you think?
You Don’t Have to Have a Job Set Up Before You Move
Of all the jobs we’ve had abroad (both backpacker & big kid jobs) we’ve found on the ground and looking. The resources to find jobs online can be helpful, but good old fashion face-to-face, talking with locals, expats, and owners has always been the best option for us to find work.
Finding a Job Abroad Is Easy
Finding a job abroad is easy and we've had jobs doing everything from vineyard picking to career development at a University. We’ve been offered high paying well-respected positions with minimal qualifications because we’re flexible and can sell ourselves. Some companies, to be blunt, want you because English is your native language. Jobs in teaching, writing, marketing, blogging, editing, reviewing, hospitality, coding, and even the arts are areas you can get a job in, just by speaking English. The list is endless as long as you believe and market yourself.
You Don’t Have to Search For Housing Until You Move
We’ve seen a lot of travelers post on expat forums about apartments when they’re still months away from moving to their destination. This is a waste of time for two reasons: one, most rental companies don’t know their availability until roughly two weeks before an opening; and two, you can’t rely on the pictures to sell you on comfort. We’ve looked at dozens of apartments in several different countries, and every time we find the pictures don’t quite compare to the product. Plus, as a home base, we want to know that the apartment is comfortable and the only way we can do this is by visiting. Forums are useful for estimating prices, checking out the market, and introducing yourself, but don’t stress finding long-term accommodation before you move. Just book an affordable hostel, Airbnb, or hotel in the area and start your search after you’ve had a few days to settle in.
You Can Speak English Anywhere In The World
As unfair as it might be to those who don’t know English, it is the language of the world. You can travel almost anywhere knowing only English. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to learn local phrases, greetings, and even the language as a whole, but it does mean that you have access to the world if you speak English. You can live in Colombia and Peru without knowing Spanish or even in Japan without knowing Japanese.
Yes, You Can Sell Your Material Possessions
It’s tempting to put everything you have in storage when you decide to move abroad, but the more downsizing you can do the better you’ll feel. We guarantee there are things you won’t care to see again and items you’ll look at and think ‘what do I need this for?’ when you return (or if you return). Downsizing also helps you save on storage costs, and you might be able to make a bit of extra cash by selling some of your stuff.
You Can Find Fully Furnished Accommodation Abroad
You don’t need to pay to ship your furniture and entire house abroad. If you didn’t have your couch or that dresser in Krabi, Thailand would you really be devastated? If so, we have some bigger worries to tackle. Wishing you could bring your bed abroad, that’s a different story, but we promise there are comfortable beds out there and it’s easy to find accommodation that is fully furnished, cozy, and affordable.
You Can Find Household Items Abroad
You can forgo packing beauty supplies or everyday household items as you’ll find everything from sheers to stockings abroad. The name brands might differ, but you can find shampoo, condition, deodorant etc. Be meticulous about what goes in your backpack. Save that space for things that matter. You’ll be glad you packed light. Plus, that means room to bring stuff back later.
You Don't Have To Have Everything Figured Out
You’re moving to a new country. You’re flying the coop, taking off where you’re friends and family think you’re crazy for going. You’re the bravest person for doing so, but it’s normal that you’re freaked out. Remember that it will be manageable when you break things down and you don’t have to have everything planned. Rather than overwhelm yourself with a million ideas or an unachievable checklist, just concentrate on one step at a time.
Find the right destination
Decide when you plan to go
Make a budget
Buy the ticket
Find The Right Destination
DON’T decide on a destination because of a job. Unless you’re delighted with your job, or your company is moving you abroad, it’s not a good start to follow a job. Work will always be there, and opportunities will follow if you're happy in your life outside of work a.k.a life next to the beach. Instead, try finding a destination that satisfies your wants. Ask yourself ‘why do I want to live abroad?’ If you’re tired of living in a big city, consider getting lost in the endless national parks of New Zealand. In need of a beach? Consider Southeast Asia for beautiful undiscovered beach life. Just looking to travel abroad and experience something new? Explore the diversity of South America. Figure out your needs and happiness will follow.
Decide When You Want to Go
Give yourself 4-6 months out to buy plane tickets, and you’ll find better prices. That time also allows you to straighten out a budget and get some savings in order. If you have the flexibility to decide on when to travel, figure out the low-season in the destination you’re moving to, and try to arrive sometime in that window. This means cheaper flights, more options for long-term accommodation, and generally fewer tourists.
Make A Budget
Build the framework for a practical budget. It's not a binding contract of what money you will actually spend. But start by exploring websites like Numbeo to figure out what the average daily costs are in your new country. You can get as detailed as figuring out how many beers you’re going to drink a month or how much toothpaste will cost, but don't stress too much because the budget will evolve. Overestimate and give yourself a cushion.
In our experience, this is the average monthly cost break down per person (2018) in the regions of the world we’ve lived in:
Western Europe we spent $2,000/month
South Island New Zealand we spent $1,500/month
West Coast of South America we spent $1,000.month
Southeast Asia we spent $800/month
Buy The Ticket
Until you buy the ticket, your dream trip is all talk. Buying the one-way ticket can be daunting, but the good news is it’s cheaper than paying for a roundtrip ticket. With only one direction to go, you have less to buy. Finding cheap flights is a recipe of patience and helpful hints like searching for flights on Thursday and purchasing flights on Tuesdays. Or using your incognito window to browse and avoid cached searches. We’ve bought hundreds of flights from dozens of websites and found these helpful tips when looking to get the best deals. Once you’ve exhausted every possible option, do it, buy the ticket.
The Helpful Hints & Travel Tips for Moving Abroad
Paypal is the Best Option for International Transfers
Paypal is accessible in over 200 countries and allows its users to make international transfers from person to person rather than from bank to bank. There is a fee for international transfers (between 1%-5% depending on your country), but life comes with fees, and Paypal makes managing money easier. You can set up a PayPal account in your home country and then a PayPal in your new country, each will be tied to your country local bank account. Once both accounts are set up, you can transfer between your two accounts within minutes.
Get an International Bank Account and Card
As it stands, there is still not a bank for travelers and so finding the right bank requires assessing what your needs are. You want to pick a bank that allows you to make international transfers, no foreign transaction fees or foreign ATM fees, and ideally has no annual banking fee. We’ve met travelers using everything from HSBC to a Credit Union while traveling. We can only recommend two things: one, Wells Fargo is a terrible bank for managing and using abroad; and two, Charles Schwab has far more positive reviews by travelers than any other bank. We use HSBC, but it’s limited to Vietnam unless we pay the high annual fee for international access. We would have a Charles Schwab account if we could set it up abroad, but you have to do it in person.
Get a VPN for Your Computer
Having a Virtual Private Network will save you a lot of hassle while you’re traveling. No, VPN’s are not just for hackers, they’re used to protect your information which is essential when you’re traveling and using online banking. A VPN allows you to use a local IP address so even if you’re in Vietnam you can use a US IP address. This allows us to access Wells Fargo, Chase, and other banking sites that are blocked when using a foreign IP address. A VPN also allows you to access American Netflix, Spotify, and other apps that are blocked in certain countries.