So you want to be an expat…
Are you considering moving abroad? Career changes, long-term volunteering, and education opportunities are some of the reasons many Americans are choosing to put down roots in a new country. The decision to move abroad certainly isn’t one to take lightly. Months and even years of careful planning and preparation are required to make it happen. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before making the big move.
1. Can I picture myself living there?
It is important to know exactly what you are getting yourself into before you commit to a long-term move abroad. It’s easy to romanticize the idea of living in Milan or Barcelona during a short 1-2 week trip, full of sightseeing and eating out. But the longer you stay somewhere, the more reality sets in. Get a taste of living abroad with a longer, more laid-back trip and see if you can really picture yourself living there. Talk to the locals and test your language skills. Try to navigate the city with as little help as possible. Be honest with yourself about what adjustments you would have to make living there full-time.
2. What will my budget look like abroad?
The cost of living varies drastically by country. Some countries may have higher costs for housing, but lower costs for transportation. Some destinations will require you to budget more for your meals. Do careful research and figure out how your daily expenses will be changing. This is a great thing to look at while you are taking your “trial trip.” Figure out what you need to do to get your finances in order. You should leave enough room in your budget for unexpected emergencies and the full cost of a one-way ticket home in case your plans suddenly change.
3. What kind of insurance coverage do I need?
This is one of the most common and costly mistakes travelers make when moving abroad. Many travelers mistakenly think their primary health care coverage will work if they leave the country, but this is not the case. It is important to get travel-specific coverage and get the right product for the length of your trip. Most travel insurance policies only cover short-term trips, so you’ll need to be careful to check the limitations. Our Fly For Good team can help you locate a policy that covers 365 consecutive days and is even renewable while you are away.
4. Where will I live?
Picking out permanent housing can be difficult if you don’t know the area. You will want to find accommodations that are safe, affordable, and comfortable. If you don’t plan to have your own car, you’ll need to consider your public transportation options or be within walking distance of everything you need. Take time to scope out the area before you make a final decision. Spend some time at an Airbnb, Couchsurfing, or at hostels while you familiarize yourself with your surroundings.
5. Sell, give, store, or bring?
Take a major inventory of what you own and decide what you are going to sell, give, store, or bring. Shipping large items abroad, such as furniture or your car, might end up being more expensive than simply purchasing new items when you arrive. Sell some larger items and put the money towards new purchases. Leave irreplaceable items in storage or with someone you trust to keep it for you. Pack light, sticking with favorite clothes, personal items and a few of the comforts of home you can’t live without.
6. How will I stay connected?
First-time expats often discover that staying constantly connected to what’s happening back home actually makes it harder to acclimate to their new life. Try to create set times to call or Skype with your close friends and family. Use the rest of your time to focus on creating new friendships and interests abroad. Some travelers find a great way to stay connected is to start a blog and documenting their adventures. This allows you to keep everyone updated without having to make several calls.
Understand that some things may change while you are gone, and that’s ok! You will change, too, as you embark on one of the greatest experiences of your life!