Nowadays the opportunity to live abroad and experience this type of unique adventure is a dream for an increasing number of people. Not just young people, but also families decide to leave their home countries in search for better opportunities abroad-be it a career, a lower cost of living, or stretching retirement savings. Whatever the case is, the benefits of moving abroad inevitably lead to professional and personal development, growth and a clear sense of self.
Aside from the motivations, the question is how do you arrange everything? How can you save money during the process? How do you pack your whole life in one (or maybe two) suitcase? What will you do once you are there? Will you have enough money? What about the language? Thus, after the initial thrill comes the reality—the planning itself—which can be complicated and overwhelming. You want to make sure you are properly prepared in order to get the most out of this adventure. The good news is that it all comes down to a series of small steps which eventually make the entire process manageable. To help you begin, we’ve rounded up a few basic steps that will save you some energy and above all money before (and after) you decide to move abroad.
Passport and Visas
First things first-check your passport. You really don’t want to start your adventure and realize your passport is about to expire. Beware that your passport must be valid for at least six (in some countries three) months beyond your final travel date. Depending on where you decide to go, make sure you check with the local embassy to find out exactly what documentation is required. The visa process varies per country and per visa type as well. Some countries will allow you to live there for years on a tourist visa, and you simply have to leave the country every once in a while to renew. Others require huge paperwork, usually accompanied by a long application process. Typically, a work visa takes a bit longer to obtain. Give yourself at least two months for this process in order to avoid last minute stress. In every case scenario, despite the visa, you will need some kind of residency permit once you are there, so assume extra cash for that, too.
Before you move abroad, check whether your current health care insurance is valid in the country of your destination. If this is not the case be sure to buy travel health insurance. If you already managed to secure a job before you go, talk with your employer to ensure they will cover your health insurance. Do remember, this is a must! It will ease the travel stress and save you lots of money if, God forbid, you end up in need of medical services. If you take prescription medication, make sure you know how you can obtain them in your new country before actually going there.
Securing your income in advance
Before you take the plane (or train), you need to get your finances in order. The more you have in savings, the better your life will be in your new home. Set up a saving account as early as possible. The amount you save will depend on your current income. Another easy way to make some money is by selling your stuff. There will be a lot that you don’t need while you are gone and probably won’t even need when (and if) you return.
Next, figure out a way how you can best transfer and utilize your skills. Explore the local labor market in advance so you can come prepared once you are there. Teaching English, working online, opening a local business are just a few ideas on how you can secure a steady income in your new home. However, the best is to earn your income in a wealthy country and spend it in a less wealthy one. This way you will be able to enjoy the things you want without constraints, set up a travel fund and an actual savings account. Yuppie!
The living costs in your new home
Before you move abroad you really need to figure out how much living there will cost you. From estimating the costs of housing, food, transportation, utilities, to entertainment, education, and insurance. You will need to make this calculation beforehand and create a monthly budget based upon your income and planned expenses. Lots of this information can be found online. You can also start networking with people already living in your new city to find the best options for housing, schools etc. Often times there are Facebook groups or websites specifically designed to help you navigate in the city you are moving to and find roommates, rent flats or simply learn about entertainment options. These groups are also ideal for making new friends or even find a community of people from your own home country.
Learn the language
Ideally, you should study the language before you head to your new home. That way you can be prepared to conquer your new city rapidly. However, if by any reason you don’t have time or resources to study the language in advance, you can still throw yourself into learning after you’ve arrived. There are many options to learn the language, from formally enrolling to language classes to making local friends in the nearest coffee shop and doing your best to chat with them. Experiences vary, but whatever you do be sure to expose yourself as much as possible to the new language. The faster you overcome the fear of using the new language, the better you will feel in the long run.
Volunteering is another great way to learn the local language, but also to cut on expenses. In addition, while working side by side with local community members and other volunteers, you will meet many like-minded people and build relationships that bridge international borders.
At the very end…
Are you really ready?
Since this is a major step in your life, prepare yourself mentally. Take a look at where you stand: Have you done your pros and cons list of working abroad and/or moving to a foreign country? Have you done your research? Have you visited your new home before permanently moving? Have you been lucky enough to find a job? Now, be sure to ask yourself the most difficult question-Is there still something that is holding me back? Family, friends, love? If it is only fear, then you must learn to let go of that fast. Whenever we bring a big decision, fear comes along. It is natural to feel fear when we are doing something out of our comfort zone. If this fear is followed by positive feelings then make the decision, board that plane and look forward to the new challenges and gifts ahead of you.
Vicky is a Food & Lifestyle Blogger at AvocadoPesto.com, where she specializes in healthy living and health cooking. She is also a world traveler and has visited over 60 countries.