Maybe you’ve always been obsessed with living in Paris. Maybe you’ve always wanted to live in the Caribbean. Maybe you love Chinese food and want to go to the source. Whatever it may be, we’re talking about you living abroad!
Regardless of the exact reasons, there are certain things you need to do to make the jump to living in another country other than your own.
WHY CONSIDER LIVING ABROAD
Why would it be good for you to live abroad?
I almost don’t even know how to answer this one. Why WOULDN’T you want to live in a cool place you’ve always dreamed about?
But to quickly answer my own question, here are some thoughts. By choosing to live abroad you’ll:
- Learn about new cultures and increase your love and tolerance for people of all walks of life
- Meet cool new people and friends you didn’t even know you had
- Improve your communication skills
- Possibly learn a new language
- Become super intentional with what you own (escape consumerism habits)
- Try & love new foods
- Get to do the cool things your new country has to offer
- Have a never ending pile of cool pics and videos
- Help you learn about and improve yourself (maybe you need to develop your patience & flexibility for example…)
- Come home with expanded horizons and an improved perception about people and life in general
- And a million more great reasons…
Hopefully, you’ll consider living abroad. In fact, it used to be something only available to the super rich.
Now with the digital age, it’s becoming more and more popular. And it’s not reserved for college students backpacking through Europe. Heck, I have a wife and 3 kids and we’ve lived outside of our own country for 4 of the last 5 years alone!
If you decide to commit, here are some questions you’ll want to address first. In fact, these questions can basically serve as your checklist to get moving. Just follow the steps!
STEP ONE – DECIDE WHERE YOU’RE GOING
Where do you want to go? It seems pretty obvious I know. But you’ve got to go somewhere and with an entire world to choose from, narrowing it down can be harder than you think.
Some simple questions to ask yourself include:
- What experiences do you want to have?
- What kinds of things do you want to see?
- Do you want to learn a new language?
- What kind of food do you want to eat?
- What do you want to learn? (If you want to learn how to be a samurai, Japan might be more appropriate than Greenland)
- How close do you want to be to friends and family?
Just think about your values and what’s most important to you. Then think, does your country of choice line up with your values?
Sometimes you’ll come up with multiple countries that meet your requirements. In this case, it’s helpful to look at a map of the world and do a sort or “process of elimination” exercise.
When we decided to move back to Cozumel, Mexico, we started at the continent level. Antartica, Asia, and Africa were the first to go. Then South America was also out. We looked hard at Australia (actually, New Zealand – sorry my Aussie friends, soon enough we’ll get to Australia!).
Then we looked at Europe. We boiled it down to Spain versus Mexico. Obviously, Mexico beat out Spain… for now.
By the process of elimination and basing everything off of what’s most important to us, we ended up in a place that we absolutely love.
You can do the same.
I might add that the Riviera Maya is a lovely place… 🙂
STEP TWO – DECIDE HOW YOU LONG YOU’LL BE GONE
Once you’ve decided which country you’re going to, you need to think about how long you’ll want to be there.
In most cases, you’ll have to take into account country visa requirements. Most likely, you’ll be there as a guest (like, not working there) so you’ll effectively be a tourist.
Every country has different lengths of time you can stay without incurring any penalties. For example, in Mexico, Colombia, and the U.K., you can stay up to 6 months on a simple tourist visa. For places like mainland Europe, it’s 90 days.
In most cases, you can extend your visa time or do a simple “visa run” and come back to your desired country.
Apart from the country requirements, you have to decide how long you just plain want to be gone. If this is your first go of it, maybe start with 90 or 180 days. If you’re feeling more adventurous and really want to get into the local culture, consider at least doing a year.
Oh and here’s something crazy – leave it open-ended! When we came to Cozumel the first time, we had decided on staying for 6 months to try it out. Long story short, we loved it so much we stayed for 2 ½ years. And then we came back!
If you can, simply decide to NOT decide how long you’ll be. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with your new home and want to stay…
STEP THREE – HAVE AN INCOME STRATEGY
How are you going to pay for it all? It’s a question that tourists, locals, and even the government of your new country will care about also.
“What do you do for money?”
This is the number one question we get when people find out we live here. I just say, “I work online”.
If you work online, then you’re in luck! You’re already ahead of most people. Now you just gotta go!
If you don’t already work online, you have a few options.
- Set up a remote-work arrangement with your employer – this works especially well if you’re work is online or computer-based. This doesn’t work so well for nurses, dentists, contractors or anything where you need to be physically present to do the work.
- Save and go – decide to quit your job but before you do, save, save, save! This is what Heidi did when she went to Europe solo when she was single. She saved every penny until she had a large cushion. When the time came, she quit her job and took off to Europe for 5 weeks.
- Sell and go – if you can’t save enough from your job, consider selling everything you own to finance the trip. We have some good friends here in Cozumel who actually flipped a house before taking off. It gave them the piece of mind that even though he was quitting his job, they would have money in the bank.
- Start a lifestyle business – there’s absolutely no doubt that this is my favorite option. Having your own reliable source of income is what I feel the best way to make sure you’ve got dinero for what you need. This is one of the reasons why I put together the 60-Day Entrepreneur program. Get started with your own business and you’ll never have to worry about income.
- Combo package – mix and match any of the above suggestions. When we first started our own journey 7 years ago, we had already been saving but also decided to sell everything we owned to boost our savings account.
I should note there is another option here – you can always try to get a job where you’re going to live. But it’s not always ideal and can sometimes complicate getting a visa and so forth. But it’s something to keep in mind!
Do whatever works best for you. Just make sure you have at least double of what you think you’ll need just in case.
STEP FOUR – DECIDE WHAT YOU’LL DO WITH YOUR STUFF
If you’re like most people in the western world, you have a lot of stuff. You may not realize it because it’s accumulated over years. Chances are, most of the stuff you have you don’t even need or use.
Just like with your income, you have some options with your stuff. You can:
- Sell everything
- Sell some things and put the rest in storage
- Bring everything with you
When we left California this past year to head back to Mexico, we got rid of everything. I’m not kidding. The only things we saved were Heidi’s wedding dress, my 7mm wetsuit, photos, some books, and tax information. That’s really it!
Everything we owned suddenly got stuffed into a set of suitcases. It was great! It really feels good to be free from stuff!
But what about the bigger stuff like cars and houses?
If you’re not driving your car to the new country (if you even can), sell it! Or let a friend or family member use or whatever. When Heidi’s cousin left for Mexico on his first 6 month stint, he sold his car. It also helped boost his savings.
But what about your house? If you rent, this one is easy. You just leave when your lease is up or get out of your lease early. Done.
If you own your home, then it’s a bit more challenging but you still have options. You can:
- Sell your house
- Rent it out
- Get housesitters
- Leave it as is and have someone check on it from time-to-time
What about your mail?
Hopefully you’re already living “green” and get most stuff digitally anyway. But with my own social commentary aside, there will inevitably be physical mail that comes. And occasionally it’s important.
One option is to get a PO Box and have someone you know to get the mail for you. Another option is to use a service like Traveling Mailbox or Earth Class Mail. Or you can always route everything to a friend or family member you trust.
With the stuff out of the way, now you have to…
STEP FIVE – PREPARE FOR YOUR NEW ADVENTURE
If you’ve done all of the above, you’re already 90% of the way there! Now comes the last-minute but kind of fun stuff.
For starters, you can spend your time doing research on your new country. Before we came to Cozumel for the first time, I think I watched every single YouTube that had the word “Cozumel” in it. I also hung out on Google street view trying to get a feel for the place.
You can also grab any other items you might need. I’m not trying to encourage you to have more stuff in your life but you also want to be prepared. Will you need warm clothing? What about a new GoPro or camera? Do you have what you need for work?
You can also get mentally & emotionally ready. Spend time with any friends and family you want to. Get in any last-minute things you love from your native country (like cotton candy from Disneyland… mmmmmm)
If you’re going to be learning a new language, get a head start learning verbs and nouns on DuoLingo. Get on Google maps and check out your new city. Learn about how you’ll get around, the fun stuff there is to do, and places to eat.
I WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK!
If you take this post seriously, which I hope you do, I wish you the best of luck! Becoming an internationalist by living abroad is borderline magical for your lifestyle.
One final insider’s tip: be sure to be flexible and ready for adventure. Basically, as soon as you leave your own country, things are not as easy as you may be used to. That’s where the learning and fun kicks in.