5 Steps to Make the Leap to Living Abroad Successfully

5 Steps to Make the Leap to Living Abroad Successfully

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.

But first…

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… 🙂

Riviera Maya, Family Rocketship

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.
  • The 60-Day EntrepreneurStart 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!

Living Abroad

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.

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When you can live anywhere...

When You Can Live Anywhere…

“Well, what about New Zealand?” I asked Heidi.

“It would be awesome but it’s too far. Nobody would be able to come visit us.”

“What about Hawaii?”

“The cost of private school for the kids would be nuts!”

“What about Spain?”

“Spain… hmmm… yes. Maybe Spain”.

What you just read is part of a conversation that my wife Heidi and I had on an almost daily basis just a short while back.

But let me give you some background…

HOW TO DECIDE WHERE TO LIVE WHEN YOU CAN LIVE ANYWHERE

When you make money without being tied to a location, like working online, the entire world becomes a potential place to live.

Read more

Travel and Kids

Travel With Your Family: No Excuses

4:15pm, Friday Afternoon – Valencia, Spain

“Isn’t this great? Two guys talking about their businesses. And we’re in two different countries! And neither one of those is the United States.”

The words of my good friend Pawel hit me like a ton of bricks.

I paused, chuckled a bit, and said, “Yeah, I’m so super grateful for this.”

My thoughts immediately went to the past version of myself who used to sit in a cubicle dreaming of traveling the world.

I said, “It would be cool if there was a way you could time travel and go back to your cubicle-dwelling self and say, ‘Hold on man, it gets better!’”

Pawel and I met when we moved to Cozumel 2 ½ years ago. He’d been living there with his wife for 5 years already and both of them had built successful lifestyle businesses.

Pawel and I started meeting weekly to share insights, set goals, and generally push each other to grow our own individual businesses.

Now that we left Cozumel and are in Europe for a bit, we have our weekly meetings via Skype.

“Yeah man, it actually astounds me that we live in a day in age where we get to do this” I said.

“See you next week?” Pawel said.

“Yep. Ciao.”

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I Can't Stop Smiling

I Can’t Stop Smiling

(Read the following in the best British accent you can muster…)

“Would you like something from the cart sir? Perhaps a drink or a snack?”

My 8 year old daughter and I could hardly contain our laughter.

It turns out that when flying to the UK, you get real life British flight attendants. Crazy, right?

We couldn’t help but think of that scene in the first Harry Potter movie where the lady offers Ron and Harry something from “the trolley”. I was almost tempted to say, “We’ll take the lot!” but held back.

“No thank you”, I said.

Then I turned to my daughter and we started laughing as we realized we were on our way to freaking England!

Leaving Cozumel

Not too long ago we said hasta luego to Cozumel…for awhile. We didn’t have a really good reason for leaving. We loved it. We just felt like it was time.

On our second to last day there, we sat eating panuchos (kind of like really awesome tostadas) and we almost cried.

Actually, I said to my wife, “If I really think about it right now, I could cry”.

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Questions Every Family Living Abroad Must Answer

“Ugh! If it weren’t for our kids we would….”

Have you ever started off a conversation that way? We sure have.

For most people, living in another country is certainly different from the average domestic life. It’s fun, exciting, and incredibly mind-opening.

But what about living in another country with kids?

Well this adds a whole ‘nuther big fat layer to it!

Like any parent, a lot of our decision making comes from thinking of what’s best for the kids. There are a few key questions that come up that every parent living abroad must answer.

The first question is…

What opportunities are your kids missing out on by not living a “normal” life?

This is the most obvious question. It’s common to see friends and family posting pics of baseball games and BBQ’s online.

It’s easy to think, “Are we really doing the right thing by not living in American suburbia?”

As we’ve thought about this question, we sometimes feel split. Is what we’re giving up by not living in the ‘ol cul-de-sac really worth it?

As we answer the question, we realize that our kids really aren’t missing out on too much.

Really.

We’re striving everyday to create a super rad childhood that they’ll look back on with fond memories. It’s the kind of childhood that we wish we had.

Questioning what the kids might be missing out on actually leads to a much more helpful question…

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Lifestyle Design for Families

How Important is Lifestyle Design to You?

What is lifestyle design and why should it be important to you? So let’s first ask the obvious question, what is lifestyle design?

Here’s an analogy that might help…

Think back to high school. Imagine the crummy cafeteria food that you stand in long lines for everyday. You get your food just in time to eat it and then head back to class.

Then one day one of your friends decides that she is fed up with old pizza and tasteless burgers and decides to drive over to the health food store just a block from the school. She comes back from lunch and seems energized by her new found freedom in choice of food.

The next day, your friend spends her morning telling people to join her and go out in search of a quality lunch. Some people say they don’t have the time – they’ll never make it back before class starts again. Others say they don’t have enough money to afford anything but cafeteria food. Still others say they shouldn’t do it because the principal will get mad.

But your friend doesn’t give up and she comes to you. She persuades you to join her. After a very satisfying meal, you realize that this is what you had been looking for the whole time but you just didn’t know it.

Then it dawns on you that your new delicious meal cost less than the day old, crusty burrito you were so used to eating and it was much more nutritious. You had plenty of time and enjoyed a meaningful discussion with your friend. You even had the opportunity to share some of your food with a person in need. You came back to school with a new sense of purpose. It’s amazing what rethinking your lunch does for you.

Ok, so maybe this illustration is a bit silly but I hope it helps you to understand that lifestyle design is to start thinking in an “unconventional way”. Lifestyle design is thinking outside the box – a phrase that is, ironically, so highly valued but so underutilized.

According to Wikipedia, lifestyle design is,

“The design of one’s ideal lifestyle, especially an unconventional one, providing good opportunities for personal growth, leisure and adventure. Detailed methods include: career planning, entrepreneurship and travel.”

It starts by answering this question:

What do you really want to trade the minutes of your life for, with whom, where, and how? Check out this quote from Shirley MacLaine:

“I think of life itself now as a wonderful play that I’ve written for myself and so my purpose is to have the utmost fun playing my part.”

If you skim this entire post, hopefully that last quote really sinks into your soul and moves you until you finally decide to do something about it.

Lifestyle design starts with personal development

By personal development I mean taking the time to think about and realize what you really want to do with your life. Then push through any obstacles that will be placed in your way. Then achieve what you feel like you were born to do.

Easier said than done I know. You could think of it as identifying your highest values and then taking action on those values.

Figuring out your highest values is sometimes difficult. Often what we think is so important to us goes out the window when faced with a life-threatening situation.

But it doesn’t require something as serious as that to get clear on your values. Just answer the age-old question, if time and money weren’t an issue, what would you spend your days doing?

For those of you embedded in the 9-5 lifestyle, you’re going to scoff at this question and dismiss it as ridiculous and unrealistic. That’s fine. This message isn’t for you. This message is for people willing to take back what’s really important. By answering the above question, you’ll discover not only what you really want to do, but what your highest values really are.

Once you start down the path of personal development, it will quickly lead to a desire to help others. In most cases, the secret to helping yourself to a better life is through helping others to their better life. So you will inevitably become a social change agent. That sounds like a grand title to what is really as simple as sharing a compliment, offering a hug, or teaching someone how to read.

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”

Albert Einstein

The Four Pillars of Lifestyle Design

Time Freedom

Time is the first and most obvious thing we all seek. Entire books have been written about how to manage time better. The most important concept to learn in regards to time is to decide what you’re going to do with it. That’s it!

This is overwhelming for most people because so many of us already have our time mapped out for us before we even get there. After high school, we’ll plan on spending the next 4+ years in college. After college, we’ll plan on spending the next 40+ years at a job with weekends as breaks. Oh yeah, maybe there’s a few vacations thrown in there.

This is the current system. It’s kind of like trying to pay back a debt. Your money is already spoken for before you even get it! People are doing the same thing with time. They’re giving it away before they even get it. Lifestyle design addresses the issue of time by reclaiming it. You decide what you’re doing with it.

Financial Freedom

Ah, money. This is a good one! So many of us are spending our time in exchange for money. That’s not a bad thing. We all need money. We need food, shelter, clothing, and a little bit extra to do the things we want to do.

How much money is enough? Well, that’s up to you to decide. Having a lot of money is a very good thing. Don’t agree? Check your fun level when you don’t have any money. Nope. Not fun.

The big factor here is that people think having lots of money means having lots of stuff. Stuff does not bring happiness. It doesn’t! I have never owned so few things in my entire life as I do right now and I’m happier than I’ve ever been!

Just like time, what you decide to do with your money is entirely up to you. My personal experience tells me that “buying experiences” over stuff brings much more happiness. We would rather do things than have things. We’ve also found that anonymously giving our money away brings amazing blessings.

Money is good. You need it to learn, travel, share, and help others. How much you need is up to you and your situation. This is worthy of an entire series of posts. Simply put, decide on a way that enables you to make “enough” to do the things you want to do and then some and share as much as you can in meaningful ways.

In my opinion, having a job is not the ideal situation for money generation unless you’re doing exactly what you want to do and it gives you the total freedom to decide how you will live each day. Keep this in mind as it closely relates to the next pillar of lifestyle design which is…

Mobility

Mobility is the ability to be free to go where you want to go whenever you want. This could include travel if that’s one of your values. I have a personal bias towards travel because I’ve learned so much by seeing different places and meeting different people. Just like money, the topic of travel is worthy of an entire series of posts. Bottom line, travel is good. But you probably already know this.

Thanks to a high tech world and the mighty internet, it’s now possible to combine making money with being out and about. This could even include making money from a job while not at the job place. 10 years ago, working “remote” was weird. Now it’s becoming the norm. Thank goodness!

Time, money, and mobility all lead to the next and most important of the pillars of lifestyle design…

Freedom of Choice

Once you arrive at having the time and money you need and want, how will you fill your time? Will you dedicate yourself to a cause? Will you travel, learn, and explore with your family? Will you start a new school teaching what you’ve learned?

The choice is now yours because you have designed your life in alignment with your highest values.

The painful thing is that most people are sacrificing their freedom of choice now in the hopes of some potential payoff later. “If I just put in 30 years at the firm now, then I’ll have a sweet retirement…”, “If I just go to one more meeting, then I’ll be made VP and have more time”, and so on.

(Getting preachy alert)

Freedom of choice is probably the most cherished of virtues but the least acted upon. It carries a steep price – it must be acted upon now. Every minute of every day you have the complete and total choice to decide what’s most important to you and how you’re going to spend your time.

You are in charge of you. Not the government. Not your parents. Not your boss. You. You decide what your life is going to look like. You decide how you’re going to spend your time. You decide what adventures and experiences you’re going to have.

Lifestyle design is much more than a trendy topic for bloggers. It’s the method we should all be incorporating into our lives. It’s how we find meaning. It’s how we help ourselves. It’s how we help others. It’s how life is made beautiful. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not just tolerated.

Let me just finish with something I always like to say. Life can be awesome or it can be a gray cubicle bore of a life. You might as well make it awesome!

So, how important is lifestyle design to you? What will you do today to design your dream life and take action towards it?

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10 Tips for Quickly Adapting to a New Place

On Change: 10 Tips for Quickly Adapting to a New Place

Sooner or later, you’re going to leave home and journey to a new place. It may be because of a new career opportunity, extended vacation, or even self imposed vagabonding! Leaving everything that you’re familiar with isn’t always easy even if you’re traveling to a really cool place with really cool people. Sometimes feelings of homesickness or even slight depression are easy to slip into.

So what’s the solution?

Well, I don’t pretend to be an expert but I do have some experience. With more than 20 moves in the last 12 years I know something about adjusting. The following tips have worked for me.

1 – Do a Mental Check

Nothing will shape your new experience as much as your attitude. Try your best to choose to be positive. When you’re fighting homesickness, choosing to be happy is vital. Easier said than done I know but at least try. If this is hard, don’t worry, there’s more tips to help.

2 – Be Grateful

Closely related to choosing to have an awesome attitude is to remember to be grateful. Even if you find yourself in the worst of circumstances, there’s always something to be grateful for. Always.

3 – Bring Something Familiar

Before you leave, bring something with you that’s familiar. Preferably this is something that’s also functional in your journey. For me, this means my backpack that I take everywhere with me. It could be a book, a jacket, or even a pillow case! If you have kids, make sure they have something familiar like a toy, blanket, or doll.

4 – Organize and Clean

Maybe your new place needs a little spring cleaning or just some rearranging. Change your new place to your liking. Add a flower. Hang a picture. Make it home. Similar to this is to…

5 – Take Stock of What You Have

Chances are, you have everything you need already. You probably have some means for food and shelter. With the basics covered, move on to what else there is to see and do in the area. And that leads to the next tip.

6 – Make It An Adventure!

Get outside! Explore and familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. There’s something cool about every place you go. Getting to know your way around will help you feel more at home. Plus, you never know what beautiful places there are until you get out and see them!

7 – Exercise

This is one that Heidi made me put in. While it’s never been part of my “adjustment routine”, I know that exercise helps you increase your energy and feel positive. Plus it has the potential to help you get outdoors and to meet people doing the same thing. If you’re in a different culture, few things help you bond better with the locals than doing something physical.

8 – Keep in Touch

Friends and family offer the familiar connection we all need. Now with the internet and cell phones, there’s no reason to be out of touch. If your friends or family happen to be with you, share it together. Express your feelings. Chances are, your friends or family members are feeling the same and you can work through it together.

9 – Meet New People 

Just as you need that familiar connection by keeping in touch with your family and friends, you should be excited to meet new people. There is so much to learn from every person you meet! Often, some of your biggest life changes will be a result of meeting cool, new people. There’s always room for more friends in your life.

10 – Serve Others

I can think of no better way to feel better than to serve others. Thinking of others is the best solution to feeling better yourself. By getting out and serving in your new community, you’ll feel better yourself and you’ll also be making many new friends. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re involved in something good.

The overall message here is to be active! Activity drives away homesickness. Change is hard but it’s the only way to growth. It’s always worth it in the end.

In your experience what else helps?

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