A move abroad is not to be taken lightly. There is an immense amount of forethought and planning required. Come prepared with savings and a plan, and be willing to work hard to make your dream a reality. Take it from me, the move can be well worth it.
Back in Boston I was miserable in my professional life, held back by the trappings of my well-paying legal job and the hefty mortgage around my neck, suffocating the life out of me. Then one fateful vacation to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in the spring of 2018 changed my life for the better. My partner and I returned with this crazy idea to quit our jobs, sell everything and move south of the border. It was a calling we could not ignore.
Our lives changed for the better. It was not easy, but it was also certainly not boring. We were challenged and simultaneously rewarded. We followed the steps below before moving, and we suggest you follow suit.
1 – Visit where you are going first. I don’t recommend moving anywhere without first being familiar with the local culture and surroundings. Take a vacation. Ask around – talk to the locals and expats to get their impression of life there. Our first time to Playa we went on vacation, without any real plans of moving there. Conversations with with locals and expats convinced us to move there. Prior to that the thought have never entered into my head, and even though I had been dreaming of leaving Boston and moving SOMEWHERE, I hadn’t thought that somewhere would be Mexico.
2 – Know the requirements to move there. Some places like Svalbard (a territory of Norway near the north pole) only require a valid passport – but some other places require a lot more. In Mexico you can enter on a tourist visa for 6 months and then leave the country for 3 days and come back. If you want to stay longer you have to apply for a resident visa while in your home country. On the other hand New Zealand allows 18-30 year old travelers a one year visa if they can show savings of around $3,000 USD. For those older than 30 you need to be sponsored by an employer. Likewise for many countries prospective residents need to demonstrate some form of income or savings and/or be sponsored by an employer (to make sure you are not a financial liability). Many require work or resident visas, so it’s important to do your homework.
3 – Save as much as possible. Unless you are independently wealthy you’ll need to consider how to support yourself in your new home. I would suggest coming with 6-12 months of savings to cover living arrangements. Even though many places like Bali, Thailand or Mexico may be less expensive than your home country, day to day living expenses still add up. Getting established can take time, especially if you need to work and have not yet lined up employment. When we moved to Mexico we cashed in retirement accounts, sold property and relied on savings. Even though we were starting a new business which takes a lot of investment, costs still add. We came with 3 years of living expenses, and for starting a new business even that was barely enough.
4 – Make sure you have a valid passport. Some countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months past the date of entry into the country. Please check the expiration date of your passport with plenty of time in case you need to renew. Also make sure all pages are in tact. In Mexico on more than one occasion, travelers have been forced to return to their home countries after landing in Mexico only because their passport was worn or ripped.
5 – Health Care. Make sure you are up to date on all your shots. Some countries require vaccines before you are allowed to enter. Also ensure you have valid health insurance or proper medical care. Some countries will cover part or all of your medical expenses abroad, while others like Canada will invalidate medical coverage in your homeland if you are out of the country more than 6 months.
6 – Be flexible. Stuff happens. Plans can change unexpectedly. Concepts of time may be different than back home. In Mexico life progresses a snail’s pace. Your level of happiness and ability to last in your new home depends a lot on how quickly and easily you can adapt. New country means new culture, often new ways of thinking, new processes for getting stuff done. You can’t expect life to function like it did back at home. Don’t set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. Adjust plans as life unfolds.
7 – Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Be thankful you are able to move abroad. Many dream of doing so but never make it. If you weren’t happy in your home country and aren’t enjoying yourself in your new homeland, when are you ever going to find happiness? Be positive. It’s an adventure. Often bad experiences make great lessons and almost always make for great stories.