Travelling to a destination and making the commitment to move your entire life there are two completely different things! When visiting a new country as a tourist, you only get to scratch the surface of what the place has to offer. You might spend your time exploring landmarks, doing some sightseeing of popular tourist attractions and eating at top-rated restaurants.
Alternatively, moving abroad, whether for work, for school, for fun or even for love, gives you the opportunity to truly absorb the essence of a destination and fully integrate as a local citizen. It’s a chance to reinvent yourself with all the challenges and rewards that come with it.
Perhaps you might have this romanticized fantasy of living in a foreign country, perpetuated by countless movies and books, where you’re sipping a coffee in Paris, joining an Ashram in India or surfing barrels in Australia. However, the reality is that moving abroad requires a large amount of planning, preparation and organization.
Here are five things you need to consider prior to making your big move:
First, you will need to research the visa requirements. Establish how you will spend your time in your new host country to evaluate the type of visa necessary. For instance, Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 have the possibility to legally work abroad with a Working Holiday visa thanks to Canada’s reciprocity agreements with many countries. Check International Experience Canada for more details on how to apply.
However, if volunteering is what you have in mind, you could be subjected to the same immigration laws than someone working for an actual wage. In that respect, allow sufficient time before your departure to research those specific visa conditions.
Since not all countries operate with an equal level of efficiency; plan this step ahead of time. Applying for a visa can quickly become an administrative nightmare especially when having to deal with foreign bureaucracy. Remember to use patience and understanding during that process. This essential step should go hand-in-hand with subscribing to a travel insurance plan. Call your travel insurance agent to find the best solution for your upcoming expatriation.
Begin your search for housing solutions before you arrive to help reduce the stress associated with this step. Allow yourself to get your bearings by staying at a hotel/guesthouse for the first few days while you explore the different neighborhoods.
If your belongings are not following you on this journey, look into serviced apartments or shared accommodation which are already furnished. This minimizes the commitment while enjoying all the amenities of a full home setting. Search for local Facebook groups to help you in this process using keywords such as “Take Over my Lease”, “short-term rentals” or “roommates wanted”. Forums for expats and classified ads in the local newspaper are also a great starting point for finding your new home away from home.
It is likely that you will have to provide one or two months worth of rent as a security deposit, so keep this in mind when budget planning. You should also put aside a small “setting up” fund to cover expenses such as bedding, bathroom supplies and kitchen utensils. Regarding utilities, you should inquire beforehand if electricity, water and Internet are included or if you need to set it up on your own.
You can only call a place home once you feel safe and sound there. There are many factors to evaluate the safety of a destination. Check the political climate as an indicator of potential political unrest in the country. You can easily find this information on your government’s foreign affairs website.
Other aspects to consider are the weather and the likeliness of natural disasters. Some regions of the world are more at risk for monsoons, floods, hurricanes, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, etc. These events being so unpredictable, you must ensure that you have a valid travel insurance which will cover you in the case of such a catastrophe.
Finally, familiarize yourself with basic local safety precautions. Inquire about less safe neighborhoods and practise the same level of safety as you do at home. Avoid walking alone at night, don’t expose your valuables in public and use your common sense for any other situation. Pick a destination where you know you will feel comfortable and at ease as moving abroad would be quite unfulfilling if you had to spend all your time locked inside your house.
It can be challenging to establish the perfect budget for living abroad. As a rule of thumb, you want to have, based on your destination, at least $6000 saved up as an emergency fund. This will help cover your needs until you are settled in and money starts coming in again.
Depending on your chosen accommodation option, relocating to a new country involves moving costs. Since airlines will charge substantial fees for any overweight luggage, consider having non-urgent items shipped to you by freight or boat.
Websites like Numbeo can help you evaluate the cost of living by comparing the prices of different destinations. It also provides indicators such as housing, health care, traffic, crime and pollution.
5. SETTLING IN
Moving to a foreign country requires flexibility to adapt to this new life you are creating for yourself. Things will be different and it might be challenging at times, especially if you are faced with a language barrier. You might feel lonely, isolated and find it harder to make friends. Those are all normal feelings experienced by the majority of new immigrants and expats. There are ways to make the transition of moving abroad smoother and minimize the culture shock.
A few months before your departure, you could attend a language school. Just by acquiring a basic proficiency, you will be able to navigate your way around more easily. Once there, you could also register for language classes offered to new immigrants. Not only will you connect with people dealing with the same struggles as you, it will give you the confidence to interact with locals in their mother tongue.
Another way to meet people and make new friends is to volunteer for an organization which mission you endorse. More options include inviting colleagues for drinks or coffee outside of work, signing up for a workout class at your local gym, attending meetups or couchsurfing gatherings or joining an Expat support group on Facebook. The possibilities are endless as long as you keep an open mind. On top of raising your general happiness level, creating a strong social network will help to settle down in a new country.
If living abroad is something you wish to experience at least once in your life, gather your strength and courage and make the move: book that flight, apply for that visa and find the perfect travel insurance plan for your needs. Don’t let small roadblocks intimidate you, instead imagine this exciting new life spent discovering and embracing a new foreign culture. Remember that if all else fails, home is not as far as you think it is.
Article by Nomad Junkies team