Are you ready to be an expat?
The decision to move abroad certainly isn’t one to take lightly. Months and even years of careful planning and preparation are required to make it happen. But whether it is chosen as a career move, a long-term missions assignment, or simply for the joy of cultural immersion, moving abroad is sure to be one of the richest and most incredible times of your life. Here are a few things every hopeful expat should do as they count down to the big move.
1. Take an extended trip
Before you commit to a long-term time abroad, it’s important to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. It’s easy to romanticize the idea of living in London or Madrid during a short 1-2 week trip, full of fine dining and sightseeing. The longer you stay somewhere, the more reality sets in. Test the waters with a longer, more laid back trip and see if you can really picture yourself living there. Take public transportation, try out your language skills, and talk to locals. Be honest with yourself about what adjustments you would have to make living there full-time.
2. Look at your financial options
The cost of living can vary greatly depending on which country you are moving to. You may end up spending more money on food, but less on gas or transportation. Do careful research and figure out how your daily expenses will be changing (this is also something to look at when you are taking your “trial trip”). Figure out what you need to do to cover your budget, leaving extra room for emergencies and the full cost of a one-way ticket home in case your plans change suddenly.
3. Get the right travel insurance
This is one of most common and costly mistakes travelers make when moving abroad. Many travelers mistakenly think their primary healthcare coverage will work if they leave the country, but this is not the case. It is absolutely imperative to get travel-specific coverage and get the right product for the length of your trip. The FV 365 Plan is a great option for travelers looking to do a longer trip of 6 months or more. It covers 365 consecutive days of unforeseen medical expenses, baggage loss, trip delay and more.
4. Figure out your housing
Unless you have great contacts at your destination, it can be difficult to pick permanent housing before you go. Plan to spend some time at an Airbnb, Couchsurfing or at hostels while you familiarize yourself with the area and make a careful decision on where to put down roots.
5. Learn the culture and language
You will learn the most once you become fully immersed in the culture (probably gaining some laughs and funny stories along the way), but it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a little head start! Take some language classes and check out a few books on the history and culture of your new home.
6. Sell, give, store, or bring?
Take a major inventory of what you own and decide what you are going to sell, give, store or bring. Shipping large items abroad, such as furniture or your car, might end up being more expensive than simply purchasing new items when you arrive. Sell some larger items and put the money towards new purchases. Leave irreplaceable items in storage or with someone you trust to keep it for you. Pack light, sticking with favorite clothes, personal items and a few of the comforts of home you can’t live without.
7. Cancel your services
Cancel any services you won’t be using while you are abroad such as cell phone plans, magazine subscriptions, and your gym membership. Decide if you’ll want to forward your mail abroad or have it sent to a trusted friend or family member to sort through for you.
8. Say goodbye
Before you go, schedule some time to spend with the people you’ll miss the most. Grab a coffee or have a group of friends meet up for dinner. Let people know how they can reach you abroad and, if you want, encourage visitors! Understand that some things may change while you are gone, and that’s ok! You will change too as you embark on one of the greatest experiences of your life!