Travel Tips

So You Think You’re Ready to Live Abroad? A Checklist.

Are you ready for the polar plunge – international style?

I think a lot of us millennials aspire to live abroad – see the world, become cultured, and go on an intergalactic spiritual journey.

Some of us do it. We pack up our lives in two bags weighing as much as fifty big German Shepherds and move to a country we know zilch about. For everyone that wants to move abroad, you’re probably thinking “but how did you do it?” A couple of years ago, if I’d heard “you just do it” one more time, I would’ve sprouted ulcers because of how annoyed I was.

Now that I am living abroad, I’m 99.99% sure I would give the same answer if someone asked me that cursed question. About as sure as I am about Bill Nye the Science Guy being a good time. Which is always.

Moving abroad is the easy part.

All you have to do is make it a bigger priority than your next frozen yogurt fix.

If you’ve bought your ticket, well done and welcome to the exclusive group of people that does something about their travel dreams and aspirations.

Now, prep yourself for a conversation that’ll happen within t-2 hours of moving abroad.

Excuses McGee: Wow, I can’t believe you live in Korea! I wish I could travel like you.

You: Do it! There are so many programs out there. I’m an English teacher and all I needed was a Bachelor’s. 

Excuses McGee: Yeah… but the food in Asia scares me.

You: Hmm… well how about working at an outback resort or fruit farm in Australia? I have a friend I can get you in touch with. 

Excuses McGee: Yeah… but I just saved up enough for a down payment for an apartment and I’m moving in with my boyfriend next month. 

You *shudder*: Why don’t you put that down payment towards travelling instead?

Excuses McGee: I don’t know… My boyfriend and my parents would be pretty upset if I just up and left. It’s just not the right time. I’m so jealous of you.

Okay well… no one likes a Carol Complainerson. Stop whining about how jealous you are if travelling isn’t a priority. You want to know how to move abroad? You pull a Nike and Just Do It. How easy is it to buy a crunch wrap supreme at Taco Bell? It’s that easy. Just do exactly that but buy a plane ticket instead. Done. Now you’re moving abroad.

 

People love to say they’re open-minded until they’re forced to be open-minded.

Moving abroad isn’t a vacation. At least not completely. Us expats aren’t sitting around drinking sangria on the beach and sleeping until 3pm everyday.

In reality, we’re:

  • Sitting in tiny, possibly dingy apartments Googling how to make cheese because it costs an arm, leg, and both my kidneys to buy one little bottle of grated Kraft parm.
  • Spending an hour watching YouTube videos on how to become a plumber because curing cancer is less daunting than talking to your Korean landlord for 10 minutes.
  • Dropping a fat dime on familiar comfort foods, when it’s really only about 20% similar. Like craving nachos so bad you deal with the whipped cream on top.

So from one expat to an aspiring expat, here’s a little checklist to see if you’re ready to move abroad.

Are you fully ready to give up your home life? I mean your family, pets, bed, hobbies, snow globe collection and even Chipotle.

Are you ready to fully immerse yourself into another country’s cultures, customs, language and shopping malls?

Are you ready to commit to learning the language? At least enough to be able to get by so you don’t end up in the middle of a rice field.

middle of nowhere in a bamboo field while living abroad

Are you ready for no Wi-Fi, phone, internet, or data for a month or so until all your government-related paperwork is done?

Are you ready to be patient, accept and learn from all the crazy changes happening around you?

Are you ready for all the culture shock, potential racism, and mind-numbing paperwork?

Are you ready to deal with cultural nuances you don’t understand like no personal space and brushing your teeth at work?

Are you ready for foods and ingredients being unavailable in the country you move to? Like avocados, good cheese, and normal priced beef.

Are you ready to give up your old home comforts and find comfort in new things? Even familiar things like McDonald’s are different (but with the added bonus of it being delivered straight to your door). Fries at 2am? Yes ma’am!

Are you ready to work through all these challenges while doing your job to the best of your ability?

Are you ready to face these challenges on your own until you find friends or an expat community you fit into?

Most importantly,

Are you ready for a ton of memorable times and some of the greatest experiences ever known to mankind?

 

If you’re not ready to give up these comforts, think long and hard about living abroad. I’ve seen so many people move abroad and ditch within a few months because “it wasn’t what they expected”. It’s truly a life-changing experience that everyone should try but it’s also difficult and being prepared is important.

Do your research on the country in question. Living abroad is always a game of charades but at least it won’t be an isolating black hole of doom if you go in prepared.

Moving Abroad: Are you ready?

-x-

So what do you think? Are you ready for the big plunge into the deep end? If you have any questions or things to add to the checklist, leave a comment or email us at alieneatingblog@gmail.com.

 

16 Comments

  • Heather

    Great checklist. I’ve lived abroad for three years now. While I’m in an very easy situation there are many that I know who had difficulty after being relocated to countries that weren’t quite what they thought it would be. This list would be helpful!

    • alieneating

      Thanks so much for reading! Always fun to hear from a fellow expat.

      I agree, many people jump in and get disappointed, which I hate. Living abroad should be a blast, some countries just aren’t the right fit. 🙁

  • Ayana Aden

    This was awesome. I was thinking of living abroad (Indonesia or the Arab World). This is a good wake up call to make sure I’m ready. Thanks for the read!

    • alieneating

      No problem-o. Thanks for reading!
      Hopefully you can prep yourself well and go ahead! I’ve heard Indonesia is beyond beautiful. Would love to drink some beach side mimosas there 🙂

  • Neve Smith

    This is such a great post! Showing both the ups and downs is refreshing! I grew up moving countries and it can be so difficult and isolating when you move somewhere new with a new language. I always felt however it was worth it, for both the experience, the languages i’ve learnt and how much more cultured i am! x
    Neve | https://lifewithneve.com/

    • alieneating

      Thanks! Totally agree, no matter how rough it can be, you always learn something new. I would never tell someone not to try living abroad at least once.

      Just make sure it’s a place that you’ll fit into so you don’t catch a case of the dreaded “Expat-itis”.

  • Sam

    Great points. I just got back from my first European vacation and it was amazing! It made me want to continue to travel all year round. But with my husband’s company and my daughters’ school and activities, I’m grounded for all except 1-2 weeks per year. When my girls are out of school maybe this will be my priority. Until then, I love reading about others’ travels and moving abroad!

  • Jo

    Love this I can’t wait to graduate and move abroad. Be able to see as much of the world as possible is such an exciting idea for me!! I’ve seen a lot all ready and can’t wait to see so much more!!

  • Karis | Don't Dream, Just Travel

    Yes to EVERYTHING. I moved abroad 11 years ago and haven’t looked back! I’ve learned so much in that time and everything you have written resonates with me so much. I started out working in East Africa and am now living in Europe. I think food is the hardest thing to get over for sure! And trying to get your family to come and visit you. I actually named my blog Don’t Dream, Just Travel purely because of all the things you mentioned in your conversation with Excuses McGee above! There are so many excuses people make and you really have to stop making the excuses to make it happen.

    • alieneating

      Absolutely! I can’t stand when people complain and make excuses for their travel dreams. If you really wanted to travel it be a priority and you’d be doing something about it. Don’t make us “travel go-getters” feel bad for doing something about it! What were you doing in East Africa? That sounds like an amazing experience! I’ll definitely have to check your blog out. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Karina

    Love this post so much! I live abroad too and it truly isn’t a vacation. The paperwork in the beginning was the worst, it took me almost a year to get everything done! And then you kinda always stays foreigner, even if you speak the language and everything. But it’s a great experience too!

    • alieneating

      Right!? You could live abroad for 20 years and be a complete savant but you’ll still be that weird foreigner across the hallway. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had and I don’t regret it for a second. Since coming to Korea I’ve learned so much. I don’t know how I’m going to live a “normal” life when I go back home to Canada. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Shruti

    Hehe, having done this myself I can sooo agree with everything you said. I think the dreamy side of moving abroad is what all of us imagine, until we are faced to deal with every day realities. Simple things that you take for granted become so annoying or intimidating when you first move abroad.

    • alieneating

      The romantic side of moving abroad lasts for I think like two months haha! I think sometimes the most exciting thing I do is make my bed and revel in having a clean house. I always reminisce how nice it is to have food from everywhere available to me as soon as I step out of the house. Lebanese food? Indian food? Jamaican food? Check, check, and check! I think that helped me appreciate what I had back home even more though. I hope you enjoyed the post! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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