Things you should consider before your expat adventure
I have been an expat or foreigner living in another country a few times in my life but only twice for long periods of time. My experiences and the stories of fellow long term travelers and expats have taught me a few things about preparing to live in another country.
Sure you can read an article about what to bring, and how to get a long-term visa but are you mentally prepared to leave your friends, family, favorite coffee shop, or dentist whose known you since you were twelve for the unknown?
Timing is everything – when to go
Ever since I was a tween, I wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand. Back then, I was a horse-loving kid who went to a summer camp with loads of Aussies and was mystified by that country. The surfing, the cool accent, being so far away. It sounded amazing and as my summer camp had an affiliation with another camp, it seemed possible. However, it wasn’t.
It seems there were distractions, school, career, love, heartbreak, and so many other things that became more important than a trip down under. At times, in my life I was quite busy and content with my life and thought at 25 I was too old to visit the horse farms of New Zealand or learn to surf in Australia.
And to be honest, at 25 I couldn’t get away…but not at 28.
After trying out a few career paths, I was once again free to think about traveling again. However, I did not have any money or interest at that time to venture out into the world. But, at 29, I decided it was time to shake things up and go somewhere.
When you know you know.
I was not happy or sad, desperate or down on my luck. I was just ready to try something new. After a few bumpy jobs in the horse industry (that’s another story) I worked some really fun catering jobs on boats and weddings and was feeling optimistic about the future. I had the money, and the visa and was ready to go!
In the following weeks, I will discuss some good questions to ask yourself if you are moving for adventure, work, love, or family. Although some of the questions are good for any type of expat journey, there are definitely some differences in why we choose to move, relocate or set sail for unknown seas.
Moving for Adventure
If you are contemplating moving to another country with no real plan or reason but solely for the call of the unknown. Ask yourself these questions?
Do you have enough money to cover at least a few months without working? Sometimes, it’s not possible to land a job right away, or you might find yourself in a job with little time off to travel. You want to be sure that you are going to your new home with time to experience the new place not frantically trying to pay bills or buy food.
Do you have work skills that are needed in your desired destination?
You may have graduated at the top of your class with an engineering degree but are you able to make pizzas?
Do you enjoy working as a team or would you prefer to work by yourself? Chances are you can find the job that suits your personality, but you have to really know who you are and in what circumstances you feel most comfortable. If you want to challenge yourself to try something new, which is great, be kind to yourself. Don’t take it too hard if it doesn’t work out or maybe offer to work a few hours or shifts to see how it goes before committing to more.
What are the must-see places or activities you want to try? Be clear about anything you really want to see or do. It is very easy to get caught up with new friends, romances, or fellow travelers and end up not seeing or experiencing activities or sites that were really important to you.
Who are you? If you were really honest with yourself are you a people person or just a certain kind of people person? Traveling involves meeting all kinds of people with all kinds of cultural values, manners, or lack of manners and ways of expressing themselves.
If you are easily offended or find people exhausting (I can put my hand up for this at times) you may have some trouble fitting in and making connections. However, this is not a bad thing, just know your social style and try to gravitate toward like-minded people.
Not everyone wants to be front and center at every party. I met many people who had serious reading, spiritual, self-reflection, or outdoor sports goals.
How will you handle adversity? Our minds are wild with the experiences we will have, the laughs, the food, the photos, and the memories we will cherish forever.
But what happens if things go wrong?
Lost luggage, stolen passports, shady landlords, bad bosses, friendship, or romance troubles? So many things can go wrong and often do. Although, you don’t need to scare yourself or comb the crime rates for months on end, know how you emotionally handle things. What kind of help would you need and what is available.
There is no right or wrong.
Some people are very tough and solitary during troubled times, others crave support and a team to solve problems. Whether it’s someone trusted in your destination country or back home, be sure to have a plan and even extra finances in place if things go south.
Well, I hope this post helped, and you are feeling more self-aware and excited about your future adventure expat goals.
I’ll be back next week to share my tips and advice about the Work expat. Relocating to a foreign country for the dream job or… because your company is forcing you to.
Until then – happy dreaming and packing!