5 Quick Actions To Do Today To Live Abroad

I can write all day, but the fact is, nothing matters, unless you take action.  Here’s a post to help just that.

Here are 9 things you can do, today.  Each thing puts you closer to moving abroad.

Action #1:  Decide “I Stay” or “I Go” (time: 1 minute)

I’ve wanted to move abroad for so long.” or “Ever since I vacationed in X, I dreamed of moving there.”  Sound familiar?

I purposefully made this first action the toughest action.  In crude English, it is time to “shit or get off the pot.”  Decide yes or no.  Decide to stay or go.

How to Decide to Stay or Go

  1. Ask yourself, do the benefits outweigh the costs?  Another way to ask: does being stable now with later regret outweigh temporary upheavel and transition?
  2. Answer and Decide.

Do Benefits Outweigh the Costs?

Benefits depend on where you move, but usually include:

  • you experience new cultures, food, people, and places
  • a better lifestyle, better outlook on life
  • sense of accomplishment and confidence, a.k.a. “I did it!”
  • wider, more open view of the world
  • greater tolerance and openness

Costs largely depend on where you are today in life, but usually include:

  • moving expenses (flights, shipping, temporary accommodations)
  • distance from family and friends
  • temporary upset in life

There are also the “soft costs,” like leaving your (stable?) job, having to say goodbye, having to clean house.  Then again, many would call these things benefits, not costs.

What are the Biggest Benefits?  Feeling a unfamiliar freedom, openness, experiencing new culture/food/people/space.  Kids get enormous benefit, too, way beyond what adults are capable of.  With just a small experience abroad, children benefit for the rest of their long lives.  How about you career professionals?  Professionals will see substantial value added to their CV or résumé.

How?  You decide and believe it will happen.  The “how” will follow.

Why this is important: Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

** It’s important to take regret into consideration.  Looking beyond today’s costs & benefits … how about in 10 years?  Will you regret your decision?

Action #2:  Set a Date (time: 5 minutes)

Every S.M.A.R.T. goal must be time-bound.  When there’s no date, it’s not a goal, it’s a dream.

Dreams usually come “someday.” (hint: “someday” often ends up being never).  This means you need an end date.

Pick a date and know that day is when you are leaving, period.  See #1 for your reason why.

How to Set Your Departure Date

  1. What’s the date today?
  2. Add 3 months.
  3. Do you own a home?  Add 2-3 more months for a stress-free listing, selling & closing.
  4. Do you have children in school?  Consider a summer move, between school years.
  5. Mark your personalized date on your calendar or a note hanging on your frig or bathroom mirror.  Where you’ll see it often.

So, when your move date.  Mark it on the calendar.  Write. It. Down.

p.s. If you have no significant other, no job, no debt, no house, then pack now.  You’re leaving next week.

Action #3: Unload Stuff (time: 2 hours)

Half the challenge of actually moving (the logistics) is packing.  I don’t enjoy packing.  I much more enjoy the part that comes before packing: getting rid of stuff.  This means deciding what to ship, store or sell.

I enjoy throwing stuff away.  It puts a little smile on my face, if not literally, at least in my mind.  I just feel a little lighter.

But…if something is on a shelf for too long or under a pile of other stuff, I forget about it.  I forget and that “something” becomes semi-permanent.  I hate that.

So, to fix this, I tilt my head like some confused puppy and look again at the shelf.  There, I see it now ….something else to throw away.  Unloading stuff can be very liberating.  And you must lighten your load before any move.

How to Unload Your Stuff (2 hours)

Do this now, while you’re motivated:

  1. Go to your living room.
  2. Tilt your head like a confused puppy.
  3. Look again and focus on some specific shelf.
  4. Ask yourself for every item on there: “Seriously? Do I really fucking need that thing?”
  5. Rejoice as you fill your trash bag.

Optional: Make Money (another 2 hours)

  1. Pile those would-be trash items in a corner.
  2. Grab your camera and start snapping pictures.
  3. Post on Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay or your local equivalent.
  4. Stash the savings toward your move. (Bonus points if you cover your flight.)


Action #4: Get a Passport (time: 30 minutes)

If you live in most other countries, you need a passport to go elsewhere.

Yes, there are times when travel between countries happens without a passport: the 26 Schengen countries in Europe with no border control between them.  Within the Schengen area, it’s easy to drive on the highway and whizz past the small, blue sign (national border). Southeast Asia is also considering a Schengen-type agreement, but it’ll be a few more years before that happens, but I’m not holding my breath for that one.

If you’re American, too bad – you need a passport to travel. In fact, Americans now need a passport to cross into Canada or Mexico, where it wasn’t necessary prior June 2009.  (Think it’s for domestic security?  Then why do you need it to get out?)

Problem is, passports are expensive.  About $110 for the simplest renewal or $135 for your first one.  How many Americans own a passport?  Best educated guess is 28-30% (so fewer than 1 out of 3).  Why?  Well, the US has a variety of destinations across a large continent, and overseas travel is still viewed as something luxurious.

So, sure, passports are expensive.  And so is overseas tourist travel.  BUT, I’m talking about moving & living overseas.  Depending on your destination, you can go for a cheaper cost of living and a higher standard of living, which makes that $135 investment seem like nothing.

How to Get Your Passport (wherever you live):

  1. Have proof of who you are (e.g. driver’s license, national ID, birth certificate)
  2. Get a photo
  3. Get cash ($135 for US)
  4. File the form by mail or in person at local state office/post office

For Americans

For UK residents

For Canadians

Print out what you need, fill in the form, get the money order and Send. It. In.  Get the ability to leave.   When you hold a passport in your hand, it’s empowering beyond anything so light.  Well, except the flight ticket.

Action #5: Update Your Old Résumé or CV (1 hour)

Notice I did not say write a new resume or CV. I only mean get the old one, the one that got you your current job.  Writing a new one takes too much time.  Don’t worry about having the latest and greatest template or format.  Spend an hour and update your old one.

I’ve run this blog for 5 years.  I’ve made some cool new friends.  I’ve heard from many others.  Some are ready to go soon, some already moved abroad.  In fact, one couple who moved from Scottsdale, Arizona to Prague, Czech Republic is now moving has moved on again to Germany. Another young couple I helped is moving has moved to Canada.

Still, while they are on their second international move, many have yet to take action.  I hope this post fixes that, today.


How To Update An Résumé

1. Open up your résumé file.

2. Add your current job, description and some value-add accomplishments.  (damn, is it that easy?)

Then What?  How About With a Job Search?

Here are my tips on your job search: be specific. Don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades candidate.

1.  When you realize what job opening you’re most suited for, do your homework on that position and/or company.  Know what they use for internal jargon.  If working with a recruiter, ask for help on that.
2.  Network, e.g. LinkedIn, with people that work in the same company or position you want.  It can’t hurt; it can only help, providing you’re genuine and not (obviously) hounding them.
3.  Have proof of what you’re capable of doing, even what you’d do in that position for the first month to 6 months.  Document it, prepared to share it at an interview or passed on over e-mail.
4. Hire me. Several people have called on me for answers. Another benefit of my consulting is my contacts. I have a great working relationship with recruiters in several countries. If you’re having trouble find a job, odds are very good, I can help secure a position.

Some Homework For You

Here are a few (more) steps to take.

1. If you work for a large company, it likely has an intranet site of internal open positions.  
2. Search around the globe, find some you may be interested in and/or qualified for.
3. Find out who’s the head of that department, someone with a Personal Assistant.  Beg, borrow, steal, send chocolates, whatever it takes to get a few minutes of 1:1 attention.  
4. Do some homework that might pay off.  Find that Manager on LinkedIn, perhaps there’s a common link (university, hometown, sports, etc).
5. Strike up a conversation (phone or in person preferred).  Mention then or later conversation that you’re interested in life abroad.  (maybe they’ve done the same?)
6. Rinse and repeat.If it sounds basic, it is; t’s simple networking.  It may not be 100% comfortable and it’s not 100% in your control, but it works, well.If you’re keen only on using a “local” recruitment agency, then call them first.  Connect with someone; send them your resume/CV.  Be sure to use a personalized cover letter mentioned your earlier contact.  Prepare this ahead of calling/connecting.
Have any stories that could help others?  Taken any of the above steps?  Care to share in the comments?  Thanks!  -Jeff


Oh, and if you enjoyed this post, would you do me a favour?  Would you consider hitting the “Like” Facebook button?  Or share this link with a friend?

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An American who likes to move around.
I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding.
My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do.

2 thoughts on “5 Quick Actions To Do Today To Live Abroad”

  1. I enjoyed the checklist…A LOT! Made all of my apprehensions disappear. I am determined to move to Italy. The only fear I have is being able to secure a job once I get there. I have a date in mind and have allowed myself time to rid my life of “baggage” but…it’s the survival once I get there that keeps bringing me back. I’m not afraid of work, I actually enjoy it and I am capable of many, many things. Could you or anyone guide me on how to find work before or once I get there?

    1. hey Donna, thank you for commenting on my blog! I love hearing from people who are “ready” but aren’t quite ready to buy the plane ticket just yet. Sounds like you’ve got your possessions ready and the calendar’s marked, but you’d rather have a job lined up, rather than just ‘jump’ and find one while there, right?

      Have you thought of taking an extended vacation there, to get to meet face-to-face with possible employers? It’s much more effective than replying to requests online. Another approach is through specialized groups (via LinkedIn). Of course I feel the best way is through a recruiter. This approach assumes a certain level of skills and experience. If you feel I could help you with this one-on-one, then I’d offer to consult (see my link “How to Get Abroad Now” on the menu).

      I wish you the best.

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