Do you ever dream of quitting your job and moving abroad? What about quitting your job to travel the world? Or maybe you just dream of quitting your job in general…
I’ve been there too.
In fact, in 2017 I quit my corporate job and moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico to start an online career as a freelance writer.
I wanted to build a location independent lifestyle that would allow me to travel freely (or stay home in my pajamas freely), and work on my own terms. I chose Mexico specifically because I’d studied abroad there in college and loved the experience. I now had an expensive piece of paper saying I’d double majored in English Literature and Hispanic Studies, but my Spanish language skills still left a lot to be desired. I knew Mexico would be the perfect spot for me to bring my Spanish back up to a level I was proud of.
Now, just over a year in, I have (almost) zero regrets. Actually, the only real regrets I have are regarding my lack of planning prior to my big move. This is, coincidentally, why I’m writing this post for you now.
If you’re dreaming of leaving your life behind and starting over in a foreign land (or a series of foreign lands) there are quite a few things you should think about before you head to the airport. The more prep you do before you moving abroad, the more you’ll be able to relax when you finally do!
There were all kinds of minute details that I overlooked in my hurry to move to Mexico. While they weren’t earth-shattering errors, they certainly have been pretty tedious to sort out from abroad and they would have been REALLY easy to take care of before I moved my homebase.
With that in mind, this is how I wish I’d gone about quitting my job to move abroad.
Get Your Mindset Right
Choosing to reinvent your entire lifestyle is no small feat. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and stressful… possibly in equal parts.
When I started thinking about quitting my job to move to Mexico part of me felt like I was crazy. It seemed like a nice dream… but could I really do it? Was it a realistic goal? Didn’t I have adult responsibilities keeping me in LA?
In the end, it turned out that all of the reasons I first gave myself that a move was unrealistic were really just fear-based excuses.
Our brain tries to protect us from things that are unfamiliar by convincing us that we will surely embarrass ourselves/fail/die if we do something new… but the good news is, we (probably) won’t! After all, nothing in life is certain…
You’re liable to have moments of self-doubt and anxiety which cause you to question your decision. Don’t ignore them, but don’t let them keep you from pursuing your dream life either. At the end of the day, life is what you make it, so chase your wildest dreams!
Prepare for objections
Just as our brain tries to protect us from things that are new and scary, so do our closest family and friends. When you tell your family and friends that you’re quitting your job to travel or live abroad they might be super supportive… oooor they might be shocked and horrified.
I was fortunate in that when I told my family I was moving to Mexico to be a freelance writer they said something along the lines of…
“That’s cool. We have literally no idea how you’ll do it but we’re sure you’ll figure it out.”
If your friends and family react the same way mine did, awesome!
But what if they don’t?
Remember, ultimately your life is your own and you owe it to yourself to live the most fulfilling life you possibly can. If your heart and soul are telling you to quit your job to travel the world, or quit your job and move abroad, listen!
There are bound to be people who don’t believe in you, or don’t support you. Just remember, people don’t trust what they don’t understand. Many of us are conditioned from birth to have certain goals… say a 9-5 job, steady paycheck, house in the ‘burbs, 2.5 kids, etc, etc…
It’s really easy to feel like a weird loner if what you want doesn’t fit into that particular box. But you’re not. You’re just an individual on your own journey.
Also, the only reason you haven’t met other people who want the same things you do is because they’re either:
a) out in the world
b) wildly introverted
c) all of the above.
Remember, while it doesn’t always feel great to go against what our family and friends wish for us, the most important thing that we can do is be true to our own wishes.
Your family and friends want you to thrive. They might not be on board at the start of your journey to move abroad, but they will more than likely come around when they see how happy you are in your new lifestyle!
So, if you face objections just remember to focus on your goals. Remind yourself why you want to make this change, and believe in your ability to pull it off.
And now for the logistics of this new adventure…
How Will You Make Money ABROAD?
In the event that you’re not independently wealthy, you’ll need to think about how you will support yourself once you leave your job. Will you pursue remote, online work? Or will you be picking up a local job in your new home?
If you’re not sure, perhaps this list of different types of paid work abroad will help you decide.
If your plan is to quit your job to work online I would highly recommend that you get started with this before your big move. I really cannot emphasize this enough. Moving abroad will be SO much less stressful if you don’t have to feel like the clock is ticking away on your savings account.
I took off for Mexico before really getting my freelancing career off the ground and it added an extra layer of stress and uncertainty that I could have done without. It’s stressful enough trying to adapt to a whole new environment, don’t throw a new job into the mix also!
At the same time, I totally understand if you’re impatient to make the move and don’t want to wait until you’ve replaced your current income. I don’t think it’s necessary to do that. I would just recommend having a client or two before you go. This will do wonders for your confidence AND your stress level. Trust me.
Just in case you’re not sure where to begin with working online, check out these highly profitable location independent careers you can pursue right from your laptop!
Pick the Perfect Destination
If you’ve been dreaming of quitting your job to move abroad you likely already have a destination in mind, but how much do you really know about it? It’s one thing to visit a place on vacation and have an amazing time, but it’s a completely different thing to live there.
NomadList is an incredible resource for digital nomads and individuals who want to move to a foreign city. They have a comprehensive database with all kinds of pertinent information, including cost of living, prices of basic food items, average internet speeds, and more! You can also browse crowdsourced ratings of all kinds of different elements of a city including walkability, happiness, fun, and freedom of speech.
Scope it Out
Once you’ve got one of two different destinations in mind, plan a scouting trip. Ideally your scouting trip is a week or so long so you have the chance to explore the city thoroughly.
Take the time to get to know different neighborhoods. Are there any you see yourself living in? Are there enough interesting things going on around town that you will have enough to do?
Perhaps you can even find a real estate office and start checking out potential rentals. It’s always good to know where to look before you arrive!
Connecting with locals and/or other expats is another great way to get an idea of what life is really like your future home.
I feel like locals are always the most reliable source of information, but expats can offer valuable insights as well. Doing a quick search of Facebook for “Expats in [name of city]” is a quick way to connect with people digitally. Alternatively, you can just strike up friendly conversation with people while you’re exploring the city!
Check Out Visa & Immigration Policies
Before you get too far along in your planning be sure to look into your destinations visa and immigration policies. Many countries have strict rules and you’ll need to apply for visas prior to your arrival. Some places may even require you to meet a certain income threshold before they will grant you a visa.
There are a ton of different factors to consider when it comes to immigration including your country of origin, income level and source, and the amount of time you intend to stay in your destination, among other things. With this in mind, be sure that you start researching this as soon as possible to avoid any disappointing surprises.
Set a Date
Once you’re sure exactly where you want to go and how you’ll support yourself once you get there, it’s time to set a date.
It’s easy to say “I’ll go when I have enough money saved up.” But let’s be honest… saying it is one thing and doing it is quite another. Setting a fixed departure date gives you no choice but to work your a$$ off to be ready by then.
I even went so far as to buy my flight as soon as I chose my moving date. After all, it’s much harder to wiggle out of a commitment when you’ve already invested a few hundred dollars in it!
So, set that date, mark it on ALL of your calendars, and get to work on the next steps before you run out of days!
Consider Your Finances
Hopefully this goes without saying but before you relocate it’s critical to consider your finances. And by that I mean, not just how much it will cost to move, but also the logistics of managing your money when you can’t visit your local bank branch.
How much does your new lifestyle cost
First thing’s first. How much will it cost to live in your new hometown? Hopefully you’ve had a chance to research the housing market and figure out how much money you’ll have in your rental budget. But, the expenses don’t end there. In fact, rent is just the beginning.
In order to get a clearer picture of your budget, figure out the average amount you’ll spending on the following:
NomadList will likely be a good resource for this (in fact, I find that their estimates are generally high).
How will you handle banking in your new hometown?
Depending where you move, you may be forced to live a more cash-based lifestyle. At least, that’s the case in Mexico! This means constantly making withdrawals from ATMs, which typically have fees associated with them.
Fortunately, my bank refunds all ATM fees once per month, so I never really worry too much about how much these cost me. My account also offers really competitive exchange rates for purchases I make with my card, and doesn’t charge me foreign transaction fees.
If your bank DOESN’T offer these services, switch.
I bank with Charles Schwab and haven’t had a single problem so far. They have great customer service, and my account has no monthly fee.
I’m by no means an expert on bank accounts for digital nomads, so it’s definitely worth doing your own research, but I have no qualms about recommending Charles Schwab. I’m not an affiliate or anything, I’m just really happy with their service!
Get Your S*$! Together
Now that you’ve set a date to move abroad, it’s time to get ready to go. DO NOT procrastinate and do all of this stuff mere weeks before you leave (yes, I’m speaking from experience here).
The whole process will be MUCH less stressful if you tackle all of these tasks early on.
Make sure your documents are up to date
There’s nothing worse than finding out your driver’s license expires 1 month after your move date! Check that the following are up to date before taking off:
- Driver’s license
- Credit & debit cards
Where will your mail go?
Figuring out what to do with your mail is definitely one of the biggest question marks for those of us who live abroad or travel for extended periods of time. Of course, having it sent your parents house or a friend’s house is always a good option, as long as you’re okay with them opening the occasional letter for you.
Alternatively, if you don’t have anyone to collect your mail for you, or you’d rather not burden anyone with the task, consider investing in an online mail service.
Services such as Virtual Post Mail or Traveling Mailbox offer mail forwarding services to individuals who live abroad or travel frequently. I use Virtual Post Mail and love the convenience it offers me. I get an email every time I receive a piece of mail and all I have to do is log into my account to take a closer look.
How will this affect your taxes?
Depending on where you’re from, how you earn your money, and how long you’re going to be out of your home country, there may be tax implications. It’s tempting not to worry about this until tax season rolls around, but likely usually easier (and less stressful) to look into it before that happens. Consider speaking to an accountant about this before you leave your home country!
Personally, the IRS is one of my biggest fears, so I highly recommend finding a trusted accountant that specializes in taxes for digital nomads and online entrepreneurs. Marilyn and her team at The Bottom Line does exactly this, and even if you don’t end up working with her, you’ll find tons of helpful information on her blog.
ALSO, if you’re planning to work online and you wish to register your business as an LLC, it may be easier to deal with this before leaving your home country as well.
How will you vote?
Your role in democracy doesn’t cease when you cross the border. It’s more important to vote now than it ever has been, and it’s crucial that you figure out how to make it happen regardless of where you are in the world.
If you’re from the US, visit this site to register to vote from abroad.
If you’re from Canada, go here.
And, if you’re from anywhere else… I’ll let you Google it on your own! ?
Make a plan for your belongings
This is the hardest step for many of us… what will you do with all of your stuff? Obviously you’ll take some of it with you, but likely not everything. Personally, I see moving as a great opportunity to get rid of belongings that I never use and no longer need in my life.
I know it can seem really overwhelming to deal with this step, but the sooner you get started, the easier it will be. Here’s my process:
I’m a weirdo and remember exactly how much money I’ve spent on every single item that I have ever owned (think of all the more productive things I could do with that brain power?!). Because of this, I like to sell anything that I think still has any value.
- For furniture, electronics, and homegoods, CraigsList is usually the best way to do this in my experience.
- For clothing, jewelry, and accessories, I’ve had success selling items on Poshmark.
Anything else I deem still usable I like to donate to women’s shelters or Habitat for Humanity, and anything that is too far gone to be useful goes in the trash or recycling.
Then, once you’ve eliminated anything that no longer serves you the packing/storage dilemma begins.
To keep things simple, I recommend immediately boxing up anything that you definitely aren’t planning to take with you. For me this was childhood mementos, 99% of my books, and things like file boxes, appliances, etc.
Eventually all that remained was clothing items and a few books and electronics. Once it comes time to actually pack my belongings for the move, I pack my non-negotiable items first, and add in other items in order of priority. Once I run out of room I reassess and add more items to storage!
A note on the value of things
If you’re facing the prospect of renting a storage unit, you’ll quickly realize that having a lot of material belongings is expensive! While I understand the need to hang on to valuable/sentimental items, in my experience, most of us put FAR too much sentimental value on THINGS. I’ve moved many times in my life and I’ve had to part with a LOT of belongings that I was sure I’d regret letting go of… but guess what… I don’t even remember what they were anymore.
In fact, the last time I visited my storage locker it was like Christmas. I had completely forgotten about half of the things in there. And while I am glad that I still have them, I realized that if I didn’t, it wouldn’t bother me.
All of this to say, by all means, keep your things if it’s convenient, but if it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg in storage fees every month, make sure it’s worth it. Can you replace the items easily if you get rid of them? If so, it may not be worth keeping them. You can always buy a new blender, but you can’t replace your grandmother’s antique rocking chair. You know what I mean?
Get on the Plane
Can you believe it? You did it. You’re officially ready for the big move. There’s just one step left… go!
**cue “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”**
Quitting your job to move abroad may be one of the most anxiety-inducing things you’ve ever done, but it’s likely to be one of the most exciting as well. And, I have to say, if you’ve read all of this, you’re a hell of a lot more prepared than I was when I did it! At least you have that!
Also, if you’ve read all of this and still don’t feel remotely prepared to move abroad, drop your questions in the comments below. I’ll do my best to help in any way that I can.