Prepare to Live Abroad

So you’ve decided to travel!

Good for you!

Honestly, coming to that decision was the hardest hurdle you will face in your journey to get overseas. Kudos to you. Keep your resolve. While it is becoming more common in today’s world to live nomadically, many still think of the lifestyle as strange and won’t understand your choice. That is okay.  You know what is right for you.

Since you’ve done the hard part, now it is time to solve some of the basics. Like with many great plans, the devil is in the details. It is time to focus on logistics and planning.

Budget – the only item that will make or break your plan

What is your budget going to be? Remember that while “life” is different when living abroad, it still costs money. Have you already banked your budget? If you still need to put away a few dollars before you leave, consider taking the following actions.

Step One: Analyze your current spending habits. To start with, how much do you spend now? Do you know what your daily spend is? The first step to every budget is understanding current habits and the difference between needs and wants.

  • Calculate every dollar you spent for an entire month. It might be easiest to look at a bank statement to get this number.
  • With that number in mind, how much of that was a fixed expense? (rent, mortgage, utilities, car, etc)
  • Subtract the fixed expenses from your total and find the remainder. This includes food, entertainment, and everything else. This is the slop pile in which you can trim costs if you still need to find funds for your travel budget. Food is necessary but it doesn’t have to come from a four star restaurant.

Step Two: Eliminate all unneeded costs. Make a plan to change your habits to help you save money. It is important that you begin your travels with the funds to see you through your trip. Whether that trip is one month, six months, or two years, you have to know how much you have to spend. Sure, there are many ways to earn money while you travel, but save yourself the anxiety and have it saved before you go. How much should you save?

Step Three: Create a New Budget – One that will get you to your savings goal.

  • Live it!  If you are doing this by yourself, tell a friend at work to help “monitor” your actions. It is so easy to say, “please grab me a latte too” when there is a coffee run happening. Have someone help keep you accountable.
  • Celebrate your successes. Each week do a tally of the amount that you saved and contributed to your travel fund. It is easier to continue a task when you see movement toward a goal.

What happens to your stuff?

So just exactly what you end up doing with your stuff will depend on what type of trip you will be taking. If you are embarking on a year long sabbatical – then maybe everything just goes into storage. If you think that you could really get into the whole living nomadically thing, maybe you sell everything. Either way, you have stuff you need to deal with.

Most of us have this innate tendency (myself included) to keep everything. Yes, my closet had stuff in it that I hadn’t worn in years. I had kitchen utensils that I probably used once a year. That “stuff” needs to either be sold, packed up, or stored for your trip. Why? It’s less you have to worry about while abroad.

  • What must you save? If you are preparing to sell everything – there are a few things you want to hold back on and store in a safe place. Remember to store your important life documents at the bare minimum.
  • What goes with you? The answer to this question will probably become a pain point the closer you get to your departure day. The fact is that not everything can go. Only take what you love.


Ideally, you need to start planning your vaccinations six months before you set off. Why? Depending on which shots you decide to get, many require “rest periods” in between the booster shots. In order to decide which shots you may want to get, you will need to know your rough itinerary.


Messaging to those around you

At some point, you need to tell folks about your grand plan. The timing of this depends on the circumstance. Basic suggestion is to talk to your friends and family first. To be polite, tell your job either one month or two weeks out depending on how your business views leaves / sabbaticals / hiring needs.


Deciding on your itinerary or destination

Whether you are traveling for a year on sabbatical or just hopping overseas to get a change of venue while you work remotely, deciding where to go can be hard. There are so many factors and considerations to take into account. The weather, affordability, and infrastructure are a few big ones to just name a few.


Bank Account

A sure fire way to just throw away money is to lose it on ATM fees. Normally, ATMs will charge you two fees for an out of country ATM withdrawal – 1) the foreign transaction fee which is from your bank, 2) the actual ATM fee which goes to the ATM bank. Each of these fees is generally $2.00 to $5.00 USD or the equivalent. So, you could lose $10.00 by making one withdrawal. Not cool. How to avoid this? Get a bank account that doesn’t charge for overseas transactions. USAA and Charles Schwab  are two banks that offer zero ATM fees overseas.

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