There are company men and women, and then there are those that find working for others unsatisfying. To put it in simple terms, those people are not company men.
Most of us land somewhere between these extremes. We toil for years in jobs where our dedication wavers with our changing compensation plans.
When things are going well, we’re all about our wonderful jobs. When things are tough we grin and bear it or make our families miserable. We do neither our company nor ourselves much good in the long run.
Scattered amongst us, there is the dreamer.
Our dreamer shows up to work on time. She (or he) does good work, sometimes enough to get ahead, but she’s never quite satisfied. She enjoys travel, often dreaming of a life abroad.
Sometimes you see one of these dreamers break away. Sometimes they never come back. Sometimes you wonder why it couldn’t have been you? It could.
There are few logistics you must consider before starting a new life abroad, but rest assured, you’re not alone. Many have done this before you, with less than you have. In fact, the entire span of human existence is full of migration.
If you plan and play your cards well, you could be off the grid in a matter of months. First, you have to determine when, where, and how you will make it happen. Then you have to dump, save and run.
Your instinct will be to determine where, first. Try not to focus on that yet. If all you ever do is talk about where you will someday live, someday will always stay ahead of you. Tomorrow will never come.
Instead, before you know where you want to go, set a date. Don’t tell anyone other than your spouse. Just load a date into your calendar.
It may be tough for you to know exactly at this point as you haven’t started planning the money part, but it will come together. Worst case scenario, you can move the date, but hopefully not by much.
Unless you suffer procrastination (not my specialty) that deadline gives you the framework for you to plot your plan. You’re ready to decide the where.
Spend as much time as you can on this important step, but remember you have a deadline. Before you sit down to Google your little heart out, you might want to outline some deadlines for your plan.
If you are making your decision from places you’ve already traveled, a couple of weeks, no more than a month should be enough. If you’ve never left home, you may consider planning time to visit your top three. That’s gonna pull from your savings, but the alternative is the blind move. Not wise.
Determining logistics and needs can help. What are your must-haves and must-NOT-haves? Write them down.
For example, could you live someplace that is socialist? (Hope so. Many of the best locations for health care are somewhat socialist.) Do you have a pet? Is your pet able to go with you? Some countries ban certain dog breeds.
Consider the cost of living. The Caribbean is lovely but costly. Make a list of countries that fit into your list of must-haves and must-have-nots. Rank them from one to whatever, then do whatever you need to do to make a decision.
You will need money wherever you go. In many countries, you cannot work without a visa, not legally. Working without a visa can get you deported in most situations.
For this reason, many expats open or buy businesses abroad. If you’ve never run a business, think long and hard before you roll these dice.
There is no taming the savages. You will need every skill you possess to run a business abroad, including foreign language proficiency.
Don’t despair if you’ve never run a business. Because of the internet, working abroad is easier than ever. You may be able to retain your current job or take another position in the same company that affords you to work from anywhere.
This is an ideal situation, as you can retain company benefits like health insurance. It also means you have a lifeline if things go south, and you have to move back.
Many expats discover they have a knack for online marketing, writing code, project managing, and other jobs that allow telecommuting. There are endless online resources for work, like UpWork.
If you can start this work before you move it’s better. Keep in mind, in most places, you would move the cost of living is less than home. You won’t need as much income.
Get rid of everything you can. Westerners, especially, love to own things. In time, possessions take on their namesake. They possess us.
We have closets, garages and storage spaces full of things we never use. They’re more like fire hazards than keepsakes.
Other than the where step, give yourself the most time with this one. Some things will pass through your hands five times before you can let them go.
Start with your storage spaces. Make three piles: trash, donate, sell. Try to part with as much as you can. If you must, store meaningful kitsch, like china.
Don’t ship glass. Don’t ship furniture. Don’t ship cars. Don’t ship anything you can replace wherever you plan to go.
Everything you bring, customs may tax. Better to start fresh. Nobody who moved abroad ever said, “I wish I brought more of my old crap.”
In the end, money makes most things happen. No credit but you have cash? No problem. You will want as much money as you can save.
How much that may be depends on your lifestyle. You should have enough to cover at least six months without income. To that point, you shouldn’t need more than two years without income.
Part of your plan may be to sell your home then buy a new one wherever you move. Not a bad idea, but proceed with caution. There is no MLS in many places. It’s buyer beware.
Take you time, consider your options, agents, and every detail long before deciding. Plan to rent at first.
As part of this step, plan your banking early. You’ll want international access to your money with the least amount of fees.
Also, as part of this, consider where you will establish your home address. Family is best, but you might decide on a mailing service.
When the day comes, you’re ready. You bought your plane tickets six weeks in advance of your departure date. You’ve made arrangements to move your pet, have all the right documents in place to go. You even have your income settled.
This is where you will feel panic. Trust that you’ve had enough time to consider every variable, that every decision leads to another opportunity to make another decision. If it doesn’t work out, you can decide to come home.
Anticipate that the first night in your new home may hit your tear ducts like a river. The totality of your decision has a tendency to creep up on you. Don’t let that throw you. Expect it. Own it. It gets better.
Over time, your strange surrounding will feel more like home. After three months you’ll know your way around pretty well. You’ll mark your first year faster than you think, the second faster than the first.
By your third year, you’ll start feeling homesick, but not for your old home. When you visit old friends back home, you’ll miss your new home.
Congratulations. You’ve joined the great legion of migrators.