First Steps in Moving Abroad

By on October 10, 2011

By Sharon Hurley Hall –

Doris Gallan recently compared travel to living in a foreign country. She gave some tips on getting the most from a stay in another country. But what if you’ve decided you want to leave your home and live abroad full time? These tips will help you to prepare for the initial move.

Choose a Country – and Check It Out

Your first step is to select the country you’re going to live in. While it is a romantic idea to stick a pin in a world map, there are a lot of practicalities to consider. The biggest issue is that you will need to make sure that it’s ok for you to move there, especially if you plan to work. Most countries are happy for you to visit as a tourist, but may take a dim view if they think you are taking jobs away from the locals.

Of course, if you’re location independent, then you can go pretty much anywhere. Good research sources on visa requirements for US citizens include The Visa Book and the Location Independent website has good information on living in a wide range of destinations. Check out the travel forums too, paying particular attention to information for expats on living, working, schools and more. When you’ve done your research, make an early start with the necessary paperwork, so it will be ready when you are.

Language Issues

Do you speak the language? While there are lots of places where you can get by in English, there are lots more where you can’t. If you’re moving to a popular tourist destination, that may not be a problem, but if you’re going off the beaten track, your language skills may be an issue.

If you’ve ever tried conversing with someone when there’s no mutually intelligible language (I have!), you’ll realize the difficulty you can have doing simple things like buying food in a market or asking directions. If you’re planning a permanent move, then invest in some language classes or online language training before you go and take an immersion course when you get there.

Where to Stay

Your third step is to think about accommodation. There are two aspects of this. First, you have to decide what to do with the place you are living in now. If you are renting, you can simply give notice that you intend to end the lease. If you own your home or have a mortgage on it, you have the choice of selling (which means you have nowhere to come back to if you change your mind) or renting it out (which means you’ll need someone you trust to manage day to day matters).

You’ll also need to find somewhere to live where you’re going, but don’t panic about it. Do some research online and line up some rentals to look at, and then book into a hotel for the first week to give you time to find something. It will relieve the pressure of having to find somewhere to live the day you arrive. Wait till you’ve been there a while and checked out the place before you make a final decision on buying a permanent home.

What About Your Possessions?

Your decision on your home will also affect one more thing – what to do with your stuff. Many people choose to have a garage sale and get rid of all but the most precious items to avoid paying the huge cost of international shipping or local storage. Others can’t bear to be parted from their stuff and take it all.

One issue that might affect your decision is what’s available where you are going. If the place you plan to live has to import most products (common on small islands), then it might be cheaper to ship your stuff than to repurchase items at a substantial premium.

If you do decide to ship your stuff, choose an experienced international shipper. In addition, think about whether your precious leather sofa will really fit in with your Malaysian living room. Wooden items can be a concern when moving to tropical locations, as wood often requires special treatment to survive the insects.

Dealing with Homesickness

Finally, while your first few months in a new country can be exciting, they can also leave you feeling homesick. Make sure your accommodation has decent internet – or an internet cafe within walking distance – so you can connect with friends and family. Get a local SIM with a data package for your phone, so you can send social media updates and hook yourself up with a Skype, Vonage or other VOIP account so you can make cheap phone calls. You’ll be glad you did.

With the right preparation, moving abroad can be a breeze and you can position yourself to enjoy a new culture and lifestyle.

Sharon Hurley Hall has almost 25 years of experience writing professionally – as a journalist, an academic writer, a blogger, a ghost writer and an online copy writer. She  has been running Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help other writers improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. You can also find Sharon on Twitter at: and Facebook:

About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been writing professionally for almost 25 years, and she does it because she loves it. She is a word nerd, a Scrabble fiend, fanatical about grammar, and is fascinated by learning new things. Since 2005, Sharon has mentored other writers to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Sharon subscribes to the 'fine wine' theory of aging - getting older also means getting better! Connect with Sharon on her website.

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First Steps in Moving Abroad