5 Must Do’s Before Moving Abroad

Over the past few weeks, I have been slowly putting together this list of 5 Must Do’s Before Moving Abroad, as a helpful list for others, but also as a way to help me prioritize my many tasks in preparation for a year long trip abroad.

Keep in mind, that I have moved abroad before. In 2001, my sister and I moved to Costa Rica for a year. That was a crazy adventure, I’ll have to tell you about it sometime… However, I did NONE of the things listed below and somehow survived, but I don’t recommend it. We did have Costa Rican friends that helped us navigate renting an apartment, my sister spoke Spanish, and I eventually learned, and we both ended up finding work teaching English.

costa rica 040
Volcan Arenal, La Fortuna Costa Rica 2005.

I’m 34 now, and I have done my fare share of solo travel. I feel that this list is in homage to lessons learned over 17 years of travel and something I wish I could send my 19 year old self.



Just a recap– my daughter and I are cashing in our chips to travel the world for a year– I’m leaving my job, she’s leaving the 4th grade– and we are getting on a jet plane to fly across the fantastic Atlantic to a continent neither of us know.

Not too long ago, we announced our destination–Europe, and specifically Italy. And not too long after that announcement, and after doing some research on European visa requirements, I made an executive decision to switch up the travel plan.

Oh, don’t you worry, we are still doing Europe.

How could I possibly deny my child her history lessons in real time? Or the worlds best cheese?? We will travel through Europe, navigating the strict Shengen Zone requirements, and mindfully discovering Europe outside of tourist traps.

That being decided, we now have another 5 months on our hands, free to sail where we please. And we choose CENTRAL AMERICA! We will chase the end of summer’s sun into fall and through winter in Europe, then trade our scarves and cappuccinos in for tropical heat and sandal-tanned feet.

But with any travel destination wish list, also comes the actual list of shit that’s gotta get done before you make your big move abroad. This post should help you get super focused on the most important aspects of moving abroad in 2016!


1) Connect with your Consulate

Don’t even think about traveling without knowing requirements and restrictions in the country you plan on moving to.

What are the visa requirements? Do you need vaccinations and/or shots? Is there a civil war raging in the highlands currently??

When moving to a new country, it is essential to know a little bit about what you are getting yourself into and how to conduct yourself accordingly. This isn’t your 18 year-old self, backpacking through 200 countries during summer break- this is a legit move, slow traveling and staying in one particular city/town/village, where you get to know the name of the local baker ( it’s Giuseppe, in case you were wondering).

I am contacting Portland’s Italian Consulate with my multiple pages of questions. I know that the recent influx of refugees has caused some European countries to change visa requirements and border procedures for all travelers.


2) Cash Money

This section could be exhaustive, but here is what I’m currently working on. If you are planning on moving abroad-in my case, it is for one year, to Europe and Central America, with a 9 year old- make sure you have a job. Or two. I currently have a full time day job and am on the search for evening work as well. 

UPDATE: I just got a job!!! I have been constructing this post slowly over the last couple of weeks and I recently started a part time weekend job that will be just enough to cover my rent so I can use my day job paycheck to cover my few monthly bills and put all of the rest into savings.

Reconsider your current living arrangement- October of 2015 I sold most of my belonging and downsized from a 3 bedroom house w/ 2 car garage to a 5×13 storage space and renting a room from a friend. For a good pep talk, the Thrifty Nomads have some sound advice on How to Sell Everything and Travel the World.

Think about downsizing, moving to smaller digs, or moving in with more people {yes, possibly your parent’s basement} to save money on rent and utilities. If you own your home, could you sell it? Or rent it out while you are away? Have someone you know move in or manage it as a rental for you.

I’m saving around $1,000 over the course of a few months, by moving the rest of my belonging from storage to my parent’s garage {thanks guys!}

Lastly, create a budget- Know something about the currency you will be dealing in while living abroad, and have a solid idea of how much it will cost you {and your family} to live the way you want to live per month for the duration of your travels. And maybe you don’t have a defined end date to your travels, and maybe you are able to work remotely as a digital nomad, just do keep in mind what it is going to cost to keep the dream alive.

We plan to have a lot of our room and board covered in exchange for volunteering through the Workaway program, however, we will be renting an apartment or Airbnb for a few weeks in some of the cities we plan to visit, so I know that during those months, our expenses will be higher, thus saving more money now is necessary. Adulting at its finest!


3) Make Connections

Don’t be afraid to reach out and touch someone! It is astounding how many people have done the same thing you are trying to do right now. I did a few google searches using a few different key words such as:  living abroad + moving abroad with kids + travel Europe for a year + home school + world schooling... you get the picture.

There are a ton of bloggers out there writing about their lives. People that share insight, advice and tips, and who speak honestly about their experiences are who I want to read more from and follow on social media. I am connecting and engaging with these folks now, and during our year abroad, we will hopefully be able to meet up with some of our fellow travelers while on the road. They have been gracious, and a valuable resource with answering questions I have about trip planning and offering encouragement for our upcoming travels.


4) Learn the damn language

Drop your excuse of “I’m so baaaaad at learning languages” or any other silly cliche thing people say about language acquisition. It has never harmed anyone to learn how to say thank you in a different language. Really. You do not have to be fluent, just don’t go into your situation clueless or bumbling. There is plenty of time for that when you make all your social gaffes first time out at the local super market!

Language learning apps can be a hit or miss experience, but fortunately, Lindsay does Languages has a short list of her favorite apps, and you may want to stay and click around her blog for more language inspo!

I use Duolingo currently for Italian– I speak Spanish, and took 2 years of Italian in college but need that refresher. Grunts and hand gestures can only get you so far, amiright? Make language a priority, you will not regret it.


5) Itinerary & Lodging

There are a lot of factors that determine an extended trip or move abroad destination. A lot of the time affordability is the key factor– how far will your dollar go in your new country? SE Asia, Central America, and eastern Europe tend to be popular because of their low cost of living. Weather is another factor, and has many travelers and nomads in search of tropical beaches and sunshine.

When people find out we are going to be traveling through Europe for 7 months, most of the time the reaction is raised eyebrows, “…ummm, isn’t Europe, like, expensive?”

Well, yes and no. The potential to blow through your cash very quickly is high, IF you plan on being a tourist. If you slow travel, eat where the locals eat and do some of your own cooking, rent an apartment or do volunteer work, then your money will last a lot longer.

If you plan on being a slow nomad like we will be for the year– living abroad without a permanent domicile, then the following suggestions will be useful!

We have covered the option of volunteering, but do your research and make sure that: room and/or board are included; you don’t have to pay an exorbitant fee to participate; it is volunteer work that you will be able to commit to and enjoy.

CraigsList is a good place to find cheap apartments that are already furnished in most major cities. Do not pay anyone anything until you arrive and have looked at the space yourself! But if you happen to have friends or family in the area, have them check it out for you.

Airbnb is an obvious option and they offer a pretty wide range of accommodations from private bedrooms to private islands. Prices vary depending on when and where you are looking, but the looking is soooo fun! If you can convince people from back home to come visit you on part of your trip, you can all chip in for a sweet rental!

House sitting is another option which I recommend, however, keep in mind that international competition for popular locations can be fierce. I am a member to 3 sights: Nomador, Trusted Housesitters, and MindMyHouse. When I was house and pet sitting locally, I had no problem getting gigs all over the city via these sites, however, though I had a skype convo with a woman in Italy, and several other responses, ultimately, nothing came to fruition.

It is time consuming to search for opportunities and sometimes you have to wait quiet long for a response, or you get none at all. Check out Dalene and Peter from Hecktic Travels who have an awesome ebook to help people navigate applying for and getting sweet house sitting gigs all over the world!

Or you can go renegade and camp, tent, hammock your way through a country, biking or hitchhiking, and cooking your own food along the way. This sounds awesome and like a super cheap and authentic way to experience a country. I don’t have much experience with this, but one of my favorite bloggers, Ruben at Gamin Traveler has years of experience traveling on long-term small-budget trips, and it’s a good place to start for advice on destinations, packing and supplies, and cost.

I’m a light packer.

I hope you know what you are getting yourself into… That’s right, a trip of a lifetime!!

Keep these tips in mind as you are preparing for your move abroad or extended travel, check out the resources I suggested, and holla’ at me if you have any questions!

Did I miss anything super important? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!



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