I haven’t lived full-time in the USA since 2009. Each new adventure seems to be longer, and to pull me further away from staying permanently in the States. I now have a binational marriage, and moving abroad will always be a part of my life.
It’s been readily apparent recently that this lifestyle is unconventional. I’ve been hanging around in my hometown, waiting for a visa for China and then waiting to heal from shingles so that we can actually go on said visa! I often get asked how we do it. How do you just go and live in another country every year?
Question: How do you quit a job and move abroad?
The answer: Just do it.
I know that sounds like an oversimplification. It can be really hard to see the layout of a lifestyle that is chosen, or out of a career that seems to be set in its path. Maybe you’ve been doing the same things since high school, always banking on the fact that if you just keep doing what has always been told to you as the way to happiness you will find it. And maybe you will!
But travel is an essential part of any life. Living abroad is obtainable for more people than ever in human history. The world is smaller and safer than ever. It doesn’t have to be forever. Just go and see the world.
Step 1: Plan Your Escape
You will need to begin planning several months ahead. Start by setting a tentative date for departure about six months in the future. Begin putting away money for the move, while you still have the job. Make sure that you take into account extra expenses like student loan payments.
Step 2: Choose a General Direction
Do you want to teach abroad and work while you live in another country? Start looking into TEFL options.
Do you want to have more flexibility and travel for a shorter time? Look into longterm visa regulations for any countries you intend to visit. For example, in the Schengen Zone a US Citizen can only travel for 90 days without a visa. Some South American countries have similar limits on tourists.
Do you want to study abroad? Even if you aren’t currently in school, there are many options for short and long-term courses in other countries. I studied abroad three times, twice in college and once at the IFALPES institute in Annecy, France. Studying a language abroad is a unique opportunity, not to be missed.
Once you choose the general theme of your travels, you can begin taking concrete steps to move abroad.
Step 3 (Optional): Get A Criminal Record Check
For many work and student visas, you will be required to submit a spotless criminal history from a national police record check. In the US, this can take up to four months!!!!! Get a move on and submit this before you even have job interviews.
While you’re at it, apply for your passport. That way it won’t get down to the wire, and you won’t have to use this guide to get your passport ASAP.
Step 4: Job Interviews/Study Applications
Begin to apply for jobs or study. You may need to gather a lot of documents, so get in bureaucratic shape. Don’t be surprised if you have a lot of job interviews before you find a place that’s right for you. When I went to Korea, I had about eight interviews. With China, we had a weeklong slog of interviews in our last week in London. I applied early for my MA programme in the UK, and that helped with loan applications. This is where things will begin to look solid, but…
Step 5: Get Comfortable with Ambiguity
A lot of waiting will happen. A whole lot of not knowing what’s going on. A whole lot of guessing about visa regulations and where specifically you will be working. In my experience, you may not know where you will be living in the new country until about a week before you leave. In the case of China, we couldn’t buy our flights until the week before we were supposed to fly out.
Think of this as Zen training. And try not to get shingles from stress.
Step 6 (Optional): Get Your Visa
Depending on the country, you may need to apply up to three months in advance. Sometimes, it will be much shorter. use these guides to help you if you are going to Korea, China, or the UK (student).
If you are planning on just travelling, check to see if you need to apply for a tourist visa before you leave. It is necessary for India, but most places let you pay a fee on arrival and step on through the border.
Step 7: Give Notice
When things are in place, and you have enough money to travel, hand in your notice at work. Make sure that you keep things friendly, despite how happy you are to be moving into adventure mode. You never know when you might need a job!
Step 8: Fly Out
Get on that flight! Eat well and rest before you go if you can. Don’t pack too much; you really won’t need five shirts and a toilet brush. You can buy shampoo everywhere in the world. Just leave it. Travel light.
Prepare yourself for some serious weirdness on arrival. You might get taken directly from the airport to your hagwon in Korea! You might get robbed your first week in Chile! You might have to turn your flight around and land in Houston because of a drunken Brazilian! Anything can happen!
Step 9: Don’t. Give. Up.
Travelling is a beautiful and fulfilling lifestyle. It’s life-changing. But you will have days when you get sick. You will have days when you just want to eat some real pizza. You will have days where you just don’t understand what the hell you are doing in The Great English Teaching Machine. You will have days where you just want toilet paper to be in every stall, damn it!
These are the days that make the best stories later on. Keep a journal. Find local activities. Push yourself to get outside, even if it’s just for a walk. Whatever you do, don’t waste this opportunity by sitting around ‘saving money’ by playing WOW all weekend, every weekend.
Quit your job. Move abroad. Nine easy steps. Are you up to the challenge?
Contact me directly with any questions you have about the international life. Direct access to my email!!