21 Things To Do Before You Move Abroad For The First Time

21 Things To Do Before You Move Abroad For The First Time

I’m not an expert, but I have done this twice now. The first time was completely spontaneous, I had no clue what I was doing and I only had one week to get my life together. The second time was more thought out, an actual plan to move abroad and with a steady job to come along with me to fund me to keep me going. The first time I quit my job like an animal on a whim and ended up in Croatia like, “Wait, what just happened?!” Both times I seemed to have everything I needed so that’s why I want to share with you what to do, ya know, just in case you are feeling like an animal yourself 😉.

Preparing to move abroad, or even thinking about moving abroad can bring along some stresses of “What if I don’t like it?” which I need to get it out of your head right now. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Stop letting fear and excuses get in between the life you say that you want. If and when you want to come home, your home will be there. Your favorite restaurant will be there. Your friends will be there. And guess what, it will feel like nothing has changed, and guarantee you will wish you were still where you were before coming home.  

The first baby steps you take to wanting to move abroad are you are thinking about it constantly, am I right? You really want to move but you feel like you can’t yet. You feel like you need to save more money, or the timing isn’t right or any and every other excuse in the book to keep you from going. The thoughts don’t go away though and you start talking to your friends about it more. You start looking up things in google like “best places to start a journey abroad” or “safest places to visit as a single traveler” to get the juices flowing of where to start your trip. Or maybe you already know exactly where you want to start your trip but you don’t know how to tie up all your loose ends at home and make it happen. By the time you read through this blog post, you will have a much better idea of how to do it – and I hope it encourages you to do so, because from experience – It has been one (two really) of the best things I have ever done for myself in my entire life. Seriously. Maybe finishing my college degree comes in third (THIRD). For me, life is about experience, love, friendship, having fun, reducing stress, and like the millennials say, living your best life.  

Life isn’t about that 9-5 anymore. Life doesn’t start when you get a husband, have a baby and own a house. Do I want those things? Someday, yes. However, I’m so happy to still be so young and so free and able to live my life before I surrender to another life. I’m not ready to give up my life to take care of someone else and how dare society tell me that if I am 31 I am getting “too old” to be able to have those things. I’m not buying it. And neither should you.

1.       Money – You Need Enough – Save As Much As You Can

I saved the majority of my money by hosting my apartment on Airbnb. And you can too. Sign up here to become a new host and read the other blogs that I have about how to do this and why it’s freakin’ awesome.  I’d say you want at least $5k saved. $10k to feel some comfort and give you a little more time to travel and find a job along the way. But I have heard success stories of full-time travelers that started out with $2k.

2.       Get Inspired

Start helping your creative juices flow by starting to follow on IG a few of these travel blog people. Get your inspiration from wherever you need to. Sometimes you need to see someone else on the journey, even for a year or two, before you really start to get the fire to want to do it too. For me it was a friend from High School that I followed on IG –  I saw that she moved to Thailand on vacation, met a dude and then quit her life in San Francisco and bought a van and traveled with this guy through Australia. I watched her living the life that I wanted, and I knew one day that I would have it too but it wasn’t until a few years later that I did.

3.       Buy A One Way Ticket

Don’t even f*ck around with a return ticket yet – it’s a waste of your money at the moment. Yes, I know you want to come back but limiting yourself to a certain amount of time is like travel jail. One way. Or we can’t be friends.

Skyscanner.com is my favorite website to find cheap flights. You can put in what airport you are leaving from and then you can put in anywhere for the destination. You can manipulate to a certain date that you want to leave or you can put in the cheapest month for travel. It’s a really fun tool. Play with it. See where the cheapest places are for you to visit and when the cheapest times are for you to get there. Set a travel alert if you have a certain destination that you know you want to start with and when the price drops (or gets higher) you will get an email alert.

4.       Book A Place To Stay

Once you figure out where you want to go, you can start to research where you want to stay. This depends on if you are moving abroad for a job or just for fun to travel. Using Airbnb to book a place is a nice way to set yourself up with a nice, comfortable place to stay. If you are traveling on your own though, I do suggest staying in hostels to help you meet like-minded individuals who might help shape your trip, or heck – your life. You never know who you will meet while on the road and that’s one of the best parts of what you are about to do.

Depending on who you are, book a place up to a few weeks before you go. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. If you get there and you don’t like it, then you move to another spot. Easy as that. Or if you’re an uber organized human, you can book these months in advance. All comes down to what you are comfortable with. OR heck, you can even fly to a destination and then find a place to stay. I’ve done that a few times and it’s always worked out but that is not for everyone. There is also a website called couchsurfing.com It’s a traveler’s dream site. It allows you to reach out to different people in different countries for as much as a free place to stay. Yes. Free. I have used it several times. I have not actually stayed with anyone, but I use it to get in touch and ask the locals if they will show me around. My experience with the site has been really positive I would definitely recommend keeping that one on your radar.

5.       Tie Up Your Current Living Situation

You either need to sublease your place or give your months notice on your apartment or house or leave it unattended if you are a baller and keep it while you are away. Sell your things, get rid of it all. If you have friends or family that are nice enough to store some of your favorite things, there’s no harm there. If you don’t – consider getting a small storage unit. But don’t forget to handle this with enough time before you go. It seems to take longer than you might budget for.

6.       Tell Your Job What’s Happening

Give your job the proper notice that you are quitting (or check out steps to help you bring your inhouse job with you by reading here).

7.       Communicate With Your Banks

I suggest getting two separate bank accounts. One of my favorite banks is Charles Schwab checking account as they are the only bank I’ve found that reimburses you for the pesky ATM fees that can add up over time. You don’t have to tell everyone you are leaving, but you have to tell the banks you are leaving. Get a personal email address of someone at the bank who can help you while your abroad if you need. Sometimes you can’t as easily just call the bank to sort something out. Make sure they know where you are at all times so your cards never fail you. If you want to know more about this subject and how to make sure your cards never fail you, click here.

8.       Cell Phone

Settle your current phone bill up. This was a hard decision for me. I’ve had the same phone number all my life and if you cancel your line with Verizon for example, they forfeit your phone number. Certain carriers like T-Mobile have travel plans for $150/ month that I hear work well in most countries, but in my opinion, you are wasting your money. I got a sim card in Bali for my iPhone that I recently paid off for $7-14 and it lasts all month. Since I paid off my cell phone from the states, I still am paying for data – $26 a month of a total waste of money, just to save my phone number. If this isn’t important to you, go ahead and cancel that. I for some reason, can’t let go quite yet.

9.       My Favorite Mobile Apps For Traveling

Text me – This one I use to be able to call the US or anywhere in the world, you pay a small fee for some credits and it works great.

Telegram or WhatsApp – I use these to communicate with my work, friends and family – They are both free and you can make calls for free with these also. But if you need to call your bank or your cell phone provider, you will need to use the Text Me app or something similar.  

Google map – You hopefully already have this, but google map is great because it helps you get pretty much anywhere and via any transportation whether it be walking, car, bus, train, scooter, I love the step by step directions they give you (as long as you have service). And while I’m here, maps.Me is a great map to download while you do have service because you can use it just the same once you are out of service (very very helpful). 

Banking Apps – These are helpful to check your bank accounts etc. I recommend checking in there at least once a day or every other in case some suspicious activity is happening and you can catch it early.  

TripIt – if you send all your travel plans to tripit, the app is awesome and categorizes everything for you from flights to accommodations to excursions and in chronological order. Such an easy way to check up on “what’s next” on your travel agenda.  

Mobile Pass – This works coming into America mostly, but hey everyone has to come back sometime. You skip the customs lines basically. When you land in the airport you fill out the info on your app, and you go into a special line for mobile app, and you will notice you are in line with maybe 5 other people and the normal line well, has everyone else from your flight. It’s an awesome hack.  

Uber.  Hotel Tonight. Airline apps are also good to have while traveling. There are millions of apps it seems, but these are some of my most used ones.

10.   Packing  

Where are you going? On my first trip out, I had one week planned – To sail on a yacht with ten strangers in the Mediterranean sea for seven days. I had no idea if I was going to stay longer than that trip but I still bought a one-way ticket because I knew I wanted to. Once you are there it is much easier to see how possible it is than thinking about it from a dream bubble in your home town. I packed for one week of yacht week which included beach wear and cute clothes only. So when I wanted to continue to travel, I knew I had to keep hitting the warm spots so I chased summer for 11 months wearing the same 10 days worth of clothes.

11.   Pack Light

I can’t stress this enough. If you can get everything in a carry-on and one personal bag you are doing yourself a huge favor in the long run. If you are moving to one specific location – ok bring a few bags and check them in. But if you plan to travel around and get on a different flight every few days or every few weeks even, the cost of checking bags will be the death of you when on smaller airlines like Ryan Air, Jetstar, Air Asia – all of ‘em get ya with a checked bag fee.

12.   What To Pack

Check back on my site for specific packing guides for certain destinations but in general, my favorite essentials are:

My microfiber towel.

A universal plug.  

Swimsuits.

Travel blanket for flights and potentially your stays.

Laptop or tablet – I can’t travel without one.

Packing cubes are new for me but I do like them and would suggest them.

A hat. 

A hydro flask water bottle.

Earplugs. Eye mask.

Melatonin Gummies (yes, gummies).

Fuel box – portable charger. Extra charging leads.

Fanny pack – ladies, you won’t lose this, it’s always on you, and it’s amazing.

Exorcise bands to keep the booty and legs in shape 😉

13.   International License

This is a hard call. I got one because several people told me I had to have one to ride a scooter in Bali. I’ve yet used the thing. It was only $20 so I do have it in case I need it but at this time in my life it seems like a waste of money. So up to you if you want to get this but I put it here because it is a thing that exists that you may potentially need. You can get this at your local AAA. Just need your ID and a passport photo and $20. UPDATE: I’ve been pulled over recently and the fee is about $150 or 4 months in jail in Bali without this license. Just get one as I don’t think you can once you are in Bali or these other places that may require one.

14.   Passport

Make sure it is fresh and has lots of extra time on it. Get it renewed if not. You need 6 months to be able to go anywhere, including home – remember that.

15.   Get Travelers Insurance

I use world nomads. It’s $500-700 for 6 months at a time and it will save you if you need it. I unexpectedly had to fly home from Bali for a family emergency and I was able to submit a claim for trip interruption and could include the cost of my flight home for my emergency. It also helps with missed or delayed flights, and sickness or emergency hospital trips and so much more. I wouldn’t travel very far without this, it might seem like a waste of money, until you really need to use it.

16.   Make Copies Of Important Documents

Your passport, your ID, credit and debit cards, email them to yourself and keep in a file. Also, while you travel, don’t keep all your bank cards in the same place. Wallets do get stolen. Remember when you went to the bank to get that second debit card to incase something happened to the first? This won’t even matter if they are both stolen. Have a second little wallet that you keep in your bag with the second set of cards. And one in your purse or fanny pack that you travel with.

17.   Throw Yourself A Goodbye Party!

Now it’s real. Set up a nice going away party with the people most special to you. Being around these loved ones one last time is very special and very recommended. Don’t just head out of town and not say goodbye to anyone.  

18.   Research Visa Requirements

This is depending on where you are going, but some places, like Bali, you can only stay for 30 days, or if you go into a different line in the airport on arrival, you can stay 60 days. Also, research if you need an outgoing flight. Some places like Thailand and Bali and Costa Rica, don’t let you come in with a one-way flight. To avoid having to buy a last-minute ticket at the airport before you can board your plane, research if the place you are going supports a one-way ticket. Also note, you do not have to take this flight, so get a cheap one if you plan to skip it.

19.   Find a Work Abroad Program

Work Away, Wooff, Aur Pair are a few examples to keep you going with either a paid salary or an exchange for free accommodation and food for a few hours of work. If you’re lucky and your job lets you work remote – you have hit the jackpot. There are so many ways to make money while abroad that will really add to your character.

20.   Cancel All Memberships

Don’t forget to cancel all gym memberships, any monthly subscriptions, car insurance, your phone bill. Trust me no need to be paying for these things while you are away.

21.   Prepare For Culture Shock

And don’t expect every day to be easy and fun. While most will be days you will never forget with people you can’t even believe that you have met, just realize there will be lonely days, there will be sad days and there will be freaking hard af travel days where everything seems to be going wrong. Embrace every moment and just realize that the hard parts will pass and that you are living the life you have always wanted – or that you have wanted for a long time. Just like any day at home or work that was hard or stressful, these come while on the road too. Embrace them, let them happen, and then let the amazing life your living shine back on you when you’ve met the love of your life and all of a sudden you’re taking a midnight hike to chase the full moon.

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