The other day I had lunch with some of my colleagues and we started talking about living abroad. Beaches and adventures while working remotely – what a dream. As some of you guys know I’ve done that and I am still kind of doing it. It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life and therefore I am always encouraging people to do the same. After a while, one of them said to me: “You make it sound so easy.” And I countered: “You make it sound so difficult.”
I also remember a similar conversation I had with a friend years ago. She told me that she wasn’t happy with her life but she didn’t know why and what to do about it. There was no excitement – no highs following the lows. So I suggested that she could just take a break from her current life and find out what she really wants and what she is passionate about. I told her to just pack her bags and go somewhere else for a few months. Getting a bit of distance from your current life gives you the required perspective you need in order to see things more clearly. She said: “I can’t just do that!” slightly aggressive. It seemed that she was surprised and almost bothered that I could even suggest that. So I asked her why? No answer. I started mentioning why now would be a great time. But her answer was still the same: I can’t just do that.
I was wondering why it is so difficult for some people to change their routine even though they are clearly not happy. I came up with two reasons which can be connected: We get scared and overwhelmed. It’s the unknown that we fear. We would need to leave our routine, our safe place. Additionally, we feel overwhelmed with the task in front of us. At least that’s what I think my colleague meant by saying “You make it seem so easy.” How do you actually pause the life you are living? And how do you start a new one? In order to make this step a bit easier for you I created a small overview.
At this point I am just assuming that you already reached the point and decided that you want to start a new chapter in your life – an adventure. Bigger life changes often include a change in location. This can be national or international. Surprisingly both are pretty similar to handle. But let’s talk about the adventure that is international.
How to pause your current life
When people say “You can’t just do that” they actually mean “My roots are here and my routine took over to the point that I don’t know how to get out.”
- Let’s take a closer look at your routine, starting with your job. If you don’t want to quit your job you could ask your employer about taking a sabbatical or an unpaid vacation. Talk to your boss and see if s/he is willing to let you go temporarily. Most companies value good employees and therefore they are open for this kind of stuff since they don’t want you to leave for good. But if your employer does not agree you must make a decision. Remember that job security will not replace the feeling of un-fulfilment.
- Now let’s talk about your living situation. If you are renting or living with your parents, it will be easy as a peach. Check your lease requirements and plan accordingly. Owning a home is not a deal breaker either. Many people rent out their place when they are gone. If you have a place to keep your stuff, great! If not, don’t worry. Begin selling and donating non essential things a few months before you plan go until nothing is left. Freedom here I come!
- Check any other commitments you might have that need to be dealt with before you go. Phone plans need to be cancelled and any continuous bills need to be looked at. Remember, with modern technology issues can be addressed from anywhere in the world. This might seem overwhelming at first but remember to take one small step at a time.
How to start the international adventure
- Depending on the country you will need to check the travel requirements. That means some visa research. For example, as European citizens my husband and I are able to live and work in any European country without a visa. But when I moved to Australia, New Zealand and Canada I needed a visa for all of them. Applying for a visa can seem a bit overwhelming at first but if you tackle one task at a time it’s not that bad. Don’t waste your money on agencies to process your visa. You are totally capable of doing this on your own. Check out Facebook groups or travel websites for advice if needed.
- I always recommend to find a place to stay for the first few days once you arrive. This can just be a temporary solution to get over jet lag and gives you a chance to find your bearings. It is always easier to find a more permanent place once you are there. You could stay at a hostel, hotel, B&B, Airbnb or Couchsurfing. After you arrive you can check the internet and local newspapers for your new (temporary) home. Make sure you research the housing options, transportation network and job market in your desired city/region. That way you can get a feeling of what to expect.
- Find a job. Sounds easy enough right? Well this can be a bit tricky and it really depends what you are looking for. Depending on your language skills and your profession you might need to get a bit more creative. Some people secure their job before they leave their home. This in an option you should definitely think about. Maybe your current company is international? Can you be transferred? Experience shows that applying in a different country from home without having any contacts can be pretty difficult. Often, a local address and phone number on your resume is all it takes. By the way, my first job in Australia was in a fast food restaurant. Yes, I have a bachelor degree but at the time my English wasn’t that good. You have to jump right in. There is no room for pride. Do what you have to do to move forward. My husband on the other hand got in touch with a head hunter before he arrived making the search that much easier. Do your research and make use of the resources that are available.
Even though I covered the facts you need to survive I want to talk quick about your emotional state of mind. Leaving everything behind is a big step and therefore requires a lot of energy. You might feel tired the first few weeks but that will pass. It is important that you go out and meet people. Join Facebook groups, get involved in volunteer activities and have some fun. Hostels and Couchsurfing are great places to make new friends quick. Don’t hide in your room. It will make you home sick and anxious. Enjoy the adventure you are on and be proud of yourself. You are one step closer to finding your happiness.
I know what you are thinking now. You make it sound so easy. And I am still saying it is. The act of quitting your job is easy: “Hi boss, I quit”. The act of moving across the world to another country is easy: Get on the plain – get off the plain. What’s difficult is our emotional response. The fears and doubts we experience when we move to new terrain. It’s up to us to fight the negative thoughts and to be brave enough to follow our own dreams.
Be brave. Be adventurous. Be you.